A Question

I have a question.

The various iterations filter to, “If we would have had leadership at the top, we wouldn’t be in this pandemic mess.”

My question is: What specific leadership could anyone have offered at any place in the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic that would have stopped the invisible enemy and avoided its deadly march around the world? More specifically its early and continued malice across the USA?

Most, if not all, instructions and insights in first three months of year have been rescinded and re-tracked at least once. Last week the WHO reversed its opinion about lockdown. Now they consider it a bad thing to do. What would February leadership have said or done then that would have still been “wise” today? In October, some are saying we need a national law on mask wearing. If only we had leaders who would have ordered national mask wearing. That would have required an act of nationalizing the private lives of its citizens. That is called Socialism. It is the practice of Communism. Which makes the question even more pointed.

There is also the Constitutional principle of State’s Rights. The Federal government cannot at will override or assume authority over state government. The president can nationalize the National Guard (maybe-?), but the Governor has the authority to call out the Guard. The Federal Government—Executive Branch is limited in sending troops into a state or city. It is up to each State to determine, not a central government. The State Government must ask for Federal help. Communist governments send in military to squash protests as the Chinese did in Hong Kong. Our Constitution places limits on such.

The question is not a defense of our current President or Federal government, it is about what (not who) could have been done in January-March, 2020? What leadership action? I guess leaders could have used fortune tellers, tea-leaf readers, soothsayers and such. That’s what it sounds like–betting on crap shoots.

We have learned that COVID is not responsive to edicts, news releases or executive orders. The scientific communities do not agree on whether masks work. Nine plus months into this pandemic and the discussion still rages among regular citizens and the Blue Ribbon experts. They are still trying to figure it out. Therefore, what could anyone have done eight or ten months ago when no one knew more than just a little bit?

To suggest that if Mr. Biden had been president things would be different in January to October, 2020. Anyone but Trump. Perhaps Hillary or Jeb Bush. Maybe Jimmy Stewart? We can only guess. To magically place a different face in the White House would change not just the person, but the social, national dynamics. It would not be the same problem. COVID or any contagious disease does not respond to votes or political rhetoric. All the alternative leaders would have the same restrictions and boundaries. Lincoln and Roosevelt declared martial law/limited writs of habeas corpus. If you grant any alternative legality, then it must be given to the current president, influencers and opinionators.

The politicians found much to dislike about John Quincy Adams. He was quirky, but he was predictable. One Washingtonian said how Adams would act in the future could be found by reading his history. I have heard others say that. We can guess or make an educated guess how others would have handled any given crisis, but we will never know. We can’t go back to the future or time travel forward. Maybe we can shakily predict how some would have acted if they had only the information the government and medical community possessed in January or March. To me, the facts are still fluid. Leaders are still making it up as they go—based on the best evidence currently available.

Much of the 2020 Presidential vote weighs heavy on the question. Outside of political harangue, it is an impossible question to answer with absolute accuracy. But that conclusion resides in my brain. You may have a better answer. If so, there are many of us who want to hear it.

Just Wondering

©2020 D. Dean Benton

Temp Shift into Neutral

From my HyVee* Fortune Cookie: “Getting away for the weekend will help clear your mind.” It also told me to learn Chinese.

Ok, let’s do it. I like road trips, but where can we go to escape? Can I take my laptop, phone and briefcase? If I get away, who will mind the store? Will we miss something important on the news or Facebook? Twitter?

The possibility of getting away is thin. We’ve found a couple of alternatives to a road trip that will take our minds off the madness:

A talented man leaves city life to build a cheap cabin in the Canadian wilderness. There are three years of his life and projects on his youtube channel. He doesn’t talk much, just takes us along to fish, build and grow things all without power tools. It is a way to “get away for the weekend.”

“My Self-Reliance” https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCIMXKin1fXXCeq2UJePJEog

My niece spent a few days with friends in Tennessee. She said they visited 15 coffee shops. That is my idea of a weekend away. I like coffee shops more than coffee. The ultimate coffee shop is Starbucks at Barnes & Noble—and I’m not thrilled with the coffee, but the blend of the smell of books and coffee is a trip.

If you are a fan of Andy Andrews or have read Traveler’s Gift, you know the prime character named Jones. Several of Andy’s books feature him. You need to know that Andy Andrews is marketing coffee. It is named, “Just Jones Java.” Price is competitive—(kinda!)—and is now available. Wise marketing!

I really miss going to coffee shops to read, pray and observe people. I haven’t been to a coffee shop since March or April. To feed my addiction, I make coffee, find a parking lot where I read and drink coffee. It gets me away from my desk and the alluring cable news channels. I said this a month ago and it is still true: The encounters I have had with God have been in those times talking/listening to God while reading Joel Salatin’s book The Pigness of Pigs. I can pray and cry out loud “Oh, Lord!” in the car while that wailing makes baristas uneasy—curdles their cream.

