Friday, September 30, 2011


Yesterday's blog post "That's Baseball" chronicled a historic day in sports.  It also WAS a historical event.  I began writing LIFE MATTERS on March 3, 2009  There have been 568 posts in that time.  With this post the 15,000th and 15,000st persons  viewed LIFE MATTERS.

This was the entire text of that first post: My purpose has not changed three years later.

Many people think Christians have closed minds, more concerned with being the moral police than good neighbors. I believe that Christians are called to reflect the character of Christ--which means that loving God and loving my neighbor are two sides of the same coin. Rather than exhibiting a closed mind, it is important for me to possess the mind of Christ. The Christ portrayed in the Gospels possessed clarity and a deep commitment to the truth. That meant that he was open to people's questions and even taught the truth by asking questions, not merely making pronouncements. A mind committed to knowing and living by the truth is essential to being a genuine Christ follower. Having a mind assumes that you are required to think, ask questions, reflect, and respond. It also implies that your actions and values are the result of well-examined, open-minded (to the truth) conviction. As a sign I once saw on a campus minister's door proclaimed: JESUS CAME TO TAKE AWAY YOUR SINS, NOT YOUR MIND. (I welcome your questions and conversations at

My purpose has not changed three years later. - Steve

Thursday, September 29, 2011


Last night will be one that goes down in baseball history. Tim Kirchener of ESPN noted that there has never been an evening of regular season play that had as much at stake and came don as close to the wire.  The Red Sox and Braves completed a collapse, breaking the hearts of their fans.  The Tampa Bay Rays had the latest in a series of Cinderalla endings.  Couldn't have happened to a nicer team.  My Tigers, while winning, came within a game of being the no. 2 seed (thereby facing the Rays).  I am perfectly happy for them the face the Yankees (especially what I have seen of Yankee pitching) although I would have liked Verlander pitching at home for the opener.  The Tigers have a power lineup and power bench capable of matching the Yankees offensively (if the power shows up).

Jim Leyland has clearly earned the right to be included in the list of Major League Baseball's Great Managers.  Last night, however, reminded me of another Tiger Manager Sparky Anderson.  Thought you might like this clip this morning. It comes from Game 5 in 1984 when the Tigers last won the World Series as they faced pitching ace Goose Gossage. (Goose lost this one).  Perhaps you remember Kirk Gibson's historic home run.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011


Jeffrey Totey was posted in the spirituality THE OOZE 
The Gospel According to The Lion King (by Jeffrey Totey)
One of Disney’s most successful and popular animated movies, The Lion King, has made its way from its den to theaters beginning September 16th. For two weeks, the classic film will be shown in a 3D version.
Back before home video devices were invented, Disney used to re-release their animated movies into theaters about every seven years. It was a brilliant plan. Disney would spend a small amount of advertising for a movie that had already been paid for and had already made a profit, only to do it again for the next generation of viewers. Now that nearly every home owns a Blue-ray or DVD player, movie companies have to come up with new gimmicks to find a reason to re-release their films. Last year, Disney tried this new plan out with a double bill of Toy Story and Toy Story 2 in the 3D format in preparation for the release of Toy Story 3. Next up – Beauty and the Beast. With today’s new technology, 3D home versions can’t be far behind. It’s the circle of life I guess.

It’s interesting to see how Disney markets a story said to be inspired by biblical stories and Shakespeare’s Hamlet, to various audiences. I recently saw a promo on the Cartoon Network that features all and funny and cute scenes of the movie but none of the scary stuff. Parents of small ones that want to see this film (and haven’t seen the film themselves) should note that even with its G rating, the film has some dark moments. At one point, we see two lion cubs singing about how they “Can’t Wait to Be King” in a bright technicolor background and the next we’re taken to a dark cave where hyenas are chomping on parts of a zebra. You would never find THAT in a Winnie the Pooh movie.

Since the original version of The Lion King came out in 1994, this isn’t actually a review of the movie itself but rather a commentary on biblical truths (intentional or unintentional) that can be found in it. Some will argue that the film embraces reincarnation or new age thinking and that can be valid as well if you choose to look at it that way. The film also had its share of controversies over the years including a cut of the original VHS and LaserDisc release of the film. In it, it appears as if the word “SEX” might have been embedded into the dust flying in the sky when Simba flops down. This made headlines as some activists alleged that the this was a subliminal message intended to promote sexual promiscuity (as if sex needed any help promoting itself). Disney animators stated that the letters spelled “SFX” a common abbreviation of “special effects.” At any rate, read into to movie what you will, but the following are some similarities found in the Bible that one might share with their family members:

