Sunday, October 31, 2010


Mid-term elections are just two days away. Courtesy of USA Today (greatest little paper there is), here is some election commentary, plus a little social commentary on texting.

Saturday, October 30, 2010


It is 3:48 Saturday morning. I have been awake since 2:15. Not sure why I awakened at that hour but I was greeted with a humongous leg cramp running from hip to knee and had to walk it off. It was still a little tender so I sat down at my computer to “facebook.”

I frequently awaken early. In fact on most days that would occur about 15 minutes from now. (It’s the 2:15 that’s problematic.) This is when I check my email, review yesterday’s traffic on my blogs, and check potential assignments for my wife who is a substitute school teacher.

Back to my story or is it a lament? Facebook took me to a page that one of my friends had linked into. That led to my reading the page (see JESUS CENTRAL in my blogroll) and that led to inspiration which led to some early morning blogging. Ninety minutes sped by too quickly and my adrenalin is now pumping.  Going back to sleep is not a moot point.

The night before I fell asleep while watching a movie with my wife Dianne. We had just finished handing out goodies to the Trick or Treaters. Nothing worth watching on TV, so we opted for a video. (Nicole Kidman and Sean Penn in The Interpeter). That was about 8:10. I saw maybe five minutes and then the next thing I remember was was 9:45 as Dianne was trying to fix a scratch on the DVD that prevented her from seeing the ending.I fell back asleep (0n the couch) and then it was 2.15.

Do the math. It was six hours of sleep – generally all I need (or at least all my body will cooperate with.)  The problem is that by 9:00 tonight I’ll be crashing again. I will see maybe three innings of the Phillies and Rangers and then have to watch the highlights the next morning on Sports Center.

This schedule is wreaking havoc on personal time with Dianne and my ability to finish the three books sitting next to the couch. (Sue Grafton’s U is for Undertow, Josh Hamilton’s biography, and a social science tome by Christian Smith and Melinda Lundquist Denton Soul Searching: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of American Teenagers.)

This schedule also means that at some point in the early afternoon I will go brain dead for about 30 minutes. Hopefully not why I am trying to drive. If I am fortunate, when I can catch a power nap. Embarrassingly, it has happened once or twice in an afternoon counseling session or staff meeting (once in the latter I fell asleep while I was speaking).

What’s the point (the take-away) from this lament? Well, several come to mind at this moment (which, by the way is now 4.15 in the morning).

+ Life is not perfect and we cannot always control our circumstances.
+ At least I am alive (unless the obituaries in the morning paper tell me otherwise).
+ I am not the only person who must be awake at this hour and for far more serious reasons. (I’ll be praying for them soon).
+ I can let this affect my attitude the rest of the day, or I decide to let the mind of Christ guide my day.
+ And most importantly, God is awake at this hour, too. He neither slumbers nor sleeps and He sometimes does His best work in the early morning hours.

So I will leave my keyboard now and embrace the day knowing God will work in and through me.
And now I’m going to get some breakfast.

Friday, October 29, 2010


Onarato or Corbett, Sestak or Toomey ... Tweedle Dee or Tweedle Dum -- election day is next Tuesday and it cannot come fast enough. They say independents will vote with the Republicans this time, or maybe people won't vote at all. I have turned off my phone in the evening because I want absolutely no more political phone calls. Now if I could only get the emails captured by my spam detector on-line.  I thank God for the mute button on the TV. If I see one more yard sign polluting my neighborhood's lovely brown lawns I may go on an environmental rampage.

Like many people, even those who have declared a party affiliation, these mid-term elections are becoming an exercise in cynicism and frustration.  The process is so relentlessly predictable and negative.  And the issues are so much more complex than sound bytes and stump speeches can explain.

I have long been a fan of West Wing. No, I do not identify with President Bartlett and his policies (at least not some of them); but it was sometimes a penetrating look at the democratic process in America--warts and all. Recently a friend reminded me of an episode where Leo is trying to convince Jedd Bartlett to run for office. It goes back to the motives for running for office that all politicians and voters need to reexamine with more frequency than we do.

I am not about to give up on the democratic process and I will vote to the best of my efforts at insight and values.  If we give up participating in the democratic process, we are toast. The alternatives, history has proven, are far too frightening.

So get out your voter guides. Open them with prayer. Go to the polls and vote.

Thursday, October 28, 2010


Recently I came across the delightful (and sometimes helpfully irreverent) posts of Karen Spears Zacharias.
In fact, as a trial run I'm adding here to my blog roll on the home page.  This post was directed at pastors and I earlier posted it on my blog, CALLED TO PROCLAIM but I think all of us to presume to lead or influence would profit from her thoughts.

I couldn’t tell if he was making a confession or if he was bragging.
The man looked up from the computer screen from where he was surfing the net and announced very matter-of-factly, “I manage this bookstore but I don’t read.”

Why would you tell that to an author?

I try my best to be gracious to people. I didn’t cuss out loud.

