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BY STEVE DUNN

Note: I wrote this a couple of weeks ago but forgot to post it. Summertime. – STEVE

Summer officially began a week ago. Cool mornings and sunshine.  Later in the day, hot breezes and the sound of lawn mowers and children at play.   At night, fairs and festivals and baseball games. And sometimes thunderstorms rolling in to rock the night and mess up your satellite TV reception. Dips in the pool and Dairy Queen runs.  The smell of backyard barbecues and colorful boom of fireworks.

Although I don’t like the dryness and heat that accompany summertime, I love the season.   If I allow myself to shift gears mentally, summer often brings more freedom and spontaneity to my days.  If I have some money left over after all the bills, I might even manage a vacation somewhere.

This summer I have only a part-time job working for my seminary (to read more about my seminary click WINEBRENNER)  Half-time means 20-25 hours, basically three days a week.  Although it will be tight this summer financially, I never had a summer when I had four days a week off.  A day to do household things and pay the bills–but still with three more days at my discretion and Gods’ prompting.

I am. however, a planner.  I make lists, and keep a paper planner.  I enjoy the thrill of checking things off those lists because I take energy from knowing that I have done something useful, even if half the list or more is yet to be done.

There is a danger in overplanning.  It’s called overdoing.  And overdoing is antithetical to resting, relaxing and refreshing.  So my plans this summer are simply–more aimed at enjoying and stretching my boundaries.  Here is my short list.

* Finish unpacking and hanging the last of the pictures on the wall.  We have only loved in this house for eight months, but there are still boxes in the garage to be unpacked.  We have some great pictures that bless no one in a box.

* Spend more time with Dianne, being in one another’s presence and enjoying one another’s company.  It helps that see in willing to watch the Mlb Channel with me.

* Work on that mystery novel that has lain dormant on legal pads for  too many years.

* Spend more time alone with God and His Word.

Do you have a list?  Summertime has a way of disappearing for those  forget that “to everything there is a season …”  So ENJOY your summer.

 

© 2016 by Stephen L. Dunn. You have permission to reprint this provided it is unchanged, proper authorship is cited, it is in a publication not for sale, and a link is provided to this site or to www.drstevedunn.com. For all other uses, contact Steve at sdunnpastor@gmail.com

STATUE OF LIBERTY

In this June 2, 2009 photo, the Statue of Liberty is seen in New York harbor. The crown is set to open July 4 after being closed since shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)

BY STEVE DUNN

In New York harbor sits one of the most famous landmarks in the world–the Statue of Liberty.  Engraved on “Miss LIberty” are these words–a poem called “The New Colossus” by Emma Lazarus.

The New Colossus

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,

With conquering limbs astride from land to land;

Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand

A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame

Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name

Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand

Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command

The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.

“Keep ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she

With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,

Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,

The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.

Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,

I lift my lamp beside the golden door!” 

When I was but a schoolboy in western Ohio, I was taught these words, then marked as a symbol of the incredible core values that drove my nation’s actions.

Over the 65 years of my life I have met countless people drawn to this nation because of the twin promises of liberty and opportunity–people enriched by their coming and often enriching our nation because they came.

Post 9-11 America finds itself hard-pressed to live out these values.  Under the threat of Isis and other terrorists movements, we seem intent on closing that ‘golden door.”  Not completely.  People like us politically, whose religion does not threaten ours, whose economic goals do not undermine us, who will not compete for our resources, and who will embrace the prevailing secular individualism of the age–these people are still welcome.

I share our concerns about national security and obedience to the laws of the land; but sometimes I fear that the grace and compassion, the commitment to liberty for all peoples is being eroded or being replaced with a selfish inwardness that violates one of the most fundamental laws of the God I honor’ “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Is it possible to have life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness in this nation without quenching that lamp beside the Golden Door?

© 2016 by Stephen L. Dunn.  You have permission to reprint this provided it is unchanged, proper authorship is cited, it is in a publication not for sale, and a link is provided to this site or to www.drstevedunn.com. For all other uses, contact Steve at sdunnpastor@gmail.com 

 

Dr. Michael Cheatham, chief surgeon of the Orlando Health Regional Medical Center hospital, addresses reporters during a news conference after a shooting involving multiple fatalities at a nightclub in Orlando, Fla., Sunday, June 12, 2016. Watching are Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings, second from right, and Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer.                           (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)
 by Steve Dunn

A horrible tragedy occurred this past weekend in Orlando.  At a night club popular with gays and lesbians,an attack was unleashed by a man with suspected ties of Islamic terrorism.  At least 50 people were killed and 53 more injured in what is the worst mass shooting in US history.