The Birth of Christ
The opening sequence, it appears to be a re-telling of the nativity story. It’s a beautiful scene that still brings tears to my eyes. The music, (written by Elton John and musical score by Hans Zimmer), starts out calm as the images show the early morning in Africa with animals awakened to the news that a new lion prince has been born. All animals great and small make their way to Pride Rock for a ceremony. Mufasa, the reigning king, is standing there alongside his mate Sarabi, the Joseph and Mary of the story. The mammals on land represent the shepherds, the birds or the air represent angels. Rafiki, the wise baboon, represents the wise men. Rafiki blesses the cub and lifts Simba up for all to see and worship. The music swells. The crowd bows down in obedience and honor. Black out. That sequence alone is worth the price of admission.

God and Man
The relationship between Mufasa and his son Simba can be seen as a representation of our relationship with God. In this sense, we are Simba, Mufasa is God. Like Simba, we tend to follow the rules of our father one minute, and then go down the Elephant Graveyard on our own the next. We know that we are born of royalty but struggle with the boundaries that keep us in line. Whenever Simba wanders off the “straight and narrow path,” his father finds him and leads him back home.

Later in the film, Simba find himself in the middle of a stampeded of wildebeest. Just like Jesus dying on the cross to save us from our sins, Mufasa risks his own life to save his son. Even later, an older Simba feels that he is all alone, but the voice of Musfasa again speaks to him through the stars above. He tells Simba to look at his reflection in the water. As he does so, he realizes, for the first time, that he looks like his father just as Bible tells us that we too were made in the image of God. Simba is also assured by Mufasa, that even though he cannot see him, he is still with his son. We are never alone and God speaks to us with a still small voice.

Scar, Mufasa’s jealous brother, is much like Lucifer, the former archangel in the bible before being tossed into hell. Scar hates Mufasa and his “little brat.” Like Satan, Scar befriends the friendless and speaks lies to them. He makes promises he has no intention of keeping. His is evil through and through. Shenzi, Banzai, Ed and the other hyenas represent Satan’s demons who do much of his dirty work.

In the scene where Mufasa risks his life to save Simba, it is revealed that Scar is responsible (spoiler alert) for Mufasa’s death, much like Satan is said to have rejoiced when Jesus died on the cross. Mufasa also convinces Simba that it is the cub’s fault that his father is dead and that he should run away. But at the end of the movie, Mufasa is attacked by his own henchmen and is thrown into his own hell.

The Good Samaritans
Convinced that he caused Mufas’s death, Simba takes flight and meets Timon, a meerkat, and Pumba, a warthog. Seeing that Simba is still a small cub and not able to take care of himself, the two embrace their enemy and take care of his needs, much like the Good Samaritan story in the Bible. Unfortunately, the well-meaning fiends teach Simba the phrase, “Hakuna Matata” which is interpreted as “no worries” and stretched to mean “no responsibilities.” When Simba’s childhood friend, Nala, finds him and tells him how the Pride Lands are falling apart under Scar’s leadership, Simba chooses to follow the new mantra and not get involved.

The Apostle
Rafiki can also be seen as the apostle Paul, who warns the Christian churches where they were going wrong in their ministries and allowing sin in their congregations. Rafiki, like iron sharpening iron, reminds Simba whose child he is and what his true responsibilities are. Between the words of Nala, Rafiki and Mufasa himself, Simba realizes his true calling and comes back to the Pride Lands to assume responsibility for his father’s tribe, much like we are called to do.
Jeffrey Totey is a pop culture enthusiast, a contributing writer for, a future screenwriter (aren’t we all?) and former director of Acts of God Drama Troupe in Everett, Washington. He is a student of television, movies and more. He has written six full length plays and numerous sketches. Follow Jeffrey at

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Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Monday, September 26, 2011


Fall has officially arrived and to go on record, it is my favorite season of the year. Its arrival brings crisp mornings, cool nights,a more predictable rhythm to life as people get back to work,  Soon it will bring the brilliant colors of the changing foliage. Living in Pennsylvania, there is a whole lot of foliage to form this canvas of nature and the scenery at times is quite  breath-taking.  Fall also bring my second favorite sport,, college football. Although my beloved Buckeyes are in for a long season, there is little substitute for the excitement, strategy and pageantry of college football, plus it’s darn good football.  My associate pastor Barry Sellers says that “fall brings punkins’.”  I am not sure why that enamors him so, but he’s right.  For a pastor, the fall also brings a renewed excitement for the church. People stop vacationing and slow down their gardening and get back to doing the ministry that helps change lives of people and strengthen the community that is our mission field.  Some people are quick to say, “But remember what follows …” Frankly, I never let the thought of winter destroy the blessings of Fall.  Reminds me of a text from Matthew 6:34:  Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.”  The corollary to that is, don’t let perceived trouble of winter rob you of the experienced blessing of fall.