“Have you never been a reader?” I asked.

“Nope. Never,” he said.

“How is it you came to manage a bookstore if you don’t read?”

“I’m a pastor,” he said as if that explained everything.

I’d like to tell you he’s the first bookstore manager I’ve met this year who doesn’t read. In fact, he’s the third one. All were men. All had backgrounds in retail. And all three of them are running bookstores that cater to the Christian marketplace. I think there’s a message embedded in there somewhere but I haven’t decoded it yet.

This gnawing in my gut is more than indigestion — it’s the disturbing recognition that far too many pastors have abandoned the spiritual discipline of reading. And I’m not just talking about Bible reading, although I’ve heard my share of sermons this year that I suspect were pre-packaged and downloaded online.
I’m talking about reading a book besides the Bible.

I can count on one hand the number of pastors I’ve sat under in my lifetime that I know were avid readers. I remember them because their preaching had a depth and a substance that all others lacked. One of my favorites, Dr. Herb Anderson, would quote poetry from the pulpit. That was always a magical moment. It helped that Dr. Anderson lived in a university town. He had a lot of professors in his audience. They expected their pastor to be well-read. But out here in rural America where hardy people live and vote, pastors are more likely to quote a bumper sticker than they are to recite a poem they’ve memorized.

A friend made the comment the other day that he thought the reason people liked the assistant pastor at his church better than the senior pastor is because they had no idea what the assistant pastor was saying  but they liked his style of delivery. It’s more flashy than the old guy’s.

That makes me laugh and wince at the same time. The way I did when the bookstore manager who claims he is really a pastor said to me that he doesn’t read.

One of the best writers of our times, Stephen King says: “People are just too damn lazy to read.”

I don’t know if King is right about that. Maybe people are just too busy to read. Used to be that we
had time for stories in our lives. Now if the story takes longer than 140 characters, we don’t have time for it. Pastors, it seems, are particularly prone to the tyranny of the urgent. (That was an obscure reference to a pithy little booklet from another era).

John Wesley was an old preacher guy who lived a long time ago, back when online meant a person’s clothes were drying in the sun.  Wesley thought reading was an important spiritual discipline: “It cannot be that the people should grow in grace unless they give themselves to reading. A reading people will always be a knowing people. ”

Can a pastor who doesn’t read really lead a people? Or is he more like a blind friend with a map? Pretty ineffective at giving clear direction.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010


"Is it possible that the 7 days of creation was not (literally) in actual days?" - Brian

The answer I am about to give will offend some of my Christian brothers but here is my understanding. First of all, the Bible teaches that God accomplished creation in six days.  On the seventh day He rested from His labors. So now we're down to six days to accomplish the task.

Because we believe that God was doing the creating, and He is, after all ... God, it is entirely possible that He did this in six days ... literally.  Except the Bible doesn't say that exactly.  It uses the word day, but does that mean a 24-hour unit of time?  Elsewhere, David, inspired by God to do his writing declared "A thousand years are like a day in your sight." The ancient Hebrews also spoke of a day as a general description of time and here the suggestion is that what man calculates as a thousand years is only the rough equivalent of a day as God might measure it. In this interpretation God could have taken as many as six thousand years to accomplish the work of Creation.

Elsewhere we hear day used as a description of a season or an era of history as in the days of Elijah. The length of time to which that refers because we have the reference point of the historical record of Elijah and his ministry. Unfortunately for us there is no historical record of the time of Creation for which we can assign a specific number of years to it ... like thousands or millions.  So that avenue of interpretation seems closed to us if we want to be true to the scriptures as a record of the work of God.  That position would make a whole lot of people more comfortable with at least the time normally assigned by evolutionary theory, but that simply reminds us that the Bible does not profess to be a book of science.  It is a book of the work of God, which by definition cannot be tested in a tube or in a carbon dating chamber or under a microscope.

For Christians trying to be faithful to God's Word, the surest statement is this ... God created the heavens and the earth.  What we have is no accident nor mindless evolutionary process. It is not natural selection. It is intelligent design accomplished at the hand of God as an expression of His goodness and love. The selection comes via a supernatural involvement in nature that creates dependable Laws of Nature to sustain that creation and all of us creatures who inhabit it.  It is a Creation that always had humanity in mind, and intended humanity to be the crowning part of that Creation.

Monday, October 25, 2010


Grand Palace, Bangkok, Thailand

Here are some totally awesome photos from a missionary friend of mine, Brooke Michael Sarver in Thailand (his blog twoteneleven is in my blogroll.)

Wat Phra Kaew. Thailand's home to the Emerald Buddha. Bangkok.
 Sometimes in our nationalistic focus as Americans (we are not, however, the only nations guilty of this) we fail to see the beauty of another culture, These photos remind me that there is fascinating world beyond our borders ... and of all of it we can sing, "This is my Father's world ..."