The other day I read descriptions of commercial food farming—chickens, cattle, pigs—and I was driven to prayer. I know why I react to PETA. I also know how difficult it is to get public attention for the ethical treatment of animals. “Don’t mess with my burger!” But PETA makes a point the Church should be declaring. Salatin is a Jesus Follower and conversant with the Bible teaching as applied to 20th Century needs and technology. I don’t think the Creator is pleased with how we allow or demand such appalling treatment of animals headed to our dinner table or drive-thru. The Creator has invited me in to glimpse how stewardship is about soil as well as souls.

I have also been stimulated to think outside my usual zone by his blog—“Musings From a Lunatic Farmer.https://www.thelunaticfarmer.com/blog/

A blog last week convinced me of the benefit of renting forests and public lands to farmers who will graze cattle, hogs, turkeys, chickens there to offset wildfires while enriching the soil.

Not going to get away for the weekend; probably won’t learn much Chinese, but I plan to flush toxic stuff from my mind and listen, contemplate and write God’s words into my journal.

©2020 D. Dean Benton

Not a farm boy. A liker of flowing water, good soil, nurturing souls and healthy food.

*HyVee—the Midwest’s food store where there’s a smile in every aisle.

The Thrival Code

I’m obsessing about resilience.

If you’ve been reading this blog, you have seen Dr. Tim Elmore’s survival and thrival list:

  1. Resilience
  2. Resourcefulness
  3. Respect

To which I added:

  1. Responsibility

Observing our emotional, physical, spiritual, vocational, business atmosphere, resilience is a prime need.

Our long-time friend, David Mitchell now in South Carolina, is a student counselor. He appreciates Tim Elmore’s work, so he sent me a webinar link about building resilience. He said,

“I’m not always a huge fan of webinars, but this one has a lot of practical and useful information for ALL teachers—especially for those teaching virtually.”

 

Link to the webinar is below.

The resilience need is not just for students. Resilience skills are needed for all of us these days. The webinar instructor gives 5 components to build resilience:

  1. Connection
  2. Security
  3. Achievement
  4. Autonomy
  5. Fulfillment

Are those not components of a Jesus Follower? They are also what is under attack in the Pandemic and rioting, attack on the justice system and our personal well-being. A public figure was described as having a “healthy inner life.” Remembering our research on attacking anxiety and stress-management, these were chapter titles. I question whether we can maintain a healthy inner life unless we pay attention to these five. Any family disruption shakes or shatters the foundation of our resilience. If we heal from disruption or dissolution, we will have re-established or reinforced the five building blocks of personal wholeness.

David guides us in reference to the presentation:

“If you’d like to watch the whole thing, skip to 5:40 to get past the intros, etc. The best part is a 17 min window between 28:00 and 45:15 on restoring resilience in our students. Three concepts to know if you start at 28:00:

  1. Due to COVID, it has changed from MANY students are impacted by trauma to NEARLY ALL students are impacted by trauma.
  2. The goal is to move from being trauma-informed and trauma-sensitive to being trauma-skilled. 3. They liken trauma to a brick wall for students. We often can’t take it away or knock it down, but we can help them learn ways around or over it.”

The seventeen minutes were helpful. I invite you to invest 17. Thanks

https://home.edweb.net/webinar/differentiate20200909/

The link will ask for email address. David says, “If you aren’t an edWeb member, feel free to use my email address to be able to view it.”  <mitchelld@gwd50.org   

D. Dean Benton    Wonderer, Writer, Worker on resilience

Apples & Wisdom

Chris Stirewalt says, “…its possibilities look about as good as the chances of apple bobbing while wearing a corona mask.”

I’m not math bright nor am I a gambler, but I sure like to know what the chance and probabilities are. Maybe Johnny Mathis sowed the question—“Chances Are….” Are what? I want to know how to evaluate possibilities. Jesus gave us the equation.

By their fruit you will recognize them (Matthew 7).

It seems to me—at least this week—the determining skills and characteristics and most the most important elements to teach self and others are:

  • Resilience
  • Resourcefulness
  • Respect
  • Responsibility

If a person has that package of emotional, mental and spiritual strengths, they are most likely to survive, and perhaps thrive, during economic and social upheavals.

The reasoning for this is the fruit question. What will the outcome—the fruit—be if I follow this behavior, plan of action or decision to the logical conclusion? What will this line of thinking produce? From what orchard did the present conditions come?

Let’s look at this from the other side. What fruit do you want? If the above four skills and habits (R4) is what we desire, then what growing season and what activities and lessons are required? How is resilience developed? What teaches resourcefulness? How does respect for the soil, other people’s property and other people grow? How do we acquire the ability to take responsibility for our own actions and life?

R4 do not come to us fully developed, they are grown. The principle applies to everything. Chances are increased if first we ask, “What will result if I follow this action?” That demands self-awareness and personal discipline to routinely ask and discern the best answer.

