Monthly Archives: June 2014

Personal Jungle Noises

Two officers of the River of Doubt expedition (1913) had reputations in the Amazon jungle and along its rivers. They had treaties with the Indians and knew how to navigate the trails along the telegraph lines. Until they ran into a tribe that had never seen a white man.

South America had been home for many large animals, but by 1900 with encroaching civilization the large animals were not as  plentiful. Of the mammals that remained, the jaguar was undisputed king.

In the River of Doubt book by Candice Millard, she quotes one of the officers named Cheerie as he spoke of an expedition in Paraguay: “‘Few people have heard a horse scream,’ Cherrie wrote, still bothered by the memory of the sound.”

“When the cat started in the direction of the horses they literally screamed with fear….” (p.179)

I don’t need to hear that sound to be set on edge!

Our visiting dog is voice controllable. Usually. When she hears me call her name she instantly returns. Carole had Kona out when the dog rousted a cat out of the bushes. Then the dog saw the rooster and decided to chase both of them. I heard Carole yelling at the dog. Kona doesn’t obey Carole when a cat or rooster has the dog’s attention.

One of our friends has small terriers bred to hunt. Apparently, when they are on the trail of game their ears shut down. They are not being disobedient, they literally are so focused they cannot hear.

“In the fathomless canyons of tree trunks and the shrouds of black vines that surrounded the men at night, the hum and chatter of thousands of nocturnal creatures would snap into instant silence in response to a strange noise, leaving the men to wait in breathless apprehension of what might come next.” (Millard—page 158)

What kind of noises and sounds are you hearing in your jungle today?

The Hebrew word Naba translated “to prophesy” literally means to “bubble up.” Mark Virkler says when a biblical prophet wanted to sense the prophetic flow—what God wanted to say—the prophet would “tune in” to what was bubbling up within.

Want to hear God’s voice? Want to know His plan? Want to hear His solution or strategy He wants you to present? Then decipher what word or vision is bubbling up in you.

Jesus says, “Rivers of living water will brim and spill out of the depths of anyone who believes in me…” (Message John 7:38). The King James says, “Out of your innermost being shall flow rivers of living water.”

I ate Mexican food for lunch yesterday. I promise you! Not all that bubbles up is God’s voice. Limiting the bubbling to thoughts, visions, words, the source can be self, satan, self-programmed words (self-talk) or the source can be God.

Learning to hear God’s voice begins by becoming aware of what is bubbling up. Paul tells us (2 Corinthians 10) “to take every imagination or thought captive.” That demands we monitor our thoughts. 

What thoughts are floating in your head? What is going on in your proverbial gut? There is a lot of noise in your jungle. Can you identify what is jungle noise and what is self-talk and what could be God’s voice?

This is not impossible. Jesus said His sheep know His voice. Your jungle noise and your reaction to the noises/sounds/words can distort the rhema message from Him.

  • Quiet. Find a place where the jungle is muted. Sometimes I change locations until I find it.
  • Focus. Invite Jesus. Given who and where you are in your experience, how would you imagine Jesus being present with you? Over coffee? At a coffee table? On the other side of an altar? Walking through the woods. Playing tennis?
  • Listen.  Assume Jesus’ presence with you. What is “bubbling up” inside you as you focus on Him?
  • Write. Take notes about the words or describe the vision.

I’m seriously looking at this topic. I think God is saying more than I’m hearing. First, I’m going to monitor the jungle sounds. So far, there is a dog and a pesky, loving cat, news about Iraq and regret that I didn’t make better coffee this morning. I’m listening to it all and shutting down the jungle borders. Want to join me on this quest?

D. Dean Benton

Benton Quest House

Developing the I’m Possible Life

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Front Porch Adventuring

Three or four weeks ago, I was grousing to God and my wife that it had been a long time since I read anything of substance—meaning something that touched me or motivated me. Something I could quote to my friends.  

It’s not that I have no adventure going on. We are babysitting a Golden Doodle dog and a cat. Talk about adventure! The dog showered with me yesterday while the cat sat on the tub and watched. How much more adventure can I handle?

