Thursday, March 31, 2011


My kids surprised me in mid-March by driving and flying into Landisville to share a special celebration of my 60th birthday.  On Saturday during their stay, we made a visit to the Lancaster Central Market. While traveling through this awesome place we were "greeted" by people with a message, button-holing us with the news. "Jesus is coming May 21, 2011." Most of us made a point of walking past or around them. My son Chris, always loving a debate, went back to "chat." His question, "How do you know he's coming May 21st?" One guy attempted a somewhat obscure explanation, but they others couldn't answer that question. They had simply been told this "fact" but not told how the Bible guarantees it.  Personal note: Just given how bad the world had become (the Japan earthquake had just occurred the day before), it seemed like a good idea.

Please understand, as a Christian I believe that Jesus who died on a cross, was raised on the third day, and ascended into heaven is returning. In fact, given humanity's long-proven ability to self-destruct; the greatest hope we have is that He will return to establish His kingdom on earth as it is in heaven.  The Bible does teach that clearly.  My problem with the guys in the Central Market, and the same issue that my son Chris(who by the way has read the Bible, too) raised is, "Why do you feel compelled to put a date on that which we are told we will not know until the day arrives?"

Jesus himself said, "No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. " Mark 13:32.  And we read in Acts 1:7:" He said to them: "It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority."                    

I also believe that for those who already have let His kingdom come, His will be done in their lives here on Planet Earth, his returning will be a time of indescribable joy--of hope realized as ultimate reality.

What disturbs me is how many people - Christian and non-Christian alike -- seem fascinated with dating the end instead of preparing for His arrival.  Usually that dating is used by some as an evangelistic sledge hammer warning people to get their act together. It is often done with a spirit that I once found on a bumper sticker in the 70's "Jesus is coming again and boy is he pissed."  The combination of the two becomes a "turn or burn" message with just a hint of self-satisfaction. "You sinners are finally going to pay for messing up the world."

What I find to be far more worthy of my time as a Christian is doing what Jesus would be doing until He returns. And that should be done with an intensity and an urgency that he could arrive tomorrow. Instead of trying to convince people with signs -- earthquakes, wars and rumors of wars  - why not convince them with the Good News of the Kingdom proclaimed and practiced?

"For God so loved the world ..." is a message for people who have long lived as if they themselves were our only hope and have found that message wanting.  Earthquakes in Japan are opportunities to share the cup of cold water in Jesus name (for which we who profess a relationship with Christ will be judged when He returns) is as important activity of preparing people for His returning as standing with a bullhorn on a street corner declaring a doom people are already experiencing.  Continuing to work for justice in His name, especially for the victims of injustice; instead of waiting for God simply to judge us for our injustice now. that is both the message and the work of the Kingdom God is establishing.

Naming the date makes a mockery of the Word of God because we have now selectively ignored a clear teaching of the Word of God.  Living and speaking as people for whom the Kingdom of God has already come into their lives is what Jesus is looking for when He returns.

When the Son of Man comes will he find faith in action? Or will he find people too busy trying to do the calculations and packing their bags to be doing the work of the Kingdom?

Saturday, March 26, 2011


Now you know what happened to dinosaurs

The challenge of spring baseball
The promise of spring

Friday, March 25, 2011


Call it a strategic withdrawal. About forty hours from now I am stepping away from my work, my everyday environment, and all but one of my relationships to engage in an extended period of solitude. I have been in ministry in some form for more than forty years and for just as long I have been taking time to "retreat."

My retreats have been taken in many places and for many reasons, They are sometimes simply a dedicated part of a day or have been as long as a week far enough from home to detach from the stimulation of familiar settings and to buffer against people who still feel I should take a break long enough to deal with their immediate "crisis." The most effective retreats unplug from cell phones, email, and Facebook.  (I usually schedule a contact with Dianne and leave an emergency number in case someone is dying, but that's about it.)

The most effective retreats have only one agenda - to spend some alone time with God. Comfortable clothes, a comfortable setting, my Bible, my journal, perhaps a book or two, some notepaper.

