Trees and Streams

“The water I give will be an artesian well within gushing fountains of endless life.” Jesus

(John 4:14).

“A lot of things that used to fire me up just don’t anymore.”  

If you are paying attention, there is a lot of talk about a stress/anxiety epidemic in our country. Much of the Opioid crisis can be traced to stress/anxiety triggers. In the 1980s we visited and ministered in a lot of rural communities. More than once people told me of driving down country roads where farmers had given up and taken their lives. Stress-anxiety is not a new problem!

We sponsor a 13 year old in Honduras. She doesn’t say anything about the unrest or madness in her country, but she doesn’t live in a cave. She must be affected. This is a brutal time to be a human.

The noise level is high. Tension and threat is high. Adrenalin is high. There are few safe places and we don’t know who to trust; we don’t know who to believe. You don’t have to be a news junkie or a raging politico to notice that due process is under severe attack. The very thing that motivated Pilgrims to seek a new nation is ignored. No due process before the law=no freedom.

This is a hard time in history to be human. I heard that an orangutan has been moved into a Fort Worth zoo and has been given the status of a human. We’ve never had an orangutan for a pet so I don’t know. I do know they should absolutely be treated humanely, but to give it the rights of a human is borderline…something.

Portland, Oregon has banned urinals in public bathrooms as “too masculine for gender neutral toilets.” Wait ‘til the ladies experience the wet seats! A church we pastored built a new fellowship hall. The carpet layers were starting on the bathrooms and asked me if I wanted to have carpet wall to wall. I didn’t even think about it. Of course! Our custodian was a friend—a nice classy lady. She explained to me how seriously deranged I was to allow carpet to be put under the urinals. (Well, now that you ‘splain it to me in those words….) I think there is a vast ocean of derangement that has taken the national mind. All the markers are being torn down or moved.

I didn’t intend to, but I’ve started talking about Psalm 1. A friend said, “It is the Living Water. I want to get close to the stream you talk about.”

It seems our “artesian well” is somewhat dependent upon being close to the streams and those who are “planted there.”

“He is like a tree planted by streams of water…” (Psalm 1:3).

There are counties in Iowa still trying to recover from the spring floods. Only in a few places is being planted by streams of water a safe place. A tree can get taken out by those swirling, rushing, roiling waters, and replanted in another county or vomited onto an island. Turmoil, tempest, raging emotions and atmosphere.

Where are the streams to be planted next to?

I want to get this right—if we are to maintain and sustain “fruit in his season, non-withering leaves, everything he does prospers’ (Ps 1:3) there are flood walls. And those sea walls are usually people and groups of people who shape our thinking and encourage our souls.

  1. Know agendas of those you “walk” with and share their counsel. (Ps 1:1)
  2. Don’t stand (hang) around with “sinners”—those who oppose God and His plans, instructions.
  3. Don’t sit around with mockers. Cynicism has become a second national language especially, it seems to me, in the worlds of social media and TV. Like flood waters lapping at sandbags and levees the vicious chatter and screaming undermines those elements that give us protection and guidance. Guard, therefore,  your sense of reality, realm of peace, wholeheartedness and ability to hear/discern God’s voice.

The streams equate to energy, peace, clarity and direction.

Who in your world is “planted by the stream?” Where are they? How do we access them? Who has God raised up equipped with wisdom, authority and anointing? Who can you ask to help you understand what is going on in your personal world and in Western Civilization? God has a reputation of “doing nothing without telling the prophet(s)” (Amos 7:11).

We need those “streams”—restorative resources—to inform us how to fit into the creative plans God has to “heal your land”?

An acquaintance had a national TV platform and is one of my favorite speakers/singers. Things have changed for them due to illness and changing styles. I asked him the other day how he and his wife were doing. He responded, “We are busy living life.” In a murky and destructive cultural tornado,  living life demands preparing our minds for action and paying attention. (1 Peter 1:3)

Who do you know who is planted by streams—restorative resources?

