BY STEVE DUNN

 

I have long been a fan of Bill Watterson and his comic strip Calvin and Hobbes. His is not as overtly theological as was Charles Schulz in Peanuts, but every once in a while (I suspect inadvertently) Calvin makes a profound statement that triggers a scriptural truth. Here are two that I find in this particular strip.

The first is from James 4:17: “If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them.” New International Version

Then Galatians 5:6.” The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.” New Living Translation.

An authentic disciple understands that omission can be every bit as significant as commission when it comes to sin. Too many of us have changed the focus from loving our neighbor as ourselves to love myself and then give my neighbor the leftovers. Or be careful of loving my neighbor too much lest I not have enough for me. Or this one – love myself spontaneously but be sure and schedule how much I will do for my neighbor in need.

Maybe we need to walk through life with eyes wide open to opportunities to be a blessing to others, praying that our love will find greater expression than merely intellectual assent or carefully orchestrated projects.

BY STEVE DUNN

Meet two very important people – my son Michael, the oldest of my son’s and my second child (pictured here with his family-wife Melonie, daughters Natalie and Ashley.

The other is my daughter Katherine Marie, a.k.a. Katie (now Huther). She is pictured here with her son Caleb (husband Jason is probably taking the picture).

Katie is the “baby” of the family-the one her other three siblings were convinced was spoiled rotten by her Daddy.  (Katie winks and says with a wry smile, “You’re right.”) Besides being children of a brilliant father, they have two things in common.  Both are two of the most conscientious parents you will ever meet.

The second is that they have the same birthday. (Actually they were both born in the same hospital as that brilliant dad of theirs).   Seven years after Michael boldly entered the world, his younger sister was born–July 1st.  Michael, when discovering that Katie’s impending arrival was about to rain on his birthday parade actually asked his Mom to stay in labor so that this little intruder would be born July 2nd.

But they are different as well.  Yes, it’s obvious from the photo that Katie is a brunette and Michael a blond.  What I mean is they are different persons with different skills, experiences, and dreams.  Michael is an entrepreneur, Katie the quintessential penny pincher.  Katie has always been a great administrator and resource manger.  She worked in the cash office of a Walmart at age 16 and until son Caleb came along, was in demand in banking.  Michael is a master of managing people, especially people whose lives are struggling and out of focus.

Dianne and I did not raise these two the same–nor treat them the same.  We sought to foster their dreams and empower their passions.  We tried to see them as God saw them and challenge them to aspire to the same.

“Train up a child in his way to go and when he is old he will not depart from it,” says Solomon in Proverbs 22:6.  His way as God designed him is another translation.  Good parents don’t treat their children equally – except to love then equally.  Good parents do not cookie cut kids into their own image but help them be shaped by their callings from God.

I hope my children considered me a good parent.

theological-loveBY STEVE DUNN

One of the great scandals of contemporary Christianity is what Craig Groeschel calls “Christian Atheism.” This is where we say we believe something and then live like we do not believe it. The lawyer of Luke 10:25-28 stands up and asks the quintessential question of a seeker, “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” At the end of the chain of discussion Jesus leads the man to the answer. “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ In fact, Jesus punctuates it with, “Do this and you shall live.”

Even non-Christians know, and many practice, the latter half of that commandment. We call it the Golden Rule.

But for many persons, including many Christians, there is more intellectual assent than real life application. We know we should practice it, and we do … up to a point.

Up to the point when….

Demonstrating that love requires us to sacrifice a significant amount of time.

Loving them requires us to wade into the mess in which they find themselves living where we might get messy, too.

Loving them calls us to sacrifice something precious rather than what is convenient or superfluous.

Loving them demands us to see them as persons for whom Christ died rather than simply objects of our good works.

Loving them is met with rejection or contempt.

I am reminded that God loved a world where people were His enemies.

He loved a world that killed his prophets and dishonored His holiness.

He loved a world where people keep asking, no, demanding His help and then squandering the blessing.

He loved a world that He knew would crucify Jesus.

Love, genuine God-inspired and empowered love is unconditional and incarnational and sacrificial.

Any less is not really love. It is a counterfeit.