What fruit will rioting bear? Listen to the rhetoric and platform of a political candidate and ask, “If the nation (county, village or me personally) follows this plan, where will it lead? What is the inevitable fruit? How does this decision-making pattern affect business decisions and personal decisions?

We were given a peck of apples. Carole made an apple pie. She said it was the first pie she had ever baked. What? How is that possible? I love pie. And her pie was fantastic. I come from a heritage of pie-bakers, so I feel qualified to judge. It was great! As good as Mom’s, if not better.

Since I peeled the apples, worm holes and rotting sections caught my attention. Checking the fruit demands we ask about worms in the apple.

You shall know them—people by their fruit. Negative results can be traced to causes—sometimes. There is an inevitable crop—not always, but worth asking “Where did that come from?” If you lock down business, lock up people in a small space, lock out gatherings of worship, forbid hugging and proclaim that mask wearing solves problems, what is most apt to happen? Unemployment, mental/emotional illness, growing anxiety and depression, agitation and frayed nerves. (There has been a growing number of inquiries about divorce especially among the newly married. No joke.) Keep kids away from routine, interaction, intentional education and the fruit is predictable.

There is an inevitable harvest. A lot of energy has been wasted on blaming. Shouldn’t we instead respond with plans? You shall know what to do if you see what the fruit is going to look like. Part of the dilemma we are living in is that of uncertainty and the unknown. Only a few futurists and godly prophets saw what September 15 would look like from the view of February 1.  The American Indians and Aborigines from Australia could have told us about wild fires. If their wisdom would have been sought and trusted. We do know what December 31 will look like if we neglect resilience, resourcefulness, respect and personal responsibility.

I don’t know if governments can be taught how to “test the spirits,” or “check the fruit.” I know the “fruit” of Resilience, Resourcefulness, Respect and Responsibility in your life and mine is worth the investment. The fruit of R4 is wisdom and insight. We need a ton of that.

Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom. And in all your getting, get understanding” (Proverbs 4:7 KJV).

©2020 D. Dean Benton,   Writer,  Wonderer,  Wisdom seeker

Feet First

THE AGE OF PRESSURE-FREE SOCKS

Going to get me some. But then, maybe not. The ad didn’t list a price. Could be we’ve been going at this stress and pressure thing upside down. We should try it feet first.

Reading Ezekiel 34. God is speaking to pastors. An Old Testament era pastor was not limited to preacher-types or the New Testament office of pastor. Pastoring was anyone responsible for caring for people. Mayors, governors, parents, religious leaders. Ezekiel and Yahweh got my attention and alerted my spirit. Given all I’m hearing futurists and prophets/teachers saying, I wonder if my pastoral heart is on track to talk about what my segment—sheep fold, tribe, digital parish—of God’s people is needing to hear.

“If I have my way, there are always plenty of great books to read and a good collection of classical and other instrumental music to comb the tangles from our stressed-out psyches and provide food for the soul.”  Gloria Gaither

I like that line—“to comb the tangles from our stressed-out psyches….” We watched a youTube clip about a young woman combing out her dreadlocks after six years. The comb-out took two or three people 5-6 days. It is obvious that “tangles in our stressed-out psyches” will take time to bring healing and installation of new life approach.

I’m sure you’ve noticed the widely-used words—scarcity-thinking. This permeates the world as if we are in a sum-zero closed system. That is one of the “absolutes” that pushes the protesters (not rioters) and fuels our fears. It contradicts what a reasoned reading of the Bible tells us about God and His creation. God’s favorite words (my current guess) are Abundance, Creativity, Redemption and Stewardship.

Over the past three-four months, I have been driven to tears by the revelations and teaching of two writers/teachers: Joel Salatin talking about agriculture and livestock. I was reading The Marvelous Pigness of Pigs in the car on a big-box store parking lot and felt tears on my cheeks. I felt the closeness of Jesus and the need to repent of mankind’s bad use of land and the open future if we can get this right—I caught a small glimpse of what “I’ll heal your land” might look like.

The other is Dr. Tim Elmore’s brand-new book, The Pandemic Population—Eight Strategies to help Generation Z Rediscover hope after Coronavirus.

Elmore is a student of students and generations. He sees big similarities between Gen Z and the Silent Generation also known as Builders born 1929-1945. This includes me! I have seen Builders as the earlier generation going through the Great Depression and World War II, with the Silent Generation following. The Builders became Tom Brokaw’s Greatest Generation. Most of the great mission programs and non-profit organization were built by this group. I identify with the Silent Generation and our parents being the Builders. I sure don’t feel that I fit into the Builder’s profile.

Dr. Elmore says

“…although there are similarities in the hardships faced between the Silent/Builder Generation and Generation Z, there are remarkable differences in the outcomes. The deciding factor in this change…is the narrative with which each generation engaged the challenges they faced. When the Builder/Silent Generation faced hardship, they were encouraged to be resilient, resourceful, and respectful. When Gen Z faced similar hardships, they were encouraged to be savvy, cynical, and stoic. If we want to change the outcome, we’ve got to change how we lead Generation Z through the challenges they face.”

