Steward This Well

The practice of disinformation, or propaganda as we used to call it, has been heavy on my mind. So has a part of the brain called The Reticular Activating System. It is at the base of the brain, about two-inches long and is a heavy-duty thought filter. The two have been messing with my understanding of discerning and discerning of spirits and my perception of truth.

The definition of RAS includes the phrase—the RAS filters out unnecessary noise…. The RAS is so powerful it will filter out any solutions, truth, or any strategy regardless of rightness or wrongness and sources depending on how we instruct it.

How do I know, then, for sure that what I “discern” is anything more than my ignorance and willfulness to hear only what will support my point of view? How do I discern accurately?

I noticed this when checking YouTube. If the post or program is more than 4 hours old, I usually think it is not fresh enough or is out of date. Perhaps I’m alone in this, I am so desirous to know what is going on that dictates activity in my world and hear as many opinions as possible that I want my preachers/teachers to help me understand, or to help me learn the import of front-page news from a biblical point of view . That determines what I want sermons to contain and what I want church to be like in these days.  Apostle, Preacher, Teacher, Prophet, Evangelist, what can you tell me that will bring order and light to the dark chaos and/or will instruct me how to respond with Kingdom fidelity?

Others don’t want to hear their preacher talk about those things. “I get enough of that from TV! Just preach the Word!” Listening to a podcast, I was hearing the same stuff I just heard another podcaster and guests say. That may be called “Circular talking.” I wondered how what I was hearing was anything but intellectual gossip. I shut it down.

Heavy on my mind, heavy on my spirit. I need time to monitor and recalibrate my RAS. I believe the Lord signaled me to schedule and honor appointments to hear His word and be in His presence. When God “speaks to me” it is seldom in capitalized, 20 point, red font. There is no shouting. That unique voice comes in italics, 14 point font. Listening to one of my trusted teachers, the voice came in 16-point font. The teacher and the voice said,

Steward this well!

Steward what?

An hour later, I was reading, TIME Magazine, Publish date February 15, 2021.  

The Secret History of the Shadow Campaign That Saved the 2020 Election

It is a lengthy article which purports to be an exposure piece, but it reads like a news release from a self-proclaimed cabal about how they influenced and controlled the election itself and days leading to it and following it. It is stunning, shocking and sobering. The TIME reporter tells us that media, tech, “disinformation” are only public players taking orders from an unknown group.

You can Google this for yourself if wanting to know specifics. I also listened to Charlie Kirk talk about the article and announcement.

https://www.google.com/search?q=charlie+kirk&oq=Charlie+Kirk&aqs=chrome.0.0j46j0l6.19430j0j15&sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8   Scroll to episode: “How they did it….”

We came away from this feeling “There is no use to try! No reason to fight for our Republic. We are already controlled by a faceless, nameless group of people.” Several opinionators react with disgust about the arrogance and bragging. “This is the way we did it!” I also think this “news release” is a warning—you—so-called WE THE People  are without power—you can’t do anything about it.

Steward this well!

I get it! Steward well how you interpret this, what you conclude and what agreements you make with it. Stewarding well is a big-font call to intentionally setting appointments to…

“…set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things….” (Colossians 3:2).

Not to the exclusion of our life on this planet at this time. We cannot choose between an openness to information and seeking/hearing God’s revelation of grace and healing. We are called to a physical response—tune your soul and plan times to recalibrate your RAS. “For the days are evil” (Ephesians 5:16)–and restoration of soul.

Recalibrating!

©2021 D. Dean Benton

The 11:11 Mandate

Something spooky and then unnerving started happening to me several weeks ago. I began to see the numerals 11:11 on the clock. I would notice it was 11:11 while reading. I would roll over in bed to see the clock said 11:11. It happened 15-20 times. It was unsought and startling. One night I went to bed early and then woke up. It was 11:11. I passionately asked, “Lord, what is this about?”!! I was frustrated. Something was going on and I couldn’t figure out what I was to do about it-how I was to respond. I talked to my people who know more about such things than I, but nothing seemed to fit. I began to research. Eleven-eleven has a numerology meaning. It also has dark spirit meanings as well as New Age. I decided to see what the biblical meaning is. Here’s what I found.