My friend Bill McConnell gave me a book a couple of years ago that I never got around to reading called “Love Does” by Bob Goff. I put it on the reading table on the front porch. I got a Kindle ad for Donald Miller’s book “A Million Miles in a Thousand Years: How I learned to live a better story.”   Then, I heard about Theodore Roosevelt’s expedition down the River of Doubt to the Amazon River and his self-doubt after his defeat for a third presidential term. So, I sat on Carole’s cozy and welcoming beautiful front porch with coffee and my stack of books—hard copy and digital. Have I got stuff to quote!

I am not exaggerating! Roosevelt’s trip into the rain forest and then on the River of Doubt keeps me awake. The descriptions of killer natives, the lists of snakes, insects, and scars of battles with piranhas…. The men were aware that they were constantly watched by human and non-human predators. One expedition officer says he would lie awake in his hammock at night waiting for the next sound—the silence would be broken by a scream of creature he was later told to be from a howler monkey whose scream can be heard three miles away.

“Let there be the least break in the harmony of sound,” Cherrie observed, “and instantly there succeeds a deathlike silence, while all the living things wait in dread for the inevitable shriek that follows the night prowler’s stealthy spring.” (River of Doubt, Candice Millard, 2005 Doubleday Broadway Books)

Ms. Millard says, “The Amazon’s sudden, inexplicable sounds were especially terrifying at night, when they were all in the pitch-black forest with no way to see a potential attacker and no sure means of escape.”

I now make sure my Donald Duck night light is turned on. I’m sure my dreams have been influenced by the elephant-size dog and the lonely cat demanding to sleep between Carole and me. Talk about a jungle.

Bob Goff is an attorney and advocate for children in Uganda. What an adventure his life is. Donald Miller is a writer (Blue Like Jazz) who wants his life to be a better story. Goff tells about building a big house reachable only by plane or boat where he hosts world leaders to talk about their hopes and to talk with each other.

The Miller chapter I read this morning is about his adventure of kayaking in the northwest and seeing a huge house in a remote location. The man standing on the deck was yelling, “Are you hungry.” Miller and his companions ate lunch with—you guessed it—Bob Goff, his three kids and wife that I had been reading about in Love Does. It was like two unrelated worlds got together on Carole’s front porch this morning to talk about adventuring. And I got to listen in.

Speaking of adventure. If you’ll excuse me, the dog wants to go out. It takes me a few minutes to get my pith helmet and mosquito netting on.

D. Dean Benton

Benton Quest House

Purpose, Potential, Passion in Rooster Speak

The rooster didn’t crow again this morning.

After Carole’s encounter with the bird roosting on top of her car in the garage, he ran into the neighbor’s yard and disappeared. Late in the day I saw him running across the street toward our house followed by a teenage girl carrying a garden hoe. How do you catch a chicken with a garden hoe?

We talked to the girl while the rooster explored the neighborhood. She gave up catching him and went home. An hour later, that rooster strutted down the middle of the street on his way home.

Yesterday morning the neighborhood was quiet. No crowing to welcome the dawn. Distressing! I assumed that someone caught the bird with the hoe. I missed the bird. I prayed for the bird. At least, I comforted myself, it was not a rattler in our garage like the one that confronted our friend in North Carolina. There was a hoe or a shovel involved in that terminal visitation.

Yesterday afternoon when I approached our back stoop, the rooster was sitting on the top step as if he was waiting to go inside the house. It is a regal, beautiful multi-red colored creature. He wasn’t afraid of me, but apparently grew weary of my questions and left. Haven’t seen him since. Our daughter thinks the rooster was in our garage hiding out.

He didn’t welcome the dawn this morning and the neighborhood is quiet. Too quiet. The resident Cardinal hasn’t even said good morning. We need crowing. I want crowing especially when the rooster indicated he considered our abode to be a safe haven.

You may know more about such things than I, so I’m asking. What makes a rooster lose its crow? What does it mean when it no longer does what God made it to do?

The girl said they are raising chickens for cooking, therefore I’m wondering. Assuming the Red Leghorn is still able to sing, I Googled the question. Some roosters don’t crow because of their low ranking. There are alpha-chickens and the others let the top-chick do the talking. If you want the low echelon to crow, you remove him from his debilitating environment and put him where he is not dominated by the higher ranking birds. That didn’t seem to be the problem with our red Foghorn Leghorn.