Can you hear “how to deal with scarcity” in those words?

Elmore uses the research of developmental psychologist Emmy Werner on children’s resilience. Ms. Werner was a child in Europe during World War II. She didn’t study or write from the cheap seats! As an adult, Werner studied the letters, journal entries, and diaries of 200 hundred child witnesses, then interviewed the survivors to learn about their experiences. Dr. Elmore says, “In her book Through the Eyes of Innocents, she writes that many of the kids became adults who held ‘an extraordinary affirmation of life.’”

When I read those words, I was stunned. Isn’t that what we desire and pray that our young will experience and attain through this cultural upheaval and Pandemic? What are the chances? How will they shed the cynicism, hopelessness, nihilism, ignorance of history and doubt that they have a reason to view their future with excitement? I hear in this study words for all generations: Resilience, Resourcefulness, Respect.

Since this is Suicide Awareness Week, this feels urgent and healing and strategies scream for listeners. Four takeaways Ms. Werner found that made a difference:

  1. EXPOSURE—Limited

Werner found that kids exposed to much calamity for many hours fared worse; the ones who had a limited amount early on, fared better. Elmore advises to put boundaries on the amount of news the kids watch. Not just kids!

Do you know the phrase, Fear of missing out—FoMO? It is a pervasive apprehension of being absent or missing important bulletins. This fear turns on an alert switch—a desire to stay continually connected. We are news junkies. We have become tuned in to all the prophets and futurists. We want to know what they are hearing from God, the latest gossip among the angels and any and every instruction from Holy Spirit. FoMO! The prophet’s latest word—which I want to hear—can lead to adrenal overload.

  1. CAREGIVERS—Loving

“A caring adult offering support was a game changer for how the kids in this research turned out as adults. These kids had adults who led them intentionally, encouraged them, and offered emotional guidance. The good news is—the adult doesn’t have to be a parent. The key is a trusted adult was present to offer guidance and support. Today, the same is true. We must offer clear guidance, emotional support, and encouragement.” (The Pandemic Population, Page 29).

  1. LEADERSHIP—Calm

“When uncertainty or danger strikes, children are ‘wired’ to look to their caregivers to interpret how safe they should feel. When the threat system is on too long without relief, physical and mental health problems can result.” (Werner)

“The key is for the kids to have an adult who continues normal routines that provide security and order amidst what may feel like chaos…the presence of a calm adult can even reduce levels of cortisol, the stress hormone, in a child’s body. This means that you as their leader must practice self-care so you are ready to offer calm leadership in a time of uncertainty.” (Elmore)

We are interacting with more than “what may feel like chaos.” There are invading revolutionaries on the streets and a pandemic in the air. Whatever we formerly thought of as up is now deemed down and all that once was right is being called wrong. Invaders are intent and active in destroying every value and virtue that gives us guardrails and handrails. It is not what feels like chaos, it is chaos. Leaders are at a loss as much as the children. It seems to me that a good question is, “What the hell is going on?” When anarchists scream outside a hospital “I hope they die,” that is witchcraft in action. They are calling upon satan and evil to take control. That is why observers called their behavior “demonic,” and the look on the rioter’s faces, evil.

Calm leadership is not an appeal for pretending that all is well or there is no reason for concern. Andy Stanley says we cannot promise certainty. We can pledge clarity and authenticity. Leaders can be transparent about their own fears when appropriate and be clear about actions being taken to fortify the gates. Age-appropriate transparency is always a good thing. Jeremiah, Isaiah, Nehemiah were prophets that clearly announced what they were hearing with a vision of the future. I like Jeremiah’s EQ. He prefaced his pronouncements with, “I really hate to tell you this….” And he cried when the news was “Pack, we’re moving.”

A pastor—parent, preacher—all responsible for giving care—do so by asking teens…

  • How is this affecting you?
  • What are you feeling?
  • What do you see as a worse-case scenario?
  • How would you want this to turn out?

The thinking about teens voting is that since they are going to be affected by what we decide, they should have a voice. My thinking is since they are wearing a mask, listen to the news and have an opinion, they should have a safe place to say, “I’m scared and this sucks! I think we should….”

Ever wonder what a “bejeebers” is? Just so you know—

“To shock or frighten one very suddenly or severely.”

I was listening to politicians and news people talking about a possible scenario immediately after the 2020 election. It shook the bejeebers out of me! I’m wondering how to prepare. Do we buy fire arms? Stockpile survival food? Put iron bars on the windows? Move to a cave with two massive dogs named Bruno and Killer? If I’m feeling those things, I know people around me are also and Gen Z, Millennials have the same anxieties. Resilience is grow-able.

  1. CALLINGPURPOSE

“…Werner’s research shows that adult leaders who embrace faith in a ‘higher power’ were able to guide kids into more resilient responses after a calamity. Ann Masten, professor at the Institute for Child Development at University of Minnesota, found ‘having a sense of purpose helps, too’” (Elmore, Page 30-31).

