Thursday, November 29, 2012


For a season I will be posting music as part of LIFE MATTERS on Thursdays--music with meaning. This is from the new Christian group, Jesus Culture, has been a great source of encouragement to me in my walk with God.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012


Hostess, the maker of Twinkies and Wonder Bread are going out of business.  Two staples of Americana for decades will disappear from grocery shelves (in some cases, they are already gone).  Given the notorious staying power of a Twinkie, they may actually stay in existence for  another decade in someone's climate controlled (and sentry-dog guarded) warehouse.  Wonder Bread will be gone much sooner. Bread mold still seems to find an errant loaf and turn the white bread green in short order.

Having given up white bread for my health at least 20 years ago, I confess I won't miss that.  My children, however, are a different matters.  Despite being highly educated and extremely health-conscious; they still choose to make their toast or peanut  butter and jelly sandwiches out of that white loaf.  That won't last more than a week, although  there are many white bread manufacturers.  It's just not Wonder Bread.

Think of what this will mean?  The purveyors of deep fried twinkies as street fairs and country fairs will have to deep fry something else--probably pickles or something.  Oh, I forgot.  They already are doing that.

There will be a run on the remaining Twinkies that exceeds bread and milk runs before a snowstorm.  People will have to find a place to hide their stash so that the burglars don't take the Twinkies instead of the computer equipment.

Twenty years from now one of the last remaining boxes of Twinkies will go up for auction in some capital city and will sell for $100,000.

Divorce settlements will have to include the possession (or division) of all the Twinkies in the marriage (unless one spouse has managed to hide them in an off-short safety deposit box).

The potential for crisis and comfort food meltdown are infinite.

It's probably time to have a new food capturing our imagination and identifying with inner peace.

Did I hear someone say, "Broccoli?"

I didn't think so.

Until someone finds a suitable nominee, we will have to cherish the memories (and maybe lose some weight in the process).

Tuesday, November 27, 2012


Todd Rhodes recently shared a link on his blog about the fact 45% of Americans would consider skipping Christmas. Read more

 Now that Lucasfilms and its Star Wars franchise has bought Disney, Michael Kelly offered this video reflection. Then I came across this blog post by Robert Olsen, an evangelical Christian who comes from the same Arminian heritage as myself.

 Merry idolatry season! November 24, 2012 By rogereolson

 Recently, in the last couple days, I’ve been in places where I have to listen to loud, canned, “Christmas” music. I didn’t have to strain to hear the words; they were loud and clear. In one well-known chain coffee shop I have heard dozens of “seasonal” songs but not one about Jesus–directly or indirectly. One song is about Santa Claus and contains the words “Santa brings us peace” and “Santa brings us all love.” There is no doubt that the song’s writer intended to replace Jesus with Santa Claus in the Christmas mythos. I asked a waiter why the store plays only secular “Christmas” music and he said they get complaints if they play anything religious. I said “Please tell the manager that I’m a customer, too, and I’m offended that the store plays only secular “Christmas” music.” He just looked at me like I have two heads.

Even as I write this I hear several Christian voices answering me in my mind. “Let the pagans have the holiday” (Rodney Clapp) is one that I respect. Maybe I’m just too old, but I have trouble going with that. Christians are still a significant portion of this society and our celebration of this holiday should at least be acknowledged and taken seriously by those who want our business. I say play music of all the celebrations of the season–Jewish, Christian, African-American, secular, etc.

Of course the other response I agree with entirely is that the “real” idolatry of the season is the excess of consumerism, not music.

Monday, November 26, 2012



More than a year ago devastating revelations about Jerry Sandusky and the cover-up by Penn State's highest leadership and legendary coach Joe Paterno rocked Happy Valley.  Next to the victims of Sandusky's sexual atrocities, there were other victims of a different order--the young men who had been recruited to play football for Penn State University and the rich heritage of the excellent athletes and model citizen leaders who graduated from "Linebacker U."