Is it possible for a rooster to be traumatized and lose his song?

What happens when a rooster can’t fulfill his life purpose? Actually, what is a leghorn’s life purpose? Other than get chummy with KFC?

You know, of course, that this is a larger concern than about daybreak and the absent crowing. I’m praying for the bird today as I consider fulfilling my purpose, potential and passion.

D. Dean Benton

Benton Quest House

Roosters

“When I arrived home from Boston, I realized there were no pictures on my mantel.”

Donald Miller

Have you noticed that other people display pictures of children and grandchildren that are years or decades old? Do you have up-to-date pictures of your adult children on your wall—either Facebook or drywall? Admittedly it is easier with Facebook. My bet is—if you have a smartphone, you are more apt to have up-to-date pictures of friends and family and very few old pictures of them.

As I contemplated Donald Miller’s realization about his relationships, a rooster started crowing in our neighborhood. When I called Carole’s attention to it, she said, “Yes, it crows a lot.” What? That means—I’m not paying attention! I’m usually awake early enough to awaken the rooster, but I’ve missed or didn’t hear him.

Miller’s words are shaking me into consciousness. I’m not taking care of business—all my pictures are old or I have taken them off the mantel. I’m wondering if preoccupation has become my occupation with a minor in oblivious.

One of the movie makers said to Miller, “It’s not a book; it’s a movie. We have to show it. A character is what he does.” (A Million Miles in a Thousand Years: What I learned While Editing My Life.  2009 Thomas Nelson)

Miller writes about a friend who described the change a new baby had brought into his thinking and how he was seeing what a treasure his wife is. The next few words indicated that the new father had not said a word to his wife. Miller says to us:

“She only knows what he says and what he does, not what he thinks and what he feels.”

There’s that rooster, again. A character is what he does.

 D. Dean Benton

Benton Quest House

Writing the Right Story

It may come with age and circulation. I don’t circulate much anymore. Carole and I have thermostats wired to different universes. She wants the room cool enough to hang meat; I’m looking for one more blanket.

My current devotional reading has focused on David.  A recent portion caught my attention:

“In his old age…no matter how many blankets were heaped upon him, he was always cold. ‘The cure for this,’ his aides told him, ‘is to find a young virgin to be your concubine and nurse. She will lie in your arms and keep you warm. So they searched the country from one end to the other to find the most beautiful girl in all the land. Abishag…was selected. (…but he had no sexual relations with her”) 1 Kings 1:1-4).

How does Abishag put that on her resume? “Worked for a time as a human hot water bottle.” That job kept her from marriage and limited her vocational prospects. She became an innocent center piece of an attempted coup. We know nothing about the most beautiful girl in the land other than that, except this interesting tidbit:

“Bathsheba went into the king’s bedroom. He was an old, old man, now, and Abishag was caring for him” (vs 15).

I wonder if that was difficult. Bathsheba came into the room to tell David about the coup and she knew if she didn’t talk him into doing something—as frail as he was—she and Solomon would be executed. So she may not have even noticed Abishag. Later, after national politics and family dynamics settled down, I wonder if Bathsheba saw Abishag and thought to herself, “I used to be who she is today—at least, the most beautiful girl in David’s eyes.”

Don Miller captured part of the world with his book, “Blue Like Jazz,” in which he talked about his life. Later, two filmmakers approached him to make a movie based on that book—his memoir. The filmmakers decided they had to change the character in the book. They would have to make up a different “Don” for the movie than the Don Miller in the book.

Miller asked the obvious question. “What is wrong with the ‘Don’ in the book?”

“What Steve is trying to say…is that your real life is boring.”

“Boring?”

“Boring.”

Reality that worked as a best seller in a book, wouldn’t work on a movie screen. So the author got to write a screenplay.