A year ago another group of people were shocked and saddened as a young man murdered people in a Bible study in Charleston SC. 9 people including the senior pastor and the gunman died when the young man opened fire in a Bible study at the Emmanuel AME  Church.

In between those two of high profile events there have been hundreds of such incidents–often unexpected, mostly inexplicable, filled with fatality and tragedy.  Sadly, such events are almost daily in this country.

I could launch here into an emotional plea for gun control (which I do support) or some theologically judgemental pronouncement about the lifestyle of the victims in Orlando. I could rail against terrorists-Islamic and otherwise.  There are a wealth of responses and comments that can be made and will be made.

But my immediate and daily response was articulated quite well by Southern Baptist ethicist Russell who following the Orlando incident,  tweeted “Christian, your gay or lesbian neighbor is probably really scared right now. Whatever our genuine disagreements, let’s love and pray.”

Why do I say this?  Because this is what the Bible tells me is the appropriate fist response:

“The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit” – Psalm 34:18
Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.” – Romans 12.15
He heals (God) the broken-hearted and binds up their wound”- Psalm 147.3
Would you join me in this prayer not only for this incident but for our American culture and its people?

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 BY STEVE DUNN

Dianne and I were shopping today at Walmart.  As we started pulling out of our parking space, a Walmart Nascar Wannabee came racing up the lane, easily exceeding the speed limit.  Only Dianne’s alertness prevented an accident. (The rapid braking action however gave me a near concussion as my head rocked back against the head rest.) Made me think of a post  wrote six summers ago for my devotional blog THRIVING IN CHRIST.  I share it again while it is still “ringing” in my mind.-Steve

 
Came close the other day to going home to be with Jesus – as in heavenly home – for eternity. I don’t know if it was the appointed time in God’s will but the opportunity was definitely there for me to be yanked home to meet my Maker. That intersection of grace and free will (someone else’s) was coming together to make this a real possibility. If it had happened, the launch point would have been the Walmart parking lot on Fruitville Pike in Lancaster PA.

I had just finished making my purchases and had returned to my Saturn. I was backing up slowly and cautiously because, of course, I was surrounded on either side by two monster trucks designed to obscure any view for at least a mile.  As I attempted to back, I had not yet reached the stage of cautiously inching my rear end into traffic when a vehicle raced by at a speed that would have earned a ticket on the interstate.  Then I took almost another full minute to back up stopping with great frequency, i.e., I lost count, as more vehicles backed out into the space I was trying to occupy.

When I finally made it “out”, my vehicle was accosted by the rear ends of at least three other vehicles who seemed to have simply kicked it into reverse and pushed the gas pedal before even beginning to think that there might be someone else out there.  Once this exercise in “dodgem” was over, I still had to navigate a parking lot where people were making wide turns or occupying the center of the lane because they were talking on their doggone cell phones. (Actually, I had another expletive/adjective in mind but this is a religious blog site. Forgive me, Lord, for allowing that to even be in my vocabulary’s secret vault.)

After about six minutes of near-death experiences (it seemed like sixty), I made it into the safety of actual traffic where God spared my life so I could be home to be with my lovely wife instead of my Maker.

Did you ever notice how dangerous life can be? Even for those people who try to insulate their lives by taking no risks, eating bland foods, staying out of traffic, avoiding their neighbors, keeping their heads down and mouths shut, life comes at you fast and you really have a lot less control than you’d like.  And at times it can scare the socks off of us.

That’s why wise people like David teach us that we need to put our lives into the hands of the Lord.  “Even though I must walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me.”  To do business as a human being requires us to venture into the Walmart parking lots and human intersections where another person’s freedom can rob us of our peace and attack our joy. Where damage can be done that then we will have to deal with.

But we can live with confidence because “nothing can separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:35)  It’s that confidence that removes my fear and allows me to live with confidence even in the Walmart parking lots of the planet.  I may suffer a fender-bender, or I may actually meet with a fatal “accident”, but I cannot be separated from God.

© 2010, 2016 by Stephen L. Dunn. You have permission to reprint this provided it is unchanged, proper authorship is cited, it is in a publication not for sale, and a link is provided to this site or to www.drstevedunn.com. For all other uses, contact Steve at sdunnpastor@gmail.com

BY STEVE DUNN

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Memorial Day Weekend has arrived.  For the first time in years I have had no pastoral responsibilities during this time and basically unlimited freedom to relax, to follow my own agenda, and to refresh mind, body, and spirit.  An old friend of mine, Kenneth Hall referred to this as “freescence.”

