Tuesday, December 31, 2013



It is the custom of our culture to greet the New Year by making resolutions: self-promises to bring focus and direction to our lives as we face the canvas of a fresh new year.  Some resolutions are revolutions, as people vow to make radical changes in their life to fix what has not been working in the previous years or even before that.  Revolutions often fail because we are not true believers of a new world but merely creative reactionaries against the old one.

Some resolutions are merely wishes, not even dreams.  They remain merely wishes (if they are not simply forgotten in the bustle and busyness of a new year) because they are neither grounded in an honest self-appraisal nor connected to a practical plan for their achievement.

My best experiences in planning for a new year is to spend some honest time reflecting upon the one through which I have just passed.  Let me share some of those which I believe might be helpful beyond my own circumstances and character.

1. Dianne and I started the new year (2013) waiting for a new job to which I was committed; but by its arrival I would have been out of work for seven months.  For three and a half months we lived in the home of a dear pastoral friend from seminary, Dennis Hall and his wife Ruth.  Their gracious hospitality made the waiting doable and along the way we found the incredible value of friends, especially those who have the gift of hospitality.
      Reflection:  A person's life is immeasurably enriched when they have friends who are more concerned about what you lack than what you require of them.  Find those friends.  Embrace them.  Appreciate them.  Imitate them in your dealing with others who need a friend.

2.  I have worked since March as the Intentional Interim Senior Pastor.  My job is take a church, assess its strengths and weaknesses, help it resolve its conflicts. correct its shortcomings, embrace a fresh vision, and wait patiently for their next leader.  It is a job where candor is essential.  People need the truth.  It is one where you need to name names and take prisoners, i.e., you need to help controlling and misdirected be accountable to the common good.  But in the process you need to believe in people and help them believe in the vision God has for them.
     Reflection: People and groups need the truth in order to be healthy and whole and fruitful. Our capacity for rationalization and denial are incredible, and incredibly destructive if someone does not speak the truth to us.  But those who speak the truth must speak the truth in love or defensive walls go up, instead of  destructive ones coming down.

3.  Dianne and I entered the year with the knowledge that the home we were making would be temporary.  If were successful, like John the Baptist we would have to decrease so someone else could increase.  We knew where we would live but did not know where we would dwell.  And as this year has processed, we know that next December we will not be here.  But by the nature of our job, we will not really have a clue until just a few weeks before this assignment ends.  Although that leaves us with uncertainties and questions, we are at peace.  We do not know all the answers but we know the One Who does.
     Reflection:  People find rest, security and peace not in a place but in a relationship.  When we have a relationship with Christ, we know that nothing will separate us from Him and any place we must go, He will go before.  If Christ is your "home". you will always have a home.

(C) 2013 by Stephen L Dunn

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Monday, December 30, 2013


One more to complete this journey into the past This first appeared in May 2010 - Steve


The most popular post to date on Life Matters is called “Invictus Revisited.” It is accessed almost daily since its original publication on March 14, 2010. 17 visits in fact. People may be coming to the site to read the poem itself. But the original purpose of the post was to present Dorothy Day’s revisiting of the poem and her rewritten version.

The original poem was written in 1875 by William Ernest Henley, but not published until 1888. Henley’s personal story. Henley contracted tuberculosis in the bone at age 12 and amputation was the only cure. He lived with and overcame his disability in age when persons with handicaps were given little assistance or encouragement. “Invictus” was written from a hospital bed; but Henley, true to the sentiment of his poem, lived an active life until age 53 when he died.

Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.
In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.
Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find, me unafraid.
It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.

When I was in high school in the late 60s and pastoring in the 70s and early 80s, “Invictus” was the staple of many a valedictorian’s graduation speech. As you read its word, you can understand why it appealed to young men and young women ready to start out on the challenges of adulthood, claiming the confidence that every fresh, and yet unseasoned grad often operates by.

Invictus means “unconquered” in Latin and speaks of taking responsibility for one’s own destiny. An anonymous commentator on the poem referring to is popularity recently wrote to the “Upstage” blog of the Indianapolis Star:

“Invictus” pits the speaker against “the fell clutch of circumstance” and various dire threats, including death, and demands that we admire his courage and steadfastness. How does such rigid, robotic poetry become famous? Because it captures attitudes people like to entertain with so little ambiguity that it can seem the last word on the matter.”

