A father’s guideline

In the night, Hagar sneaks out of camp to allegedly escape Sarai’s harassment and perhaps abuse. I have learned that Hagar may have been the daughter of Pharoah and was given to Sarai when they left Egypt.

After conflict with Sarai, Hagar was headed home in what looks like a suicidal trip. She was alone in a dangerous and deadly desert without maps or protection.

Genesis 16 tells a fascinating story. Most interpreters say that the angel who shows up is God in angel garb. He tells her about her future, Ishmael’s destiny and that the boy would have favor with God. God, who Hagar names, “The One who sees me (El Roi)” sends Hagar back to Sarai and Abram’s camp. That couldn’t have sounded like good news.

Why was Hagar sent back to “the authority” of Sarai? With the help of Charlotte Gordon’s writing in The Woman who Named God:

“God may have wanted Hagar’s baby to bear Abram’s stamp. It was important that the nations acknowledge her child was indeed Abram’s. It was also crucial for this child to know his father, so he could learn the customs and rules of an extraordinary leader. Finally, God may have wanted Hagar to have Abram’s protection while she raised her son.” (Little, Brown & Company, ©2009)

1. Be like his father
2. Nations would know Ishmael’s heritage
3. His father could teach the boy because boys become men and God had plans for Ishmael
4. Abram would protect Hagar and Ishmael physically, spiritually and mentally.

Later, Abram and God would have a discussion about the fate of Sodom. God wanted His prophet to know how He (God) made decisions and came to conclusions that led to action. Perhaps, God wanted Ishmael to have the visuals and words of the method his father used to make decisions and encounter life. Abram made a ton of mistakes especially with Sarai and Hagar. God probably wanted Ishmael to see how his dad handled them, made them right and restored his relationships.

Those four reasons give me a short guideline of a father’s purpose. Loving the child’s mother is one that Abram may not have gotten right.

©2017 D. Dean Benton Dean@DeanBenton.org
Being challenged by the Abrahamic epoch and covenant. Genesis 12ff
ort

Hard to Imagine

In my prep to rewrite Meanderings, I am focusing on how God speaks and how to hear Him and conclude that He is speaking to you. The center of the book is the Abraham and family story which is central to three religions: Judaism, Islam, Christianity.
Genesis 15 finds Abram after he has rescued Lot. Lot leaves his uncle and Abram’s fighting party of 318 go home to their tents in Hebron leaving Abram alone. God has not told Abram his own name. He shows up at Abram’s tent to reassure His follower. It is an extraordinary story. Abram asks God questions. God responds:

“God took Abram outside and said, ‘Look toward heaven and count the stars, if you able…” (Genesis 15:5).

Can you imagine being in conversation (prayer) with God and he takes you by the elbow or puts his hand on your shoulder and says, “Let’s go outside. I have something to show you.” You had asked for an answer or guidance and God says, “I’ll explain and I’ll show you.”

“When God told Abram that his descendants would be as infinite as the stars, He had to be sure that His prophet could truly comprehend infinitude without being paralyzed and that he could retain his sense of self without indulging in grandiosity.” (Charlotte Gordon)

Okay, my artist friends. Draw a picture from the open tent flap of God with his right hand on Abram’s shoulder and pointing to the stars with an open left hand sweeping the sky from right to left.
God never interacted with Adam or Noah with such intimacy. And it had taken the relationship of Himself with Abram to grow to this level. Charlotte Gordon in a gripping book called, “The Woman Who Named God” (Little, Brown, ©2009) explains why He decides to be so open with Abram.

“…possible that God had learned something from His experience with these two earlier partners in creation. He had not allowed them to be invested enough in the future. He had not shown them enough of His plan for the world. Now He chose to give Abram an inkling of what He Himself saw.”

That is breathtaking. Does it not also help you to be more open to His voice if you believe He is inviting you to participate with Him?

Want to guess how many Father’s Day cards Abraham would receive?

Invested in the future.