The dictionary picture,  is an open hand. So I’m told. Two words are connected to the joined numbers of 11:11. They are transition and revelation. The connecting of an open hand in a transition time demands revelation. I am satisfied with that. It feels right.

Several years ago, I received a vision or dream that featured a hand opening a door. It was vivid and latched onto my soul. It was an exterior door with etched and colored glass on each side. Looking at the door from the outside, the hinges were on the right side and the door opened in. The hand had opened the door and in the same gesture invited the person to “go right on in.” My mental response was that God opens doors and He is desirous to do so. In recent months it seems to me the hand is also beckoning, not just gesturing, “Go on in.” But, to whom? For what?

The 11:11 stuff has rattled me with no resolution or answer. I thought it was over, but three nights ago there it was again. And last night, I looked into the bedroom and the clock was announcing 11:11. My soul jumped as if awakened by the scanner to an incoming alarm.

During these weeks, I wondered if it referenced a Scripture. Rummaging in the Bible to find an appropriate proof text didn’t seem right to me. This morning, Carole called me from my office to hear a trusted preacher/teacher reference Jesus saying in John 11:11:

“Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I am going to wake him up.”

Is that what 11:11 been about? I think so enough to pray into it and contemplate it, but I am also open to further insight or revelation. Open hand, open door, transition, revelation and Jesus saying He is waking us to that which has been asleep or not consciously perceived.  Awakening to what has been hidden? Awakening to something we have not known, have dismissed or ignored? Perhaps been praying for.

A Great Awakening!

©2021 D. Dean Benton

The text is from Dean’s manuscript Seizin’ The Season  to be published later this year.

Hunger for Straight Lines

It is common knowledge and oft-repeated that every election has some fraud. Alright, if that is an inevitable given, what percentage of fraud is acceptable? Ten percent? Fifty?

I don’t think any of those who lied about Brett Kavenaugh to the Congress, news people and the American People were held accountable. What is the cut-off point for lying?

A measure of impropriety is to be expected, we are told. What is the measuring device? When does the gauge say “Enough! You are pushing it too far?”

I’m asking as a Grandfather. What shall I tell my Grandes? What should their moral and ethical standard be to exist in USA 2021?

I’m asking as a preacher. What shall I tell congregations and audiences is socially approved morality?

I’m asking as a Jesus Follower. What does He have to say? Does that matter as applied to my family, tribe, neighbors and nation?

I’m asking for my business friends. How much corruption is acceptable? What improprieties are unacceptable? How about insubordination? Disloyalty? Leaking secrets from the boardroom or R&D?

How much of this stuff can be tolerated before a nation, society, family, business implodes? I’m wondering if God directly judges or does He say, “Okay, have it your way. But know My laws tell you how to do business to avoid collapse.” God is not mocked. Neither are His laws built into the universe mocked with impunity.

“Improprieties” and “irregularities” appear to be the accepted regular and normal. Used to be that we learned to accept ambiguity and “the tension between opposite points of view.” Impropriety and irregular have gone mainstream, or is it just me?

I awoke with an edgy hunger for positivity—good news that is not only pleasant to the ear, but strength to the soul and muscle. My habit of insisting on the speaker have news less than 12 hours old has left me feeling like a cold bowl of spaghetti—twisted, not appetizing and no straight lines.

I read and thought about Philippians 4 and Psalm 37, listened to a couple of songs. Prayed for a list of people in crisis. Then I searched for a book I had set aside for a time like this.

Population 485—Meeting your Neighbors One Siren at a time” written by Michael Perry about towns in rural Wisconsin where friends have pastored and churches where we’ve set up sound, sung some songs and wrote on chalkboards—and desperately hoped we ministered.

Andy Andrews says Michael Perry is one of his favorite writers. He is a fine one. Perry tells stories about Stanislaw Jabowski in chapter one of Population 485:

“Spare, he was. Short, and lean as a tendon. A walking Joshua tree, with a posture less tribute to adversity overcome than adversity withstood.”

Revelation 12:11 has hung around my soul lately.

 And they overcame (satan and evil) by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death.