I confess that I generally share this observation without its caustic remark about the poetic style of Henley. People are drawn to this poem in part because it captures attitudes people like to entertain, whether those attitudes are helpful or rooted in reality.

Not every soul is unconquerable. Many persons born into poverty or tyranny, left unassisted and defeated by the principalities and powers of their culture descend into a kind of despair and self-image that forever leaves them prisoners of their self-image.

Not every one is the captain of their fate and the master of their soul. Try saying that to a child who is abused. Try saying that to some who is illiterate and is denied any education. How about wage slaves? How about women in societies that have no rights and are maimed and brutalized in the name of their cultural values or religion? How about the employee of a corporation who is tossed aside after 40 years and has his pension fund looted by the corporate leaders?

Yes, we must take personal responsibility for our actions and not easily surrender to rationalizations and self justifications that defeat us before we even begin. But none of us truly has final say or ultimate power over our own lives and certainly over the universe in which we must live.

For us to rise above it all requires help. On the basic level, we know that we are interdependent not independent human beings and this required some shared values and cooperation in order to survive, let alone conquer. A popular rewriting of Psalm 23 that appeared in the Sixties, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil–for I am the meanest S.O.B. in the valley. In a world of real evil and destructive sin, there is always a meaner S.O.B. in the valley. And to choose that “arms race” usually destroys your soul.

For a Christian – that necessary help comes from the true Master of Our Soul – Jesus Christ. In my next post I will comment on that.

(C) 2010 by Stephen L Dunn

Sunday, December 29, 2013


Top posts continue.  Questions about God, religion, Christianity are among the most viewed.  A young man named Brian started probably one of the most popular "series" first published October 27, 2010.  This is one of my favorites, as well. - Steve


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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, December 28, 2013


Christmas Eve 2011
More of the top LIFE MATTERS original posts of all time.  Sports, especially baseball, have been good to me.  Proves that for my readers, baseball is America's past time - that, or fantasy is.


Yesterday was the draft for one of the teams in my Fantasy Baseball Leagues. (My wife Dianne now knows that I have more than one team. Don't worry, dear. I'll manage them on the computer before you get going in the day.) I don't participate in live drafts. That's far too much work. I let the computer draft for me and then I enjoy the challenge of trades, identifying free agents, and setting a roster each week to see if I can produce a winner. I had one team last year, the Landisville Sluggers, who finished third in their division and became one of the two wild card teams (my team was also third out of the league's 12 teams). Hanley Ramirez, Andre Ethier, Evan Longoria were the stars. And my beloved Detroit Tigers pitching staff.

Now for a little honest confession:

Sometimes I think I spend too much time on the computer. I know my wife thinks so, especially when it’s her computer I seem to be hogging. I blog and FACEBOOK. I email, I web surf for great sites about religion and life.

But in the summer this all ramps up as the Major League Baseball season begins because it also signals the beginning of the Fantasy Baseball season. Last summer I ventured in to it a small way, entering the Landisville Sluggers into one of MLB.Coms thousands of leagues. Trading, seeking free agents, setting weekly lineups were a new rush. Then there was watching my game in progress (and watching the real games in progress via computer that added points to “my game”) could consume an entire evening.

I am out of market for my own beloved Detroit Tigers, so I watch their games on computer, too. So caught up was I by my Sluggers that sometimes I only gave a few moments to my Tigers. Am I just a little bit out of touch with reality or what?

Well this summer I have added Leyland’s Powerhouse to my MLB holdings. And I have opened a new front in the CBS Fantasy Game with the Dunn Tiger Cats in the King Jesus League. So far, I have promised myself (and by extension, my wife) to check results in the early hours when I first arise and remind myself that watching the game live (if it can be called that when you’re talking about a computer simulation of a fantasy game) may put too great a stranglehold on my life.

Nonetheless, Opening Day is less than a week away.

Friday, December 27, 2013


 Continuing this week's emphasis on the best of the posts of LIFE MATTERS that are originally written by me. This one first appeared February 5, 2011 - Steve


 Karen Spears Zacharias pointed me to a new blog and these profound words:

"Poor communication doesn’t disconnect souls. It’s the disconnected souls who poorly communicate." - Ann Voskamp,  A HOLY EXPERIENCE

As a pastor, I deal frequently with the effects of poor communication.  Lives broken because someone was not careful in their communication, embedding lies into someone's heart through de-humanizing or manipulative communication.  Relationships gone sour because someone did not understand that listening is part of communicating. Dreams unrealized because of a fear of expressing one's heart or dreams shattered because someone crushed the vulnerability of the dreamer beneath words spouting from a critical spirit. "Speaking the truth in love," is the counsel of the Bible but a soul disconnected from the Source of that Love will never truly communicate truth.