Friday night the Yankees were beaten by the Texas Rangers for the American League pennant. It will be the Rangers very first appearance in the World Series.  For fans who have been waiting so long, it could not have ended more fittingly. Alex Rodriguez, a Ranger of the inept bygone days of the franchise and someone to whom the team owes 25 million dollars paid to him in hopes of a pennant he could not produce, took an insane curveball from young Neftali Feliz for strike three. Rangers Ballpark erupted. The Rangers defeated the Yankees 6-1 Friday night to clinch the AL Championship Series in six games.

"It hurts," said Rodriguez, who took nearly an hour before speaking to reporters. "It's going to hurt for a while, it should. We're expected to win the World Series every year, the front office puts a team on the field that's supposed to win and I'm part of that. We didn't achieve our team goal and I'm one of the leaders. It's a failure."

Brian Cashman and the Steinbrenners continue to spend a fortune to have a grip of the Series. In the end we see once again, not every thing can be bought and tons of money is never an assurance or insurance for success. Maybe that's what makes baseball America's game ... because the little guy with heart and determination can still prevail over money, power, tradition and position.

Word comes to us this week that Haiti now suffers from a cholera outbreak.   Early reports of a cholera outbreak in Haiti were confirmed today by medical authorities. At least 140 persons have died and more than 1,000 have been hospitalized by the illness, which causes diarrhea, acute fever, and severe dehydration. Officials believe the outbreak was caused by people drinking infected water from the Artibonite river. The worst cases are around Saint-Marc. The young and the elderly are more vulnerable to the disease. With many Haitians still in refugee camps where the sanitary conditions are not very good, the disease can quickly spread.       
Natalie plays the tuba for the Howell marching band
And now we bring it on home with some tidbits from Steve.

In Howell MI the Dunns are quietly building a political dynasty.  Both of my granddaughters ran for student council and now Natalie is now president of her student council and Ashley president of her elementary school council. Could I be the first grandfather of a woman president of the United States? It'll have to be Ashley, Natalie wants to be a Park Ranger. (Frankly, I'd rather be a park ranger that the President of the US). The scenery is better and your constituents don't believe they are entitled to perks or preferences.

People are always telling me that they are the exception to the rule (which usually means they want not to be held accountable for doing what they darn well please).  But in God's universe there are all kinds of rules about the way things work. We can celebrate the exceptions but we need to learn to live by the rules.

People who text and drive are a menace to society.  Hey all you out there ... keep your thumbs on the steering wheel and your eyes on the road !!!! I gotta share the same street with you.. Although I want to go to be with Jesus some day, I'd rather go because he said, "It's time" than because you were texting "Spencer has been flirting with Susan."

Ryan Howard watched a third strike and the Phillies lost an exciting NLCS to the Giants.  K-zone showed clearly a knee high strike. Why, with everything on the line Howard "took" such a crucial pitch, is beyond me. The fact is that a hit would drive in a run, a walk would not.  Well, Phillies fans can watch the Giants face the Rangers in the World Series and try to figure out the mystery.


Sunday, October 24, 2010


Meet my favorite comic book character of all time - Calvin and Hobbes -- and enjoy ... Steve

Thursday, October 21, 2010


This is a great post from Walt Mueller of the Center for Parent and Youth Understanding on his blog LEARNING MY LINES.  I have posted it in its entirety.  For anyone who is concerned about our kids and our culture, I would urge you to subscribe to this blog. It is a great example of the quality of material you receive regularly from one of today's most perceptive commentators.

Hey kids ... your dance has been cancelled


Man oh man are things going to heat up here in Lancaster County. The front page of today's paper sports this headline: "Lewd dancing roils schools." The article reports on the trend among several area school districts to cancel the homecoming dance. The cancellation cause isn't bad weather, a flu epidemic, or even threats of violence. Nope. It's the unwillingness of kids to heed warning upon warning to cease and desist when it comes to freaking, grinding, and dirty dancing on the dance floor.

Out in the dark regarding this youth culture trend? You can get caught up by chatting with any secondary school teacher who's served as a dance chaperon over the last few years. Earlier this year, a teacher in another state approached me to tell me about what he was seeing (sadly) when he served as a chaperon at the high school's dances. He told me that not only do the girls wear short skirts, but they were removing their underwear, heading out to the dance floor, hiking up their skirts, and then dancing (in a variety of ways) up against the guys.

Back in 2001 I wrote an article on the dirty dancing trend entitled "Freaking Out On The Dance Floor." In that article, I listed several things that were fueling the trend. Here's what I wrote:

First, in today's cultural climate, why shouldn't kids freak-dance? After all, this emerging generation of kids has grown up in a culture that encourages free sexual expression without bounds. To them, it's normal behavior.

Second, the mainstream media has taught them how to freak-dance and encouraged the practice. In a classic case of life imitating art, kids who've been raised by MTV are only mimicking the visual and lyrical messages of song's like Sir Mix-a-lot's "Baby Got Back," Sisqo's "Thong Song," and Mystikal's "Shake Ya Ass".