More listening to God than talking to Him.

The freedom to take a nap so my mind and body will be alert to His voice.

A simple prayer. "Lord speak to me in my silence. Show me Your vision for my days. Shape me."

I will spend three days so to discover again why life matters.

No posts until after I return.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011


Last week was non-stop and sabbath-less. As a result I had a "dead on your face" Monday. This morning I slept in until after 5:00. Unusual for me. Rested but still too early to go the office because of the long day stretched before me, I started catching up on my blog reading. Karen Spears Zacharias had just posted this one. Normally, I don't re-post an entire article; but I found this thought-provoking. Tomorrow I will attempt to share with you the thoughts it provoked. In the mean time read Karen's reflections on her own "cold, nasty Monday." - Steve

"What is he waiting around for?"

Monday was a nasty cold day. Clouds, heavy as a cow’s teat, hung overhead, threatening to drench anyone at any moment. I put on some sweats and thought about going to the club to workout but then figured, why bother? This is the sort of day Jesus would pick to bust the sky wide open and come on back.

So I stripped the sheets from the bed because Mama taught me that if you are expecting company you’d better have clean linens. I’m not at all sure what Emily Post would say on this matter, but being southern and all, I think it’s only hospitable to ask Jesus to stay the night whenever he gets here. The distance between heaven and earth can seem so very great some days, I expect Jesus might be worn out when he arrives. Even if he can’t stay the night, he might appreciate a clean bed and a nap.

I was going to start work on a new book but then I opened the web browser and saw another story about the disaster in Japan. As usual Evangelicals have taken this opportunity to point out the obvious — Jesus is coming soon. Franklin Graham reportedly said “as a woman gives birth to a child, those labor pains as they begin they start intensifying with more frequency.” Glenn Beck, who considers himself some sort of Evangelical even if the rest of us don’t, said he thought the devastation in Japan was a message from God.

What’s the point of starting a new project if God is going to show up any day now with a pink slip informing us all: Your time here is up.

So instead of writing one, I started reading a new book. It’s okay if Jesus returns while I’m in the middle of a book. I have stacks of books I have never finished reading, usually because like all those editors in New York keep telling me about my writing — I couldn’t get engaged with the characters, plot, dialogue, narrative arc, the geographical landscape, the dog or the blind giraffe.

I didn’t bother making supper tonight because we had plenty of leftovers from Sunday dinner and the last thing anyone wants to be doing when Jesus arrives at the back door is cleaning out the refrigerator. I leave that to Tim and Poe, who by the way has figured out how to open the frig using just his snout. I bet Jesus will get a kick out of that.

I waited around for Jesus most of the day but when 6 o’clock rolled around and he was still a no-show, I decided to go ahead to the gym. I had my cell phone with me and told Tim to ring me up if Jesus showed up.

But here it is bedtime again, and still no sign of Jesus.

If Jesus is watching Anderson Cooper or Glen Beck talking about how everything is falling apart on Planet Earth, I completely understand why he stays away.

Or maybe Jesus is simply worried about having to share the headlines with the likes of Charlie Sheen and Rob Bell.

Read more from Karen

Monday, March 14, 2011


Japan's most powerful earthquake since records began struck the north-east coast, triggering a massive tsunami on Friday. Cars, ships and buildings were swept away by a wall of water after the 8.9-magnitude quake. Initially 350 people were reported dead and 500 missing. At least one nuclear power plant was in serious danger. The quake was the fifth-largest in the world since 1900 and nearly 8,000 times stronger than the one which devastated Christchurch, New Zealand, last month, said scientists.

Once again the forces of nature remind us that humanity is far more vulnerable than we care to admit.  The preparedness of this island nation, so often faced with such forces, reduced the damage; but did not nor could it not provide fail-safe protection from this destruction.  The fact that such disasters strike major industrial and fourth world nations alike remind us that no part of humanity is superior to another, some simply more privileged and affluent.  We need not use these tragedies to pontificate (as some have already done) words of judgment against nations or peoples. But we do need to remember man must find meaning in more than the material achievements and possessions that some of us are fortunate off to obtain.  And as such disasters in Haiti have occasioned, we need to see ourselves as a global community setting aside our differences and pursuit of parochial gestures to pursue the noble goal of bringing comfort and relief to those who suffer.