That takes the edge off. That gives me tools. Adversity overcome; adversity withstood.

©2021 D. Dean Benton

Damnatio Memoriiae

For I want you always to see clearly the difference between right and wrong and to be inwardly clean” (Philippians 1:10 L.B.).

Lucy asked four of her friends in the Peanuts comic strip to sign a piece of paper. Charley Brown says he doesn’t understand. Lucy demands he sign it. As she walks away she explains: “No matter what happens any place or any time in the world, this document absolves me from all blame.” Charley responds, “That must be a nice document to have.”

I wonder if Lucy would sell those indulgences. The current cancel culture may be a prime market. Getting caught between being responsible for nothing and being responsible for everything these days depends upon who holds the eraser.

It finally became very clear to me that what you say or do has nothing to do with your intent or words. It all depends upon what the cancelling culturist say you think, said, do. I watched as talking heads refused to answer, “Exactly what are the words Trump used to incite the riot?”

What is happening in the political world on this Monday is Damnatio Memoriiae of Donald J. Trump. Damn the Memory! It is more than trying to run him out of town as quickly as possible, it is the attempt to erase all memory, all acts, all friends, family and associates from the collective minds of America and Planet Earth. There is activity to exile Trump from ever holding office again, among other punishment. Witchcraft abounds!

This statue-topping, platform-erasure era is not new. The ancient Greeks and Romans made cancel-culture an art form. When I researched my book, “For The Best of Your Life,” I ran across the practice of “Damnatio Memoriiae”. Faces were chiseled off statues, names expunged from books and state records. Entire families were sometimes obliterated. It was the ultimate practice of photoshopping—once you were in the picture and now you’re gone. The practice was accompanied by a less final act that we call ostracizing.   

Socrates chose death over ostracizing. A definition:

“Voting ostraca. In Classical Athens, when the decision at hand was to banish or exile a certain member of society, citizen peers would cast their vote by writing the name of the person on the sherd of pottery; the vote was counted and, if unfavorable, the person was exiled for a period of ten years from the city, thus giving rise to the term ostracism.”

Victor Davis Hansen gives an informal explanation of the Cancel Culture:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fS1Dq1F0JpA

These are the words that now permanently define the Capital riot event:

“…a mob of Trump supporters occupying and vandalizing the Capital.”

“Pro-Trump Rioters Breach the Capitol.”

I have listened to a dozen or more people who were on the Capital grounds during the “breach.” I have concluded that there were several groups in that 500,000 to 1.5 million people gathering. Those I’ve heard describe a totally different mood on the march than the narrative on the “news.” They speak of singing, dancing and gathering in circles of prayers. They arrived to see a group at the front already pushing and shoving and fighting the with law officers. There was, I conclude, “Trump Supporters” with a different agenda than those singing, praying, dancing and shofar blowing.

I have read what the breachers did inside the Capital. I suggest you roll call all the Republicans you know by name—the ones who know your name—and ask yourself if any of them would steal furniture, break things and track their own feces around the Capital Building. Mr. Wray from FBI said about the Breachers,

“The violence and destruction of property at the U.S. Capitol building yesterday showed a blatant and appalling disregard for our institutions of government and the orderly administration of the democratic process.”

I refer you to the Pro-Trump/Trump supporters—people whose names you know. Do you think of them as having, “…a blatant and appalling disregard for our institutions of government…”?

People who attended Trump’s speech—the one that incited violence—say the speech was dull, long, low energy and monotonous. His “benediction” was something like “Many of you will be going to the Capital. Go peacefully and patriotically to let your voices be heard.” I am confused. Which phrase or word(s) incited violence? The marchers said they left the speech “frozen” and joyful.

On a Sunday morning, I announced that I would be preaching on Malachi 3 that evening. I wanted the people to read the chapter. While shaking hands at the door, the Mother of our friend Sam Kirk told me she knew what I was going to talk about. She quoted Malachi 3:16:

“Then those who feared the Lord talked to each other, and the Lord listened and heard.”