©2017 D. Dean Benton dean@deanbenton.org
Wonderer

Being a father when things break

One of our young friends broke his arm/wrist last night. He is with his family “on the road” on tour. His father expressed a father’s feeling when a child is hurt and 14 other things happen at the same time—like the bus running out of fuel just as they pulled into the hospital parking lot.

Doug was in second grade when he fell out of a tree on a Saturday morning and broke his arm/wrist. His mother was Sat morning shopping. The neighbors heard Doug and came running and took us to ER. I sat in the back seat with Doug. He asked me, “Am I going to die?” I assured him he was not, but it must feel like it.

Seemed to me, and I’m sure to Doug, he was in a holding pattern in the hospital hallway for hours. He had eaten all of the Friday nite left-over snacks for Sat morning breakfast, so what they would use for anesthetic was a discussion.

Carole arrived before they took him to OR. While standing over Doug, the doctor said, “We’ll have to put him to sleep.” We have always had pets and putting an animal to sleep was serious. And that is how Doug heard it. He thought I had lied to him—he really was going to die! Broken arm or not, that boy was leaving the ER. He was fighting off the assassin and running for his life.

Later we told the doctor what “putting him to sleep” meant to our son. The doctor was horrified. He apologized with many words.

The anesthetic they used was a hallucinogenic drug. The boy was on a trip for three days. He saw rabbits in my office and accused his sister of causing his pain.

The helplessness of parents to ward off all threats and the inability to relieve all pain is heavy.

Then, add grandchildren. Carole and I said to our married children—“No more kids! We can’t stand the pressure.”

I missed the course on fatherhood. I must have been absent the day the announcement was issued. I at no time felt prepared. I feel I should have more wisdom to offer or solutions. I don’t think I worry about two offspring and three grandchildren, but they take center stage in my prayers.

I am honored this Father’s Day season to be married to the mother of my children and to be a grandfather to the specific three.

Happy Father’s Day.

©2017 D. Dean Benton Dean@deanbenton.org
Books, Blogs, Blurbs, recognizer of privilege.

Needed: Community Organizer

Outside our living room is a Rose of Sharon tree in a small garden. A bird bath, lots of sunflower seeds. 3 bird feeds—a buffet—and two birdhouses. A wren family occupies one. They know how to sing!

Every story needs a villain. A nemesis. Squirrel. Squirrels have no table manners; absolutely none. One hangs upset down from the feeder roof with toe nails dug in and uses front paws to extract seeds and eat them.

A variety of birds visit the garden neighborhood and bird feeder. Some aggressive grackles, a pair of Cardinals, a huge blue jay, not enough yellow finches. A grosbeak showed up for a couple of days to drink out of the hummingbird feeder. Big black birds come uninvited. Last week a Turkey Vulture circled while I was extracting a partially eaten, partially decayed possum.

I was watching the squirrel hanging upside down when he was buzzed by the wren. A wren is a little larger than a hummingbird and smaller than a finch. The wren aggressively kept attacking the squirrel to scare it away. I think he was trying to knock the varmint off the feeder. He didn’t have the body size or weight to inflict any damage or knock the squirrel off. But he or she has not given up trying.

I explained to the wren he needs to talk the male cardinal or that blue jay into a couple of fly-by warnings. That blue jay could knock the squirrel off the feeder and perhaps into a pattern of better behavior.
The wren would benefit by being a community organizer. Assign the big birds as blocking backs. I have never seen the wren eat out of that feeder. It appears Mom and Pop Wren are guarding their little house and family.

Last week the common message among several of my podcasters was: “Strengthen your strengths and manage your weaknesses. Andy Stanley says, “Enlarge your strengths and delegate the areas of your weaknesses. Use your best time doing what you do best and empower others to do what they do best that you’re not so good at.

Now all I have to do is enroll my birds in an Andy Stanley Avian seminar.

An aviary community organizing: Strengthen your strengths. Manage your weaknesses.

©2017 D. Dean Benton dean@deanbenton.org

Memorial Day Hero

Preparing for this Memorial Day weekend, I have been thinking about heroes not usually counted. I choose Booker T. Washington. If you’ll hang with me for a paragraph or two I’ll tell you why.