 

(C) 2014 by Stephen L Dunn

BY STEVE DUNN

Phil and Lindsay Schiavoni–new parents June 12, 2014

Two dear friends became parents yesterday – for the first time. Kaylee Joy, 7 lbs., 19 3/4 inches came into the world of Phil and Lindsay Schiavoni. I cannot imagine two better persons to be parents. Kaylee will be truly blessed.

Sunday will be Phil’s first Father’s Day and as his pastor and friend, I am going to presume to give him some counsel. I am sure he won’t mind you over-hearing.

“Phil, I suspect this is an awesome morning for you. Kaylee and Lindsay probably came home yesterday and I suspect you didn’t get much sleep. (Keeping up with Facebook greetings kept you busy before that). I imagine Lindsay already misses the nursing staff of the hospital. It’s on you now, brother. Actually, a whole lot will be on you for at least the next 20 years. If Kaylee is as creative and crazy as you can be, you may be gray by then–but it’ll be good gray.

You don’t know enough yet to be a success at this new gig–but you know the One Who does. Keep close to God and pray for wisdom every day. Pray for the love you need for Kaylee, but that’ll come easy. Pray for your daughter that she will grow into the person God created her to be. Pray for you and Lindsay both that you will be guided by God’s vision. That really is at the heart of Solomon’s counsel in Proverbs 22:6, “Train up a child in the way (she) should go.” It is founded on God’s values and vision, but the scriptures are equally clear that we are unique individuals with different giftings and callings. Don’t just teach her morals and good behaviors–teach her how to discover the masterpiece God is making of her. And even when she seems to be different from you, be more concerned that she is like her Heavenly Father.

Love Kaylee–but love Lindsay more. Do I need to say more?

Always see her as God’s child entrusted into your care so that she can learn of God’s love. Model for her the values that she needs to be a Christ follower. Be ready to answer, “Why?” It’s not rebellion, it’s just her way of learning. And make sure Jesus is no stranger in your home.

You have the prayers and support of Dianne and I, your church, your family, and your friends. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.

That’s enough. God will show you the rest in His time.

Your brother and friend,
STEVE

Heidi Mikulkin is a young wife and mother from western Pennsylvania — and a seminary student.  In fact, it is my privilege to be one of her professors.  She is passionate about Jesus and passionate about helping other people meet.  She is what I call one of “Christ’s respectful ambassadors.”  She posted this story a few days ago on her Facebook page:

“Two young men walked by my front porch today. It was not the first time I had seen them, and I knew the mission they were on. After pleasantries, they asked if I was used to the weather here in PA. These two boys were from out of town, and they were not accustomed to the changes in weather. I asked them what God was inviting them to do today. They began talking about their mission, how they were missionaries away from home to spread news. I asked them to sit and chat with me for a while. The three of us read the Bible. I questioned them, and they asked me questions. As we talked, I shared my Good News. They couldn’t understand the difference in our beliefs, so I asked them to share their testimony. When they had finished sharing with me, I told them my testimony. I got to introduce them to my Jesus, and how He changed my life because He is who He says He is, and He did what He said He did. I prayed with them before they left. Funny, I had expected to have a Bible study on my front porch today, but I could have never guessed who it would be with.”

Heidi’s actions remind me powerful of the instructions the Apostle Peter gave to the Early Church:

Thank you, Heidi, for this reminder to Christians everywhere of how we can continue to proclaim the Good News in a world that is often hostile to our faith.

Starting a new periodic series of my favorite blog posts.  This one was first published in Life Matters December 1, 2011.  And by the way, I still love breakfast. – STEVE

BY STEVE DUNN

I love breakfast!

No apologies, no hesitation, no nuances – just a straightforward love of breakfast.
A cup of coffee, a simple bowl of Cheerios, a slice of toast – that’s breakfast at its most minimal.  Although my diabetes now requires me to tone down breakfast, there are some things that I particularly love with breakfast.
Start with a cup of fresh, hot coffee.  It requires no doctoring, just its rich flavor wafting aromatic out of the cup into your nostrils. A quality cup of coffee is the “first love” of a good breakfast.   And please, please, please — do not ruin the experience by serving me decaf.  I’d rather have a warm glass of diet Pepsi that’s been sitting on the counter for three days.