What is troubling to me is the moral arrogance of a small fanatical band called the Westboro Baptist Church.  This week in a rural county to the west of me, another tragedy struck. Seven of eight children died in a house fire.  The Clouse family were farmers, eking out a living with a dairy herd. The fire began after 10 p.m. when the children’s mother was performing the evening chore of milking the cows and their father was at work. The Clouse’s three-year-old daughter ran to the barn to get her mother, Janelle, who first tried to get into the house but was unable to. She then went to a neighbor’s home to call 911, but discovered they were not home and had to go to another neighbor’s place farther down the road.

Janelle then ran to alert her husband. Ted Clouse, who was out on his truck picking up milk from local farms for delivery to stores the next morning, had nodded off while waiting for a farmer to turn over his product. He was parked about a mile down the road from their house. Janelle woke him up, and the two ran back to the home. But the distances, as is typical in farm country, were too great. By the time the Clouses got back to the house their seven children—girls ages 11, 9, 6, 4, 2 and 7 months and a 7-year-old boy—had died of smoke inhalation.

The Westboro Baptist Church, fresh from its victory in the Supreme Court, issued a press release stating they plan to protest at the funeral of the seven Clouse children killed in this tragic fire in Perry County this week. The release is full of bluster over their Supreme Court victory and claims the fire was a result of God's wrath for Pennsylvania (this is the home state of the man who took them to court over their protests as his service man son's funeral).  The release is replete with misinformation about the circumstances of the fire, claiming Mr.Clouse was callously asleep in his truck during the fire. In Loysville, where the Clouse family attends the Church of the Living Christ, people are making plans to rebuild their home and also to shield them from the fanatics from Westboro should they actually show up for Tuesday's funeral. One thing is sure to me, God's heart of compassion is already bringing comfort to the Clouses. Phelps and his Westboro hate- promoters will have to answer to God for this arrogance.  They need to read God's Word instead of claiming to represent it. Three verses alone would suffice:

"The LORD is close to the brokenhearted; he rescues those whose spirits are crushed." - Psalm 34:18 New Living Translation

"Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall." - Proverbs 16:18

"To fear the LORD is to hate evil; I hate pride and arrogance, evil behavior and perverse speech."- Proverbs 8:13
Talor Battle of Penn State
 As I write this the NCAA brackets are being announced. Ohio State, Kansas, Pittsburgh, and Duke are the four number one seeds. (I picked Notre Dame instead of Duke).  I was glad to see that Penn State earned a birth (at a ten seed). Although they fell victim to the Buckeyes three times, they were a solid team against top ranked teams and were clearly deserving of a bid. My heart went out to Tommy Amaker and Harvard, who came to close to their first bid since 1946. A little March gladness and sadness.
Tommy Amaker and Harvard

Saturday, March 12, 2011


Tomorrow the NCAA brackets will be announced at 6:00 pm. Last week I picked these four top seeds: Ohio State, Kansas, BYU, and Pittsburgh. With the Big Ten, Big East, and ACC Tournaments yet to be decided to tomorrow I will go out on a limb and declare these top seeds regardless of the outcome of those three games: 1. Ohio State 2. Kansas 3. Notre Dame 4. Pittsburgh.  I would have the no. 2's (in no order) BYU, North Carolina, Duke, Texas. Seven Big Ten teams will make the field of 68 and 11 Big East Teams.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011


Tomorrow is the beginning of Lent, a season of prayer and reflection, confession and repentance, recommitment and renewal. During this season with the Savior, I will be sharing some periodic devotional thoughts for these purposes. All of them center around the work of Jesus Christ in the world. This video, which has its roots in the Christmas celebration, helps us see the big picture.