Gen X, Gen Z, Millenniels question what their lives are going to be. What about their calling, their desire to marry, have children, career? Some of my friends’ ministries have been shut down by the pandemic as if someone hit a kill switch. Paraphrasing, “What am I to do so I can get back to what I was created to do and do well?”

“…anxiety has replaced excitement about the future” (Tim Elmore).

I have no word from the Lord that we will ever return to what “it use to was.” So we look under the hood to ask if our talent, gift or loved activity is the primary thing. What if talent, gift or what we love to do is a tool? What do we want them to accomplish? After you have used your best in Holy Spirit anointing, what do you want to have happened? Someone learn something? Someone decide to follow Jesus? Healed? Delivered from a bondage-stronghold? Empowered? Equipped? Encouraged to give it a better shot? It is doubtful that those will ever be out of date—there is no “herd immunity” for those needs. Comfort—Equipped. Empowered, Encouraged.

“‘Comfort, comfort my people,’ says the Lord” (Isaiah 40:1).

Grow these:   Resilience, Resourcefulness, Respect

©2020 D. Dean Benton –writer, wonderer

An Apple & A Head Bruise

In 1665, a plague closed Cambridge. The school sent students home to hunker down. Isaac Newton used that time to continue his education—learning on his own. Isolation, home-bound, shut down. It was during those days that he experimented with light, math equations and thinking about falling apples. He returned to Cambridge in 1667 with theories in hand and in notebooks, a bruise on his head and some thoughts about gravity.

I am enjoying, learning and finding motivation in this “plague” as I read Dr. Tim Elmore’s brand-new book, The Pandemic Population, (Growing Leaders, Inc., ©2020). “Eight Strategies to Help Generation Z Rediscover Hope After Coronavirus.”  Elmore says,

“I am so grateful Isaac Newton had some spare time. What will we do with ours?”

“The key is going to be how we choose to look at this whole thing. And…the narrative we embrace, of course, will be derived from our perspective. How do we even perceive what’s happening to us? Are we mere victims of a horrible time in history? Or could this be an opportunity for us to progress to a far better place? I pose the question, Is COVID-19 an interruption or an introduction to something better?” (Page 46)

“Narrative” is a hot word these days. The defining proverb about stress is, “It is how we explain things to ourselves—the stories we tell ourselves that determine whether the event is positive or negative.” It is not what happens, but how we explain the event to ourselves and others.

Dr. Tim Elmore continues,

“So, with all the negative outcomes we see from today’s coronavirus, what if we looked at it differently? (We) can get mad or (we) can get busy.

“Past epidemics may just show us how to get busy:”

  • What if we let the adversity weed out what’s wrong and clarify what’s important?

  • What if we let the adversity catalyze wise decisions to improve conditions?

  • What if we let the adversity create an urgency about solving… problems?

We are not victims.

“But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us.” Romans 8:37.

©2020 D. Dean Benton    Writer & Wonderer

No * on You Can Count On Me

Thanksgiving dinner is going to be less populated at the Trump family table. In the “might be-fiction” area of the bookstore this week is at least one addition. First Lady Melanie Trump’s former “best” friend’s has published, “Melanie and Me.” She probably shouldn’t expect an invitation for dinner. Nor should President Trump’s niece or sister, or John Bolton.

Goodreads says there are 291 tell-all books about Trump—that was before this week. Two more drop next week. Mary Trump’s book sold 1.3 million copies its first week. 

Much has been made about Donald Trump’s loyalty requirements. Do you blame him? Obviously, he has not done a very good job vetting those around him. I’m guessing that Barron has signed a non-disclosure agreement. (JOKE)

Nothing about the past four years of politics has been more nauseating to me than the leaking from people with access to the Oval Colander and the absolute betrayal by those who were trusted with state secrets and personal conversations. Observing this practice of spewing privileged information has been sitting like vomit in the back of my soul for three years. 

I am appalled by the video of Ms. Nancy Pelosi at the hair-dressers walking across the salon floor with wet hair. That is invasion of privacy to say the least and an indictment of the leakers and publishers.  It is not political, it is lack of humanity and character. 

The former daughter-in-law of a famous evangelist said the family Thanksgiving dinner ended with the famous man chewing a pack of Juicy Fruit gum. How was the reader supposed to react to that revelation? I erased her from my invite list.

Who is better after knowing these “secrets” or personal idiosyncrasies? Are people’s souls enriched? Are they smarter? Did their empathy grow or their IQ blossom? How about their emotional quotient? It feels like the land of the free is populated by hordes of voyeurs.