That was 55 years ago. The import and impact of those words have stuck in me. Mrs. Kirk’s words opened to me a Kingdom absolute essential. It is imperative that the People of God talk to each other. Masking, unfriending, cancelling, exiling and isolating may work in the rite of Damnatio Memoraiiae; it is not acceptable in the Kingdom. Thinking about this, communication is basic to humanity. Those who do it best with the best words and gestures tend to accomplish.

“…see clearly the difference between right and wrong”…requires intentionality where we get our news and information as well as who sets the focus and trajectory of our souls.

I abhorred some of the policies and activities of the Obama administration. While in my thinking and muttering to God and protesting the probable outcome, I heard God’s words if not His voice: Be careful! No witchcraft! Holy Spirit took me to class about damaging the Presidency while angering about the current president’s stance and edicts.  

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms (Ephesians 6:12).

We battle against spiritual:

      Rulers     Authorities     Powers of this dark world,     Spiritual forces of evil

   Can we talk? What Spiritual weapons are you effectively using?

©2021 D. Dean Benton–Jesus Follower, Independent Conservative, Tracker of truthful cause & effect. 

On-ramp to 2021

Early in 2020 I felt the major word from God for us was…

“If My people  who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land” (2 Chronicles 7:14).

After “turn from their wicked ways” has run like a ticker tape in my soul for ten months, I wonder what wicked ways His People have not yet turned from. I cannot, except as directed to act prophetically, turn from the wicked ways of evil doers or people in rebellion against God.

With the onset of Advent, I emphatically heard…

Those who walked in darkness have seen a radiant light shining upon them. They once lived in the shadows of death, but now a glorious light has dawned! (Isaiah 9:2).

That brought and brings much joy—I am border-lined stoked about an American Awakening. Some of the International prophets are forecasting one. Another verse slipped into focus a few days ago:

And here is the verdict: The Light of God has now come into the world, but the hearts of people love their darkness more than the Light, because they want the darkness to conceal their evil (John 3:16).

How much hope shall we hold out for those people to turn from that which they clutch to their hearts? Whose verdict? God or those who reject the Light?

Family Benton has examined ourselves, confessed and turned. We have listened to the prophets whom we discerned were hearing from God. Now some of them are saying God has spoken a second thing, which to me sounds like a contradiction of the first. Sometimes, I feel as if we are hanging on to Truth by our fingernails, and mine are prone to breaking and cracking.

I have a couple of friends who are “long-haulers” with COVID. They’ve been to ICU, on the ventilator and survived, but each day is a struggle with pain, imbalance and emotional upheaval. I am concerned that the drugs of despair—opioids which have our nation in its grip—will look like a workable option.

Great Britain lost so many men in W.W.I, history says “a whole generation of leaders was lost,” which led them to misread trends building for W.W. II. At times, I think America has lost two generations to Socialism’s lies and the Communist deception. Whenever I say, “What can they be thinking?” I am pushed to examine the fruit of those thoughts and who planted the seeds. The election, the main-stream acceptance and celebration of an ideology that has proved evil and unworkable in a Free Society and the destruction of our institutions causes me to wonder if this Constitutional Republic is salvageable and who will lead.

So! I come to the on-ramp of 2021 and I’m “hearing” God say…

“Be not dismayed…” (Isaiah 41:10).

From Strong‘s Exhaustive Concordance #8691: Dismayed: “to gaze at or about for help or to look away….”

“Dismayed” is image-oriented. Example: Sitting at the kitchen table looking out the window into space. Looking for an answer, solution and seeing nothing. Or sitting cross-legged beside a campfire with a stick in hand drawing lines in the dirt oblivious to everything. Somewhere between trying to figure things out and giving up.

God gives His reasoning that we should not go to a Place Called Dismayed:

“I am with you; I am your God.”

So do not fear, for I am with you

do not be dismayed, for I am your God.

I will strengthen you and help you

I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

I’m hearing, “Don’t go to dismayed. Just don’t go there!” It is not a healthy place to live. To put tent pegs deep there is not a Kingdom act.

Lots of people are hunkering down in Dismayed for whom God has better plans. Those whose businesses have floundered under lockdown, those who lack one idea from taking their dream to market, students who have given up on education, but have vision, desire and ability.

Are there roads out of Dismayed? I can only tell you what I sense I’m hearing from The Father about what I may do with His permission, perhaps with favor and anointing.