Saturday morning when I arose (early as usual) I drove around hitting some garage sales and doing some grocery shopping.  I noticed how many of the homes had people out early diligently doing yard work or garage doors open to reveal people working on some home improvement project.  It seemed to me that they were getting things out of the way so they could enjoy Sunday and Monday more fully. I wondered how many barbecues or picnics were scheduled.  Or having lived in northwest Indiana for a long time, how many were headed to lake houses or lakes or parks or beaches for recreation and relaxation

But then I found my thoughts directed towards cemeteries or town squares that tomorrow will be the site of memorial observances for those who have fallen in the cause of freedom.  One of my strongest childhood memories growing up in a small town in Ohio where that morning began with a parade, a service in the park, prayers and a honor guard that would issue a 21-gun salute followed by the solemn playing of “Taps.”  The place would be full regardless of what would happen the rest of the day–and this would occur rain or shine.

I wonder how many people will take the time tomorrow morning to join such an observance, or even pause to say a prayer of thanksgiving for these honored dead and express words of encouragement to those who grieve on Memorial Day, not barbecue.

I plan on being one of those.  There are too many men and women who have paid the ultimate price for my freedom to not do so.

Memorialday
© 2016 by Stephen L. Dunn. You have permission to reprint this provided it is unchanged, proper authorship is cited, it is in a publication not for sale, and a link is provided to this site or to www.drstevedunn.com. For all other uses, contact Steve at sdunnpastor@gmail.com

by Steve Dunn

I posted this on another blog last week before the Iowa caucuses.  It still is meaningful from my perspective. – STEVE

Just a day until the Iowa caucases.  The rhetoric is ratcheting up as two close races see the front-runners either feeling the heat and/or sensing blood in the water. The lies, innuendos, half truths, etc. crowd even sensible debate to the back pages.  My heart is heavy lately as I watch the nominating process unfold here in my country.  Even more than in previous years there is a de-volution in the quality and character of the candidates that Americans seem drawn to.

Donald Trump has once again made shocking comments on his campaign trail, this time alleging that his supporters are so devoted to him that they would still vote for him even if he were to shoot someone.

“I could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose voters,” Trump said at a campaign rally in Sioux Center, Iowa. “It’s, like, incredible.”

“My people are so smart,” he says in the clip. “They say I have the most loyal people.”

Trump’s comment is being labeled highly insensitive in light of the heated nationwide arguments over gun control. He also referred to fellow Republican candidates as “soft,” criticizing their small numbers of supporters.

He has ridiculed Muslims, women, even the fact that President Obama was watching Star Wars. {By the way, I went to see the latest movie and it was simply Space Cowboy fun.)

So often he campaigns by insult, dismissive opinions, and outrageous remarks that make normal insensitivity appear tame.

Two weeks ago, a young pastor friend of mine whose church is making a significant difference in a community that has been buffeted by the waves of crime, economic distress, and racial biases, posted this on Facebook.  Andrew Thomas Draper wrote:

“Over the past few months, I have watched Donald Trump publicly mock a person with disabilities, call Mexican immigrants “rapists,” propose that an entire religion of 1.6 billion people be kept out of this country, have a campaign opener of young girls in skimpy USA dresses singing about destroying people with our military, say that two non-white politicians aren’t natural born citizens, call black people in Baltimore “thugs,” and refer to women by their body parts.

I haven’t made public comments about this because I thought this was all a joke and that it would blow over soon. I thought that certainly no reasonable person would ever take this man seriously. Now he is up 13 points in the polls with 3 weeks until the primaries.

Let me make this clear: I honestly believe that most of Trump’s appeal is that many who have been holding their racist thoughts inside now think it’s OK to let it all out. I do not think that everyone who supports Trump is motivated by racist ideology. I think there can be good reasons to be conservative. However, I have read countless accounts of racist rhetoric down through the years (my PhD dissertation was a historical theological study of race issues) and what Trump and his supporters are saying is mean and hurtful. Trump is not a hero standing up to political correctness; he is fanning the flames of hatred for his own political gain.

I am deeply saddened tonight. I thought we as a nation had healed from a lot of these wounds. Please, this is not a joke anymore.

A friend of mine, Don Dennison, posted this observation of the popularity of men like Donald Trump.

