Archive

PEOPLE WE SHOULD HONOR

BY STEVE DUNN

This September I will have been in the ministry for 45 years (not bad for a 39 year-old. right?)  I had a part-time job as the Youth Pastor for the Newville PA Church of God. Twenty-five kids from grades five through 12.  An impossible assignment, yet I survived and continued to serve God in a variety of ways.  There have only been two, maybe three times in those years that I gave serious thought to quitting the ministry but each time God caught my falling soul, set my feet on solid ground, and provided me with a vision that moved me forward.  Moving forward even though I knew times of testing would again intersect my life trajectory.

Such stick-to-itiveness is regarded by some as stubbornness and others as stupidity.  But those of following this path know it to be something deeper, more profound. It’s called “The Call.”

Frederick Buechner defines The Call this way:   “The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.” If you can discern what your greatest joy is and what you believe is a pressing need in our world, and then find where the two intersect, chances are you will begin to understand God’s calling in your life.’

This weekend I participated in the commencement exercises for Winebrenner Theological Seminary.  I am on their adjunct faculty and have taught for them since 2008.  Along the way I have had the chance to teach many men and women who experienced that Call.  At the Commencement I was celebrating the graduation of four of my students in particular.   With all due respect to my other students and all the grads, I celebrated two in particular: Bob Collins and Jeff Musser.

 Both Bob and Jeff found deep joy in serving Jesus and their hearts were moved powerfully, perhaps compelled by the reality that God loved His World and the people He had created.  They deeply desired to share that truth with all people.

 

13920874_10210312916042286_7621163268458419757_n

Dr. Brent Sleasman presents his diploma to Bob Collins, who has been wheeled to the spot by fellow grad, Jeff Musser

Bob and Jeff are what we call second career pastors.  They entered seminary not via the conventional route of a liberal arts education followed by seminary.  They came from industry and entered a program that will allow them to pastor local churches. Jeff worked throughout his seminary time and even planted a church.  Bob followed a different trajectory in part because of physical infirmity.

During his four years of seminary Bob endured eleven surgeries, two of which were amputations and several vascular.  As he entered his last class, Jeff was struck down by a heart attack and had to recover from open heart surgery while finishing his studies.

Yet both believed they had a call from God and knew that by God’s help NOTHING would keep them from completing their preparation for ministry over the long haul.  So as Bob rolled across the stage being guided by Jeff, my heart leaped with joy and I saw one more witness to the power of The Call.

© 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 

Advertisements

BY STEVE DUNN

memorial-day-quotes
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

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.

548037_3708817357150_2119338262_n

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.”

293836_3708811717009_1065989713_n

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

557612_3708819917214_1361977467_n

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.

548816_3708815957115_553321847_n

© 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

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.

BY STEVE DUNN

I am back from my blogcation.  It was a good time of rest and reflection and I was able to get much of the writing completed that I was on the hook for.  I had intended to wait one more week before relaunching into the blogosphere.  Then I went to Findlay OH to attend my denomination’s triennial General Conference and I met the folks of the Firehouse Community Outreach.  Well, actually I met young lady currently living in Chicago, who was in the process of moving to Moore OK via a wedding in a couple of months in Yipsilanti MI.  Her name was Heather Dabrowski.
Heather was an energetic young lady who was part of a service team I was heading that took one afternoon off from denominational business to provide various acts of service to our host community.  I was responsible for three teams that would be working in nursing homes.  She worked with myself and three men to bring a little encouragement to residents, many of whom were suffering from dementia and psychological issues.  Heather painted nails and led an amazing Bible study for a small group of residents of St, Catherine’s Nursing Home.
Heather at St. Catherine’s Home in Findlay OH
Back to Moore OK.  The Churches of God have had two churches in this southwest Oklahoma City suburb, both of which are now closed.  Heather’s Dad, Daren Dabrowski, had been agreed to leave a lucrative job in maufacturing to help my denomination plant a new church in Moore. The new church is called The Gate Church.  Heather and her fiancee were in the process of marrying, then moving to Moore to join the church planting effort.
Are you letting the name Moore OK sink in?  On Monday, May 20, 2013 a massive, howling tornado pulverized a vast swath of this Oklahoma City suburb, chewing up homes and businesses and severely damaging a hospital and two elementary schools. The storm, rated an EF5* on the Enhanced Fujita scale, carved a trail as much as 1.3 miles wide and 17 miles long.  The new church building that will house this new congregation was directly in the path of the monster but emerged unscathed.  That’s when Daren decided it was time to close up shop up north and head to Oklahoma and Firehouse Community Outreach was born.  The church became the focal point of the nongovernmental relief efforts for Moore’s tornado victims and now the rebuilding efforts of the residents.
That’s where Heather comes in.  From her home in Chicago she manages the phone calls, emails, correspondence, negotiations and arrangements with officialdom in Moore and the hundreds and hundreds of volunteers from around the nation who have sent money, supplies, and themselves to Moore to help the new Church of God currently known as Firehouse Community Outreach become a force for healing and hope in the place where they plan on building redemptive relationships with Jesus Christ.
Daren Dabrowski (right) and one of the many “friends” of Moore OK
There’s a whole lot more to be told about this story unfolding in Moore.  And I hope to tell it.If you’d like to be a part of it, go to the web at: www.facebook.com.firehousecommunityoutreach  Or you can call its office at 405-759-0778. Heather will answer the phone.
(C) 2013 by Stephen L Dunn
photos courtesy of  FIREHOUSE COMMUNITY OUTREACH and THE GATE CHURCH

