Monthly Archives: March 2014

Whew!

Frank Viola retells the biblical story of the family living at Bethany. You know the family. Lazarus, Mary, Martha and their father named Simon. (God’s Favorite Place on Earth. David C. Cook, ©2013).

During the last week of Jesus’ earthly life, he returned to that home each night. Several important Jesus events happened there. He raised Lazarus from the dead, Jesus frequently had supper there and we have a record of the conversations. Simon threw a party that created a scandal and it was there that Mary, anointed Jesus for his burial.

That fragrance came from Indian oil called nard. Her gift was worth the equivalent of 300 days of labor. She poured it on Jesus head and then upon his feet. The offering angered some and embarrassed others. Mary’s gift was intimate and expensive. I don’t know what I would offer that would compare with that abandon and sacrifice.

Viola writes in the voice of Lazarus:

“Our home smelled of the fragrance for days. When Mary poured the perfume upon the Teacher, some of it splashed on the table. And it even left a stain.” (page 130)

In the event we come to your house for a meal, I like salmon. Carole made salmon patties yesterday. Night before last, we threw healthy barriers aside and had hash and eggs for supper. Our house smelled like fish and whatever is in hash. Those odors hang heavy in the air. Whew! We have a couple of electric-driven, industrial-strength smell reducers. Not enough!

Our tribe has gotten serious about essential oils. I think that is why this story about Mary and her fragrance got stuck in my brain—or maybe because it was in my regular reading this morning and then the podcast I listened to while treadmilling was about Mary’s extravagance. I feel targeted.

Biblical essential oils. I’ve been reminding my people that it all sounds like a snake oil sales pitch. But, we have seen some physical miracles with the application. Place an essential oil on your foot and in 26 seconds it has permeated your entire body. That is making me ask questions about anointing with oil and why Mary anointed Jesus’ feet.

“Our home smelled of the fragrance for days…and it even left a stain….” Frank Viola.

“The whole house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.” Matthew, Mark, John.

I’m wondering what I could offer to Jesus that will fill our house with such fragrance it will still capture people’s attention a week from Thursday. What can I offer to Jesus that will leave a fragrant stain on people that will remind them of their value to God? And to me?

Jesus’ favorite place? That home in Bethany. The place that welcomed, made people smell good and poured their destiny into them.

Pour Your healing oil through me

Pour Your healing oil through me

Like a river of love pour Your healing from above.

Pour Your healing through me.

Copyright Mike Murdock

©2014 D. Dean Benton

Benton Quest House

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Power of Partying-

Received a box of pictures and memorabilia from the house of my recently deceased aunt. Great reminders of my mother’s family—aunts, uncles, cousins. Two pictures hang heavy in the memory building.

One picture shows me leaning across the dinner table at a restaurant talking to my uncle. I am wearing a blue blazer and a tie that I still wear. So when I say, “I have ties that are older than you,” I have pictures to prove it. I also had a lot more hair, a better mustache and looked like I belonged to an important group. Dude! Twenty-seven years ago. (You may want to request an autographed copy.)

The other picture is in another restaurant—this one not so fancy. It pictures my aunt and uncle. He shows the gaunt look of an old man with Parkinson’s. The words written under the picture come from her. She always wrote in the third person.

“Everett and Fern believed to observe special days in one’s life together in some way—so would drive to Kopper Kettle for April 28—the day they met, their birthdays, their anniversaries for a meal including soup and salad bar there. Senior Citizens Discount.”

“Sweeter as the years go by. Sweeter as the years go by. Richer, fuller, deeper. Jesus’ love is sweeter. Sweeter as the years go by.”

She closes with a scripture reference: Ephesians 3:8.

That picture and note paper will go in my file for my book—Napkin Placement—How I learned to be married. One of the lessons is to celebrate. In their 80s and still celebrating the day they met. The picture of Uncle hurts me. He looks so frail and incapacitated. There is his left hand on his leg—I can see it shaking. I can hear him saying to me after he and I had that conversation over the high class dinner table, “You don’t want to get old.”