The NCAA, before leveling its unprecedented punishment, gave the remaining young men and incoming recruits the chance to pit their football fortunes in another program.  Some took the opportunity, but many young men of great character and loyalty to their school chose to remain. Penn State brought in a coach, Bill O'Brien, who proceeded to create a "new day" for Penn State football and to help shape a team again into a competitive squad that could hold its head up with dignity and be more than competitive on the gridiron.

Penn State succeeded beyond many people's expectations.  After a slow and sometimes agonizing start, the Nittany Lions grew into one of the class teams of the Big Ten. Their only two losses were close contests against eventual division leaders--Penn State and Nebraska/  Even with no bowl game or Big Ten title games to validate their efforts, these young Lions pressed and worked and performed at a great level.  When they faced the Ohio State Buckeyes, they were very much in the hunt to capture or share the Leader Division title of the Big Ten.

Personally, I am a life-long fan of The Ohio State Buckeyes and rejoiced as Urban Meier and his charges went 12-0 in a season when like Penn State, they would have no further reward. But no football program in America had as much as adversity to overcome and as much to prove as the Penn State Nittany Lions.

So with great respect I must say, Way to go, Penn State!

Saturday, November 24, 2012



I have always  been a person who seems to seek busyness.  I once described myself as a "recovering workaholic" and someone who knew me well quipped, "Relapsed would be more accurate."  My schedule generally has been full and I have had several Facebook friends who have said, "Your Facebook page makes me tired." I tend to be optimistic about how much I can accomplish in a day or week, and my assessment would be accurate if days had 28 hours and weeks had nine days.

There is no Bible verse to proof text this attitude.  "Busyness is not next to godliness" unless you are reading 2nd Imaginations in the latest version of the Apocrypha.  The outcome of extreme busyness is generally not pretty. Whether you rust out or wear out - out is out.

It's taken two bouts with burnout to get me to give serious attention to my busyness addiction; and even now I need to be vigilant about saying "yes" when I need to say "no".  At some point busyness robs you of joy and true productivity.  It's hard to be content and fulfilled when you're exhausted. Some things take time and solid attention. Trying to do too much usually erodes quality or sustainability.

One of the lessons we need to learn to combat this insidious busyness is to claim a new core value:

Many of us carry some old tapes that warn against laziness.  "Idle hands are the devil's workshop" has been used many a time to provide a verbal kick in the rear to someone.  Yet sometimes, idling is needed to get warmed up for the journey.

Some of have tapes that say "Measure up!" or "Prove yourself!" or "Always Look Busy!" As a result we press on to produce and take our worth in the quantity we produce rather than the quality of what we produce.

But our self-worth is first tied to who we are. What we do comes next.  And in God's scheme of things, quality always trumps quantity.  "Whatever you do in word or deed, do it as unto the Lord." (Colossians 3:17)

Maybe we find greater joy if we attended to doing what we do well and not worry so much about how much we do.  White Castle and other mass producing hamburger joints can plow out tons of little meaty sqaures fried in onions, but does anyone seriously think they as good as that turkey you ate at Thanksgiving which cooked for hours before it was served?

So here is my counsel, especially as you get ready for the insanity that is the pre-Christmas season in America.  Do yourself a favor. DO LESS BETTER.

(c) 2012 by Stephen L Dunn

Friday, November 23, 2012


Thank you to my friend, Dennis Killinger who posted this on Facebook. It sums up my personal reflection for today.

Thursday, November 22, 2012



Lots of fond memories about Thanksgiving.  The memories would be fonder if the Lions had won more often on that day.  But one of my favorite memories is the day WKRP tried to turn Thanksgiving into a marketing scheme.
Don't you just miss these classics? This one from the Sktizy Chicks is going to become another classic.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012


 I am looking forward to seeing the new movie Lincoln. I have long been a fan of this courageous and insightful leader.  One of the things that draws me to Lincoln is his devout Christian faith as evidenced by this Thanksgiving address.