I’ve been slow-reading my way through Pulitzer Prize winning American Lion by Jon Meacham, the history of Andrew Jackson’s days in the White House. Jackson’s vice-president, John C. Calhoun attempted to publicly slander the president and fight him on almost every action. Then there was Henry Clay who devoted his life to winning the presidency; watching all this was John Quincy Adams who spoke publicly against Harvard’s decision to bestow an honorary doctorate on Jackson. All these men were in Jackson’s Cabinet. Trying to mend fences and pave his own path to the presidency, Mr. Calhoun went to visit Adams. This is the former president’s reaction:

“I meet Mr. Calhoun’s advances to a renewal of the intercourse of common civility because I cannot reject them. But once I had confidence in the qualities of his heart. It is not totally destroyed, but so impaired that it can never be restored.”

What is left when insurrection, usurping of position, insubordination or betrayal is obvious? Trust is gone. Credibility and trustworthiness is questioned. On his death bed, Jackson said he was sorry he didn’t hang Calhoun for treason. Reputation as a betrayer on one’s resume is not a plus.

The blood sport of politics cannot be teaching citizens, especially the young, the value of honoring and trustworthiness. In the day of shaming, the impact of betrayal should be glaringly evident for the betrayed and the betrayer. Is betrayal worth it—perhaps virtuous—just because dollars, position or social standing can be improved? Or book sales?

The psalmist said in Psalm 54:12-14,

…For it is not an enemy who insults me; that I could endure. It is not a foe who rises against me; from him I could hide. But it is you, a man like myself, my companion and close friend. We shared sweet fellowship together; 

It is betrayal by family and/or friends that is most brutal. Confidences leaked through gossip or prayer requests exposed without permission cuts the cable. The agony of that is cried out by King David who was betrayed by his son:

“The king was shaken. He went up to the room over the gateway and wept. As he went, he said: “O my son Absalom! My son, my son Absalom! If only I had died instead of you—O Absalom, my son, my son!” 2 Samuel 18:33 (NIV)

Harry Hopkins has intrigued me. This paragraph describes him:

“During the years when Harry Hopkins lived as a guest in the White House, he was generally regarded as a sinister figure, a backstairs intriguer, an Iowan combination of Machiavelli, Svengali and Rasputin. Hostility toward him was by no means limited to those who hated Franklin Delano Roosevelt. There were many of Roosevelt’s most loyal friends and associates, in and out of the Cabinet, who disliked Hopkins intensely and resented the extraordinary position of influence and authority he held. He was unquestionably a political liability to Roosevelt, a convenient target for all manners of attacks directed at the President himself, and many people wondered why Roosevelt kept him around.” (Roosevelt and Hopkins, Robert E. Sherwood, Harper & Brothers, ©1948) Page 1.

Wendell Willkie asked FDR,

“Why do you keep Hopkins so close to you? You surely must realize that people distrust him and they resent his influence?”

Willkie quoted Roosevelt as replying:

“I can understand that you wonder why I need that half-man around me.” (The ‘half-man’ was an allusion to Hopkin’s extreme physical frailty.) “But—someday you may well be sitting here where I am now as President of the United States. And when you are, you’ll be looking at that door over there and knowing that practically everybody who walks through it wants something out of you. You’ll learn what a lonely job this is, and you’ll discover the need for somebody like Harry Hopkins who asks nothing except to serve you.”

Does fidelity seems sparse today? Loyalty cannot be a one-way commitment. It seems to me that honor, respect, fidelity, loyalty and trustworthiness are markable and remarkable personal traits.

General Jeb Stuart signed all his letters to Robert E. Lee…

Yours To Count On,   

©2020 D. Dean Benton

Disturbance

An ambulance was dispatched for a farmer who was vaccinating pigs and accidently stuck himself. I don’t know what was in the needle, but if an ambulance is involved, there is nothing funny about it. I was reading at the time. I put the book down to check digital mail. The book: The Pigness of Pigs, by Joel Salatin. Made me smile.

The Joel Salatin blog today is about Ecological Exercise. The state of Virginia is going to control burn part of the state’s property. Salatin says…,

These controlled burns are not blazing infernos.  They’re carefully planned and executed to reduce invasives, reduce mountain laurel and other marginal species while opening up the forest floor to a host of diversified vegetation.  The fire also stimulates oak health.

What many folks don’t know is that the oak forests of Appalachia are dying. Right now we’re seeing a rapid and massive die-off of White Ash due to the emerald ash borer. We have thousands of dead ash trees on our farm.  We’re trying to cut them as fast as we can before they fall over, but there are a lot of them.

For the last several years, almost every oak tree I cut has a decay spot in the center. They’re dying. In 200 years, imagine Appalachia without oaks. Why?  Disturbance. No fire, no buffalo, no landscape mosaic. The ecosystem needs periodic disturbance to freshen it up and keep it from stagnation. The worst forest ecology in the mid-Atlantic region is Shenandoah National Park. It’s an ecological travesty.

We are touching fewer than 100 acres with our pigs periodically running through the forest. That’s a help, but it’s hard to cover as much ground as a fire. Wildlife loves fire. Animals return immediately to lick the charred highly mineralized aftermath and even eat the ashes. (W)ild turkeys are especially attracted to a burn because it exposes worms and millipedes.