In my wildest moment, I would never see that couple as party animals. But, based on her words, they knew the importance of celebration. She sang the payoff of celebrating—sweeter as the days go by.

©2014 D. Dean Benton

Benton Quest House

Where can I get an unboring pill?

For those who have just returned from another planet, let me tell you about the ABC TV series called Castle. Richard Castle is a mystery writer who works with the NYPD. Detective Kate Beckett is the female lead and Castle’s fiancé.
In last week’s episode, Beckett, with arms around Castle’s neck, is pleading with him about not becoming a boring couple. “Promise me we won’t become one of those couples that have sex only on national holidays.”
“One of those couples….”

Statistics say that 91% of children in a nearby grade school are in divorced homes.

In a recent conversation with one of my friends, he agonized over his church’s stand on and ministry to the divorced. He asked, “Doesn’t anyone stay together anymore?” As much as I liked Kate Beckett’s line, I hurt over Bob’s question.
Michael Martin Murphy describes himself as a cowboy singer. Best known probably for his song, Wildfire. Had we not sung his song, “What’s Forever For?” Bob’s question would have been just that. A rhetorical question. But since I have measured the hurt, the question hit me like a Ninja blade.

So, what’s the glory in living?
Doesn’t anybody ever stay together, anymore?
If love never lasts forever,
What’s forever for?

For several reasons, I don’t watch TV’s Celebrity Wife Swap. We caught a few minutes of celebrity “swap.” Gives me the creeps! When they got to the end where they tell their opinions how they would change the lives of their counterparts, one of the guys indicates he knows he is busted. He is wrapped up with his work and himself with little attention to wife or anyone else. My response was, “I’ll be going to the garage to check the oil in the car, now.”

The working title of my next novel is Napkin Placement. It talks about and lives out four actions for couples to describe a “forever” worth living. It will be an open window so you can see how & what I’m learning.

In her book, Nakedness, (Which I think is still available free from Kindle) Sandra Kristen Moore says,
“I felt like I had a great childhood and didn’t lack anything. I never saw my parents fight or argue, which I later learned was because of their inability to communicate. They secretly struggled until they filed for divorce the day I left for my honeymoon.”
Carole and I have been married a long time. There is still so much to learn. In short hand terms, a good marriage is a covenant marriage—in the biblical definition of the word.

I’m working my way through the questions: am I capable and brave enough of becoming unboring? Change is difficult.
I heard this morning that opening day of the baseball season is being considered as a national holiday. See! God does answer prayer.
D. Dean Benton
Benton Quest House

What’s the matter?

Thus far this morning I’ve been instructed to hum more and play in the dirt.

When the late Catherine Marshall was dealing with a physical problem that she realized had emotional roots, she heard God tell her to spend more time in her garden getting her hands in the dirt. I’ve always assumed God was telling her to relax. There may have been a different reason.

These words from the Note section of Leonard Sweet’s book, Jesus—A Theography (Thomas Nelson, 2012):

“…soil contains friendly bacteria that affect the brain in a similar way to antidepressants. UK scientists were the first to discover that bacteria commonly found in soil activated brain cells to produce the chemical serotonin.

“…makes one wonder if this isn’t one reason why many pregnant women crave clay and dirt.” (page 362)

I do not recall my wife ever munching on dirt, pregnant or not. She reminds me that today’s soil is polluted with mold, ecoli and stuff that will cause allergic reactions, perhaps projectile vomiting. Grub worms would do it for me.

The current definition of matter is “vibrating strings of energy.” That comes from superstring physics.

In the March/April edition of the Homecoming Magazine, Gloria Gaither interviews Sweet. He says, “…superstring physics…saying that matter is music. That basically, God was a sound architect; this whole creation is an incredible orchestration of a symphony, a soundscape.” 