©2019 D. Dean Benton,  Wonderer & Writer

Website: https://deanbenton.org/

Further resources on stress/anxiety—a fresh look:

https://tunein.com/podcasts/Entrepreneurship/Building-a-Story-Brand-p854897/?topicId=133992656

Rebecca Lyons—StoryBrand podcast #159

Hanging Out Stream-side

The August 2019 issue of Christian Standard magazine features cover story and several articles about Robert Coleman. Robert Coleman’s books Master Plan of Evangelism and Master Plan of Discipleship have strongly influenced my ministry. The Evangelism book has now sold 3.1 million copies and translated into 105 languages.

Mr. Coleman lives a block from our friends Gary and Marilyn Hansen in Wilmore, Kentucky. That opened the door for me to accompany Gary and Mr. Coleman to their Saturday morning men’s gathering and then chat with this apostle of evangelism for the rest of the morning. Quite an experience.

Jerry Harris, the publisher of Christian Standard, wrote:

“Robert Coleman (now 91) is a very tall, stately, well-built man, standing maybe six foot five. He has a full head of thick white hair, piercing eyes, and a smile that lights up a room. His stature reminds me of David’s word in Psalm 1: ‘That person is like a tree planted by streams of water which yields it fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither—whatever they do prospers.’”

Now, I have a different view of Psalm 1. It is not the text for a speaker at a retirement event.

Willson Contreras is the All-Star catcher for the Chicago Cubs. A reporter asked him what his #1 goal was. Contreras replied, “To be the best catcher in baseball.” The writer said Contreras pushes himself, places himself in growth situations to fulfill that goal. He is not passive or just waiting for it to happen.

Psalm one is not a paragraph in a biography. Want to be a fruit yielder? Want to produce a flourishing leaf? Want your life to prosper? Hang out next to the water—streams or wells.

©2019 D. Dean Benton     https://deanbenton.org

“The water I give will be an artesian well within gushing fountains of endless life” Jesus (John 4:14).

 

Grandpa Mason’s New Life

Our daughter, Deborah, follows an Internet link to a Canadian kitten rescue facility. The cameras are rolling 24/7. Deb sent us a post of a gnarled up feral tiger cat named Grandpa Mason, that hated humans but deeply loved kittens. He couldn’t be released because of kidney disease. The vet said he had about 3 months, but with daily care he has lived 3 years. The lady honored that he was feral. Cared for by the manager of the rescue house and the gnarly cat’s care for orphaned kittens. He set aside his love for aloneness to be parent for the kittens.

Deb says she appreciates the link and view because it teaches much about TNR—Trap, Neuter, Release. An extended neighborhood in New York practices TNR to release the cats as militant contractors to get rid of rats. With good success.

The ragged and rugged cat’s kidneys failed the other night. They gave him the next day to be with his latest bunch of motherless kittens before the vet made a house call.

Deb says she also appreciates that the streaming contact teaches the importance of managed feral communities. Managed Feral Community. That is an amusing concept and a huge challenge. Our Rachel had a feral kitten—Snowflake—who lived in her room for several years mostly under her bed. As Carole observed, it is difficult to hug a feral cat who doesn’t want to be touched.

“The Blue Zones” is a book and a movement with connections to The Seventh Day Adventist Church. Dan Buettner took a team to several Blue Zones around the world to research why the residents are the longest living people on the planet—living and thriving. The team found and continue to find “9 Lessons for Living Longer.” Two are common to all—in the Far East and your house and mine:

CONNECTION AND PURPOSE

I don’t know what day of the week Grandpa Mason went to church, but I know why he lived three more years than the vets bet on. He found a new normal where he was connected to people who recognized who he was and interacted with him. He found a purpose—litters of kittens who needed him. Blue Zones perpetually find those two assets in the maturing. Take away the infrastructure and the people die.

Neil Enloe is a singer, piano player, songwriter and member of The Couriers—a group out of Pennsylvania whose music is on YouTube. After retirement he posted this:

“Looking back on my 56 years of full time singing, my experience prompts some suggestions:”

You can find the entire list on Neil Enloe’s FaceBook time line. I refer to # 4:

  1. “When you can’t keep up with your road schedule any longer (and it will happen sooner or later) or the phone stops ringing, and you sit at home wondering where your youth went, you will struggle with the word ‘purpose.’”