Lynn Byers provides me a very personal window on Haiti and the aftermath of the 2010 earthquake.  A member of my congregation, she writes in her blog Missionary Nurse: Haiti ...

15 February 2011 (2200)

How often we ache for Christ's return when we see tragedy and pain. There was a 28 year old female medical patient that cardiac arrested in the middle of the day. I was eating lunch when they came to get me. Angela, the CRNA was bagging her and the Haitian doctor on call was doing chest compressions. No one knew the patient at all, but it appeared she had been having seizures because there was foam coming out of her mouth. The crash cart was messy so you couldn't find anything and they were doing compressions without a back board, so we had to run to find epi (the med to try to start the heart again) & a back board. We tried, but were not able to save her life. I didn't know this patient at all, but it's hard to see so much death. I've seen 4-5 deaths in the last 4 months (that isn't including the 2-5 deaths in the neonatal ICU they seem to have every month). Back home, I only saw 2 years in 2 years (granted I also didn't work in an ICU). I can't imagine dealing with the amount of death they did after the earthquake and even with this cholera outbreak. It's nothing you can truly prepare for. There are not that many ICU beds for PaP (maybe 1 or 2 hospitals have ICU beds). This was a pretty tragic death that could have probably been prevented. The doctor on call wrote death from a seizure secondary to severe dehydration. But 2 problems: She had been in the hospital 4 days so how can someone be that dehydrated in a hospital after 4 days and also apparently the family kept telling the nurse something's wrong but the nurse didn't do anything about it. If they would have fixed her seizures right away, she would never have gone into cardiac arrest. So basically, it was most likely a preventable death. So that's a hard fact I learned today, even though we have most of the supplies, we don't have all the training here. I have experienced more codes here than ever before and I'm learning. It's hard for us to accept these things from our American perspective. But you can only do what you can with supplies and training available. We are here to try to improve training though because a case like this should not have happened in a hospital that was equipped to deal with it. Read more

Kelsey Wettig, a young lady from my congregation posted these magnificent photos on her Facebook page.

Nick Francis Stephens reflected a while back on the movie The Matrix

One of my favorite cinematic scenes is from the movie The Matrix, a science-fiction action film starring Keanu Reeves released in the late 90's. The film depicts a future where life is a technologically simulated reality. It’s a story of slavery and freedom, choice and illusion. Although the film carries a plethora of thought provoking ideas, the most profound moment for me is probably much different than that of others.

The main character Neo, played by Keanu Reeves, is believed to be “The One”, a savior of sorts who alone is capable of bringing an end to the matrix’s rule. Neo gets rescued from the matrix and is taken to the oracle to receive affirmation concerning this anointing, only to hear the response, "sorry kid, you just don't have what it takes”.

Do you ever wonder what the purpose of your life is? Believing one thing in your heart but yet another in reality? Do you wonder if you can actually obtain it? What if you already missed it? How many times have you attempted and failed? How often have you engaged in the never ending cycle of faith and failure where the end result is always the same: intimacy rejected, destiny lost, meaning and purpose elusive yet again.

I love this scene in the movie because if you have seen the conclusion you know that Neo’s anointing did actually come true even though the words spoken earlier confirmed otherwise. The obstacle that Neo faced is similar to the obstacle that we face as well. We have to overcome the challenges of disbelief, doubt and failure. We must abandon the affirmation our hearts long for, an excuse to simply avoid our life’s purpose now!

How does this apply to you and to me? After all, it certainly seems true to me that yes, we do not have what it takes. But is it possible that God actually personally invites us to take part in a different reality? A reality where faith collides with our choices to obey and fully surrender our lives to his authority. A place where his love consumes all of our doubt and disbelief. I am convinced that when we come to this place, God has complete access to work in our lives and once we have fully died to ourselves, we are fully capable of going anywhere, going everywhere he leads!

Lent starts tomorrow. Sharon writes a blog called SHE WORSHIPS that is often thought-provoking. In a post "Is it well with your soul?"she shares these thoughts.