                                                            LINCOLN'S THANKSGIVING ADDRESS

It is the duty of nations as well as of men to owe their dependence upon the overruling power of God; to confess their sins and transgressions in humble sorrow, yet with assured hope that genuine repentance will lead to mercy and pardon; and to recognize the sublime truth, announced in the Holy Scriptures and proven by all history, that those nations are blessed whose God is the Lord.

We know that by his divine law, nations, like individuals, are subject to punishments and chastisements in this world. May we not justly fear that the awful calamity of civil war which now desolates the land may be a punishment inflicted upon us for our presumptuous sins; to the needful end of our national reformation as a whole people?

We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of heaven; we have been preserved these many years in peace and prosperity; we have grown in numbers, wealth and power as no other nation has grown.

But we have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us, and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own.
Intoxicated with unbroken success we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us.

It has seemed to me fit and proper that God should be solemnly, reverently, and gratefully acknowledged, as with one heart and one voice, by the whole of the American people. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November as a day of Thanksgiving and praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens.

President Abraham Lincoln



"I'm bored!"

In many households and in our culture at large, this has become a cardinal sin--even if it's unspoken.

On the surface, our national boredom does not make sense.  Most of our cable systems offer us from 24 to more than 224 channels.  If being entertained is our highest goal, there's a channel for almost every imaginable interest or channels to revisit the world of nostalgia when many people found greater meaning. (Personally, nostalgia is overrated, it makes us immediately devalue the present and things in the past are always better in our memory than they were when we were experiencing them first-hand).

The world of technology is constantly inventing a new toy to capture our imaginations, each news cycle creates something new for us to debate over coffee or on Twitter and Facebook.   And if you don't find anything there to stimulate you, get your video cam and make something you can send to America's Funniest Home Videos.  Who knows, you might win the $10,000 prize so that you can have money to spend and be further bored with your life.

Boredom is not a sin, and certainly not a deadly one (despite what your teenager may say almost every day.) How we respond to boredom, however, may say something about the presence of sin in our lives. What is the source of our boredom?

Part of it may be our tendency to think that it's all about us.  The universe owes us stimulation and entertainment.

Part of it may be our addiction to adrenalin.  Things are only valuable if they get us "pumped" and after while being pumped becomes our goal--not the value of our activity.

Part of it may be our discontent with life in general.  We would be quick to agree with Solomon, "Meaningless, meaningless, all is meaningless."

Perhaps we need to be agreeing with the apostle Paul, "Godliness with contentment is great gain."

Actually, Solomon followed his observation with the prescription for a life of meaning, where boredom cannot come in and rob and steal.  "He has set eternity in our hearts ... He makes all things beautiful in its time."

The whole quote goes like this ... "I have seen the burden God has laid on the human race.  He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end. I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live. That each of them may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all their toil—this is the gift of God. I know that everything God does will endure forever; nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it. God does it so that people will fear him.." - Ecclesiastes 3.10-14

It is my experience that when we live with eternity in our heart and our eyes fixed on God’s working in and through us, even boredom can be a time of strength and satisfaction.  Sometimes the work God is doing seems boring but only when I am a spectator looking for stimulation instead of a servant living in His significance.

So the next time you are bored, to paraphrase Henry Blackaby, see what it is God is doing and go do it with Him.

(C) 2012 by Stephen L Dunn

Tuesday, November 20, 2012


I have been a baseball player, a manager, a third base coach and, yes, an UMPIRE.  I have never been an organist - in church or otherwise, but THIS organist has a lot of guts.

Monday, November 19, 2012


by Steve Dunn

Have you ever identified with this little guy?  I certainly have.  Tim Hansel, in his book, Holy Sweat, has written that the problem with life is "that it is so daily."   How many times have you found that one day looks like another and certain days look like they have for every week ad nauseum. Makes you think like Mork from Ork, "ah, deja vu all over again."

At times we despise routine, thinking of it as a rut.  And you know the definition of a rut--a grave with both ends knocked out of it.

We despise it, that is, until something painfully extraordinary happens to us--like Superstorm Sandy or the news that we have cancer and are destined for multiple rounds of chemotherapy.   Depending how long that extraordinary interruption occurs; that becomes the routine we despise, then we long for the return of those ruts. 