“People want good leadership–an ability to work with others and get things done in the most efficient and effective manner. It is interesting during this current presidential campaign cycle that the leading voices have been “outsiders.” Neither Trump, Cruz, nor Sanders are the darlings of their party leadership. So why have these outspoken outsiders gained so much traction? It appears that FRUSTRATION and FEAR have pushed the electorate to give up on the established politician who has demonstrated either an unwillingness or inability to get things done.

People are frustrated…that problems are not getting fixed. Out-of-control spending continues and escalates the national debt despite which party is in charge. Current laws are not being enforced. Campaign promises are soon forgotten once past the election. People are tired of trusting only to be betrayed again.

People are fearful…that their government is not adequately protecting their rights or their borders. Violent crime is growing unabated, and terrorism is an existential threat to our survival. The economic outlook is bleak–unless you’re a politician or lobbyist.

It’s no wonder that “outsiders” have appeared more attractive to potential voters this season. If the rationale is: “what have we got to lose?”, the possible answer is “plenty!”

For me, most Presidential election choices comes down to “the lesser of two evils.” That option has become even more apparent this year. But I do not want to make my selection on the basis of such negatives as “frustration” and “fear.” We deserve better!”

I do not consider Hilary Clinton a good choice for America.

With the Iowa caucuses now just a few days away, I have this reflection—coming from one who has been a registered Republican for 43 years.  The Republicans can surely do better.

BY STEVE DUNN

My mother was a beautiful woman – both physically and spiritually.  If she was still living, today would be the 66th wedding anniversary of Marilyn Reames and A. Gail Dunn.  My mother died in 2000 of cancer, just a few months past their 50th wedding anniversary.

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They were married on New Year’s Day in the just completed chapel of the new College First of God by their pastor, Dr. Darrell Linder.  Both were students at my denomination’s school Findlay College.  Gail, a native of Columbia City IN was a history major and a cheerleader, a year younger than Marilyn.  He also sang in a quartet called The Gospel Five and was preparing for the ministry.  Marilyn was ultimately training to become a medical technician.  A high school beauty and a member of the College Choir, she came from Zanesfield, Ohio-the daughter of a nominally Christian family that was attending a Friends Meeting when she enrolled in college.  The first time Dad saw Mom, the very first time, he said, “I am going to marry her.”

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My paternal grandparents, TA and Mary Ruth Dunn, were very excited about their beautiful new daughter-in-law; especially she since was a warm, outgoing, and mature Christian.  Her parents did not attend the wedding.  My maternal grandmother, Wynona Reames thought her daughter could have done better than being married to a preacher.  I suspect her husband Robert, who came from a staunchly Methodist family didn’t share her opinion, but Grandma won most arguments in their family.  For the record, a few weeks later, she changed her mind and they showed up at the newlyweds humble lodgings (remember they were both college students) with wedding presents and kisses.  Over the years she came to love my Dad, especially since he loved her only daughter.  (My strong-willed grandmother, however, always insisted on picking up the check.)

A year later Mom dropped out of college to have me.  Dad graduated and was ordained to the ministry of the then Churches of God in North America.  My mother was a stay-at-home Mom

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as they had three more children.  After the youngest, Mark, was born. she went back to college earning her degree in medical technology and enduring the trampoline in gym class, graduating 17 years later as the oldest member of  her class.

Mom and Dad always went to lunch on their anniversary, a tough task since it was New Year’s Day and many restaurants were closed.  Their favorite was the Embers in Carlisle PA.   The first anniversary that Dianne and I enjoyed we went to the Embers, a high class place for college students. Yes, we got married in college, too but Dianne managed to graduate 10 days before our first child was born.

Gail and Marilyn were devoted to one another.  And they passed that devotion to one another in marriage–and a devotion to Jesus Christ, that inspired many.  Later, when Dad became the conference superintendent, they made a ministry of inviting clergy couples to their home for dinner, fellowship and encouragement.  To this day, I continue to meet pastoral couples who consider the ministry Marilyn and Gail provided to them one of the best blessings God had bestowed on them.

I thought celebrating them, especially because of their New Year’s Day wedding, would be my most appropriate first blog post of the New Year.  Better them than the celebs and pols and villains that will occupy center stage in the broader world.

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© 2016 by Stephen L. Dunn.  You have permission to reprint this provided it is unchanged, proper authorship is cited, it is in a publication not for sale, and a link is provided to this site or to www.drstevedunn.com. For all other uses, contact Steve at sdunnpastor@gmail.com 

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