The topic for the retreat was “Soul Matters” and we examined the importance of tending to our souls. The first session began with a brief “diagnosis” of our souls, a test I was fairly certain I would ace.
Well, long story short, I didn’t.

The diagnostic tool was simple. We were asked to make two lists, one titled “Symptoms of Soul Neglect” and the other “Symptoms of Soul Health.” Our speaker instructed us to reflect on the previous 24 hours and assign each emotion/reaction/state of mind to one of the two lists. Here’s how my 2 lists looked:
Symptoms of Soul Neglect:
  • Fear
  • Stress
  • Panic
  • Frustration
  • Impatience
Symptoms of Soul Health:
  • Generous spirit
  • Determination to trust in God
  • Excitement to serve God
  • Love for others
Now in order to understand why this exercise was so eye-opening for me, you need to know a couple things about the 24 hours that produced the above “symptoms.” First, nothing catastrophic happened. Not even remotely. All the negative emotions I described were responses to a few minor hiccups in my day.

Second, I was able to list off the symptoms of soul neglect without a moment of hesitation. They poured out of me. The symptoms of soul health, on the other hand, were hard to ferret out. I had to sit and think for quite awhile, and even then they were rather abstract. Nothing simple like “joy” or “peace.”

What you should also know about me is that my life has been pretty great lately. Sure, there are challenges from time to time, but overall this has been a time of clear skies and new adventures. I have felt very blessed, and I assumed by spiritual state corresponded to my present circumstances. In view of my “soul assessment,” however, I was obviously mistaken. read more

Monday, March 7, 2011


The struggling economy and the concern for a sound fiscal future for our children has ramped up the debate over budget cuts.  A disturbing trend among Christians of my theological persuasion is to try and balance the budget by making deep cuts in social service programs and humanitarian aid initiatives. In my estimation, cutting the deficit without sacrificing the needy is a moral imperative. Michael Gerson, a former speech writer for President Bush has written: "From a fiscal perspective, cuts in global health programs are insignificant; from a moral and humanitarian perspective, they would be tragic."

Gideon Strauss, President of The Center for Public Justice, adds it is a “double moral challenge, to both reduce the debt level and maintain programs that provide aid to the needy and vulnerable." Gerson further adds to the discussion:  “We don't have a debt crisis because America spends too much on AIDS funds and malaria nets. We have a long-term debt crisis primarily, in my view, because of entitlement commitments, health care inflation, and an aging population. ... I think cuts in federal spending are possible and quite necessary, but the right priorities matter.”  I would hope our representatives and we, the voters who support them,would not forget the moral imperative placed on us by none other than Jesus in Matthew 25:

    31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne.32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.    34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
   37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
   40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
   41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’
   44 “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’
   45 “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’
   46 “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”

The Supreme Court has decided that Kansas-based Westboro Baptist Church is protected under the First Amendment when they protest at military funerals.  In its majority opinion the Court said:

"Speech is powerful. It can stir people to action, move them to tears of both joy and sorrow, and - as it did here - inflict great pain. On the facts before us, we cannot react to that pain by punishing the speaker. As a Nation we have chosen a different course - to protect even hurtful speech on public issues to ensure that we do not stifle public debate. That choice requires that we shield Westboro from tort liability for its picketing in this case."

Samuel Alito, Jr. was the lone dissenter. His response: "Our profound national commitment to free and open debate is not a license for the vicious verbal assault that occurred in this case."

I have made no secret of my utter revulsion at the actions of the members of this Kansas-based church and its leader, Fred Phelps.  They have brought unneeded pain to grieving families and utterly dishonored the Christ who died for their sin.  However, I cannot disagree with the position of the High Court.  The freedom of speech that is embedded in that First Amendment is essential to a society that has chosen democracy over autocracy.  It is the freedom that allows dangerously foolish expression, but also permits people the freedom to express their faith--to worship as their conscience dictates and to speak the truth in love to a world that desperately needs both truth and love.  I would hope that Pastor Phelps and his flock would stop protesting long enough to listen to the voice of the Holy Spirit who is surely grieved by their hate speech.