Third, kids say freak-dancing is a way to express themselves and have fun. Teenagers have always stretched the edge beyond the comfort zone of previous generations in an effort to do something new, unusual, unique, and rebellious. Freak-dancing certainly fits the bill.

Fourth, we live in a postmodern culture that values limitless freedom of expression. Kids say that freak-dancing is an enjoyable way to express themselves. It's not surprising that efforts to limit or prohibit the practice have been met with youthful resistance.

Fifth, freak-dancing is seen as a non-threatening way to socialize. Teenagers are social beings who long for intimacy, relationship, acceptance, and connections. Because it is often done with anonymous partners, freak-dancing fosters what kids see as "closeness."

And finally, kids who freak-dance argue there's nothing indecent about it because "it's not sex." Even though most kids say freak-dancing is somewhat arousing, they increasingly see "sex" as the act of vaginal intercourse and nothing less. Add to that the postmodern belief that there are no moral absolutes, and who can say that freak-dancing is wrong?

Nine years have passed and these values along with others are even more rooted in the fabric of youth culture, who kids are, what they believe, and how those beliefs inform their behavior.

While I know there will be many parents and kids who protest the decision as an intrusion on the right of free expression among kids, sometimes we need to step in and protect our kids from themselves. That's the problem with declining morals. Once we lose our ability to police ourselves, anything goes and in order to prevent all out anarchy, external constraints and limits must be imposed. Or, we could just let nature take its course.

Over the course of the last decade we've seen the world of youth culture become more infected with the viruses of objectification, sexual violence, body-image pressure, and the results of these things that victims have to deal with both now and for the rest of their lives. Did it all start on the dance floor? No. But what's happening on the dance floor both maps out proper behavior for kids and mirrors society's widely-held standards.

What I wrote back in 2001 stills holds true today: "The envelope's been stretched again. What was once on the fringe is now mainstream. One can only wonder what lies ahead out there on the attitudinal and behavioral edge of youth culture. We've got our work cut out for us. We need to talk to our kids about standards of Godly behavior, decency, modesty, and morality. We should set rules and tell them that freak-dancing is wrong. Why? Because it corrupts God's standards for His wonderful gift of sexuality. We should monitor what they watch and what they listen to as media outlets continue to gain influence on young values, attitudes, and behaviors. Freak-dancing is another wake-up call for diligent parenting and aggressive ministry to children and teens."

Wednesday, October 20, 2010


Note from Steve:  I publish several blogs--most of which can be access via the blog roll.  Occasionally I cross post because of multiple audiences.  One is called EASTER PEOPLE. This blog is dedicated to telling people about the Christian faith in three forms. One is explaining what Christians believe and what it has to do with living in the 21st century. This may be in the form of articles of spiritual interest, more in depth examination of biblical teaching, and articles that bridge the original message of the Bible and its audience and life context to the hearer today and their life context.
  The second form is to tell stories of Christians living out their relationship with Jesus Christ. People, whose lives have been transformed by the Cross and Resurrection and what has been the result of that transformation.

The third form is to use our creative imagination in fiction, art, poetry, etc. to get a sense of the heart of people who are “living in the land of the dying on the way to the land of the living.” The following was one of the most popular on that blog EASTER PEOPLE and was first published July 19, 2010.

Emma Kreger was a school teacher.  Emma taught school in the days of one-room schoolhouses, a phenomenon in Indiana where we lived that survived well into the 20th century.  Her classroom was young people from first through eighth grade.  Emma was so dedicated to her profession that she did not marry until well into her fifties, inheriting a family of adult children who absolutely adored her.

When I met Emma she was a widow, well into her 90s. She was the oldest member of the church that I was serving.  A gentle, unassuming, sincere and slightly ornery little gal.  Still dressed with the dignity and the audacity of a life-long teacher.

One Christmas I was visiting her in her little two room apartment at St. Anne’s Home.  By that time she had been a resident for several years, not really venturing into the outside world-but riding her little motorized scooter to meals and bingo. As I attempted to make conversation, I commented on her collection of Christmas cards, noting a particularly colorful one.

“Oh, that’s from Lyle.  He’s an inmate at Pendleton,” was her response.

I was completely taken aback. Pendleton was one of the maximum state prisons in Indiana at the time, a lot of hard core criminals residing within its walls. The look of shock on my face must of been obvious.  “Emma, how do you know someone in Pendleton.”

“Oh,” she answered matter-of-factly, “he killed a friend of mine.”

Emma proceeded to tell me about Tammy, a troubled young lady who had rented the upstairs apartment in Emma’s home  many years ago.  “I learned quickly that Tammy had a drug problem.  Instead of throwing her out, I tried to help her.”

As I caught my breath in awe, she continued. “Tammy finally gave her heart to Jesus Christ and gave up her drugs.  The first thing she did was to go and turn in her pusher. His name was Lyle.”
“But you know how it goes.  He got out on bail right away. He was furious. He came right over to the apartment and shot Tammy dead right there. The police arrived quickly and arrested him and soon he was sentenced to life in prison in Pendleton.”