PURPOSE

What is my purpose now?  Once it was quite clear. Maybe Caleb (Joshua 14:10-14) will come by and talk to me and bring clarity how to conquer the mountain and which mountain.  Tough!

Bob Buford was a wealthy broadcaster who decided to live the second half of his life with the gusto and devotion in the first half. He needed a new purpose. I have 3-4 of his books rich with suggestions how he refocused:

Halftime, (Zondervan)

Finishing Well, (Integrity Publishers)

Stuck in Halftime (Zondervan—Harper & Collins)

Managed Feral Community.

Sounds like a great place to stop in for coffee, take naps, sit on the porch and invest in kittens or people.

©2019 D. Dean Benton– writer, wonderer, wonk in training

With help from Deborah Benton Johnston, Thanks to Neil Enloe

Websites—https://DeanBenton.org  

https://bentonministries.com

For more about Grandpa Mason:  Grandpa Mason and his kittens–there are several sites.

The Plan

11 For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. Jeremiah 29:11 New King James Version (NKJV)

That is a tricky verse, especially when we personalize it. It was given to the Hebrew nation when they were taken into captivity. The people as a whole would not return to Jerusalem, many would work as slaves or servants. Some would gain ranking jobs where their talents would be used. Think about Nehemiah, Daniel and Company, Joseph.

The verse makes me nervous—especially the translation: “thoughts to prosper you….” My mind always goes to money and I get my deposit slips ready. Sometimes, that is exactly what a person of faith does/should do, but God is telling the Hebrews the contrast of “peace versus evil,” or “prosper” versus “  do you harm.”

“The plans I have for you…” (NIV).

God is telling us that we, or the Hebrews, are not in the quick sand because He is angry with us. Even after the missteps or sin, He has a plan and it includes “a future and a hope.”

I listened to a couple of sermons/teaching recently that reached into my soul. Kris Vallotten works as Senior Associate at Bethel Church in Reading, California with Pastor Bill Johnson.

https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/kris-vallottons-podcast/id158029989

“Cultural Transformation.”

Vallotten talks about Joseph from Genesis 49-50. Though not his intention, the message speaks to the current secular abhorrence of Christians and their churches. Joseph, as you recall, was sold into slavery by his brothers when he was 17. His career path takes him through the pit, the prison and several other ground floor beginnings before he interprets one of Pharaoh’s dreams which saves many lives and earns Joseph a corner office. With lots of setbacks and bruises, Joseph must have caught on and prayed, “How can I fit into Your plans for me?” He listened until he heard.

I have never paid attention to Joseph’s experience when his father Jacob died. Pharaoh and the Egyptians loved Joseph although he served Yahweh as God. The Egyptians wept and mourned for 70 days when Jacob died. Joseph had served the nation and Pharaoh so well he won a unique spot in their hearts. When Joseph told Pharaoh his father had asked him to take him home to bury him in Canaan where Abraham had purchased a family burial plot, Egypt’s king not only gave permission, he said, “We’ll go with you!” Pharaoh took his whole staff in the funeral possession to Canaan. They wept!

(I want you to listen to that whole message.)

It would be great if we had Joseph’s journal to read his entries how those days affected him. Now I grasp how powerful the words are: “A king rose who knew not Joseph.” (Exodus 1:8).

“My plans for you.”

“A future.”

“A hope.”

There is also the biography of Daniel who spent every day of the 70 year Babylonian exile as a captive—but trusted and loved counselor to the king.

Jeremiah 29:11 is a greater promise than I have allowed. It is not a promise of escape or free ticket back to what used to be. The challenge is to find the plan that will lead to the future and hope if we will fit into the plan.

©2019 D. Dean Benton, writer, wonderer, wonk in training.

I DIDN’T KNOW THAT

It sure sounded like a crazy idea to me.