Mental illness among youth is now considered an epidemic. https://yourot.com/parenting-club/2017/5/24/what-are-we-doing-to-our-children

• 1 in 5 children has mental health problems
• 43% increase in ADHD
• 37% increase in teen depression
• 200% increase in suicide rate in kids 10-14 years old
The result of this is felt and expressed:

“Ín America, there is ‘…an underlying feeling of inevitable negativity.’”

John Eldredge and his adult son Blaine (Ransomed Heart Podcast) talked this week about envy. (Jealousy is wanting what someone has or can do or how they are blessed. Envy is a driving need for what someone else has and the deep-seated desire that the other person(s) not have it.) Envy shows up in 2017 in the current political hatred pointing to the 2016 Presidential election and social justice claims. I think it drives the negative aspect of removing Confederate statues—much like the destruction of icons by ISIS.
Eldredge says envy is expressed by the pervasive “Offended Self.” The victim mentality and generations are offended that they do not have all that others enjoy. They feel they are getting the short end of the stick and they are targeted for nothing but negativity. The offended self is worth more contemplation than we have room to talk about here.
Martin Luther King, Jr., said of Booker T. Washington,

“He lit a torch in Alabama; then darkness fled.”

It is ludicrous to think of anything I lack as I contemplate what Washington lacked and climbed over and fought through. He adamantly refused to see himself as a victim. He was not bound by offense, he was committed to establishing ways to solve problems. He said, “…must not lay too much stress on their grievances to the exclusion of their opportunities.” A historian says, “Booker’s challenge was to transform the values, frame the habits, and instill the knowledge that…success required.”

The agenda at Tuskegee was:

• Habits of thrift
• A love for work
• Economy
• Ownership of property
• Bank accounts—understanding money and how to handle money.

Education—whatever else it includes—must teach these!

Mark Zuckerburg in his commencement address at Harvard nails it:

“…give everyone the freedom they need to pursue purpose.” Create a world where everyone has a sense of purpose.

That goal by Zuckerman and the Booker T. Washington education agenda is the answer to the offended self and the envy that kills. How does that happen? Let us ask God to raise up a generation of entrepreneurs, mentors, ministers, teachers, parents and grandparents who see their calling and their own life purpose as stimulating their tribe and flock to catch a life purpose.

So, I choose Booker T. Washington—my hero on this Memorial Day.

Then Darkness Fled—the liberating wisdom of Booker T. Washington, by Stephen Mansfield.

©2017 D. Dean Benton dean@deanbenton.org
Writer, Wonderer, Ponderer, Meanderer

Identity

We arrived too late to visit the museums or see the monuments. But I felt the spirit of Tuskegee. We got sandwiches at Burger King. That Burger King is etched in my mind as I tried to sort through what I was experiencing in Tuskegee, Alabama. That was in the early to middle 70s. I’ve begun a book about Booker T. Washington written by Stephen Mansfield. Three pages in I began to be revisited by that feeling. It is partly an unexpressible appreciation for Booker T. Washington and how Tuskegee was founded and built. The other part is a horror of what he and family and peers suffered.
Washington never knew when he was born or who is father was.

“…he didn’t know because it didn’t matter, and it didn’t matter because he was just property, a small Negro slave valued at a very optimistic $400. Only people permitted an identity need know when they were born. But then what did it matter? He was just another near naked half-white, half-black waif of the kind that scampered about southern farms and plantations by the thousands. When you were born and who your parents are only matter if you are somebody.” (The Darkness Fled, Stephen Mansfield. Highland Books—Nashville, ©1999) Page 44.

I am rewriting Meanderings, a collection of my favorite stories centered on the biography and adventures of Abram whom God renamed Abraham. Three verses into the Abrahamic story (Genesis 12:1-3) and the importance and value of identity is striking. Abram knew his father and ancestors. The fresh revelation was about identity—not to the past, but to the future. And we are members of his family. He is the father of faith to whom God promised as many offspring as grains of sand.