Not only is communication a lost art for many, but the commitment to communicate in civil and constructive ways has become a forgotten value in our culture.  Such a development is a measure of the poverty of our souls.


While we are at it, another of my favorite personal photos:

Can you tell he's a Tiger's fan>? - July 2013

Thursday, December 26, 2013



It has been my privilege to share my thoughts and passions with you through this blog for the past five years.  Life Matters was my first blog (there are now 22 that I am writing on two blog engines).  The first offering of this began in March 3, 2009.  You have graciously read my offerings, shared your thoughts, reblogged them and shared them via Facebook (Networked Blogs is my chief syndicator.)  According to Google, my number one original post in 2013
One of my favorite photos-grandson Jake and I in 2012
was "I Am Offended and Troubled" which appeared just six days ago and had 608 views on the very first day.  Politics, sports, and religion have always been the topics you have responded to the best, plus anything with cartoons in it.

Throughout this week until New Year's, I am reposting some of your favorites.  I am focusing on those written originally by me.  This one has been among the most popular of all time.  It's called CELEBRATE THE EXCEPTIONS and first appeared April 11, 2012.  It is also one of my favorites:


One of my great challenges as a pastor is to teach people how to make wise decisions.  Andy Stanley says the best question ever in terms of decision-making is the question, "Is it wise?"  Wisdom comes from God's Word and Stanley is telling us to ask, "Is my decision consist with what the Word of God tells on how to live?"

I find that people who even know what God says still have trouble embracing wisdom because it is not what they want to do. When I point out that there are moral laws that cannot be violated without consequences, they begin looking for a loophole.  Quite often they point to the laws of nature and what we have learned about human nature.  There they can sometimes point out to something that does not always work out the way you think.  So then they use that as an excuse to go ahead and do what they want.

"See, Pastor, there are exceptions."

My response, there appear to be exceptions (or variations) to the laws of nature and our knowledge of human nature; but the vast majority of the time it works the way those laws say they will.  Jump from a precipice and the law of gravity tells us we will plummet like a rock.  And if the fall is far enough, you'll break something or get killed.  The application, "Don't leap from a precipice. You will injure yourself.'

But because there have been a few people who survived falls without breaking anything, people say there is an exception which will then be their justification for leaping off a cliff.

My response, "Celebrate the exceptions, but live by the rules." 

But God's moral law gives us no loopholes. No exceptions.  For every transgression there is a consequence and unless God intervenes or picks up the pieces, we will suffer the consequences.

The wages of sin is death.  And death always collects its due.

(C) 2012 by Stephen L Dunn

Wednesday, December 25, 2013



"One of the most glorious messes in the world is the mess created in the living room on Christmas day. Don't clean it up too quickly" ~Andy Rooney

"Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift." - 2 Corinthians 9:15

Sitting at the dining room table at 7:51 am waiting for Dianne to arise so we can begin our Christmas morning celebration.  It may be another hour.  Two Christmas Eve services last night, one ending at midnight and a  little unwinding afterwards at our favorite diner kept us up later.  Plus, no kids or grandkids at our house to push the agenda forward.  (I understand from my daughter Christi on Facebook that my grandson Jake already has them up and ready.)  Later today my Dad, sibs, their spouses and offspring will be at our house for Christmas dinner so we won't be alone.  It will be, I am sure, a full day--filled with the joy that comes from family at Christmas time; but more than that, the joy that comes from God who has blessed us with the gift of His Son, Jesus Christ.

I know that not everyone reading this has these twin blessings--some, neither of them.  My heart, although filled with the joy of Christ, grieves for you.  God did not intend for us to be alone. Psalm 98:6 tells us, "God sets the lonely in families ..."  I would encourage you, if it is within your power, to reach out to your family and not let this day pass without that connection.  I know in some cases that will be messy--not the glorious mess of a living room following the family's celebration--but some of God's best miracles come when things are messy.