“It didn’t occur to me at the time, but it’s obvious now that in creating the fictional Don, I was creating the person I wanted to be, the person worth telling stories about. It never occurred to me that I could re-create my own story, my real life story, but in an evolution I had moved toward a better me. I was creating someone I could live through, the person I’d be if I redrew the world, a character that was me but flesh and soul other. And flesh and soul better too.” (A Million Miles in a Thousand Years—What I Learned while editing my life, ©2009 by Donald Miller, Thomas Nelson Poublishers)

Miller defines “story” as “A character who wants something, and overcomes conflict to get it.”

As in The Story of My Life? Doesn’t that mean we must know what we want our life to be? Accomplish? Go?

That reminds me of a Charlie Brown quote, which I paraphrase: They were telling the story of my life and kept telling me I wasn’t right for the part. I wonder if life turned out for Abishag or Bathsheba as they had planned. I wonder if they liked the way it turned out.

One of the most powerful things I’ve heard recently is about a teen who was messing up her life not deterred by any rules or restrictions. Her dad concludes that she was playing a role in a story that was the best one available to her. He hadn’t mapped out a story for his family and she had no better option than the story she had chosen.

“She’s not a bad girl. She was just choosing the best story available to her.” We need a story. We need a role to play. We need to risk—to venture—to go after something we want and overcome the barriers.

So the dad responded to a vision caster who said someone needed to build a $25,000 orphanage in Mexico and he signed his family up. “We’ll build it.”

One of the serious lessons of the business books I’ve read is, “If you want to change your company, change the stories you tell.”

Miller says, “Once you know what it takes to live a better story, you don’t have a choice.”

 © D. Dean Benton

Benton Quest House

 

Hi Ira

One of my cousins addresses us with, “Hello again, Dear Ones.” The greeting was especially endearing this morning. I calculated how many people greet me with such words. Carole has a young professional connection who not only hugs her hello, but hugs me as well. She probably hugs all of her clients, but her gesture sure makes me feel good. I’m still smiling five minutes later.

So, I’m sitting here with my coffee making a list of people I consider a “Dear One.” That list is longer than the list of Dear Ones to whom I would say that out loud. Not everyone is comfortable being hugged or being addressed face-to-face as “Dear One.”

I’m finishing a book called Seams to Me with a chapter called “Truth in your Emotions.” God told Joshua,

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9).

Not all of those commands are about emotions, but each has an emotional element. God is not saying, “Don’t ever let the Canaanites see you sweat. And I mean it!” Perhaps He was saying that terror and discouragement should not characterize our lives. Even if my interpretation is wrong, I like it. How do we build that brand—when people see us coming into the room they feel better?

How you feel about yourself is interactive with, but a different category than what you say about yourself. It is a real feeling, not just a subjective thought process. A slogan for my anger-management seminar is that “Anger is a gift; hostility will kill you.” Add the feeling of hostility to rational and positive anger and you put your life at risk. Hostility is a feeling. A feeling as in, “Right here, Doctor. It hurts right here.”

Feeling good about yourself has been on my mind as I’ve finishing the chapter and taken care of business. Two basic habits and personal characteristics help.

Thank God for Ira. The writer of 2 Samuel begins the list of people who sustained King David and served with him. They have impressive titles like “David’s 37 Men of Valor.” The commander-in-chief is listed with the chief bodyguard, the historian, secretary and the chief priests. Then…

“Ira the Jairite was David’s personal chaplain” (2 Samuel 22:6 TLB).

Carole and I were engrossed by a Catholic telecast talking about spiritual growth in some words we don’t often use. They talked about having a “Spiritual Director.” I like that concept, but I’ve never had a personal spiritual director—Ira—who got into my head and soul and helped me build a place called “Truth in my Emotions.” No one has ever been that brave. “Get into his head? Not me! That’s got to be a scary place—no doubt there’s contagious stuff in there.” I suspect there to be a connection of feeling good about yourself and having a person that Roman Catholics would call a personal spiritual director. I’ll call her Ira.

The second characteristic habit is praise. The habit of praising God regularly helps us see people differently. Praising God is to celebrate who He is. The second element in that is gratitude. Praise is about who He is. Thankfulness is about what He does.

Good to talk with you, Dear One.

©2014 D. Dean Benton

Benton Quest House

Developing the I’m Possible Life