But if we begin choosing who is entitled to free speech, assuming that some are not - it is a slippery slope.

Saturday, March 5, 2011


Ready for more love songs. This is no. 2 on my list by a group called THE ASSOCIATION. This one was sung at my wife wedding to Dianne in 1972.

Friday, March 4, 2011


 Special Early Edition for the Week of March 7th

While the Middle East continues in turmoil and Secretary of State Hilary Clinton demands that Kaddafi relinquish power and stop bombing his dissidents, another kind of terror continues in a place called Pakistan. Shabbaz Bhatti, a Christian and that nation's Minister for Minorities, was gunned down in their capital city Wednesday in the second killing this year of a liberal, senior government official who had spoken out against the nation's stringent blasphemy laws.   Read more ...     

Shahbaz Bhatti, shown here in 2007, was gunned down in Islamabad on Wednesday. His killing is the second this year of a liberal senior official who had spoken out against Pakistan's strict blasphemy laws. (Anjum Naveed - AP)
This is a disturbing development in a nation that has been our ally against worldwide terrorism and a reminder that one of the great enemies of democracy in the world remains the institutional terrorism that is often perpetrated by those forces that want to impose Sha'ria, strict Islamic law upon the nations they control (or rule or influence).  In practice this often leads to a removal of both the freedom of speech and the freedom of religion.  It is a reminder that we must not be naive about the persons we ally ourselves with and the systems we go to war to defend.

Jon Diebler, NCAA 3-Point King
Last week after convincing wins against two Big Ten opponents and the crashing of Kansas, Texas, and Duke, The Ohio State Buckeyes recaptured the no. 1 ranking in college basketball. They also clinched a tie for the Big Ten regular season title. A victory over Wisconsin pretty much assures them being the no. 1 seed overall in the Big Dance.  It continues to be an amazing, unselfish group of young men who play as a team.  When likely NCAA Player of the year freshman Jared Sullinger got into foul trouble against Indiana, another freshman (ironically from Indiana) Deshaun Thomas stepped up and led them to victory, And last Tuesday night, Jon Diebler simply took over the game reigning down 10 three point shots as the Buckeyes demolished an excellent Penn State team.  The Big Ten postseason tournament starts now and I predict a Buckeye-Boilermaker final on Sunday.  (By the way, Purdue clearly deserves a no. 2 seed somewhere in the NCAA tournament.)

My predictions at this point for the four no. 1 seeds - Ohio State, Pittsburgh, Brigham Young University, and Kansas  Let's see next Sunday how close I came.

DeShaun Thomas of the Buckeyes
And here are some random observations and reflections in brief. The King's Speech won the Oscar, a triumph for really good film-making with an edifying purpose.

Rising gas prices are one of the biggest enemies to balanced household budgets,  Those governors who campaigned against mass transit need to be taking on Big Oil.

Autism Speaks is a new Facebook app and a link that more of us need to connect with.  This is an area of national life that needs knowledge, understanding, compassion, dedication, and money.

School districts have begun laying off teachers as the Obama stimulus funds dry up and no real gains have been made in the economy thereby providing new income for those districts.  Yet Congress and state houses continue to pass unfunded mandates that further tie up funds.  Unfortunately this is turning the local debate into a battle between senior citizens on fixed incomes and parents of children who know that a quality education is essential to a thriving economy and healthy democracy. (And the Administration chooses this time to make ending the Defense of Marriage Act a priority.)

But just in case your sense of humor is departing you, let me offer this in closing.

Thursday, March 3, 2011


Dave Loughery of the Parish Resource Center in Lancaster PA writes a blog called CONGREGATIONS MATTER.  In an article on recent events in Egypt called "The Uprising," Dave observes.