  1. Leaning into the provisions of God.

I have seen dismayed—the hanging head, the feeling, the mindset, the curse, approach to life. Psalm 3:3 tells us how the Psalmist dealt with dismayed.

“But You, O Lord, are a shield for me, My glory and the One who lifts up my head.”

  1. Continue to follow the daily regimen of Philippians 4:8.

And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.

  1. Walk in faith—to be a blessing agent. One of Gary & Marilyn Hansen’s grandsons returned from Oxford and is studying New Testament. We received his blog about “the spiritual life.” (https://tylerevancallahan.medium.com/the-myth-of-spiritual-life-8461ea4518be) He says, for the spiritually alive, all of life is spiritual, not just biblical disciplines and stuff related to church. I know that you are anointed to be a blesser, an encourager and equipper—when the challenge is big enough.
  2. One generation from lost. Since we are always one generation from the loss of freedom; since we are always one generation from losing the vitality of the next generation of Jesus Followers, I feel nudged to invest. We have to start somewhere with someone.

We watched the last few minutes of the movie Seabisquit the other night. The book is great as is the movie. Debi told us about an at risk kid. He came to class one day with a book on his head and insisted the teacher tell every student to read it. He was emphatic and persistent. The kid had found a story he identified with and it opened him to possibilities. He had to share it. Having one’s eyes opened to possibilities is how we begin our move toward a better life. That is why we pray for healings for those who dismiss new possibilities. Your story(ies) can confront those in darkness because they feel assigned or consigned by birth, habits, behavior or just because they are who they are.

Second Corinthians 5:17 is a fact we cannot underestimate or neglect.

This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!

I like the Living Bible Translation with its “new life has begun.” Begun and continuing to come forth! Each birth of new life comes with a catalyst that opens “the eyes of our heart” to see what was blurred before. Creativity expands in the new life.

Benton Ministries will announce a 2021 investment in February. You will receive more news.

You and yours have walked with us through 2020. We have prayed for one another and poured love and confidence into each other. We thank you for your companionship in the past and look forward to our 2021 pilgrimage.

©2021 D. Dean Benton

Trending: Hybrid Normalcy

Being a wanna-be-entrepreneur, this research interests me. (From StoryBrand Podcast—Donald Miller.) People don’t want to return to old normal, we (so research shows) want to pick and choose to build a personally crafted life and life style. Change and choice. A business exploding during COVID is the delivery business, and it will expand at every level.

Hunkering in and down is the best place to be safe from increasing crime, so predictors guess.

Delivered. Since the most “toxic” shopping area is grocery stores, the safe thing for seniors and those at risk is to exclusively have groceries delivered. “Online” is where business is growing and projected. That is true for entertainment. One-two out of four worshippers will not return to the church building after the Pandemic lifts. That suggests experience—including experiencing worship—will need to be delivered. Experience on delivery to your doorstep changes the core fiber and us. We don’t even have to walk to the colosseum, or if you prefer, the coliseum.  

Joshua DuBois, whose company interviews 10,000 people a day, says Americans have discovered and use! The mute button. Having been overloaded with political loud battles and constant talk of COVID, we have reached overload. Everything tends to be conspiratorial, therefore “we” will not listen! Period. End of discussion. “Since I can’t do anything about it anyway, why waste my energy?”

Delete is another button that attracts rapid-fire thumbs. I was invited to an online study of Revelation. Delete! Delete! As interested I am, I don’t have the energy or bandwidth to calculate what trumpets, bowls and such could really mean in the 21st Century. People are going to search for certainty, answers and assurance. We have been swimming with crocodiles for months and don’t want any more supposition or maybes. One of the biggest questions in the 60s-70s was, “Why are conservative churches growing?” Research showed it was proclamation of sureness and a Kingdom that could not be shaken. The preachers in those churches proclaimed that Jesus is involved in the affairs of man and has a plan for individuals and nations. There has been enough talk of nuances, ambiguity and gray areas. We’re not denying the presence of slick, slippery and instable, we want to hear prophets who have the assurance and credibility of Daniel and the emotional connections of Jeremiah—transparent, authentic, bold and listening to God the Father and people sharing the pool with crocodiles.

