BY STEVE DUNN

My wife and I were driving home from a doctor’s appointment. I had developed a painful rash in some very private places and was hoping to pick up the prescription for its treatment as soon as we got to our home, about on hour from the doctor’s office. I also suffer from restless legs and they were already torturing me.

Then we saw it, the slowed and slowing traffic on I-81 south as we arrived on the north side of Carlisle. I had seen it before, and it was clear that soon after the oncoming exit was a parking lot in the making. I had been through this before so we exited the interstate so we could follow the highway that ran through the town’s center (and parallel to the interstate). It might take 20-25 minutes to cover the eight miles but it would be better than the progress (or lack of it) on an interstate shutdown by an accident.

Then we hit it. The gridlock in the city itself, multiplied by many exits from the stricken interstate depositing traffic into the city. Even with traffic cops at every intersection, the city’s interior street became crazy–and hot–and aggravating. It took us more than 90 minutes to make that eight mile journey. Emerging on the other side (south side) hoping to return to the interstate, we saw more vehicles seeking to escape and the state route we were on heading south, bumper to bumper northbound. In the end, the whole trip of 22 miles took three hours.

Twitter and Facebook, not to mention texts and cell phones were alive with the inconvenience created by this situation. I confess, I was among those verbalizing my frustration. It was a wall of vitriol.

Only a handful of people bothered to ask about what was going on upon the interstate, just a couple of miles removed. While we were griping and moaning, two persons–a truck driver and the driver of the SUV that had crossed the median and hit the trucker head-on–died.

We don’t know yet what caused the driver to cross into the northbound traffic. Some have suggesyed a high speed that caused the SUV to go out of control. It doesn’t matter. Now to people are dead. At least two families are in shock and grieving of this sudden death.

Thousands of us were inconvenienced.

In our self-centered world, I suspect the latter fact is considered the greater sin. I for one, have asked God’s forgiveness for my pique and offered a prayer of condolence for the dead. To not do this latter would have been the greater sin.

8458358BY STEVE DUNN

The sun came out in central Pennsylvania (as it did across much of the US). It was a good thing, for it was Opening Day for baseball. Finally !!! My day was helped immeasurably by Alex Gonzales’
walk-off single in the bottom 9th to give the Tigers a 4-3 victory over Kansas City. It was tough to lose the ALCS to the Red Sox last year and I for one, have been waiting less and less patiently for this season to begin.

I think the NCAA is reaching its Final Four (but my brackets there were busted the first week) and the NBA is heading to its play offs (to which I say, “Ho hum!:) Football is trying to gear things up with the college draft–but that will meaning nothing until after baseball passes its All Star Break.

I understand that this year the highest ticket and beer prices are in Fenway Park. I don’t drink beer and I’m not planning any pilgrimage to Boston, so I’ll live. Feeling for the Texas Rangers whose pitching staff seem to have made a mass exit onto the DL, but not too much since they now own one of my favorite ex-Tigers, Prince Fielder.

I managed to trade a twelve year old in my fantasy league to get the Tigers pitching staff, but I suspect Elijah will bounce back. He is still aggressively trading and mines that free agent waiver wire daily. My really loaded team in another league barely got a hit on opening day. That would make for a long season.

Today I am going to make my preseason picks: AL EAST-Red Sox AL CENTRAL-Tigers AL WEST-Angels WILD CARDS – Royals, Rays NL EAST – Nationals NL CENTRAL -Cardinals NL WEST – Dodgers WILD CARDS – Reds, Pirates AL – Tigers NL -Pirates WORLD CHAMPS-Tigers

fantasybaseball

OddReflection1BY STEVE DUNN

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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BY STEVE DUNN

“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.

 

 

 BY STEVE DUNN

 

 

     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

 

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