father-and-kidsBY STEVE DUNN

I haven’t posted in a while but out of the inspiration of Father’s Day ant the fine fathers I am privileged to pastor, I though this would make a good Monday Morning Reflection.

“The LORD is like a father to his children, tender and compassionate to those who fear him.” – Psalms 103.13 New Living Translation

Fathers often get a bad rap in our culture. Part of it is the egalitarian bias that tends to lower these former authority figures to lift up mothers and children. Part of it tendency to define the feminine side as the nurturing one and the masculine as the demanding side. And part of this is because there are some fathers unworthy of the name or position which tend to get the focus of the social critics. I could turn this into a rant with even more illustrations, so let my first statement suffice. Fathers often get a bad rap.

The problem is that I don’t buy it. Each day as a pastor I meet superb fathers. Men who love their children deeply. Who hold them and hug them. Men who come home tired yet read to their little one or climb back into the car to take a son or daughter to soccer practice. Dads who do not bark orders but who patiently teach. Dads who know their children’s dreams and work overtime to help those children realize their dreams.th

Fathers who build tree houses and coach teams. Fathers who kiss boo-boos and hold a crying babe in the most tender of arms. Dads who take their children to church and teach them to pray and maybe even teach a Sunday School class for their kids and their friends or chaperone retreats.

Dads who discipline with patience and set boundaries. Fathers who teach responsibility and model accountability. Fathers who exhibit a 24/7 faith in God and live with personal integrity.

And Father who bless their children with stable homes by loving their wives with the sacrificial leadership of Jesus Christ.

Maybe it’s time to honor those Dads. To affirm them and support them and bless them. That just may change their children’s eternal destinies.hug_iStock_000004330225Small

by Steve Dunn

There are almost no words adequate to express what I am about to share. About 3:00 pm local time on May 20th, a massive tornado that reached E4 status struck the Oklahoma City suburb of Moore OK. It actually reached E5 status when it ripped through the Plaza Towers Elementary School nearing the end of its school day. Seven children, ages 8 and 9, died at that school as the dark column of destruction moved across Moore for a horrendous 41 minutes. A second elementary school was struck but all of the children survived. In all 24 persons lost their lives in this community of 57,000 people.
20130520_oklahoma-tornado3_53

Principal Amy Simpson walked the halls trying to get the children ready for the tornado’s arrival with the intercom finally announcing, “It’s here.” And it was. What came next was pure heroism. “The teachers covered themselves in debris while they were covering their babies. And I believe that is why so many of us survived that day, because the teachers were able to act quickly, stay calm and take literally the weight of a wall onto their bodies to save those that were under them,” said Simpson.http://www.cbsnews.com/video/watch/?id=50147397n

Then there’s the story of Jennifer Doan, a third grade teacher. Later stories emerged of day care workers who stood by their charges as the storm struck–and who like those teachers, shielded their children from debris and calmed their fearful hearts until frantic parents could be reunited with them.

APTOPIX Oklahoma TornadoTORNADO-OKLAHOMA-6

This a great tragedy but once again we are reminded of people of character and commitment–this time teachers and daycare works, in the one case often much-maligned as they are blamed for the inadequacy of our youth and others, grossly underpaid for taking care of the nation’s most precious treasure–it’s children. I must echo the sentiment of a long time friend of mine, Kay Royer Cocklin, who posted this on Facebook: Asking you to say a special prayer for all teachers today. Teachers haven’t gotten very good press over the last few years. But, in the words of one of the Oklahoma teachers that survived the Moore tornado, “Your child, is my child.” That was always my feeling as a teacher, and it was also the feeling of 99% of those I have taught with throughout my 35 years in the classroom. Thank your child’s teacher. They deserve it!!!” This story deserves more, and I will be writing further.