Connect. Many futurists are talking about the beginning of A Great American Awakening. A person doesn’t need to be a revivalist or whacky prophet to predict such things. We only need to read history. The Awakenings under George Whitfield, The Cane Ridge Revival and the huge awakenings that birthed The Jesus People have some of the characteristics of 2020. I suspect that God will raise someone with a message that says, “Come, join the Kingdom. We can change the World.” There will be music, joy, Holy Spirit demonstrations and vast numbers of conversions.

I have one concern. What if the Deplorables are even 50% right? The recent cyber-attack on our government institutions—from whomever—cannot be written off as a Right-Wing Conspiracy. For those who are living with the mute button on 50%-100% of the time, the country can be “fundamentally changed” without a peep. Those who are not listening are usually stunned to hear alternative news—“When did all that happen?” I want to be listening and looking.

I really wanted to see the Bethlehem Star. I was primed! “…those who walk in darkness see a great light.” I bounded down the back stairs looking into the sky just as the garage motion-sensor-flood light met my eyes. I saw stars alright, but not the right ones. I never did see Bethlehem Star. Cloudy. I saw parking lot lights, convenience store signs. Porch lights. I felt cheated. My anticipation turned into a Charlie Brown Christmas. I missed the great light and there is some doubt that I will not make the next showing.

Those who walked in darkness, have seen a radiant light shining upon them. They once lived in the shadows of death,    but now a glorious light has dawned!

Isaiah 9:2

 Don’t want to miss the great, glorious, radiant light.

©2020 D. Dean Benton  

A Gleam across the way

“The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned” (Isaiah 9:2 NIV).

This is a Messianic prophecy. “Deep darkness” refers to death and its fears.

That verse grabbed me when I read it on the church sign. Not exactly “grabbed” me, it was like it slid off the sign and slipped into my soul. It still is vibrating there.

When Jesus was born in Bethlehem, did God say, “Check. Done!” My response to Isaiah 9:2 yesterday was that our world—today—is floundering in darkness. Even reveling/celebrating in darkness. The workers of darkness are busy. If living in the light means clarity, I’m not there. I need to turn the fog lights on.

Driving the 4-5 blocks on the street where the church sign is, (where my wife always says, “You better slow down!”) I was flooded with, “Jesus, you are the great light. What catalyst during Christmastide 2020 will cause those walking in darkness to see a great light and experience the dawning light?”

I sense we are moving toward a Kingdom mindset. If Isaiah 9:2 is important to our day, the rest of that paragraph is also.

Isaiah 9:2-7–Message  

The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light.

For those who lived in a land of deep shadows—light! sunbursts of light!

You repopulated the nation, you expanded its joy.

Oh, they’re so glad in your presence! Festival joy!

The joy of a great celebration, sharing rich gifts and warm greetings.

The abuse of oppressors and cruelty of tyrants—all their whips and cudgels and curses—

Is gone, done away with, a deliverance as surprising and sudden as Gideon’s old victory over Midian.

The boots of all those invading troops, along with their shirts soaked with innocent blood,

Will be piled in a heap and burned, a fire that will burn for days!

For a child has been born—for us! the gift of a son—for us!  

He’ll take over the running of the world.

His names will be: Amazing Counselor,

Strong God, Eternal Father, Prince of Wholeness.

His ruling authority will grow, and there’ll be no limits to the wholeness he brings.

He’ll rule from the historic David throne over that promised kingdom.

He’ll put that kingdom on a firm footing and keep it going

With fair dealing and right living, beginning now and lasting always.

The zeal of God-of-the-Angel-Armies will do all this.

It’s a ponder: Am I a Lower Light?

