Thursday, October 31, 2013


I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.- Psalm 139:14
My body ain't what it used to be.  It's never been the sleek, buff guy in GQ and I'll never make anyone's "most attractive men" list (except for my wife Dianne's).  The hair is greyer and thinner.  Some of my teeth have now gone to be with Jesus.  My feet are downright ugly--even my doctor says so.  And today I took a tumble and badly twisted an ankle.  I just got clumsy coming off a step and went down before I could even put out a hand to stop.  (Did I mention the state of my reflexes?) 
But our  body is not who we are?
My mind has always been sharp, my analytical skills finely honed.  I have mastered extemporaneous speaking.  I am known for my creativity and intellectual intensity.
But our mind is not who we are?
Yes, the complexity of our body's designs and the human mind is an awesome thing when it is functioning properly.  These are two factors that always remind me of the Intelligent Design that put me together, and knowing that the Master Designer has created even better versions simply affirms the divinity that shapes humanity and the world.  
Although God is perfect, I am vividly aware of my imperfection.  I love what is written on Ruth Graham's tombstone:
“Under Construction: Thank you for your patience.” 
Yet my imperfection does not change the wonder of who I am.  I am a person created by the Living God--and then created anew out his unconditional love and amazing grace--so that I can live according to His purpose.  And that purpose is the Good News that we all belong to God and have a part of the wondrous work He is doing to redeem humankind, and to demonstrate people living in this time that there is "a more perfect way" that He will empower them to live/
(C) 2013 by Stephen Dunn

Wednesday, October 23, 2013



We have made Christianity so very complicated. One of my passions is called "Apologetics", which is essentially, explaining the faith to those who are not yet followers of Jesus Christ. Yes, it's also called EVANGELISM. I have that the single, most effective way to help people find faith in Christ, is to point them to Jesus. Norman T Wright gives us some of the reasons why. 

Tuesday, October 22, 2013


Jen Hatmaker has posted one of those, "I wish I had written" blogs that I believe WE all need to read.  I am re-posting it in its entirety.  For more of Jen's work go to .

When I was a sophomore in high school, I wrote a paper on “personal prejudices” for my teen leadership class. I chose to write about my unfair bias against kids who partied. (OH MY GOSH I WAS SUCH A SQUARE. Same girl who was voted “Most Inspirational” her senior year. I was a ton of fun in my teenage evangelical days.)

My teacher kept me after class and confessed something, as I was a varsity cheerleader. She admitted to stereotyping cheerleaders as long as she could remember; vacuous, slutty, mean girls, empty brains. We talked about my paper and my worldview in general, and she apologized for painting me with an unfair brush and promised to evaluate cheerleaders as individuals from then on. I promised to try and not be a judgmental weirdo and maybe only bring my Bible to class half the time. Bless my heart.

A few weeks ago, I spent two days with about 60 women from all over the country, all influential and strong in their respective niches. No one knew everyone, a few knew someone, and some knew no one. We encompassed the furthest left leaners to the staunchest right-wingers, complementarians and egalitarians, rebels and conservatives, pastors, musicians, writers, speakers, authors, artists, poets, catalyzers, marketplace leaders; all over the map, literally and spiritually.

We all held our breath in the days preceding; this was a lot of diversity, man. Some of these girls had come toe-to-toe online before. There were camps represented, people had big feelings, theology was not unanimous. Some barely got on the plane, nervous and unsure and prematurely defensive. We were all leaders; many cooks in the kitchen, hide the knives.

We hoped our love for Jesus and desperation for our generation would be enough.

We were right.

What transpired was the most beautiful, holy, healing gathering. I didn’t even have the courage to imagine it. The differences melted away; I can’t even remember what they were in the first place. Some pulled others aside and said, “I was wrong about you. Forgive me.” We washed each others' hands and shared communion and fell in love with one another.


It can be such a terrible word. They are all like that. They don’t get us. They are always _____. They are never _____. They are not our people. They are all the same. They all feel _____. They would never _____. The book is already written and them, and we can close it.

Do you know how often this is not true? Not even remotely true? The Mythical They creates straw men to disparage, propping up stereotypes and strengthening our prejudices while eliminating the actual work of relationships. It is the easy way out to be sure. We are excused from personal contact entirely, imagining ourselves as their victim or their target or their adversary. We can actually invent an entire conflict without speaking a solitary word to a live human.

How many of us have a secret nemesis? Women are particularly deft at harboring imaginary tension. She would never like me. I would totally hate her. She is the sum of the few parts I know about her. I heard she was _____. She is friends with/works for/goes to/believes that/affiliated with _____, so there is nothing else I need to know about her.