I can begin to embrace breakfast with a gusto by a cold glass of tomato juice served while the meal itself is being prepared.  Many places add a slice of lemon,but for me such “decoration” is totally unnecessary.  If I have lemon at all at breakfast, let it be lemonade.  Occasionally, when I am not too worried about my blood sugar, a glass of Florida’s best orange juice is a pleasant addition – but it has to have lots of pulp or the whole OJ thing loses substance.  OJ is the first place where I might want to chew my breakfast,  When the price on either is too high or none is available, there’s much breakfast refreshment from a glass of ice water with that slice of lemon that people erroneously want to insert into my tomato juice.

Now the main courses begin to arrive–generally on multiple plates balanced artfully on the forearm of your waitress.  How do they do that?  I have trouble carrying my keys in my hands let alone do the balancing act required by breakfast waitresses.  And they do it without velcro.

So what comes first?  Two eggs sunnyside up/  Please do not let them get cold in the kitchen before they reach me.  And if you break the yolks, I’ll send them back.  Never mind that I am about the plunge my fork into their shimmering yellow surface.  Part of the blessing is savoring the plunging of the fork into those two yellow faces staring back at you and watching the yolk run into the whites.  And don’t burn the whites. A runny yoke loses its culinary satisfaction when it is eaten with the rest of the egg that has begun to take on the texture of burnt toast.

Of course – toast.  My preference, four half slices of raisin toast, slightly crispy with a pat of butter melting into its surface.  My diabetes has turned breakfast potatoes into unwelcome carbs.

At my home restaurant, the Silver Spring Family Restaurant has offered me fresh, sliced tomatoes as an alternative. (Unfortunately with an upcharge).  That’s the “fruit: with my breakfast.  I cannot quite explain it, but those tomatoes are a perfect taste counterpart to the eggs and toast, and they don’t compete with the coffee. (By now I should be on my second cup).

If i want to have a more filling breakfast, old-fashioned Southern grits with a huge dollop of butter melting into their hot, fluid surface has me salivating before I even get that first taste (which is usually ten minutes after they get to the table and have finally cooled enough to eat without cauterizing your epiglottis.  Unfortunately too many people are introduced to grits through a box or in the North where they never seem to make grits the right way (except in Cracker Barrel).  But give grits a chance.  You won’t be sorry and they are probably better for you than a double order of toast.

And for “dessert,” (yes, breakfast has a dessert along with your third cup of coffee) be sure and tie the whole experience together with a few danish, preferably something with cinnamon (unless you need more fruit, then get apple danish).  But don’t tell my health coach about the danish.
I love breakfast!

(C) 2011 by Stephen L Dunn

BY STEVE DUNN

1012536_746999088657303_1545137888_n

BY STEVE DUNN

In just a short time, my granddaughter Natalie will graduate from high school. I could not be prouder of her nor happier for her. I can remember her when she was very young and very strong-willed and her strong-willed father called me for advice. “What worked with you, Michael?” “Nothing” was his response. “Good luck,” was mine.

A voracious reader as a youngster and a gung ho Girl Scout. She was enamored with House, and ga-ga over Les Mis. Much to our joy, Natalie loved God early. And then, of course, later she loved Dakota but not in the same way. An artist’s eye with a camera and a perceptive writer, over and over she gave me reasons for joy. First she wanted to be a Park Ranger, but now a journalist. But since she was president of her high school student council as a freshman–who knows. She’d certainly be an improvement over the current occupant–even now.

960193_692307980793081_1964514012_n

Natalie loved to play the Geek, but she was a stunner come prom time. She was her Dad’s golf partner since he had no sons, his chief marketer for Mikey’s Burgers and Fries, and a great confidante to mom Melonie. And a patient older sister with her younger sibling Ashley who kept beating her for a time at minigolf.

Because we lived so far apart (she in Michigan and I in Pennsylvania), most of our communication was by Facebook. I remember one night when she got in trouble for having a late night conversation with Grandpa, which I innocently mentioned to her Dad – who had banned her from Facebook for one of the usual teenage violations.1620975_794671487223396_4968315604694787685_n

As she heads off into the more adult world, I just want to say,”Natalie, I love you. I am proud of you and happen to really like the you that you have become. I will pray for your regularly. And who knows, maybe some day you will become the fourth Dr. Dunn in this family.

 

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.