One more quote:

“The chief developmental task of a disciple is to discover the song that God made you and to sing it ravishingly to the glory of God.”

The whole article is enriching and provocative. He reminds us that when we are sick—mentally, spiritually, physically, emotionally—we are out of tune with ourselves. The universal tuning fork is Jesus.

So, what’s the matter with you?

The remake of A Trip To Bountiful premiered on TV recently. I prefer the original. I talk about this movie in my book, Mosquito Park Secrets. The story is about Mrs. Watts who is forced to live with her son and daughter-in-law to provide her shelter and her family with a Social Security check. The daughter-in-law doesn’t want the older woman to hum hymns in the house. Mrs. Watts catches a bus and runs away to her childhood home in Bountiful which is in smelling distance of the Gulf and where her memories are.

There is a scene in the original which the new movie leaves out. Mrs. Watts’ son finds her and arrives in Bountiful (the name contradicts the reality) to take his mother, whom he calls “Momma,” back to Houston. She asks for a few more minutes. She sits on the ground and digs in the dirt to feel again the land—her land.

She finally stands and brushes the dirt from her hands onto her dress—perhaps she is dusting the dirt from her dress. The closing scene is the Chevy driving across a field of grass.

I want to go and renovate that old house and listen to the scissortails and Mockingbirds  and smell the Gulf. As the car drives out of the shot, Cynthia Clawson sings, “Softly and Tenderly Jesus is Calling—Come Home.”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1EgJxPbS9ds

© 2014 D. Dean Benton

The Benton Quest House

Not Good Enough

Dan Harris is a well-known ABC news reporter who recently talked about a panic attack he had on-air. The clip was shown on ABC World News this week. He has written a book about his search for solutions. His book (10% Happier) relates stories of high visibility people who talk about their immobilizing or troubling self-doubt.

Dr. Oz speaks of his own wasted time spent on crippling “negative thinking.” Harris says his self-talk wraps around “I’m not good enough.” Dan Harris doesn’t think he is good enough? This tells you that your self-talk can’t be trusted.

A panic attack is fear on steroids—fear that we cannot perform or that our weakness will demand attention. Harris says he “bailed” in the middle of his report as millions watched him hyperventilate on live national TV.  

Self-rejection is one of the most pervasive causes for a second-rate relationship with God and a primary cause of settling for second best. We fear that we are going to be “found out” as frauds—we don’t belong in the place we are and we will soon prove it.

Malcom Gladwell in his latest book called David and Goliath (2013 Little, Brown and Company) describes being a big fish in a little pond versus being a little fish in a big pond. The statistics are impressive as he describes the agony of excellent science students failing in big name schools when they probably would have succeeded big-time in other schools. Those he interviewed speak a recurring statement: “My perception was that I wasn’t good at it or I was not good enough at it.”

One of Gladwell’s conclusions is the cause of failure is comparison. “What matters, in determining the likelihood of getting a science degree is not just how smart you are. It’s how smart you feel relative to the other people in your classroom.” (page 84)

The rebuttal to the statement, “I’m not good enough,” is “In comparison to whom? In comparison to what?” Granted, I am not good enough to play in the NBA or even on Notre Dame’s high school girl’s team. Such things never disqualify us in our minds because we never give it a second thought.

Healthy people learn how to question self-talk and to argue with it. “Who told you that you are not good enough? What happened that suggested or convinced you that you are not good enough?” A moral failure may convince you that you are not “good” enough for some things. But that is not usually what we are saying to ourselves. What torments us is the feeling (the operative word—feeling) that there is a flaw in us or a deficiency that keeps us from being good enough in general.

Andy Stanley preached a series recently on being “er” or “est.” We want to be wealthier or thinner or happier and we wish that we were the happiest or classiest. Most of us lose in a comparison contest. I’m not good enough. It is a feeling that does not always surrender to rational thinking. “Come on Dan Harris. Not good enough? How can you say that—you are on the A-Team, you have been a network news anchor.” To which he responds, “Excuse me while I try to breathe.”