So rather than doing the grown up thing and actually talking or connecting or asking questions face to face, we hide behind The Mythical They and absolve ourselves of truthful discernment. Why have a potentially productive conversation when we can just make up a disastrous one in our heads? Oh sure, we may be entirely human and normal and nuanced, but certainly no one else is.

Let’s go here: How many of us refuse to walk into a church because they will all be _____ (cliquey, judgmental, mean, boring, holy). We see the church and say they. But here is a secret: all sorts of ordinary people just show up to church on Sunday. There is no they. It is just a collection of individual people who just lost their job or are going through a divorce or have a secret addiction or love Jesus like a fat kid loves cake or have no idea why they are there.

Reverse the scenario: If you snuck in the back door of a church and hid out on the back row, barely hanging on, and someone drove past the sanctuary and said, “Oh no. They are all _____ in there…” How unfair would that be? You’d stand up and say, NOT ME! You don’t know my story! If you only knew… Those are the same people under the steeples on Sundays.

There is no they.

I’ve done this. Of course I have. I imagine I know exactly the type of women I’ll be dealing with when I walk into a conference based on the venue, and I am wrong exactly every time. Because there is no they. No group of people is any one thing. Ever.

An 84-year-old woman sat next to me on the front row once, and I thought, wow, she is in the wrong place. I’m about to talk about justice and poor people and she is just here because she has been coming to conferences for eleventy billion years. I bet she falls asleep.

When I came off the stage, with tears pouring down her face, she grabbed my hands and said, “Everyone thinks I’m just an old lady and should sit in my pew and go gently into the white light, but I still have good years left, by God. I go to the prison four times a week. Those are my people. You are the first person who doesn’t think I’m crazy.”

There is no they.

It is immature and lazy to imagine we know everything there is to know about someone before we know that someone. We don’t know their stories, their histories, their real live human feelings. We don’t know their favorite movies and best memories and what makes them afraid. It is unfair to take one fact, one thing they’ve said or we heard they said, or one thing they wrote, or someone else’s experience, or a group they identify with and make a character sketch. If people did that to us, the picture would be so woefully incomplete, we wouldn’t even recognize our own description.

Who is your they? Is it a group? Because guilt by association is the lowest form of assessment. No group is all the same. They may have one line item in common, one belief, one perspective or mission, but that camaraderie is not the sum total of a person’s character. She is other things besides that. Probably a bunch of stuff just like you. You’d be surprised.

Is your they an individual? Have you invented a barrier based on anything but sustained personal connection? Maybe you think you know how someone will react or respond, but you could be as wrong about them as they are about you.

I suspect we misjudge people 90% of the time. Experience tells me I can sit down over coffee with almost any perceived adversary and end up laughing until my ribs ache. We were born on the same day, we both quit reading the same book halfway through, we are both worried about parenting, we both love Jesus even if we don’t agree on all the dressings. Common ground abounds.

Yes, some people are genuinely toxic or unhealthy, but we should draw those conclusions from personal experience, not hearsay or assumptions. I see a strategy for fracturing humanity well in play: just keep people separated and let them reinforce invented boundaries in their imaginations. Because when people come together and really listen to each other, doing the hard work of human kindness, virtually every barrier is breached. The entire mechanism is a house of cards; we can topple the structure with courage and trust and real discussions and grace for each other.

The Mythical They is a lie, and we can do better than this. Will you be brave? Do you need to pick up the phone or send an email and ask someone to coffee? Perhaps it’s time to stop painting a group with a wide brush and get close enough to see what those folks are actually like; you will never regret giving someone a chance, but you might forever regret carrying a fake grudge to your deathbed. Let’s refuse to buy into this horrid game. Let’s give each other the benefit of the doubt, some actual time. We’ll listen and connect and try to understand each other like the People of Mercy we supposedly are.

It could just be the most beautiful, holy thing we do.

Who is your they? How have you felt? Is that real or mostly imagined or somewhere in between? What will you do?

Sunday, October 20, 2013



"It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery." - Galatians 5:1

Almost 25 years ago I experienced burnout - for the first time.  I won't share my whole history of working too hard, worrying too much about measuring up, ignoring my need for rest, emptying without filling. (Perhaps some other time when we know each other better.)  

At that time, I spent some time with a counselor.  He made this observation.  "You are one of the most responsible people I know." (That was not a compliment coming from him.)  Later he added, "You need to have a self to give it away."

So often we put ourselves under too great a burden of performance in our spiritual life.  Instead of knowing the joy of salvation, we know only the anxiety of trying to be worthy of it. It doesn't help when the church has this list of things we MUST do to be a GOOD Christian and create a "to do" list that never gets done-certainly not perfectly nor consistently.