But even more, if you do not yet find yourself in a personal relationship with Christ--could I urge you to respond today to his invitation to be a part of his Forever family.  Our biological families--may and do--fail us.  God will not.

May you know the peace and the joy that comes from receiving that indescribable gift made possible by God's amazing grace and unconditional love.

Monday, December 23, 2013


As we prepare for another Christmas - remember --- God is still at work among us.

Sunday, December 22, 2013


I am reblogging this from another blog and both of us must note that we have no knowledge of the source of this story--but would welcome any information you might have so we can give due credit.-STEVE

In the winter of 1818 at St. Nicholas’ Church at Obendorf, a village near Salzburg, Austria, Joseph Mohr, the assistant to the priest, faced a dilemma. It was just days before Christmas, and the church organ which was so important to providing music for the Christmas services was broken. Since the organ repairman was not a local of the village it would actually be months before the repair could be made, and Christmas would be long past.

His solution to the problem of the broken organ resulted in one of the most popular Christmas carols of all time. In 1816 Mohr had written a simple poem that the villagers could understand expressing the wonder of the birth of Jesus. He asked his friend Franz Gruber who was the organist at St. Nicholas to write music to accompany his poem so that they could sing it together using a guitar to accompany their singing.

They first performed their newly composed Christmas carol at the Christmas Eve midnight service on December 24, 1818. It did not instantly receive the worldwide recognition it has come to know, however. It was not until years later in 1825 when Carl Mauracher was rebuilding the organ at St. Nicholas that a handwritten copy of the words and music was found in the organ loft.

Mauracher was from an area in the mountains of Tyrol which had many traveling folk choirs who performed throughout Europe. He carried the carol back home, and it became a popular song with the choirs as they traveled and spread its popularity wherever they went.

In some versions of the story it is told that mice had eaten the bellows of the organ. Others say that Gruber himself had broken the organ. It is believed that there was frequent flooding of the area that caused rust and mildew to affect the condition of the church organ often making it unplayable. It is actually not known however if the organ was truly broken at Christmastime of 1818. Some say that Mohr simply wanted a new carol for the service and was fond of the guitar as an instrument. Some stories tell that both the poem and the music were hastily written that Christmas Eve. A manuscript for “Silent Night” in Mohr’s hand was discovered in 1995 which is dated 1816. In the manuscript Mohr credits the melody used for the carol to Franz Gruber.

Friday, December 20, 2013



     Duck Dynasty is everywhere.  The largely unscripted reality show has captured the cable-waves and rocketed A&E Network to the top of the charts.  It has already generated a fortune for Walmart and other retailers--secular and religious--by pasting the face of the Robertson clan on every imaginable household item.  

     Anyone who has watched the show will know that Phil Robertson and his clan are conservative Christians, staunchly patriotic, sometimes outrageous in their opinions, and firm in what they value--which leans heavily towards traditional American values.

     I've enjoyed a few episodes with friends, but my reality TV tends to lean towards The Voice, The Sing-Off, and Major League Baseball.

     It was only a matter of time before these high profile and often delightfully humorous self-proclaimed Christian rednecks would fall afoul of the media and liberal political establishment with their narrow definition of "free speech." Phil set off a firestorm.

     Now A&E has suspended him, his family has threatened to stop making the show without him. (I don't believe for a minute that a profit-driven network is going to jettison its most profitable possession nor that the Richardson family will abandon their income and platform.)

     I am both offended and troubled.

     I am offended when the self-appointed guardians of the Constitution continue to extend the defense of  free speech to pornagraphers, the worst of America's haters here and abroad, people whose sexual orientation offends so many of their neighbors, and people whose politics are left of center; but have singled out conservative and evangelical Christians as people whose views threaten to destroy the fabric of society.  The bias has now become so obvious that even some of my most liberal friends have pointed it out (although I see few pushing back against it).

     Phil Robertson is an American citizen--living in the land of the free and the home of the brave--a land governed by its Constitution.  He is entitled to the same rights and at the very least, the same tolerance that we extend even to most unsavory citizens of this land.

     But I am also troubled by my conservative Christian friends, many of whom profess to share the same belief in the truth of the Bible as God's Word and the commitment to live by its commandments and teachings--who roar back like cornered lions every time they are not treated with respect, or where their rights are undermined.  People who now often define their worth and identity by the rights they have in the Constitution, rather than in living by God's truth.