©2020 Joel Salatin—Musings of the Lunatic Farmer—Blog  8-27-20

Those four paragraphs are important to you and me for two reasons. One. Land management has been abandoned by government listening to their selected “environmentalists.” Australia learned that mistake. Government threw away the management expertise of the Aborigines to which they are deciding to return. Many of the wild fires in the west are result of bad land management choices. So I hear.

The real reason I share Mr. Salatin’s blog is his view of disturbance.

The ecosystem needs periodic disturbance to freshen it up and keep it from stagnation. 

“Students today are being influenced by a 24/7 news cycle covering a pandemic, protests, and panic attacks that will either make them wither or will make them stronger than ever. Generation Z is graduating into a VUCA world: Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, and Ambiguous. They’re already the most anxious generation in modern history and now they live in a most anxious time.” (Dr. Tim Elmore)

Commentary magazine views the current chaos as The Unraveling of America. That’s a good description.

Most of all I don’t want to diminish the anguish or trivialize anyone’s anxiety about the VUCA world. I’m looking forward to reading Tim Elmore’s new book Pandemic Generation. In the meantime, I’m trying to make sense of every semblance of good sense.

This “value of disturbance” idea has been sitting in my head for a couple of years. John Eldredge talked about the vast wild fire in their part of Colorado. His description of looking out a window and seeing green sprigs on a hillside of ashes grabbed me. Resilience is such a wonderful gift, skill, habit. They make a nice couple—Disturbance and Resilience.

I like the idea of change. Generally. But I don’t trust change as it relates to me. A controlled burn is such a good idea! Unless, it is my forest. I’m not so sure there will be any green sprigs. I suspect you feel the same so I’m careful with my words.

I doubt we will return to the old normal. The point of a controlled burn is to get rid of the destructive old normal. Thomas Jefferson thought there ought to be a revolution every seven years—like a controlled burn. I don’t know if he still said that after the French Revolution. The Old Normal was a known commodity. I’m anxious in this “unraveling” that one of the “protesters” will pull that one dangling thread….

I don’t know if Jesus is coming this week. He may. The words—“He is expected imminently” is a good way to approach life. There is comfort in feeling, “He’ll be here by October 15,” but Jesus doesn’t give us that certainty.  Uncertainty breeds with burning buildings and anarchists attacking my favorite Senators on the streets of Washington D.C. to birth a lexicon of emotions. I would rather God and I discern and plan our future than an armed terrorist fixated, obsessed and verbally/emotionally/mentally limited to one four letter word. Jesus is coming soon! But what if soon means 2028?

We need a strategy.

In psychotherapy and psychology there is a practice known as “reframing.” That means to give a more positive description to something that is stressing or angering. Definition of reframing:

Cognitive reframing is a psychological technique that consists of identifying and then changing the way situations, experiences, events, ideas, and/or emotions are viewed. Cognitive reframing is the process by which such situations or thoughts are challenged and then changed. In the context of cognitive therapy, cognitive reframing is referred to as cognitive restructuring.

2020, so far, is one disaster after another. From space, our world must look like devastation: torched by a maniac—or satan & co. Reframing is a huge act of faith.

HUGE!

Ezekiel 34 was yesterday’s scripture reading. New Testament revelation related by a major Old Testament prophet. Yahweh calls Himself “The Good Shepherd,” and calls the bad shepherds to account—literally gives them hell. It is the Good Shepherd—Old Testament and New Testament (John 10:1-18)—in whom trust is to be placed.

The events of 2020 are not just a blip. Can we reframe them as a disturbance which can be used for our benefit? Faith, it seems to me, demands an image. Memories are never stored digitally—0 & 1s. They are stored with pictures. To step in faith requires a picture of what you want your future to look like. (Vision of how your personal burned mountain side will look with green sprigs.)

God and I did a question and answer. I don’t know which of us started. Question: Can my destiny be hijacked? We Q & A’d about nihilism, free-will and strict Calvinism. A “controlled burn” assumes (for me) that my destiny is wrapped up in my “new in Christ” personhood. (2 Corinthians 5:17.) It may be given away, but can it be destroyed? Satan will have you believe our personal and national future will be determined by anarchists and insurrectionists. That is soul-killing.

 Who are you in Christ? YOU? The saved and being sanctified you? What has God placed in your spirit and soul—which includes your imagination, which communicates with images? The strategy is to Q & A until that happens. What dream? What desire? What destiny? What mission? Who to bless? With that in mind, 2020 can be a meaningful disturbance. It demands adjustments and creativity—walking and living by faith. The enemy’s goal is to damage the soul so adjustments, creativity and hope are neglected—because “there is no use….”

Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Instead, fear the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell (Matthew 10:28).