It was an incredible story, but then Emma said something amazingly grace-filled.  “Pastor, that man was crazy ! He had to be crazy to come so boldly and kill her, knowing he would be caught and convicted.”
I nodded my head in agreement and she concluded, “I decided a crazy man needed Jesus.“  Emma proceeded to tell me how she had been writing to Lyle for several years and praying for him. And then one day, through the work of Prison Fellowship, Lyle became a Christian.  Now he was being allowed to go to high schools to tell kids what would happen to them when they got caught in drugs.

What a life change. All because of a grace-filled, insistent little school teacher, who decided that craziness should not separate someone from the love of God.
(C) 2010 by Stephen L Dunn. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010


After reading my post on "Lilith" and a follow-up post on "Mysticism," Brian asked me this question:
"I am sorry, still, but in reference to your blog, question1, are you saying that it is not important to focus on this (mysticism) or are you saying that the bible incorporates mysticism?" 

Dear Brian,
That's a fair question and it's always good to ask for clarification. I am saying that people use the Bible to support their mysticism (Leo Tolstoy, the great Russian writer, for one) but the focus in the Bible and on biblical Christianity is what we call incarnational living - i.e., putting our faith to work in our everyday lives and not try to find our meaning by "detaching" from everyday existence or seeing the truth as some hidden secret to be discovered by spiritual elite.  The great Truth of Christianity is that the God of all the universe poured himself into human flesh to reveal to us all that we need to know to have a relationship with Him.  In fact, Jesus refers to Himself as the Truth.  The New Testament book, Colossians, puts it this way: "He (Jesus) is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation ... For God was pleased to have all of his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross." (1:15,19).

People often pursue a mystical approach so that they can get closer to God, The Bible teaches that God himself got closer to us. He did this through what we call the incarnation  taking on a flesh and blood existence so that he could communicate clearly with flesh and blood people.  Non-Christian mysticism becomes a trap because it causes us to pursue some elusive knowledge instead of choosing an everyday relationship with Jesus Christ.  It has us chasing an unknowable idea of God instead of the God who has already made himself known.  

Early Christianity actually battled a Greek philosophical system called Gnosticism that had captured the imagination of some Christians.  It taught an elevation from this life and a pursuit of gnosis, knowledge through a series of levels that actually removed you from the burdens and responsibilities of everyday life.  Gnosticism actually shaped some of the so-called books of the Bible that Christian rejected because they away from the human side of Jesus. In the last analysis, who best can help us--a God who understand us in every way by sharing our existence, or some distant deity that hides behind a curtain like the "great and powerful" Wizard of Oz?  (I think you remember how that turned out.)  

Monday, October 18, 2010


Lynn Byers and a young charge at Grace Orphanage
Meet some friends of mine. Not a single one of them has hit their 30th birthday yet they are living lives of high impact.  Lynn Byers is a member of my church in Landisville. A young lady of incredible spiritual sensitivity, Lynn graduated from Pittsburgh, earned an R.N. and went to work in the ER at Allegheny General Hospital. But right now she is on her second short term mission assignment in a year in Haiti.  When she arrived in Haiti, she spent 18 days at Grace Orphanage before moving to hospital in Northern Haiti.  Now she has moved to Adventist Hospital in Port-au-Prince.  She has a blog you would benefit from visiting BYERS.  I want you to hear an observation she made recently. "I am glad to be here- through the frustrations and the joys. I know I'm not going to make any great changes in Haiti, but just little ones. It is an experience that will shape the rest of my life. I am so thankful to have such supportive friends, family, and church family."

It is amazing to me when I hear someone say that they find joy in service. I wonder how many of us who are older would see doing small things in Haiti as a major investment in our future.

Then there's Andrew Draper. I've known Andrew since he was a child. Now he is married with two children, a seminary degree under his belt.  A magnificent musician, Andrew has chosen instead to be the pastor of a church in the slums of Muncie IN.  The church is called Urban Light and it is a faith community aimed at ministering to the "least of these" in that Indiana city. Its Facebook Page announces:
"Urban Light is an inner-city church in Muncie, IN that exists to reconcile people to God and to each other by joining Jesus Christ in his reconciliation of all things."

Urban Light is a multi-racial community that helps people find unity and help for their spirit, their relationships, their physical needs - through worship, counseling, community building, and activism - changing lives for people who are a world away from the middle class affluence in which Andrew grew up. Link to; URBAN LIGHT

What makes a young man choose on of our nation's troubled communities, raise his family in its midst, eschewing the personal and professional benefits he could have had in a middle class congregation in a nice place somewhere else in the Midwest?  Perhaps it's because Andrew, like others of his generation have decided to take seriously Jesus' words, "The Son of has come not to be served, but to serve."

Ironically, these are not the only persons of the the bridger generation who have chosen this path.  In fact, despite the narcissism of their baby boomer parents, we are finding that younger adults want to live lives that significant rather than pursuing material success.