While what we may face in opposition pales in comparison to what the Egyptians are facing, there are lessons to be learned. Several key values are important in  challenging and chaotic situations/times.  1) Be clear about you purpose/mission. The demonstrators are  clear about their purpose and mission. 2) Be willing to dialogue -speak, but also listen. (Something Mubarak  was unable to do effectively.)   Not every challenge that comes your way is valid, but that will only become clear if there is dialogue. 3) Patience and calm are strong virtues and give strength to resolve. 4) Have the courage to stand firm ,weather,  and face the opposition for the long haul; too often it is easier to give in or give up.

From Ken Meyers LEADER FOCUS, an exciting story about a book called UNBROKEN.

Laura Hillenbrand titled her new book well.  If anyone should be broken, it would be Louis Zamperini.  At age ninety-four (DOB January 26, 1917), the former athlete then WWII veteran and later pastoral staff member of the Hollywood Presbyterian Church has outlived most all his friends.  The author understood.  It would be difficult to imagine a human being more sorely tested; physically, psychologically and spiritually.  Most anyone else would surely be, well, broken.  His is an extraordinary story of “Survival, Resilience and Redemption.”  He remains to this day – unbroken."

This book has intriguing elements, the Berlin Olympics and Adolf Hitler, the War in the Pacific and post traumatic disorder, and life change through a Billy Graham Crusade,   Read more  Sounds like a boo worth reading.

A great friend of mine Rich Thornton, seems to have a Mark Twain fixation these days on Facebook, or maybe he's resisting the need to be diet and exercise.  I love this, Rich.
I find that the further I go back, the better things were, whether they happened or not. -Mark Twain
Be careful about reading health books. You may die of a misprint. -Mark Twain

Wednesday, March 2, 2011


Phillies fans are ecstatic, at least the one fan in my Early Morning Bible Study. Cliff Lee is back in Philadelphia. The Yankee fans are bummed, including the two in my Bible study.  The other two uncommitted were nonplussed. I am a Tigers fan who had no expectation of landing Lee. I am just grateful that he is no longer with the Rangers. We'll have to get to World Series to need to worry about Cliff Lee's ridiculously low ERA. (Side note: The Tigers did rough him up for 2 runs in yesterday's spring training contest.)

It is amazing how in the sports world a single player can be identified with tremendous hope. Persons who want to see victory or World Series rings or Super Bowl trophies or World Cups need hope in order to function.  Unfortunately it doesn't always turn out that way. (Think Donovan McNabb and Washington Redskins or Brett Farve and New York Jets).

Sports fans(atics) are not the only people who require hope to function. Consider these quotes:

~ To keep a lamp burning, we have to keep putting oil in it. ~Mother Theresa
~ Beware how you take away hope from any human being. ~Oliver Wendall Holmes
~ He who loses money, loses much; He who loses a friend, loses much more; He who loses faith, loses all. ~Eleanor Roosevelt

~ Hope begins in the dark, the stubborn hope that if you just show up and try to do the right thing, the dawn will come. You wait and watch and work: you don't give up. ~ Annie Lamont
~ Hope is necessary in every condition. The miseries of poverty, sickness and captivity would, without this comfort, be insupportable. ~Samuel Johnson
~ To eat bread without hope is still slowly to starve to death. ~Pearl S. Buck

The Christian faith is all about hope. From its roots in the Old Testament come these words: "The faithful love of the Lord never ends! His mercies never cease. Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning. I say to myself, “The Lord is my inheritance; therefore, I will hope in him!” - Lamentations 3:19-24        

From the New Testament these: "In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead .. Therefore, prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled; set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed." - 1 Peter 1:3,13     
A Christian lives in hope. Not because they want to win but because their lives have been transformed.  A Christian believes that despite any short-coming, past failures, ever present sin - that their lives can be new, holy and whole, and eternal because Jesus Christ came into the world and delivered them from sin's penalties and powers by His death on the Cross.  And that hope is firmly embedded when he walked out of the Tomb.
This is not a motivation idea for a Christian.  It is a reality rooted in an actual historic event.  And it is a hope that is further confirmed when we see Christ at the end of this life and this world.  Long before Christ, a prophet named Isaiah declared: "but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint." - Isaiah 40:31
Genuine Christians are people who possess a living hope in their relationship with Christ and whose lives are shaped by that hope to bring hope to others.      
(C) 2011 by Stephen L Dunn

Tuesday, March 1, 2011


 Note: Sorry, this is being posted a day late.