© 2020 D. Dean Benton

Fighting For Connection

I took Leonard Sweet’s book, The Gospel According to Starbucks, (WaterBrook, 2007) with me on a business road trip. The subtitle is, “Living with a Grande Passion.” This is my third time through this book. It is that rich. Sweet loves coffee and has lots of stories. He likes Southern Gospel Music and knows the pioneers. He loves Jesus Gospel and is a preaching instructor and theologian. Eclectic! I’ve gone into extra words here, because he is a fine writer. If you are a writer, speaker or any kind of wordsmith, you would like Sweet’s writing. His book, A Cup of Coffee at the Soul Café (Broadman & Holman, 1998) is one of the most beautifully designed books I’ve seen. In the Starbucks book Sweet says,

“Coffee brings people together. That’s why we don’t have an idiom in the English language along the lines of, ‘Let’s stay apart for coffee.’ It’s always, ‘Let’s get together for coffee.’”

My favorite coffee shop is in that city where I took Carole and the book. It is an independent shop that is also an eatery. I take my laptop and briefcase and hunker in. I gather energy from the customers and staff. The rafters are open beams one of which is broken—split—which is repaired by a steel plate and large bolts. I look forward to the good coffee, comfort and atmosphere. This would be only the second or third time since March to sit in a coffee shop. I had to go back to the car to retrieve my mask which reminded me we live in a different world than we were in the last time I drank their brew.

The coffee shop was no longer welcoming. People sitting around tables slipped their masks off to sip on their coffee as if it was illegitimate or forbidden—don’t get caught. I ordered my drink to go and sat in the car warmed by solar energy to read and think—and feel very sad and lonely—in spite of the luscious flavored coffee.

Ray Oldenburg coined the phrase and concept of “Your third place.” Home, work, and a third place. For some the third place is a bar, pub, tavern, bowling alley. I think ballparks can fill that slot. The church used to be the major third place for many people. Coffee shops took over that place for our kids and grandkids. Starbucks led the way.

The most accurate 2020 Christmas Song is, “I’ll Be Home for Christmas.” Third places are almost outlawed—certainly a target. The first two places: home and work are under scrutiny and depending on your level of conspiracy hunting, home and work parameters are being dictated by Big Brother. It is not conspiratorial to believe that connections are essential to health.

The loudest word I heard in the past 24 hours is that we must fight for personal connections. I’m not calling for civil disobedience or suggesting we open churches, although when I slouch into conspiracy thinking, I see how keeping churches closed is damaging to the individual and the community.

My cousin left a note for her husband. He read it, “Going to Dairy Queen for a bite.” When she hadn’t arrived for supper, he assumed the worst. She called him—the note she wrote said, “Going to Bowling Green for the nite.” (Bowling Green is where her daughter lived.)

Connections in 2020 require clear communication and plenty of it. “…fight for personal connections” may not have come from God, but it sounds like something He would say.  Now, Holy Spirit shall give us instructions and strategies how to do that. I don’t know what number law it is: “All things in motion tend toward entropy.” That is true for relationships—even marriage. The New Testament relationship motion is always energized toward.

Mental health and Kingdom life-flow is affected as isolation moves from community interaction to lockdown and then individual isolation and shutting down. Connection is worth fight for—essential.

“Forget Cheers (“where everybody knows your name”) Remember Starbucks (“Where everybody wants to know your soul”). (Leonard Sweet)

That is not my coffee shop experience, but we need someplace where some tribe offers that level of connection.

©2020 D. Dean Benton

Living the EPIC adventure: Experience, Participation, Image-rich and Connecting.

God of Green Hope

It may be the Monday Kingdom verse:

“…may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Romans 15:13).

John Eldredge, in Wild at Heart podcast today, says that hope is being assaulted. I have no final word if that is conspiratorial. It is the natural outcome of what we are living in and through. My Message Bible was open to Romans 15 which seemed like a “in the mouth of 2-3 witnesses.”  The times call for spiritual/supernatural hope.

“Oh! May the God of green hope fill you up with joy, fill you up with peace, so that your believing lives, filled with the life-giving energy of the Holy Spirit, will brim over with hope!”

So that your believing lives. Is the “I” in lives long or short? Hopelessness is more pervasive than the virus. It has grasped the hand of helplessness and is producing not only locked-down cities, but locked-down people. So, how to keep a believing life alive?

I was sorting through boxes of books I stored in our garage some years ago. I found notebooks of sermons. The best part of my sermons are stories and quotations. I glanced through a couple and found two quotes from kids I talked to in concerts. I asked a child if the girl sitting next to her was her sister. She looked at the girl, looked thoughtfully at me and replied, “No. I’m the sister.” Another child asked me, “What is the name of your best friend?”