I didn’t know that Greenland has a land mass the size of the United States. I didn’t know that the entire population of Greenland will fit in Kinnick Stadium (Iowa) on any given football Saturday. I didn’t know its rich natural resources makes it a great investment and can be a buffer against an invasion from the north. I did know it is owned by Denmark. I didn’t know that it is has more connections to Canada than Copenhagen.

When President Donald J. Trump suggested the USA purchase Greenland, I didn’t know that several presidents have been kicking those tires for decades. I didn’t know that the good reasons to buy has been discussed by newspapers, by committees and statesmen for a long time. It has been considered a good purchase for us and for Denmark. (Facts and info from Stephen Mansfield–Stephen Mansfield Podcast.)

Wherever the current discussion was spawned, President Trump was discussing it behind closed doors with advisors and specialists. “For eyes only!” But someone in that room leaked it to the press. The press ran with the crazy angle to embarrass the President and make him look nutso.

I think it was General Eisenhower who found the news people had information about a major invasion. He gathered the press and told them the plans. He then told them what they were hearing was absolutely classified. If it was leaked, they would be tried for treason and he promised that they would be shot. I can imagine General James Mattis saying that.

I don’t know why Mr. Trump cancelled his trip to Denmark. Some pundits say it was like the actions of a four-year-old. I hesitate making that judgment—given my limited amount of inside info and classified data, I think I’ll forego making comments about Denmark or Trump’s behavior.

Perhaps you have heard that NOAA stood beside our President about Alabama being considered an early target of Hurricane Dorian. NOAA also chastised The Weather folks for its handling of the aftermath of what looked like another reason to charge Trump with senility—SHARPIE-GATE. Some said Trump redrew the hurricane map. The Press saw an opportunity.

I delight in the marketing acumen of the Trump 20/20 campaign. The reelection committee is selling Sharpies—made in America with the presidential signature and an election tag line.

I don’t know what led to Denmark being crossed off places to land Air Force # 1. I’m guessing a Sharpie was used to draw the X.

  1. I propose we make a down payment on Greenland.
  2. I nominate General Mattis as White House Chief of Staff—authorized to carry a loaded paint-ball gun.
  3. I wonder about a plan to salvage the USA.

But, then, what do I know?

©2019 D. Dean Benton—–Writer, Wonderer, Wonk in training, Information broker.

People of Virtue

1776 + 1787 ÷ 2019= TBD

Chapter Four

People of Virtue

“Only a virtuous people are capable of freedom.” Benjamin Franklin

“No longer virtuous, no longer free.” Benjamin Franklin

“The only foundation of a free Constitution is pure virtue.” John Adams

“Public virtue cannot exist without private and Virtue is the only foundation of Republics.” John Adams

“…free government, or the blessings of liberty, can be preserved to any people, but by a firm adherence to justice, moderation, temperance, frugality, and virtue.” Virginia Declaration of Rights, 1776

“The public interest depends on private virtue.” James Q. Wilson  

Definitions:

Verities. Something real or True with a capital T. Verities are not dependent upon our believing them or using them. They are! We speak of “eternal verities” like what you sow, you reap, and God so loved, He gave.

Virtues. Bill Bennett says virtues are not a possession as a bead on a bracelet or marbles in a pouch, but a central element of a person’s nature. We are not born with virtues, they must be learned and become a predictable response. They are part of our moral education.

“…the training of heart and mind toward the good….Such training involves rules and precepts—the dos and don’ts of life with others—as well as explicit instruction, exhortation, and training. Moral education must provide training in good habits.” (William J. Bennett, Book of Virtues, ©1993, Simon & Schuster.)

Values. May or may not be real or true. They are totally subjective. Values do not indicate validity hence the proverb, “Even thieves have values.” Values are personal choices or preferences. They may also be a verity or virtue, but not necessarily.

Virtue has a much narrower usage today than described above. To the post-modern, virtue is linked to Victorian days or a prudish age or lifestyles. The phrase, “Defend her virtue” limits the concept and behavior to sexual morality of an earlier age—smiled at as if that naïve mindset existed prior to our sophisticated cosmopolitan worldliness.