These past few months I have been teaching a class on New Testament Foundations to 16 students in what is called the Pastoral Training Institute.  It's a sort of Readers' Digest romp through the 27 powerful and inspired books that compose the New Testament.  But in it, we seek to embrace the highlights of that God-breathed wisdom flowing from the pens of those apostolic writers.

This verse from the Apostle Paul was on our syllabus this past week. "I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength" - Philippians 4:12-13.

Part of the problem with our Mondays, or all of our days for that matter, is that we see them as something to be endured instead of embraced.  We have not learned the secret of contentment and without contentment there is generally no true thanksgiving or giving at all, for that matter.

Paul says that the secret is the presence of God working in and through us.  When we recognize that God is with us, and when we permit Him to dwell within us, He then shapes our lives and empowers us to make the best of all situations.  Then we have a reason to be thankful and out of our own gratitude we become people of giving--of blessing.

Jill Briscoe once taught me a prayer that has forever stayed with me, and which I pray every day--especially on Mondays. "Lord, help me to be the blessing I am blessing to be."

On this Monday, at the beginning of Thanksgiving Week, maybe we need the attitude adjustment that comes from the prayer, "Thank God, it is Monday!"

(C) 2012 by Stephen L. Dunn 

Please note that you have permission to reprint or repost this article if you do me the courtesy of printing without editing or change and if you include a link to this website.

Saturday, November 17, 2012


I intended to start re-publishing these in August and got sidetracked. You may want to re-read the initial post before reading these. - STEVE BRIAN'S QUESTIONS

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.                                                                  


Monday, November 12, 2012


I was traveling from Pennsylvania to Indiana for a speaking engagement just a few days after the elections.  In the hotel breakfast room, CNN was on the television.  Doing a rundown of the week's events, they were commenting on the vote in Washington and Colorado to legalize recreational marijuana (something that continues to violate federal law).

"Marijuana on Main Street, just what we need!"

This came from the lips of a grandmother who was overseeing the breakfast for the hotel.  In print you cannot hear the inflection in her voice.  It was neither affirmation or celebration, it was dripping with sarcasm.

"It will lead to more problems. Count on it!"

To this lady I say, "Amen."

Now I know right away, the pro-marijuana people will say, "We allow other drugs like alcohol ..."  Or the libertarians will say, "It's  my right as long as I don't hear anyone."  I have friends in both of these camps.

My response on the surface is, "Ultimately we will pay for your healthcare choices or to care for you when your mind is gone." And to the latter, "But not everything is good for you or for our society."

Let me reiterate, "it will lead to more problems."

Let the evidence speak for itself. shares these facts about marijuana. I think they are worth considering:


It's a plant, so it's natural, and natural is always good-right? Think again, because both natural and synthetic versions of marijuana can cause a long-lasting, negative impact on your developing brain.


Blunt, dope, ganja, grass, herb, joint, bud, Mary Jane, pot, reefer, green, trees, smoke, sinsemilla, skunk, weed, hash, tea, chronic, 420

What is it?

A green and brown mix of dried flowers, stems, seeds and leaves from the hemp plant Cannabis sativa.39 The main active chemical is THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), which moves quickly through the bloodstream to the brain and other organs throughout the body.39 Marijuana is a mild hallucinogen that can also act as a depressant or a stimulant.

The Risks

You may hear people ask, "If it's dangerous, why do so many people have medical marijuana cards?"40 It's true that scientists have determined that the cannabis plant has the potential for addressing a range of medical conditions. But it's also true that when you're young and your body is still growing, marijuana actually has the potential of inflicting a long-lasting, negative impact on your developing brain.