I feel swamped by all this. Our grandchildren have been busy lately winning scholarships and redefining their lives. They have reached passageways to a more explicit identity. I’m wondering what part of their identity coming from us will grow into a heritage. Some of that depends upon their response to God’s call, and diligent faithfulness in fulfillment of that call while living out their uniqueness. That’s true for you and me as well.

You are a somebody.
You matter.
And before us is the potential of becoming.

“You shall be a blessing” (Genesis 12:2).

©2017 D. Dean Benton dean @deanbenton.org
Writer, Wonderer, Meanderer

Does God Award Scholarships?

We are shamelessly making a lot of noise about two of our grandchildren being awarded academic college scholarships. One of our friends is spending his summer in the Middle-East to study, teach and listen. He will calculate from what he observes what his senior years in college should look like to finish this season of preparation for responding to his call.

I would enjoy sitting with those three at a coffee shop and listen to their conversation about music, math and ministry. I can’t completely describe my pride in their accomplishments and my pleasure in them. While all the celebrating is going on, I’ve been stalked by a phrase in Philippians 1:

“…being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it…” (Philippians 1:6).

I wonder what “good work” in me is God working on today? Is there an age we reach when God says, “May as well stick a fork in him, he is as done as he’s ever going to get.” The intent of the “work” begun is to equip for the next season of ministry and to make the relationship more intimate or mutually enriching.

The dog and I made a run to the dump to get rid of yard waste. I decided again: I don’t want to end up being evaluated as waste or a waster of seasons. Knowing we’re not done until we go to Jesus or He comes to us, what does God use to “finish” us? Unique to each of us. Some maybes:

• Events. Because of my work, weddings, counseling, baptisms sometimes imprint a growth opportunity. A wedding reception was filled with interactions with people from across the country. Diverse in so many ways, their observations, experiences and opinions filled me.
• God’s direct message. I like to hear preaching because I assume God is going to say something directly to me through one of his spokespersons. Sometimes a verse or paragraph from the Bible in my daily reading. Queen of Sheba told Solomon what she saw in his home, how he ran his businesses and affirmed his employees. Good for managers and employers. (1 Kings 10:1-13).
• Insights. They may come from a billboard, sports page or a thought triggered in my mind or soul.
• Conversations. A friend evaluated our relationship of 40 years ago. Her words raised my self-evaluation and led me to ask, “If that is true, then why not…?” Mark Lowery said to Tanya Goodman Sykes (who ended their conversation to go onstage to sing): “Stay on pitch, be present, stay in the pocket, express your passion and be persistent.”
• Confrontations and affirmations.
• Open doors and brick walls.

Any of that resonate with you?
Not completed.
©2017 D. Dean Benton dean@deanbenton.org

Clarity

“I have never had clarity. I have only ever had trust.” Mother Theresa

Within two hours of reading that somewhat stunning statement from Mother Theresa, I heard spiritual leaders talking about “The Fog of War.” They were not talking about the trenches of WW I, but spiritual fog that sneaks up on us. From my experience and my research on stress, depression and burnout, that “fog” is predictable and nearly always shrouds us the day after, or second day after, a demanding event. It is the body and soul calling for recuperation. Therefore building recovery/restoration time into your schedule pays dividends. “Fog” describes loss of clarity concerning your calling, your business or what you are to do next.

Jeff Goins writes, “When your calling is vague and unclear, you’re on the right track.”

Which is it? Clarity or unclear? If people miss the point of what you do, what business you are in and what you want from them, you lose. And probably go out of business. Clarity is a required field in business and all marketing. The problem with most websites is they lack clarity concerning the product, who the product is for, how to get it and why.

• Bring clarity to how your product works and what it does
• Make customers wonder how they’ve lived without your product this long
• Help customers see why your product outshines the competition
• Help narrow the gap between a prospect feeling interested and actually taking action

Donald Miller interviews Juliet Funt, the daughter of Allen Funt of Candid Camera. The link to the podcast interview is:
http://buildingastorybrand.com/ The title: —“The high cost of overload….”