It seems to me The Founders used both words—morality and virtue—to describe two separate, but intertwined personal characteristics. They understood virtue in context of their “engagement with the great conversation that runs down the centuries from the Bible and the classical writers of Greece and Rome.” (Guinness)  The Church adds Classic Virtues, Cardinal Virtues, Classical Virtues and Mortal Virtues.

“The Catechism of the Catholic Church defines virtue as “a habitual and firm disposition to do the good.” Traditionally, the seven Christian virtues or heavenly virtues combine the four classical cardinal virtues of prudence, justice, temperance and courage with the three theological virtues of faith, hope and charity. These were adopted by the Church Fathers as the seven virtues.”

Aristotle had a set of virtues as did some of the French thinkers. Ben Franklin, at age 20, set down thirteen “virtues” that he would use as templates to build his character and guide his life. When the Founding Fathers spoke of virtue all of these fit into the mix, but one personal characteristic rose as the word to describe them all: Self-management or self-governing. What made Thomas Jefferson think that the Colonials could fulfill the Constitution and govern without iron-fisted overlords, kings or masters? Answer: He had seen self-government in individuals who knew how to govern themselves, therefore were equipped to govern a nation.

Virtues were not about petticoats, chastity belts and Twelve-step meetings. The Colonies had jails, switches and prisons. Those who met in Philadelphia were conscious of and took seriously that humans were fallen—capable of sin toward God, humans and themselves. The early Americans believed in redemption in response to repentance and a changed life.

A heavy underlined theme in the Founder’s thinking was the inadequacy of laws. For whole people and nation, encoded virtues are the mental referees and drivers of behavior. Tocqueville called the soulful element of virtues, “habits of the heart.” (We will later talk about Os Guinness’ “Golden Triangle of Freedom.”) More laws, tighter laws, harder punishment do not empower. A changed heart and learned Kingdom humanity does motivate and empower. The need, therefore, for religion.

I suggest that Dr. Daniel Goleman captures for our era the heart habits in Emotional Intelligence. (Bantam, ©1995) Self-Awareness, Self-Control, Self-Motivation, Empathy, Self-Restraint, Self-Management among others. These are street-level virtues that I think translate the Founder’s idea of virtues. Empathy is huge in that list and cannot be diminished.

“We humans act politically, inspired not only by faith, virtue, courage, honor, excellence, justice, prudence, generosity and compassion, but also by self-interest, self-preservation, power, greed, vanity, revenge and convenience—and wise governance  must take both sides into account.” (Guinness A Free People’s Suicide, p102)

Virtues are fundamental traits of character. It seems to me the basic virtues assumed in that sweaty Philadelphia meeting room were and remain:

Integrity

Honesty

Compassion

Justice

Courage

Perseverance

Dependability

Equality–the way we see all people. This things are self-evident: created in God’s image.

In George Washington’s Farewell Address he said…

“Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, Religion and morality are indispensable supports.”

Nearly every morning when on the road, I go to a coffee shop or sit in our vehicle to read and take notes for a couple of hours. I “mutter” to God about the hard stuff and question Him. If I then travel while listening to talk radio, my stomach hurts and I get surly. Ben Franklin’s words envelop me throughout the reading, questioning and listening: “If You Can Keep It.” Despair takes over—“Not a snowball’s chance….” It feels like it is too late. We’ve already lost it.

The other morning, I was sitting in a parking lot when I read…

“The foundation of national morality must be laid in private families.” John Adams

It’s hard to describe what I experienced—as if my soul fell to the ground. More accurately, it was as if the core of the Republic—virtues—drained into the ground beneath my feet with the dread that that energy cannot be recovered. I discerned. I experienced a physical feeling of that energy flowing from the environment and atmosphere produced by what has been “laid in private families.” That energy inevitably flows either into oblivion or into the culture and individuals. And it is TBD. To be determined.

Goleman (Chapter 12 of Emotional Intelligence called The Crucible of Family) defines the emotions and elements of the teaching environment of families. Moral education is about the content.