     And this is my reason--three statements by Jesus.

"God blesses you when people mock you and persecute you and lie about you and say all sorts of evil things against you because you are my followers." - Matthew 5:11 New Living Translation

I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world." - John 16.33 New Living Translation 

 If the world hates you, remember that it hated me first.  The world would love you as one of its own if you belonged to it, but you are no longer part of the world. I chose you to come out of the world, so it hates you." - John 15.18-19 New Living Translation

     I simply am concerned that we as Christians take the world's views PERSONALLY, as attacks on us when they are really attacks on Christ. Too many Christians want to stand up for Jesus without paying the price of rejection and opposition that Jesus said to expect if we were being faithful to him in a world that WOULD BACK AWAY.

     We have a persecution complex, or better yet--a rejection complex.

     And in our vehemence and in the manner of our communication we often show the world that we do not really trust in God to make things right-and that the acceptance of men is more important than faithfulness to God.  

      Or that being left alone to believe what we want to believe (even if it is the truth) than paying the price of truly being salt and light where we will stand out from the crowd who often cares little about God.

     Something to think about and to pray about.

(C) 2013 by Stephen L Dunn


Monday, December 2, 2013


by Steve Dunn 

This past week,  a friend of mine, Jim Stanley, shared this photo on his Facebook Page.

It was an interesting variation on the common anti-Black Friday rant on how it steals from the celebration of Thanksgiving or setting a tone that takes Christ from Christmas.  It really was a photographic critique of our priorities.

The message is plain--we will cut short a holiday, stand for hours in the cold,  risk bodily harm from fanatical shoppers, abandon all self respect and dignity--to purchase that "item"at outrageously bargain prices; but cannot be enticed or guilted into a commitment that benefits the well-being of our community.


What are your priorities in life--in the investment of your time?  What are the values that you embrace that are reflected in those priorities?

Jesus once said, "Where your treasure is, there shall your heart be also."

Where do you invest the treasure of your time, your relationships, your commitments?

It is where your heart is.  All the Black Friday marketeers are doing is listening to your heart.

(c) 2013 by Steve Dunn

Sunday, December 1, 2013


From one of my favorite writers and bloggers comes this reflection on Advent, which begins today.-Steve

Agony of Advent

“Out of the stump of David’s family will grow a shoot…” Isaiah 11: 1
It can be hard, hard, hard.
This waiting.
You tell yourself that this thing you hope for, it will come.
One. Day. Soon.
All in due time.
You only have to be patient.
And good.
You have to persevere.
You have to try harder.
Pray without ceasing.
And never, ever lose hope.
But when this child, you are waiting so desperately for, doesn’t appear,
You are tempted to despair.
You tell yourself conception didn’t happen because
You weren’t good enough.
You weren’t patient enough.
You haven’t persevered long enough.
You feel like a failure because
You can’t do the simplest of human things -
You can’t reproduce.
Fifteen-year-olds, who haven’t the sense God gave a goose, can make a baby in the backseat of a car thirty minutes after the last school bell rings.
But you?
You have stood on your head in a corner, en pointe the floor of heaven, willing the agony of this advent to produce a glorious new birth.
When that method, like the dozens before, didn’t produce magic, either, you withdrew to that dark place, where you alone battle a despair fertile women will never know.
There is no joy in Advent without the Promise of an infant child. 
There is only certain hopelessness. 
Without an infant child there are only the desolate tears of a motherhood and fatherhood denied.
Ann Voskamp speaks of this in her book on Advent – The Greatest Gift:
Because without the genealogy of Christ, the limbs of His past, the branches of His family, the love story of His heart that has been coming for you since before the beginning – how does Christmas and its tree stand? Its roots would be sheared. Its meaning would be stunted. The arresting pause of the miracle would be lost.
Because in the time of prophets and kings, the time of Mary and Joseph, it wasn’t your line of credit, line of work, or line of accomplishment that explained who you were. It was your family line. It was family that mattered. Family gives you context, and origin gives you understanding, and the family tree of Christ always give you hope.
We are the perpetual Advent people, Voskamp reminds us.
Advent. Latin. Coming. Waiting.
And so it is this Advent season,
We kneel beside you and pray
We wait in silence
Weeping with you
And hoping beyond the despair that one day very soon
You will hold close a blessed infant child and whisper of the family that endured the Advent alongside you.