Maybe there's hope for our world yet.

Sunday, October 17, 2010


I continue to be amazed at that messages on such signs.  Here's the latest batch in my collection.

Saturday, October 16, 2010


Last week the most read post on this blog was "The Story Behind the Chilean Miners' Jesus T-Shirts." I confess that my busyness at the end of the previous week kept me from being alert to this story.  Then on the weekend several of my younger adult friends (many of whom are busier than I) began to reference it in their Facebook pages.  Dianne and I were channel surfing the night of the rescue and came upon the drama as the 33rd miner was about to be placed in the "Phoenix" for his ride to the surface. I am now keeping watch on the follow-up to see what happens to these men after their traumatic ordeal underground.

The survival of the miners below ground was the result of incredible teamwork and the leadership of their shift foreman Luis Urza.  But we are discovering that the rescue was made possible by another hero, a straight-talking engineer named Andre Sougarret.  (Read this great story on YAHOO.) Afterwards, Andre would say: "I always said that if these people are alive and I have contact with them and I can get food to them, they could spend a year (below) and nothing will happen to them. It was a question of time."

Andre Sougarett
There was much talk during the rescue about controlling the information reaching the miners to keep them from becoming demoralized about how long the rescue would take.

But Sougarret always told them the truth.  Urzua, the shift foreman, had this to say as he hugged the man who saved the 33: "You always gave us the straight talk, always speaking the truth."

Speaking the truth is always the best strategy for helping others through perilous times.  It reminds me of some vital words from the Bible, "You shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free."

Friday, October 15, 2010


Belief Now is the religion blog of CNN. They posted this story yesterday that I found interesting.

As miners were being pulled from Chile's San Jose mine Wednesday, most were wearing tan T-shirts over their coveralls. The Chilean government told reporters the green coveralls were designed to help absorb the sweat as they ascended to the top.

But Wes Little, a CNN editor/producer in Atlanta, wondered why the miners were wearing the T-shirt over their coveralls. He noticed a logo on the T-shirt's left sleeve for the Jesus Film Project.

Here's what we found:
The Jesus Film Project is a ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ International, the massive Orlando, Florida-based evangelical ministry.

The Jesus Film Project tells us they have translated the film into 1,105 languages and that it has been seen in every country. You can watch or listen to over a 1,000 of the translations here.

The main goal of TJFP's ministry is to create and distribute effective media in every language, says Berry Fiess, the group's director of field information services.

Seventeen days into the mine accident, CCCI country director for Chile, Christian Maureira, started contacting public officials to see if they could send the miners a copy of the film. Fiess said Maureira was able to reach a daughter and a brother of miner Jose Henriquez.

Through that family contact, the group was able to send an MP3 audio version of the Jesus film and an MP3 audio version of the New Testament in Spanish to Henriquez down in the mine.

The Jesus film explains that the New Testament tells how Jesus is laid in a tomb-like cave after his crucifixion. Three days later, Jesus is said to have risen from the dead. In the Jesus film, women come to the tomb and find the stone that blocked the entrance has been rolled away, the cave empty.

It is unclear if the miners saw the resurrection story as a parallel for their hoped-for rescue, but Jose Henriquez passed along a letter to CCCI's Maureira from inside the mine. Fiess shared the English translation with CNN:
Thank you for this tremendous blessing for me and my coworkers. It will be good for our spiritual edification. I am fine because Christ lives in me.
We have prayer services at 12 noon and 6 pm.
"At the end of the letter," Fiess said, "(Henriquez) said goodbye with Psalm 95:4, which says, 'In His hand are the depths of the earth, and the mountain peaks belong to Him.'"

A few days later, Henriquez asked Maureira to get them special T-shirts.

"The T-shirts were a gift from Campus Crusade for Christ Chile," Fiess said. "In the front you can read, 'Gracias Senor' – 'Thank you Lord.'"

And on the back, Psalm 95:4.

"Apparently, all the miners liked them," Fiess said. "It kind of solidified them."


 Have you ever had a moment of doubt? I'm not speaking of sudden and utter disbelief about something you had previously affirmed. I'm speaking of that wave of uncertainty or that gnawing thought that robs you of your peace and makes you want to pause and get your bearings.

Some Christians believe that any expression of doubt, any entertained question about their foundations for believing will cut them off from God.  I always thought that was a little extreme.  Yes, they can pull out a text or two that standing all by itself on the platform of examination affirms their need for blind faith. But against the whole backdrop of scripture and what scripture affirms about the nature and intentions of God, such a position crumbles.