The chaos, riots, violence, disregard for elementary sexual propriety and things like justice, respect, lawfulness are absent. All those things that keep a culture from turning to bat-shit crazy and demonstrations of insanity on the public stage have been set loose from hell. Fatherlessness and fractured families dominate Western culture. Absent from the scene is a time and place to teach. Virtues that build a United States of America and sustain it depend upon being taught and caught. They are the moorings and anchor.

Bill Bennett quotes a paragraph from Plato’s Republic:

“…Shall we just carelessly allow children to hear any casual tales which may be devised by casual persons, and to receive into their minds ideas for the most part the very opposite of those which we should wish them to have when they are grown up!

That may be the cause of my stomach’s and soul’s reaction to John Adam’s words. Given the morning news and the current habits of education and entertainment, I question whether Plato or Jefferson or Adams could change our nation’s downward spiral. Generations (it seems) have been neglected. They have no data base that lessons and reminders can refer to.

“It is not the enemy at door, it’s the termites in the floor.”

In my hopelessness, Malachi 4:5-6 speaks to me.

“I will send you the prophet Elijah…. He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers….”

Let it be so! Lord, send a company of Elijah to be builders of data base.  The big question is where will these things be taught?  The listed virtues are biblical themes.  Let’s take a run at that next time. Thanks for your input.

©2019 D. Dean Benton     Wonderer, Writer

Do I Need to apologize? I’m white.

The link below was a “hot” Twitter post today among some of the Christian writers and others—some whom I read. I didn’t understand much of what he was saying and sensed I wouldn’t like the implications, nuance or code words. His punch line was an appeal for the white to respond so we could let go of our whiteness.  I’m not ready to confess that I am a participant in any mass killings or agree that The President is just a manifestation of “our” ugliness. I reject that we people of pallor living in this house believe we are superior in any way. The Bible, God, Declaration of Independence all declare: “…created equal.”

https://twitter.com/i/status/1158519016576737282

“This is us. Trump is the manifestation of the evil that is in all of us.”

The Left presidential seekers stirred me this morning. They know how to swear and curse:

“Jesus Christ! Trump is a racist!”

“Trump is a piece of shit.” Those for starters.

What makes those candidates think the standard they are setting on how to speak of and speak to and treat a President of the United States will not be applied to them if they are elected?

 

When Charlottesville was heating, I wondered what I would feel if a busload of folks from Calhoun, Georgia or someplace in Mississippi came to our town to tear down the statue of John Coarse and rip up the street named in his honor—which is three blocks from our house. There is even a school named after him—what if they came to burn it?

John Murray Corse was an American politician and soldier who served as a general in the Union Army in the American Civil War. He was a staff officer during the liberation of the Upper Mississippi, and then served in the front line at Corinth and Vicksburg, being promoted to brigadier general. He is chiefly remembered for his stubborn defense of the Allatoona Pass against superior numbers, despite being seriously wounded.

I was wondering about the Charlottesville people who were not anti-Union, or pro-Confederacy and were not siding with supremacists. They just didn’t want people from out-of-town coming into their property to tell them who could be their hero or what park they could gather in Sunday for a picnic.

I thought President Trump was right when he said there were some good/fine people on both sides. An article today justified my thinking process. Which both sides?

https://www.prageru.com/video/the-charlottesville-lie/

Trump never said that the neo-Nazis were “very nice people.” Perhaps you’ve noticed that once a story is told by the press, it is repeated as fact no matter how many times it is dis-proven.

Mr. O’Roark: If you will not speak my Lord Jesus Christ’s name in prayer in the public square, I’m going to insist you cease and desist using my Lord’s Name to curse the President of the United States on the WWW.

©2019 D. Dean Benton

Fourth of The July

I needed to be reminded.

When Niece Casee was a pre-schooler, she would ask, “What are we doing on the 4th of the July?” There was a “the” July that defines most others. 1776.

When we celebrate July 4th as Independence Day, the whole process seems to be lumped together. Independence was declared in 1776, the Constitution was not presented until 1787 and it was a year before it was ratified. It was a rocky path filled with great stories of bravery and what seem to be supernatural displays of wisdom.