Of course, the arrival of fall means the Fall Classic, i.e. the MLB World Series. Friday of this week begins the divisional playoffs.  As of now I believe I am 4-for-4 on my predictions of the division winners: AL EAST-Yankees AL
A smiling Justin Verlander of the Tigers - sure-fire Cy Young man but maybe even MVPn

CENTRAL-Tigers (won 25 of their last 32 games) AL WEST-Rangers NL EAST-Phillies, NL CENTRAL-Brewers NL WEST- Diamondbacks.  The race is still tight for the wild card and the Red Sox and Braves I though would claim it are in danger of not making the playoffs.
My prediction is Tigers versus Phillies (if the Phillies can stop their skid).
There is a different kind of fall to speak of on these date. It is the fall-ing confidence that Americans have in its Congressional leaders to resolve the problem of the budget and to provide a healthy means of creating and sustaining jobs for the millions of honest, hard-working Americans who want to work. Congress! Mr. President! Democrats! Republicans! Tea Partiers! Get together and work for the common good instead of your short-sighted ideologies.

Sunday, September 11, 2011


by Stephen L, Dunn

I came across this quote from William Willimon, Dean of the Chapel at Duke University.
"September 11 has changed me. I’m going to preach as never before about Christ crucified as the answer to the question of what’s wrong with the world. I have also resolved to relentlessly reiterate from the pulpit that the worst day in history was not a Tuesday in New York, but a Friday in Jerusalem when a consortium of clergy and politicians colluded to run the world on our own terms by crucifying God’s own Son.”

A whole lot of us went to our pulpits earlier today to reflect on the event of September 11, 2001.  In my own case, I was just six days into the pastorate of the Church of God of Landisville.  Sunday the 9th had been my first official day in that pulpit. A lot has happened to me (and to the church) in the past ten years but that's for another blog post at another time.
The devastated Twin Towers - September 11, 2001
In preparation for this Sunday I have been doing a lot of reading and viewing of the events of that day and the impact on the persons who experienced it at close hand.  I have viewed videos of the politicians, preachers, and pundits who pontificated, prayed, and pronounced following the history-shattering events of that day.

Most of the polls that I have come across do not indicate that people feel they are safer now than ten years ago. More of them are now aware of the Islamic concept of  jihad, but few really know what that means.  It is difficult to claim that we are winning the war against terrorism.  Islamic extremists continue to plot our demise and we are still the immoral West even to the middle class Muslims who work alongside us.

The truth is that we do not require a religio-political terrorist to make this world a difficult, dangerous and fearful place.  I live in a region that has experienced an earthquake, hurricane and "flood of the century" all in the last twenty days.  And many in the Midwest, deep South and even New England have known the terror of the tornado that arrives unexpectedly and viciously in the midst of any ordinary day.

Tornado striking Joplin MO

I serve a church where good, hard-working people have lost jobs despite what the administration says, too many people are out of work and the jobs that have been created hardly allow people to earn a living.  Let them have a medical crisis and they may be bankrupt even if the insurance they were able to get is already bankrupting them with ridiculously high deductibles.  We have an economy that seems to grow worse as the deficits become even more untenable.  As a result, all people and our nation find that we are having to do without precious benefits like an education, bridges that are safe, mental health counseling, libraries, and any semblance of a family life.

The people we send to Washington or Harrisburg or what ever locale of legislature spend more time maneuvering, pontificating, and condemning than they do governing and uniting us as a nation.  We do not need terrorists to destroy our world or rob us of our peace and joy.  We seem more than capable to accomplish this on our own.

Our trouble is that we focus on policy, political power, economic security, military might, intelligence assessments, and human altruism to bring us peace.  These have proven to be inadequate foundations and only temporary solutions for Planet Earth and its people.  In Matthew 7, Jesus tells this parable which provides the real lesson to be gleaned from 9-11 and its aftermath.

“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.  But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.” (Matthew 7.24-27 New International Version)

Fear will only be banished, peace will only arrive, true freedom will only be experienced when the sons of men allow the Son of God to transform their lives.  Life change from within is where it must begin.  Foundations that endure must be built upon the Rock--Jesus Christ.