We seek to measure up to what we can never measure up to.  And we become enslaved to expectations that were never put on us by God.

The truth is that God in His infinite wisdom and unconditional love knew we could not measure up.  We could not be holy and He is holy without His help.  So He gave us a wonderful gift--the gift of grace.  His unmerited, unearned, undeserved favor.

And the key to that gift is to simply let Him live in and through us.  To give up trying to be religious and live in relationship with the Giver of Every Good and Perfect Gift.

You don't "say"grace-you live by grace.

The result will be a person of joy and wholeness that honors and reflects that God who loves us--created us--and redeemed us as new persons.

It's time to embrace the grace!

(C) 2013 by Stephen L Dunn

Friday, October 18, 2013



"Hurry sickness"

I do not know who first coined this expression, but I am familiar with it.  I have one of those professions where people always seem to be having crises, and they want to make it your emergency.

No matter how much I organize, prioritize, plan--and just say "no"; I find myself in those situations when I am rushing hither and you.  Often without my mind fully engaged.

Several weeks ago I was at the church in a meeting that went much longer than expected.  It was at the end of a day that began much earlier than expected and was too intense for downtime.  Needlessly to say, when the meeting adjourned; I left the building--quickly.

So quickly that I forgot to set out some traffic cones that were  needed to assure the safety of children who would be bussed the next day to the church for a released time program.  I actually remembered about 5:45 the next morning; just fifteen minutes before people start filling the parking lot where those cones needed to take up residence.

I jumped into my sweats and tennies, climbed into the car and dashed over to the church as quickly as the law and the traffic signals would permit.  I was in such a hurry that I did not turn on the lights in the church and as I was heading towards the parking lot, I stepped off a step outside my office, fell sideways and then bent my ankle. Bent is a tame description.  Folded it over, mashed it down with my full body weight as I rolled over it--and then twisted it the whole mess.

The pain was excruciating.  Nothing was fractured, just badly bruised; but now, nearly two and a half weeks later, it hurts. Last week it hurt like hell. This week it just hurts like New Jersey.  (Sorry, friends. I was just watching a news story about a problem in the Garden State).

The doctor tells me I have at least another week of an air cast and babying it.  If nothing gets better next week, therapy will be prescribed.

Adding insult to injury, I am headed to Hilton Head for some vacation time.  Walking the beach will not be on the agenda.

I have now slowed down for several weeks.  I am sick of it.

Ecclesiastes 4:6 tells us: " Better one handful with tranquility than two handfuls with toil
and chasing after the wind."

Speed blows right through tranquility.  Being in a hurry is often like chasing after the wind.  And all together, it robs life of our peace, especially when we are forced to slow down and all we can think about is what is left undone.

I guess I need to thank God for this lesson.  If I heed  it, it's character building.  If not, I'll tumble again.  I suspect the next tumble, I'll break something - and that WILL slow me down and WILL hurt.

(C) 2013 by Stephen L Dunn 

Monday, October 14, 2013


Thank you, USA Today. This one was worth your doubled cover price. - Steve



Let's see. The government is on shutdown as the Republicans hold funding hostage until the President revisits a healthcare plan that has already drawn objections from his supporters in the labor unions.The IMF President is wanting that a US default will spark global recession.  The Afghan President is mad at the US again and the Iranian one might become a  new "friend." A US general in charge of the Air Force's long-range nuclear missiles is sacked because of illegal gambling activities.  Obamacare faces administrative glitches already.  USA Today doubled the price of its daily publication of day old news from $1 to $2 and the US Postal Service "needs" another postage hike.  And there's no new cultural commentary on Miley Cyrus.

Thank God it's October and postseason baseball is underway.  Unarguably four of the very best teams in baseball are now vying for the two spots in the 2013 World Series. The red hot Cardinals with a pitching staff full of rookie pitchers cooled off the most exciting baseball team of 2013, the Pittsburgh Pirates and now have the hottest team in the National League during the final weeks of the season, the  Dodgers limping back to LA down 2-0/

The Boston Red Sox, who had the best AL record, wiped out the Tampa Bay Rays, whose staying power had resembled the possee in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, with an unbelievable offensive barrage.  And then there's the Detroit Tigers, who came back from the dead against Oakland,  when Max Scherzer roared out the bullpen to force a 5th fame and then Justin Verlander showed why he is still Verlander and totally humiliated the A's in the final.

And in the first game of the ALCS, three Tiger pitchers nearly pitched a no-hitter with 17 strikeouts against those vaunted Bosox.  And in game two,  Max Scherzer again showed why he will be the Cy Young winner with a no-hitter into the 6th and 13 strikeouts as the Tigers hitters finally stopped having one run games. But after he left the bullpen, let the Red Sox back in and David Ortiz hit his first ever home run off of Tiger closer Joaquin Benoit with the bases loaded. Unfortunately, then, my Tigers lost.