Winning freedom, ordering freedom and administering freedom are distinct. The Declaration and Revolutionary War won freedom, but ordering how that freedom would be applied took several years—resistance and negotiation. I tend to lump it all together and celebrate the 4th.

The gathering of representatives for the Convention out of which would come the Constitution was not widely welcomed. James Madison is called the Father of the Constitution—he was 36 years old. He and Washington were provokers. Getting the Constitution written and presented to the states was difficult and is called “The Miracle of Philadelphia.” Washington called it a miracle as he described it to Lafayette and Madison called it a miracle when he wrote to Jefferson who was in Paris.

Catherine Drinker Bowen wrote the history of May to September 1787. It is published under the title, Miracle At Philadelphia. (Bantam Books ©1966.) My copy is yellowed. It was purchased in Hopkinsville, Ky.  in 1975.  The yellowing of the pages feels like a validation of the historicity.

Abraham Lincoln, in route to his own 1861 inauguration, would say to the New Jersey legislature:

“I am exceedingly anxious that this Union, the Constitution, and the liberties of the people shall be perpetuated in accordance with the original idea for which that struggle was made, and I shall be most happy indeed if I shall be an humble instrument in the hands of the Almighty, and of this, his almost chosen people, for perpetuating the object of that great struggle.”

The author’s preface includes a paragraph capturing the mood and focus of the elements and principles of the Constitution:

“The Federal Convention, viewed from the records, is startling fresh and ‘new.’ The spirit behind it was the spirit of compromise, seemingly no very noble flag to rally round. Compromise can be an ugly word, signifying a pact with the devil, a chipping off of the best to suit the worst. Yet in the Constitutional Convention the spirit of compromise reigned in grace and glory; as Washington presided, it sat on his shoulder as a dove. Men rise to speak and one sees them struggle with the bias of birthright, locality, statehood—South against North, East against West, merchant against planter. One sees them change their minds, fight against pride, and when the moment comes, admit their error. If the story is old, the feelings behind it are new as Monday morning.” (page x)

So we lump them all together—Declaration, Revolutionary War, The Constitution, Bill of Rights…Normandy and the multi-thousand markers that display the costs of freedom. We try to grasp what it means to be God’s “almost chosen people” and liberty—“ held out a great promise to all the people of the world (for) all time to come.”

Happy Fourth of the July–fresh and new

©2019 D. Dean Benton

Writer, Wonderer, Ponderer

The Search for the Real Self

Mark Galli, editor at Christianity Today tapped on my soul window with this article.

 

Looking for Real Authenticity

 
 
“This above all: to thine own self be true.” Thus says Polonius in Shakespeare’s Hamlet. It has become our culture’s “life verse,” though we usually talk about it in terms of authenticity.

Authenticity is one of the most valued characteristics in our society. As children we are taught to just “be ourselves”, and as adults we can choose from a large number of self-help books that will tell us how important it is to get in touch with our “real self”. It’s taken as a given by everyone that authenticity is a real thing and that it is worth cultivating.

When comes to figuring out our “real self,” things get complicated, as research shows:

While people spend so much time searching for their real self, the stark reality is that all of the aspects of your mind are part of you. It’s virtually impossible to think of any intentional behavior that does not reflect some genuine part of your psychological make-up, whether it’s your dispositions, attitudes, values, or goals.

One of the saddest consequences of our culture’s search for the holy grail of the authentic self is how it destroys families, among other relationships. Note this piece on CNN, “I Was Married with 2 Kids when I realized I’m gay.”

This is one reason our culture is, as this article in City Journal puts it: “Alone: The decline of the family has unleashed an epidemic of loneliness.”

It is one of the great paradoxes of the Christian narrative that only the one who gives up the self will be able to find it (Mark 8:35).

Among my life verses is Mark 8:34-37.

“Follow me and I’ll show you how. Self-help is no help at all. Self-sacrifice is the way, my way, to saving yourself, your true self. What good would it do to get everything you want and lose you, you, the real you?” (Jesus)

I’m into self-help—my self needs all the help it can get! I think Jesus approves of self-understanding and improvement. Jesus is not into self-diminishment. He is the One who claims to give “abundant life.” The limit is when personal pursuit of “authentic” self is when it hurts, diminishes or affects others’ authenticity.