(C) 2011 by Stephen L Dunn

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Wednesday, September 7, 2011


Cartoon courtesy of USA Facebook

by Stephen L. Dunn

There is a false assumption that is popular in political rhetoric of the time.  "People would rather live off welfare (i.e., the taxpayer) than earn a living." It makes great fodder for policy diatribe, but I find increasingly that it is the stuff of urban legends.  These days I rarely meet someone who doesn't want to have a job, to earn a living. Oh yes, the occasional pampered teenager still fits this mold, but they are the exception in my experience.

The key word here is living.  They don't object to working.  It is working hard, working at less than desirable jobs, working under difficult situations - but not being able to earn enough to live.

I'm not talking about owning a fancy home, a bass boat, and a hot car.  I am talking about paying for the utilities, keeping their home in reasonable repair, having gas to drive to and from work, meeting their medical bills, being sure their kids have proper clothing, affording an occasional night at the movies, or a day trip to the beach, eating out meaning something more than McDonalds.

The entitlement of a social welfare system may be part of the DNA of Europe, but Americans still possess a strong and entrepreneural work ethic.  They believe in the importance and dignity of work. But work loses its dignity when you cannot provide properly for your family or the next oil price hike makes the heating bill a major problem.  Or when gas prices make groceries more expensive.  Or when government policies take dollars out of their pockets that are needed to take their kid to the dentist.

Somehow our nation's leadership needs to resolve the jobs issue.  Creating jobs that will make reasonably priced healthcare accessible to everyone would go a long way to restoring people's faith in democracy in general and our leaders in particular.  As long as we spend more time, energy and money on entitlements and issues that do not contribute to the quality of life of the average American, our nation will continue to walk in a dark valley increasingly characterized by pessimism, cynicism, and extremism.  Those three maladies tear democracy apart.

Cartoon courtesy of USA Facebook

A Prayer for my Nation

Lord, too many of my fellow citizens are without work.
Too many are being crushed under the burden of taxes that do not benefit them
and rising prices that rob them of resources critically needed
Too many labor long and hard, away from their families, without enough rest
only to find they cannot provide for the ones they love.
Help our nation and its leaders to find jobs that men and women can find
purpose in and provision.
In Jesus' name. Amen.

Permissions: You have blanket permission to reproduce any original post by STEPHEN DUNN on this blog, as long as it is not altered in any way, is not part of a resource for sale, and proper attribution is made to the author.  A link to this blog is appreciated.  A copy of your use is appreciated as well. Send it to

Tuesday, September 6, 2011


This post from Walt Mueller of the Center for Parent and Youth Understanding bears re-posting.  Read more from Mueller at learning my lines.

A Smack On Our Tweeting Fingers. . . .

Later this month I'll be hunkering down with a group of youth workers for about 150 minutes at The National Youthworkers Convention in San Diego. During those 150 minutes I'll be sharing for the first time some of what I've learned during my five months of concentrated research on the Digital Frontier and how it's affecting us and our kids in a brand new "Digital Kids" seminar. I keep having to remind myself that I've only got 150 minutes in San Diego because I'm still hunkered down here on the home front. . .for another 4 weeks. . . compiling research and writing the seminar!

One of the principles that keeps coming up as I've been researching is what Marshall McCluhan prophetically wrote about back in the 1960s when he worked to convince us that "the medium is the message." McCluhan would agree that media's content does shape us. But the media itself alters our lives in huge ways. For example, the invention of printing meant that we no longer had to commit things to memory as books and the knowledge they contained on their pages was only an arm's length away. Make sense?

That said, we must wisely and Christianly consider how the media/technology glut that's flowing out of the cultural fire hydrant in today's world is shaping us, changing us, and sometimes messing us over.

In the midst of all this I haven't been able to shake the fact that Twitter offers a prime example of how careful we must be. Quentin J. Schultze wrote his Habits of the High-Tech Heart: Living Virtuously in the Information Age four years before Jack Dorsey created Twitter in 2006. Dorsey's Twitter has morphed into "Exhibit A" of what Schultze calls our "succumbing to informationism: a non-discerning, vacuous faith in the collection and dissemination of information as a route to social progress and personal happiness." Long before Twitter even existed, Schultze wrote that the dissemination of information has become "an incessant noise that repeatedly diverts our attention from greater matters." For the Christian, that's something we need to recognize and remedy through redemptive use of things like Twitter. No, we don't need to condemn Twitter to Hell. Rather, we need to smack some sense into our Tweeting fingers so that our use of the micro-blogging platform brings honor and glory to God, rather than honor and glory to self. . . or the kingdoms of the world, the flesh, and the devil.