I appreciate this quote from John Ortberg:

“Theologian Lesslie Newbigin writes that we live in an age that favors doubt over faith. We often speak of “blind faith” and “honest doubt.” Both faith and doubt can be honest or blind, but we rarely speak of “honest faith” or “blind doubt.” Both faith and doubt are needed, yet it is faith that is more fundamental…I must believe something before I can doubt anything. Doubt is to belief what darkness is to light, what sickness is to health. It is an absence. Sickness may be the absence of health, but health is more than the absence of sickness. So it is with doubt and faith. Doubt is a good servant but a poor master.”
–John Ortberg, Faith and Doubt

Doubt enters into the mind of every person - both seeker and true believer.  Doubt may disturb those around us who want to remain undisturbed; but moments of doubt--honest doubt--often drive us back to the foundations of what we believe.  It reminds us that we do not and will not have answers to every question of our mind but we cannot stop living while we sort it all out.

A good friend of mine, Doug Nolt, used to have a sign on his door during his days as a campus minister:

I do not know all the answers
but I know the One who does.

For ultimately our faith is not rooted and grounded in our intellectual abilities or our prowess at securing unassailable answers.  Our faith is rooted and grounded in a person.

And that person is Jesus Christ.

PS - I love this quote from Eleanor Roosevelt "Never doubt in the dark what you have seen in the light."

Thursday, October 14, 2010


I don't know how often you check the blogroll in the right-hand column of my home page, but I would encourage you to be checking out and subscribing to  Tammie Gitt is its author and she is frankly one of the best writers I have come across in a long time. But more importantly, she sees what happens around her and writes perceptively. This is her most recent post. - Steve

A mother’s goodbye

She wore a red shirt that declared she was the proud mother of a Marine. With two smaller children in tow and a husband (I suppose) walking alongside, she trailed a step or two behind a young, muscular man. He might have been over 20, but probably not.

He walked to the security checkpoint to present his ID and boarding pass. She stood by the rope line, watching intently.

He turned to the trays to begin the tedious travel routine – unloading pockets, taking off his shoes, removing his belt. She stayed close talking quietly.

He nodded a few times before he moved to the conveyor belt. She watched as the security official waved him through. She craned her neck for a glimpse of him as he gathered his belongings. She stood on tiptoes as he walked out onto the busy concourse, watching intently as he turned first one direction then the other in an attempt to find his gate.

He strode away, full of confidence, disappearing into the crowd.

After a long moment, she turned away, a hint of sadness in her eyes as she looked at her husband.
The boys, by now, were already heading down the escalator, but she walked away slowly.

She was still very obviously, very openly, very beautifully the proud mother of a Marine.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(C) 2010 by Stephen Dunn

Wednesday, October 13, 2010


Dear Brian, your first question was a "first" for me. "Who was Lilith? Did she really exist or was there only Eve?" First, I need to tell you that you don't find Lilith in the Bible. The only possible mention is in Isaiah 34:13-15 where the Hebrew word liyliyth appears in a list of eight unclean animals, some of which may have demonic associations. Isaiah is several centuries removed from Genesis where we first read of Eve.  References to Lilith come to us from Jewish rabbinical literature (the interpretations and explanations of the rabbis. This is a system of interpretation called midrash which grew up out of a desire to explain what seemed contradictory or difficult in the Torah, the first five books of the Old Testament.

In that literature, which really had no scriptural reference points but was really based on a system of philosophy, these rabbis taught that Adam's first wife was not Eve but a woman named Lilith, who was created in the first Genesis account. Only when Lilith rebelled and abandoned Adam did God create Eve, in the second account, as a replacement. In an important 13th century Kabbalah text, the Sefer ha-Zohar ("The Book of Splendour") written by the Spaniard Moses de Leon (c. 1240-1305), it is explained that: At the same time Jehovah created Adam, he created a woman, Lilith, who like Adam was taken from the earth. She was given to Adam as his wife. But there was a dispute between them about a matter that when it came before the judges had to be discussed behind closed doors. She spoke the unspeakable name of Jehovah and vanished. 
You should note that this literature really is compiled 13 centuries after the birth of Christ and is therefore removed from the record of Genesis itself by more than 20 centuries!    A Jewish mystical cult called Kabbalah were the primary proponents of this idea, but traditional Jewish people did not follow this.  Lilith has become fashionable again as this particular cult has captured the spiritual imagination of people in our century.  There is nothing, however, in the biblical world view to support this.

Instead, Genesis says that after Adam's creation he had no human companionship until Eve is created. Genesis 2:18 then says, "It was not good for man to be alone. I shall make a helper for him" and a few verses later a woman is created. Ultimately that woman is identified as Eve and she is quite sufficient to help Adam get in trouble with God. No mention of Lilith.  It is also not until both Adam and Eve   chose to be disobedient to God that there is any sin or rebellion in the world. The mystical teaching about Lilith would make sin a part of life before that and primarily make her the reason for sin.  I doubt if it does a service to womankind to make her solely responsible for such an awful plague upon humanity.

You'll have to tell me more about mud people to answer the second half of your question.                                                                  


Tuesday, October 12, 2010


Modern atheism as expressed by persons such as Stephen Hawkings claims the "high ground" of reason when in reality, it is not reasonable.  Nor is the world view presented by atheism affirming to the human spirit or supportive of true freedom.  This video expresses quite well, the flaw of atheism's arguments.

