Friday, April 11, 2014

THE INCONVENIENCE OF SUDDEN DEATH

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.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

MONDAY MORNING REFLECTIONS - PLAY BALL, FINALLY !!!

BY 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



Sunday, March 30, 2014

COMING OUT OF HIBERNATION






BY STEVE DUNN

I have been blogging now for six years.  In fact, LIFE MATTERS on Blogger was my very first venture into this dimension of internet publishing. For those blog alone I have posted 878 times.
Before entering the world of blogging, I published an email devotional called THRIVING IN CHRIST.
This was very popular, and was frequently forwarded to others, especially when I added a little social commentary to my scriptural reflections.  This devotional evolved into a blog by the same name, also on Blogger.  I do little devotional writing these days, so it is now published very infrequently.

I publish a number of other blogs, many tied to teaching, a number of which connect to my profession as a pastor,leadership developer, and church consultant.  These have occupied the bulk if my time this winter.  

This blog has always been my general interest blog, my ongoing dialogue with the culture on cultural and religious matters--and some trivial pursuits in both arenas. I have never professed to be a cultural expert, simply someone with an opinion and whose belief that our lives matter to God made the connection important.

The intensity of production of my professional blogs pushed this one to the end of my "to do" list.  Except for my semi-irreverent Steve's Digital Desk, I was spending very little time with the extraordinary stuff we find in ordinary daily living.

So it's time to come out of hibernation.  Hopefully after a few posts, you'll stop telling me to climb back into my cave.

Friday, January 10, 2014

OPPORTUNITIES

Bloggers read other bloggers.  One that I enjoy is called MORNING STORY AND DILBERT.  This recent post I felt to be very much in the spirit in which we write LIFE MATTERS and quite appropriate for the new year. - Steve



Morning Story and Dilbert
Vintage Dilbert
January 1, 2014

When the great library of Alexandria burned, the story goes, one book was saved. But it was not a valuable book; and so a poor man, who could read a little, bought it for a few coppers.  The book wasn’t very interesting, but between its pages there was something very interesting indeed. It was a thin strip of vellum on which was written the secret of the “Touchstone”!

The touchstone was a small pebble that could turn any common metal into pure gold. The writing explained that it was lying among thousands and thousands of other pebbles that looked exactly like it. But the secret was this: The real stone would feel warm, while ordinary pebbles are cold.   So the man sold his few belongings, bought some simple supplies, camped on the seashore, and began testing pebbles.

He knew that if he picked up ordinary pebbles and threw them down again because they were cold, he might pick up the same pebble hundreds of times. So, when he felt one that was cold, he threw it into the sea. He spent a whole day doing this but none of them was the touchstone. Yet he went on and on this way. Pick up a pebble. Cold – throw it into the sea.

Pick up another. Throw it into the sea.

The days stretched into weeks and the weeks into months. One day, however, about midafternoon, he picked up a pebble and it was warm. He threw it into the sea before he realized what he had done. He had formed such a strong habit of throwing each pebble into the sea that when the one he wanted came along, he still threw it away.

So it is with opportunity. Unless we are vigilant, it’s easy to fail to recognize an opportunity when it is in hand, and it’s just as easy to throw it away.

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

END OF THE YEAR REFLECTIONS

BY 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

Reprint permission: You have permission to reprint for your ministry or repost as long as you do not alter the post and give credit to its author. An email note from you would be appreciated by the author and a link back to this blog is always appreciated.
  

Monday, December 30, 2013

TOP POSTS OF ALL TIME - INVICTUS REVISITED AGAIN

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


INVICTUS REVISITED AGAIN

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 OF ALL TIME -BRIAN'S QUESTIONS - CREATION

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

BRIAN'S QUESTIONS - CREATION AND SEVEN DAYS

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

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.