Consider these words from Schultze's Habits of the High-Tech Heart: "More and more people have the power to exchange messages and access databases, but fewer people seem to know what life means or how to live it well. . . . Instead of knowing well, we spend more time merely messaging - quickly sending and receiving email missives, downloading and uploading digital files, and surfing through cyberspace. When we message too much, we begin to lose intimacy with others, the natural world, the Creator, and even ourselves. Faster messaging can be instrumental good - such as getting stock market quotes more quickly - but it is far less likely to be a moral good. Morally conducive forms of knowing, such as conversing and contemplating, are lost, thoughtful, and personal. . . . An overdependence on messaging reduces human communication to an instrumental means of satisfying our own immediate desires."

So, I think I'm going to get bold in San Diego. . . and Atlanta. . .and elsewhere. I may say some pretty direct things that I - first and foremost - need to hear. As Christians, we are called to stand apart. . . to be in but not of the world. . . to use technology and media structures in ways that honor and glorify God. . . to be obedient and redemptive. . . to seriously and carefully consider every new thing that comes down the pike rather than jumping in with reckless abandon void of forethought. . . to model all this for the kids we've been entrusted with. . . kids who are only beginning life in a world that will only get more technological and information-based as the years pass. I might be laying my fingers out on the table and invite you all to join me. . . and then we'll share a much-needed smack.

Sunday, September 4, 2011


“The worker is worthy of his wages.” – 1 Timothy 5:18b
Today is Labor Day, a day set aside in our nation to honor those who work for a living and whose productivity strengthens our nation.”  As a Christian I believe it is appropriate to have such an observance for it affirms a core value of our culture.  Work is certainly a core value for  God.  We know that because in the story of Creation we are told that God Himself worked. And we know from this passage in the New Testament that work is intended to be affirmed by paying someone the wages he has earned from his work. A worker should enjoy the fruit of his or her labor.
There is a definite ambivalence towards work in our culture.  Work is a burden to many, a necessary evil to be endured until the weekend comes when we can work at our play. Many people believe that the highest aspiration of humanity should be to have enough so that work is entirely optional.  We look askance at those who don’t plan to retire as if I playing golf and traveling for the rest of your life is a higher value than contributing to the economic well-being of nation.  Being a workaholic is considered a mental defect, being a hardworker high praise–but we often blur the lines between the two.
People who work primarily with their minds are looked down upon by those who work with their hands–and vice versa.  The cultural elite tend to view the “working class” as the ignorant requiring their paternal protection. Too many in the working class are working so that they can become part of the elite.  Work has levels of  “acceptability” and we tend to have preconceived notions of what work is “beneath us.”
The Bible teaches us much about work – the dignity of work, the value of work, and the purpose of our work.  Here are some of the more prominent verses that we can consider:
Genesis 2:15
The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.
Exodus 20:8-10
“Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your manservant or maidservant, nor your animals, nor the alien within your gates.
Exodus 23:12
Six days do your work, but on the seventh day do not work, so that your ox and your donkey may rest and the slave born in your household, and the alien as well, may be refreshed.
Exodus 35:35
He has filled them with skill to do all kinds of work as craftsmen, designers, embroiderers in blue, purple and scarlet yarn and fine linen, and weavers—all of them master craftsmen and designers.
John 6:27
Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. On him God the Father has placed his seal of approval.”
Ephesians 2:10
For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
Ephesians 4:11-13
It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.
Ephesians 6: 5-9
Slaves, obey your earthly masters with deep respect and fear. Serve them sincerely as you would serve Christ. Try to please them all the time, not just when they are watching you. As slaves of Christ, do the will of God with all your heart. ;Work with enthusiasm, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people. Remember that the Lord will reward each one of us for the good we do, whether we are slaves or free. Masters, treat your slaves in the same way. Don’t threaten them; remember, you both have the same Master in heaven, and he has no favorites.
Colossians 3:23
Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men,
Hebrews 6:10
God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them.
Hebrews 13:5
Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”
James 5:4
Look! The wages you failed to pay the workmen who mowed your fields are crying out against you. The cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord Almighty.
1 Thessalonians 2:9
Surely you remember, brothers, our toil and hardship; we worked night and day in order not to be a burden to anyone while we preached the gospel of God to you.
1 Thessalonians 4:11
Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands, just as we told you,
2 Thessalonians 3:8
nor did we eat anyone’s food without paying for it. On the contrary, we worked night and day, laboring and toiling so that we would not be a burden to any of you.
On this Labor Day remember this truth –
1. Work is part of the purpose of God for our lives.
2. Our ability to work is a gift from God and our work itself is a gift to God.
3. Work is the way that we help care for our world and its people, and to keep from being an undue burden to the neighbor whom we are called to love.
4. Work with eternity in mind.
(C) 2011 by Stephen L Dunn