Monday, October 11, 2010


Recently Blogger made it a whole lot easier for me to see my daily blog stats. I love stats! (Maybe that's why I loved baseball ... it is the most statistically obsessed of any major sport).  When I started to write LIFE MATTERS, I did not set out to be a sports blog but based on readership, that's what I am/ (This is cross-posted on Wordpress and they even identify me as a sports blog). With the exception of "Selective Attention Test", these are the top blogs by views:

"Fantasy Baseball"
Miscellaneous posts of "Monday Morning Reflections" 
(these always include at least one sports item)
Golf Redux"
"Disabled List"
"Would Jesus Play Baseball?"

I write about sports because I like it, but I make no apologies.  I write about sports so that some of you will come this blog and read about life and faith and Jesus Christ.  It appears to be happening. Thank you.

The Divisional Playoffs are underway.  Any predictions, any surprises.  Well, the surprise is that Roy Halladay pitched only the second no-hitter in post season history. Before all this began my prediction was that the Phillies and the Giants would meet in the Division Championship, with Phillies heading once again to the World Series. The Rays and the Twins in the AL, with the Twins heading to the series - with Phillies winning.

Josh Hamilton - AL MVP?
Joey Votto for NL MVP
In the spirit of the sports blog this seems to be lately, let me project my two choices for MVP.  Josh Hamilton of the Texas Rangers is my AL choice. Strong cases for Miguel Cabrerra and Robinson Cano but Hamilton carried his team throughout a long tough season, despite his own injuries and his team is in the playoffs for the first time in 20 years.  Joey Votto has pretty much the same credentials for NL MVP getting the surprising Cincinnati Reds into the playoffs as well.

Now onto to more eternal matters.  One of the reasons that I am a Christian is that God and His people provide encouragement in this difficult world.  Here are some of the verses from God's Word that provide me daily hope and strength, peace and joy.

"Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation, the old has gone, the new has come." - 2 Corinthians 5.17

"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him." - John 3.16-17

"You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly ... But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." - Romans 5:6,8

"And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." - Romans 8:28

Sunday, October 10, 2010


It's time for the Sunday Funnies. I hope you enjoy these as much as I do in finding them and posting them. One more look at the amazing E-trade Baby.

Saturday, October 9, 2010


Note from Steve .... I am getting a little absent minded. For some reason I didn't get this posted Monday.  Sorry.

I had five fantasy baseball teams registered with this year.  Last year, one of my teams, the Landisville Sluggers, finished second in their division and made it to the playoffs as the 4th seed before being eliminated in the first rounf by the ultimately champion.  This year, one of my new teams, Steve's Stars made it to the playoffs and yesterday won the league title by defeating the Dominican Pride 209-185.  I owe a whole lot to an excellent pitching staff - the Philadelphia Phillies and some great hitters, Troy Tulowiski of the Rockies and Martin Prado of the Braves before he went on the DL. I had a ball! (They tell me I probably won a certificate and T-shirt, the latter of which I will wear proudly.)

The landscape is now beginning to be dotted and in some places inundated with election signs. The 2010 election is barely a month away.  I confess, I do not like the election season.  The yard pollution of all these unsightly signs destroys the incredible beauty of the fall season. Then there are the political attack ads which become more vicious and more prolific each year.  And the auto-dialed political calls and the spam emails just complicate, clutter, and clang in my life. I tend to be an informed voter, who does his own research on the issues and the politicians.  I rarely use biased sources if I can help it,  These tools of modern day elections would simply drive me away from the polls if I didn't consider voting an essential responsibility of a citizen of a free nation.  But could we some how weed out the nonsense and the mind-numbing communications that rob us of a quiet moment or a peaceful evening?

By the way, I do sort of like this sign even though it seems to state the obvious. Now from the trivial to the ridiculous to the sublime.

One of my favorite authors in CS Lewis.  Many people know him today because of his Narnia books. I am more drawn by his epic works like The Screwtape Letters and  Mere Christianity. In his honor I'd like to share several quotes from this brilliant man:

"I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else."

"To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable." - The Four Loves

"The Christian does not think God will love us because we are good, but that God will make us good because He loves us."

"If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world."
"God can't give us peace and happiness apart from Himself because there is no such thing."

"Pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our consciences, but shouts in our pains. It is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world."

And this quote, perhaps my my most favorite of all:

"I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God. That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to."  - Mere Christianity

Friday, October 8, 2010


I had planned to get in some golf today. It was still around 50 degrees at tee time, but soon warmed into the 70s. Unfortunately, I was also trying to clean a virus off my computer and so I became too focused to think about chipping and putting. I console myself with this fun video. Enjoy!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010


This song reflects one of the most powerful realities that shapes me as a Christian and sustains me in a sometimes troubling, challenging world.

Friday, October 1, 2010


How about a little Friday fun with Tim Hawkins.  Thank God, it's Friday.  Really... thank God!