The story of Sir Ernest Shackleton’s attempted journey to the South pole is called the greatest adventure ever taken. Shackleton was called by his colleagues, “the greatest leader who ever came on God’s earth, bar none.”

Leonard Sweet writes about Shackleton in his book Summoned To Lead, (Zondervan, 2004).

“Shackleton had confidence in himself. He had a sense that he wasn’t the only stick in God’s matchbox, but it was his stick God had chosen to light the fire.”

I would not tell Dan Harris this, but I keep telling myself. Of course I’m not good enough. Being good enough is not even part of the equation-unless I’m being considered as a candidate to be an astronaut. The most important part of ability is availability.

  • Selection—do I feel called to do it? Then I will prepare!
  • Opportunity—have I been given favor or position to do this?
  • Default—if I don’t do it, who will? I must!
  • Love—I can’t allow the need to go unanswered!

Antidote to the doubt:  Calling, Passion, Commitment.

You would add to this list…?

©2014 D. Dean Benton

The Benton Quest House

Words of the Week

I’ve encountered powerful words and thoughts this week in pursuit of how Jesus is teaching me to live my life as He would live my life. I’ve settled on these: Immersion—(I’m in! Not just dangling my toes—I’m in.) Engagement. Connection. Passion. Meaning.

Hugh Halter has given us a beautiful and powerful writing in Flesh published by David C. Cook. It is about incarnation. Why Jesus became flesh and came. Why God decided Incarnation and redemption was the best strategy. God wanted His family back!

“We settle for faith about Him, and we let Him be our Savior, but so few let Him actually buy their lives back.” (Halter)

Jesus has bigger dreams and hopes for us than to have redeemed us so we can tack our faith onto a “normal” life.  Jesus is all about passion and meaning.

The movie reviewer for Gannett (USAToday) complained about the way the actor portrays Jesus in Son of God. The actor gets the love and compassion stuff right, “but he plays the part too wimpy, a kind of hippy-dippy Savior. …but when we get to Jesus kicking the moneychangers out of the temple it seems incongruous.” (Bill GoodyKoontz)

My immediate reaction was that the reviewer really gets the passion and meaning stuff. He wants a kick-ass Jesus, not a smiling deliverer of one-liners. Passion and meaning.

I met a missionary to Ethiopia about a year ago. He is a native of Africa. My family responded to that conversation by buying a chicken hatchery there. Last evening, he told me about speaking in two public schools in our city this week. He ate in the school cafeterias. He looked horror stricken as he told me about watching the students scrape food into the trash. Not scraps, just food they didn’t want. My Ethiopian friend could have fed his whole commune with the thrown away food.

He talked about 4 million orphans. When Carole asked him how he keeps from burning out or going crazy over the huge needs. He said all he can do is try to reach one. If we are only going to reach one out of 4 million, we had better reach the right one! Passion and meaning must be connected to strategies, plans and tactics.

Maybe that is why one phrase gets my vote for “Words of the week.” Again from Hugh Halter:

“I want you to know about redemption—it is a full refund. God didn’t do all this—give His one and only Son for a partial refund or an in-store credit….”

“In-store credit.” Let that float around in your soul. Our redemption is not an in-store credit that has value only in church.

I am collecting an increasing number of acquaintances with ties to third-world countries. One of the most exciting young women added to my extended family is from Ethiopia. One of my friends took a truck load of Shoe Boxes to Africa. I ask them all the same question, “Where do we start? What do we do?” They all have the overwhelmed look of trying to count  4 million one at a time. When they stop shaking their heads at the size of the task, they say “Infrastructure.”

Roads, water, jobs, schools, businesses, legitimate governments that know how to get things done legally and with quality.

No in-store credits!

Copyright 2014 D. Dean Benton

Benton Quest House