This week President Obama’s administration announced it would no longer defend the Defense of Marriage Act. This is the law that effectively bans same sex marriages in the US. Attorney General Eric Holder, in a letter to Congress, wrote that he and Obama “have concluded that classifications based on sexual orientation warrant heightened scrutiny and that, as applied to same-sex couples legally married under state law, Section 3 of (the Defense of Marriage Act) is unconstitutional.”

Holder said the decision is based on “a number of factors, including a documented history of discrimination” against gays, and that “classifications based on sexual orientation should be subject to a more heightened standard of scrutiny.”

The Defense of Marriage Act “fails to meet that standard and is therefore unconstitutional,” Holder said. “Given that conclusion, the president has instructed the Department not to defend the statute in such cases.” Here is that press announcement.

I find that I very much agree with John Boehner, Speaker of the House when he said through a spokesman: “While Americans want Washington to focus on creating jobs and cutting spending, the president will have to explain why he thinks now is the appropriate time to stir up a controversial issue that sharply divides the nation.”

Same sex marriage is a further erosion of the moral foundations and character of a nation already in trouble. And given the critical priorities that our nation faces at this time, this reflects a political leadership that is not committed to unifying our nation but increasing the divide. Calling it a civil rights issue does not honor those like Martin Luther King, Jr and Rosa Parks and others who worked to end racism that was so deeply ingrained in the American culture. It is a specious argument at best to speak of this as a civil right and begs some very blatant rebuttal that I will refrain from as a matter of civility. It is more a campaign to indulge those who want the world to bless a way of life that many understand as immoral. The position of the Administration appears more politically motivated than anything given those who chose to applaud it and those who becried it.

Steve Lavin of St. John's

On a lighter note, we are now into the time when teams are building their resumes for the NCAA Basketball Tournament. Several years ago, facing the number of automatic bids for league champions and in the interest of finding the genuinely best team, the NCAA expanded the field of 64 to 66, and this year to 68. In this setting, the leagues that have greater depth and parity will be rewarded as they should be. I am a fan of Big Ten Basketball, and they continue to be one of the premier college basketball leagues. My Ohio State Buckeyes will very likely be one of the top 2-3 overall seeds – with Purdue and Wisconsin close behind. They could pull down as many as 7 invitations out of their 11 teams. But the far and away top league in the 2010-2011 season is the Big East Conference which may qualify as many as 11 of its teams. And as I have watched these teams in action, they clearly would be deserving. Any of them has the potential to reach the Elite Eight, the Final Four or maybe win it all! And if I were to pick a team from the Big East that has a real shot at that Final Four, I’d say it is St. John’s. Coach Steve Lavin has totally turned this program around. With wins over Pittsburgh, Connecticut, Notre Dame, Syracuse and Georgetown, and now Villanova, and eight wins in their last nine games, the Red Storm are one of the hottest teams in the country. They can could finish as high as second in the Big East (which Pittsburgh will win). Watch for some exciting basketball.

A young lady from my church captured this great photo of a Pennsylvania sunset this week and I found it the best photo of the week.

Photo by Kelsey Wettig


Let's have a little fun. LIFE MATTERS is not just about big issues but also about the sublime, that which brings joy. The Righteous Brothers were the musical duo of Bill Medley and Bobby Hatfield. They recorded from 1963 through 1975, and continued to perform until Hatfield's death in 2003. Their emotive vocal stylings were sometimes dubbed "blue-eyed soul". (For you church people, John Wimber of the Vineyard Church movement, was one of the influences of their lives.)

The Righteous Brothers produced some truly incredible love songs. I am dating myself with this version (I am, after all, within a few weeks of 60), but this is one of the best all time love songs. Dianne and I have danced to it often.

Do you have a favorite love song. I'd love for you to post your answers and I may even post your song on subsequent LIFE MATTERS pages.