I can hardly wait for the games today in LA and tomorrow in Detroit.  Once again "America's Pasttime" gives us something that makes sense and good drama. Maybe Jim Leyland and his managerial pals need to go to DC and help the Republicans and the President make that mess make sense, or at least make better drama.

Thursday, October 3, 2013


This is my life verse. (A life verse is one that describes the organizing principle of a person's life.)  I share here three different ways of translating Romans 8:28.
“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” – Romans 8:28

“And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.”  New Living Translation

“Meanwhile, the moment we get tired in the waiting, God’s Spirit is right alongside helping us along. If we don’t know how or what to pray, it doesn’t matter. He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans. He knows us far better than we know ourselves, knows our pregnant condition, and keeps us present before God. That’s why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good.” The Message which includes verses 26-27

There is a powerful truth contained in this passage: God works.

This is not the clockwork God of the Deists, Who creates the world, sets it in motion, and stands at a distance watching.  No, this is an attentive, intentional and intervening God.

This is not the Divine Bellhop God of the name it and claim it clan or the situationalist, Who arrives in our lives when and only when He is invited, tethered to our immediate desires and needs.

This is God, Who is intimately active in our lives–often in ways at first unseen and unnoticed, revealing His presence and purposes “in just the right time.”

I love this verse because it reminds me that my life is not a product of fate or chance, but Providence.
There is a second powerful truth:  God works for the good.

Although while navigating the rivers of this life that flow through the valley of the shadow of death, some of the things that God causes to happen to us hurt or even leave us confused, we count on the fact that God is good and all the time God is good.  It does not say all things are good, but that God works in all things to create good outcomes for us.

And a third truth: God works for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purposes.

This does not negate that the rain falls on the just and the unjust, but there is one thing that the just can bank on-it’s all good when we trust Him and let Him work in and through us.  In the end we wouldn’t trade even the failures (from our perspective) and the fumbles. As we live and mature, we see the hand of God at work in our lives and know that to be a blessing.

(C) 2013 by Stephen L. Dunn

Wednesday, October 2, 2013


This is a video from my alma mater's Scotland PA CAMPUS, the newest venture of Winebrenner Theological Seminary. I serve as an adjunct with this institution and it's where I earned my D. Min. degree focsuing on transformational leadership and transforming church cultures.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013



Monday one of the most exciting and closest baseball races in history came to an end.  Later this week the post-season begins with the Wild Card games between the Red and Pirates, Rays and Indians.  The addition of one wild card spot in each league made for exciting baseball for many fans right up to the final weekend of the season.  In the play-in game, Tampa Bay won the 10th spot.

But there was a really ugly incident on the final regular season Wednesday in Atlanta.  A youthful Carlos Gomez of the Milwaukee Brewers had been hit with a pitch from the Atlanta pitcher, Paul Maholm in June--a pitch that Gomez believed to have been intentional. After being embarrassed when he swung wildly on the first pitch, Gomez connected on the second to send the ball out of the park.  Still a "kid" in many ways, on a team whose season had ended several weeks before, Carlos began celebrating as he rounded the bases.  His celebration went on a little bit long and even a little siilly, but frankly was understandable given the circumstances.

The Braves, however, took umbrage and by the time he was at third, he was being barked at by the Atlanta players.  When he arrived at home plate, catcher Brian McCann stood in front of home plate blocking the end of his circuit, angrily shouting and basically denying him the opportunity to touch that base.  What erupted next was a bench-emptying shoving, shouting match. Read more about the incident.

The Braves, who had been struggling at the plate and losing ground against the Washington Nationals, have been taking an attitude of "don't show attitude in our house," even though over the season they have shown attitude in other people's houses. Gomez said he understood what McCann was doing.  I for one, an avid baseball fan and generally a fan of McCann's, however, do not understand. For a "mature" player like Brian McCann to show such an unsportsmanlike attitude was equally unacceptable.

I mean, Brian and the Braves; Gomez was a young star playing on a team that was going nowhere. You have a team what has a legitimate chance to win the Series.  Gomez and the 2013 Brewers are already fading into the woodwork.

Later, in fact, quite quickly, Gomez issued this statement via Twitter:

"I would like to apologize first to the fans, MLB, my teammates and the Brewers organization as well as the Braves organization. The way I carried myself on the field is unacceptable, I should have done better to control myself and set a good example." His apology was blunted a bit by a statement of  justification for his reaction--which apologizing for the reaction itself.

I have seen no such apology from the Braves.  Shame on you.