Using marijuana at a young age can result in structural and functional deficits of the brain. This could cause you to develop weakened verbal and communication skills, lowered learning capabilities and a shortened attention span.40


In addition to the possible effects on your brain, smoking marijuana may also be hazardous to your developing lungs. Marijuana smoke contains 50% to 70% more carcinogenic hydrocarbons than tobacco smoke.41

You may have heard people argue that marijuana is a "gateway drug" to harder drug use. Some say this is a myth, others insist it is a fact. The truth is that there is a link. Research shows that the earlier you start using marijuana, the more likely you are to become dependent on it or other types of drugs later in life.42


Some movies and music make "stoner" culture seem cool, natural and like it's not a big deal. But if being fit and getting good grades are some of your goals, using marijuana can become a big deal, fast. Marijuana limits your brain's effectiveness, slows your thinking and impairs your coordination. A number of studies have also shown an association between chronic marijuana use and increased rates of anxiety, depression and schizophrenia. 41


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Saturday, November 10, 2012


This is an intense and sometimes confusing time to live in America, especially in the immediate wake of both superstorm Sandy and the elections.  I have been drawn to both the tragedy and servanthood that have emerged in places like Staten Island and elsewhere on the East Coast.  I have been somewhat beleaguered by the passion and the vitriol of weeks leading up to Mr. Obama's re-election as President of the United States.  Both of these realities have been clearly beyond my control even though I have felt their impact.  I know I am not alone in this.

It would be easy to pontificate of this in a number of ways.  For example, do we really believe that global warming is not impacting our environment in destructive ways?  Or, is government ever going to be equipped to truly care for the needs of its people--I mean, all the needs?  (FEMA appears to have been a "no show" in Staten Island). Do the culture warriors really help this nation?--and this is aimed at both sides of the political spectrum. If sexual orientation continues as the forefront of the civil rights debate, what personal preference next will claim the hallowed platform earned so dearly by persons like Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King, Jr? Can we really have Big Bird and still have funds for things like unemployment  benefits and a national defense?

I am reminded that while most of the nation was focused on the election or on college football games or on the everyday business of doing business as usual, there were thousands of people in places like Staten Island who were struggling to survive amidst the garbage, cold, lack of fuel, and destroyed homes in the aftermath of Sandy.  I watched the stories of people, particularly elderly people, essentially trapped in their apartments with intermittent power and lacking the basic physical capability of getting to the street and into lines for food and other assistance.  These people were utterly dependent in the face on nonexistent social services upon others who looked beyond themselves to bring them the basic necessities of life.

I am gratified by the stories of people even a couple of states away, who were also without power, who hit the road for New York with gas-powered generators to help people pump out their houses or others who simply went into this disaster area simply to lend a hand to people who were engaged in the lonely task of digging out some remnant of their lives from homes that had been utterly destroyed.  They helped move the junk and give a shoulder to cry on as people wept over what was not ever to be again.

Life matters and God bless those who look beyond their own need or political ideologies to help people people maintain some small quality of life.

Friday, November 2, 2012


Four more days ... and the election will arrive.  The candidates obviously consider Ohio the center of the political universe, the swing state of swing states.  Each has five stops targeted for Ohio in these remaining days.  When Sandy was on her way to the East Coast (and before the candidates decided they needed to stop campaigning for a day lest they look "unpresidential"), most of the campaign tours rerouted themselves through the Buckeye State.

Last time round Pennsylvania was a swing state, until it became solidly blue.  It still must have some swing left because the political ads are rolling across prime time at the rate of about eight an hour, but the money must be tight. The ads are the same ones over and over.

During the 2008 election, a friend of mine from Indiana was visiting me in Pennsylvania.  He was astounded by the volume and the vitriol of the ads.  "You wouldn't even know there was a Presidential Election back in Indiana.  We barely see an ad on TV."  He was lamenting.  I was envious.

I have done some work in Ohio this past month, spending six nights in the last 25 in the Buckeye state.  The only thing more depressing to me than these ads was the Tigers channeling the Yankees and being swept  by the Giants in the World Series.

To be honest, I have listened to so much stuff and listened to both men flip-flop so many times that I find myself thinking neither man is worthy of leading this nation.  The nation is worth more than the core values of either presidential candidate.  And each has values that I am reluctant to have them installed at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

I confess, I am thinking of simply not voting.