A song from childhood is background track for these words. The last line of the chorus says, “I’m walking by faith and I feel no alarm.” I am feeling alarm! It is that alarm that drives me to take the step of faith to decide what I want the future to look like and how walking by faith in Christ can influence it. If we Determine it. Declare it. Decree it. Live and walk it.

Not merely a disturbance. This can be a controlled and motivating disturbance. By faith.

©2020 D. Dean Benton—Writer, Wonderer, Walker

Walking By Faith    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PwJfwYMuZEQ

Watching My Mouth

In January 1830, Edward Livingston—himself a Washington Insider and member of a notable family reaching to the Revolution—stood in the United States Senate to speak about partisan politics. He had earlier said that the cost of partisanship for partisanship’s sake—of seeing politics as a blood sport, where the kill is the only object of the exercise—“was too high for a free society to pay.”

“The spirit of which I speak creates imaginary and magnifies real causes of complaint: arrogates to itself every virtue—denies every merit to its opponents; secretly entertains the worse designs…mounts the pulpit, and, in the name of a God of mercy and peace, preaches discord and vengeance; invokes the worst scourges of Heaven, war, pestilence, and famine, as preferable to party defeat; blind, vindictive, cruel, remorseless, unprincipled, and at last frantic, it communicates its madness to friends as well as foes; respects nothing, fears nothing.”

I have two immediate responses: Our politicians and partisans have been involved in the vitriolic approach almost from the beginning. No party or interest group can be excused. Not all are cruel or verbally involved in witchcraft. When one of my former favorite female singers critiqued the First Lady, I was on the verge of calling forth a surgical fireball strike.

That leads me to my second response to Livingston’s words. When we search for reasons and content as we “…turn from our wicked ways…,” how about partisan blood sport? Is that a wicked way?

The power hierarchy of the political parties probably don’t read my blogs—they won’t return my phone calls, so I have to deal with my own vitriolic choice of words. So, I’m sending Holy Spirit—God’s living Presence—to that singer and front page political people. Jesus said the Holy Spirit would lead us (and them!) into all truth.

It is not just a prayer meeting or Sunday School topic. Listening to a man talk about “building up our immune,” he listed, “Sleep, limit fast food, stay hydrated, move your body-stay active and forgive.” Unforgiveness and emotional upheaval affects our body’s immune system.

I found in research for my seminars—“Stop Being So Damn Mad!”—Ephesians 4:17-32 describes how the Holy Spirit is grieved and quenched; what brings judgement upon us—negative anger that refuses to be resolved. God gave anger as a gift—not negative anger, but positive anger which is framed by Ephesians 4:32. Positive anger has a plan to build.

Watching my heart and watching my mouth

© 2020 D. Dean Benton

The seminar series, Stop Being So Damn Mad! is published as Turn Back The Tirade available free during the pandemic at https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/529403

Calls For A ‘Me, Too.’

Andrew Jackson left his home near Nashville for Washington. He was the newly elected president and a new widower. Not having Rachel at his side, made prospects lonely and desolate. He took with him Rachel’s niece Emily to be the White House hostess and Rachel’s nephew and Emily’s husband, Andrew Donelson, to be his personal secretary. They were a safe place for Jackson and a shore line. The essential elements in Jackson’s life was “clan, faith, country.”

Jon Meacham, in his Pulitzer Prize book, American Lion, (Random House ©2009, tells a story that touches me and calls me to repentance and dedication to my clan, faith, country.

“Emily went to Jackson to talk about Mary Rachel’s baptism. She had barely raised the subject when Jackson interrupted her. ‘Spare no expense nor pains, ma’am’ he said. ‘Let us make it an event to be remembered; we will do all honor to the baby.’

    The service would be in the East Room, the liturgy taken from the Episcopal Book of Common Prayer. Congressmen, senators, diplomats, secretaries, judges, and military officers filled the elegant room. Emily and Andrew had chosen to have one godfather, Martin Van Buren, and one godmother, Cora Livingston, for their daughter.

    Van Buren was to hold Mary Rachel as the minister read the office, but she burst into tears and would be calmed only when Jackson himself swept her up in his long arms. Then the officiant hushed the gathering and began with the Lord’s Prayer.

    Addressing Cora and Van Buren, the officiant asked,

“Dost thou, in the name of this child, renounce the devil and all his works, the vain pomp and glory of the world, with all covetous desires of the same, and the sinful desires of the flesh, so that thou wilt not follow, nor be led by them?’

    Cora and Van Buren did not have a chance to answer. Hearing the question, Jackson, who was not supposed to have a speaking part, could not help himself, and announced with authority,

“I do, sir, I renounce them all!”

History says that Mary Rachel’s tears caused the audience to stir and desire to comfort her. President Jackson’s confession caused the audience to smile. I wonder if it caused any of the audience to say, “Me, too!”

Author Jon Meacham says,

“No little girl ever had a more sincere protector speak for her at such a moment.”

Jackson’ goals were to make it an event to be remembered and to honor the child. Check! Check! Accomplished.

Me, too!

©2020 D. Dean Benton