She has great business and life perception on how to gain and maintain clarity. I have no suggestion why Mother Theresa did not sign up for Ms. Funt’s seminar “White Space at Work.”

The message I keep reading and hearing is, “Be clear on who you are, what you are devoted to doing, selling, service to provide, what you are giving your life to. Clarity is rule one for business, therefore marketing. But more critical: pertaining to life itself. Therefore Ms. Funt’s interview is helpful. Maybe life changing.

©2017 D. Dean Benton dean@deanbenton.org
Writer, wonderer, part time worrier, full time hunter for a better way.

When does “Lookin’ good!” become sexual harassment?

I heard this morning that 20% of college female students are being sexually abused—not harassed—beyond that. The harassment subject needs to be discussed in families and most gatherings.

A charge of harassment has become the current nuclear word to bring down a person or organization. That is a bad trend that divides and destroys.
We showed up for a funeral a week early. The lady responded to my “You mean I got dressed up for nothing?” with, “But you look lovely.” I said in a non-provocative tone, “And so do you.” We were both right in our evaluations. But in another setting those affirming words could be interpreted as sexual harassment.

Carole and I had the discussion about what makes words harassing or affirming. Then this article by Dr. Michael Brown hit my screen. I think it makes sense. Perhaps it will help you sort out the issue. https://askdrbrown.org/library/low-cut-tops-sexual-harassment-and-bill-o%E2%80%99reilly

I would like to hear your opinion, if you care to share it with me or my readers. Thanks.

©2017 D. Dean Benton dean@deanbenton.org

Our Generation

A dear friend, who edited my early books, missionary, teacher, office manager, magazine editor, secretary to a denominational head, went to be the Lord on Good Friday. We have not had any communication for about three years when Alzheimer’s set in.

She married for the first time after she retired. We visited the couple in Florida and listened to their stories of mission work. Marion baked bread to sell to raise money for mission projects in her Florida condo. She and Ernie shared their lives and asked about our work and lives.
Miss Marion was of a different generation. I’ve always wondered how we moved into the relationship. She used her blue or red editor’s pencils with abandonment. She was more liberal with verbal affirmations. When too many weeks passed without a note from us, she would call to ask about us.
I have been surprised and confused by my reaction to her death. I’ve tried to name the deeper reasons. I’m glad she is free from her illness. She’s home with Jesus and family. I, however, feel as if I have lost something more than precious—it feels as if I have lost a supporting pillar: Someone who believed in me when she had to cast a minority vote. A disconnect with a former life.
One of her friends said she was like King David who…

“When David had served God’s purpose in his own generation, he fell asleep; he was buried…” (Acts 13:36a).

That may be the finest of all epitaphs.

In the 80a—90s, Youth evangelist Ron Hutchcraft said the Millennials would be characterized by four things. One was that suicide was an option. Today in America, suicide is the second cause of death among young men of that generation. In England, it is the number one cause and surpasses the next three causes combine.

Matthew West captured us with his song, “My Name Is.” His book by the same name was released yesterday. He and Max Lucado talked about the subject matter and emphatically stated a basic issue among us is that many do not know “who we are.”

“Served his/her own generation.”

I have young friends who have responded to the call to minister to evangelism on college campus and other ethnic and geographical peoples. I do not think I have ever heard an altar call given to minister to the Millennials who do not know who they are or what their calling is. Lost. Vulnerable. Angst. See no purpose. It is a large constituency.

Who has the passion? Where is the ignition point for the belly fire? Who is doing that ministry, today? It demands a special call and education.
A generation in secular terms is defined by historical/social events that shape the youth who live in the era. A biblical generation is 40-years. A ministry generation are the people alive in your “neighborhood” during your lifetime. We found Carole’s mother served her generation. We were not aware that her “generation” covered a wide age spectrum.

“I’m Possible!”

Can we talk?
Copyright 2017 D. Dean Benton dean@deanbenton.org

Ran across two podcasts that speaks to this crucial work: “and Sons.com” and “Dan Allender Center”