There you have it—at least part of it. 1. Keep your relationships straight—not pecking order, but how you are related and how you relate. 2. Know who your friends are and how you benefit and are beneficial to those people. One of my friends posted this morning,

“…we are walking each other home.”

The Message Bible is a translation, not a paraphrase. Peterson found something “growing” in God-hope that he named it green hope. It is on the grow. Romans 15:13 turns hope on its head. The saying is, “As long as you have hope….” This verse says when God fills us with joy and peace, hope will be the outcome. Hope becomes systemic when we open ourselves to joy and peace—gifts from the Father.

Chaos and darkness. Hell has loosed highly skilled demons, principalities and powers. The fresh appearance of The Christ is needed and our opening to His joy and peace. America has social-distanced itself from Christ too long.

Carole and I decided not to decorate for Christmas. Maybe hang a picture of a Christmas tree next to a crackling fireplace on TV. Several days into the pledge, Carole has hung lights on railings, trees and windows. There is a large vase in the bay window filled with strings of white lights. And a tree in the kitchen. She is fighting back against the darkness. Joy and peace can be weaponized.

Eggnog and holly—no mistletoe this year. We need a fresh awakening to His presence.

“We Need a Little Christmas”– https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8k7S77x5QOQ

If you have not read my ebook, HopePushers-intent on delivery, you can download it from https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/572059 

©2020 D. Dean Benton

Nominated for Nobility

“Whatever is noble…think on these things…” (Philippians 4:8).

I’ve been searching for noble things and noble people. Can a potato peeler be noble? Maybe. I’m tentative venturing that only people can be noble and we are to look for nobility in normal workday activities. Paul probably was saying, “Take a look at what is stressing you into eating an entire pumpkin pie at one sitting—alone—can you find anything noble in the stressor? Who are the nobility in your world today?

The first English settlement on the continent that I know about was Jamestown in Virginia. We are introduced to Pocahontas in Jamestown. The chaplain of that company was The Rev. Robert Hunt. Upon landing in 1607, he consecrated the new land to the glory of God and declared the purpose for the journey and the purpose of the colony being established:

“Raising his hands to heaven, Rev. Robert Hunt claimed the land for country and king and consecrated the continent to the glory of God. In covenantal language he declared, ‘…from these very shores the Gospel shall go forth to not only this New World, but the entire world.’”

Noble!

As I remember, The Tallest Poppy was a phrase I first heard during the Vietnam era. Marxism/Socialism utilized that practice by killing all those whose achievements and status pushed them into leadership positions. There is another application in the media and digital world:

Tall Poppy Syndrome, a term that was popularized in Australia, occurs when people are attacked, resented, disliked, criticized or cut down because of their achievements and/or success.

Using Bill O’Reilly’s literature device—Killing Nobility—is seen in statue destruction and rewriting history and in the Jezebel spirit seeks to destroy leadership that opposes the acceptable think and speak.

In my search for nobility, I have decided the prize goes to school teachers, parents who are trying to be teachers during the lockdowns and the students. Those who will thrive from this time and challenge are the self-starters and students who push themselves to be self-reliant. “Self-governed.” Seems to me there are several kinds of self-reliant students. Those who are born with that trait, those whose parents and teachers ignited them and those like John Adams who had no preconditions for nobility,  became self-motivated. Our nation has several Rebar in our foundation, none more essential than self-governing. I propose closing schools is not helpful in building self-governing strengths. I doubt that Netflix is a strong teacher of self-reliance or governing. (Maybe, sometimes.)

You hear about the father who said to his kids, “What are you doing? I didn’t spend big bucks on Netflix so you could sit there and read!”

John Eldredge—Wild at Heart podcast—“School During Pandemic” is helpful to grasp why teachers, parents attempting to teach and self-reliant students get my vote for nobility.

https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/school-during-quarantine/id260843816?i=1000500770572

Think on these things

Sorry, teachers. There no medals or plaques with this prize except those wrapped in skin with names and stories.

©2020 D. Dean Benton