Self-authenticity (as defined by the world standards) does not or cannot be allowed to supersede prior covenants or promises. Authenticity means others, to whom we have made promises or have covenant relationships, are themselves expanded by our faithfulness.

A Texas friend told me his father abandoned the family to “find himself” and pursue his self-search. My friend was 12 when he was abandoned. I know the family’s pastor. My friend’s siblings, and the next two generations were deeply affected by that abandonment. The covenants we make with other people affect the “self” we seek.

Complex! That’s the right word. “Saving your true self,” is the path to genuine authenticity and it is the benefit of making the right choices. I’m denying many of my selves that do not biblically define me or benefit me.

©2019 D. Dean Benton,       Writer, Wonderer, Ponderer

A dull soul ache

I’ve been off the bubble for a few days—just a bit beside myself. It happens when something or someone stimulates me to look at myself or examine portions of culture or the world I don’t know much about; but know it needs help.

It usually is connected to one question: What can I do about it? It is usually connected to an answer: I don’t know—probably nothing.

At the suggestion of my granddaughter, I’ve been reading Hillbilly Elegy by J. D. Vance. (© 2016, Harper) My Grande goes to University of Kentucky. The book’s setting is in Appalachian-Kentucky. I love Kentucky blue and have worked in some churches there, but J. D. Vance describes his experiences growing up in a culture I know little about.

A “common culture” is to say, “This is the way we do things around here.”

Within a mile of this computer desk there are adults and many children who do not say y’all or know the strange allure of Kentucky hills, but know they know the life:

It’s about a culture that increasingly encourages social decay instead counteracting it.

“Too many young men immune to hard work. Good jobs impossible to fill for any length of time. And a young man with every reason to work—a wife-to-be to support and a baby on the way—carelessly throwing aside a good job with excellent health insurance. More troublingly, when it is all over, he thought something had been done to him. There is a lack of agency here—a feeling that you have little control over your life and a willingness to blame everyone but yourself.”

“My primary aim is to tell a true story about what that problem feels like when you were born with it hanging around your neck.” (pages 7-8)

J. D. Vance made it out. He went to the University of Ohio and the law school at Yale. He is a lawyer today, married and living a long way from the Kentucky holler which he loves. The odds of that outcome, are huge!

Vance concludes his memoir with a story about fifteen-year-old Brian.

What happens to Brian?”

“I believe we hillbillies are the toughest…people on this earth. But are we tough enough to do what needs to be done to help a kid like Brian? Are we tough enough to build a church that forces kids like me to engage with the world rather than withdraw from it? Are we tough enough to look ourselves in the mirror and admit that our conduct harms our children?

Public policy can help, but there is no government that can fix these problems for us. These problems were not created by governments or corporations or anyone else. We created them, and only we can fix them.

“I don’t know what the answer is, precisely, but I know it starts when we stop blaming the POTUS or faceless companies and ask ourselves what we can do to make things better.”   (Pages 255-6)

That pushes me way off the bubble. I still don’t know what I can do to help kids in that culture whether they live in our town or in Kentucky.

We sponsor a teen in Ethiopia and an early teen in Honduras. When we met a family from Sudan, we were introduced to the phrase “Unaccompanied Minors.” They told us their stories and the phrase became more than unsettling. It was painful and about young men and women whose names we knew. (I tell some of their story in “Gone to Southwood.”)

I know God’s Kingdom—presence, power, provision, revelation, gifts, to name some manifestations, is not limited to “someone ought to do something.” I am nagged by the constant thought that maybe rather than trying to support a child in Honduras, we could look at the kid from Honduras sitting on our southern border as a hand-delivered gift. I’m sure adults like Mr. J.D. Vance could come up with some strategies.

Unaccompanied Minors come from assorted nations and American states—and cities.

©2019 D. Dean Benton         Writer, Wonderer, Frustrated Jesus Follower

Dean’s ebooks: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/880323