Monthly Archives: August 2014

It’s Out There!

Well, it’s out there. After twelve years and dozens of drafts, Gone to Southwood is published as an ebook. It is available at

An unsolicited review says, “This really is a great novel. You get drawn into the plight and personalities of the characters from the very first chapter. Looking forward to the sequel.”

One of the early readers (there were 2-3) says, “This is exciting! I get to have a copy of my favorite book! Can’t wait to reconnect with the characters in this story. Congrats Dean!”

It has been over 24 hours and I have not heard from the Pulitzer committee. They must be taking a long weekend.

Of the nearly 30 books we’ve published this one is different. This is not my first novel, but it has a different approach. I was reluctant to hit the “send” button sending the manuscript to the publisher. Carole asked me if I was going to suffer from post-partum depression. I’ve been antsy all day wondering and hoping and being protective. Those are my friends I talked about, after all, and I want people to like them.

Can it be almost 48 hours? Still nothing from the Pulitzers. The biggest deal in the aftermath is self-doubt. Maybe the people who think the story is good are wrong. Yesterday, I cleaned up a problem with the bookmarks and hyperlinks in Mockingbirds at Dawn. I read several pages and was astonished how targeted it is and valuable for the right people. I started reading a book this morning that I ordered 2-3 months ago. I’m in a different place now than then. The writer tells a story I had heard before. Today it hit me with a force ten times more valuable. It speaks to what I am writing and what I’m personally wondering.

A writer must find the right people and then hope to catch them at the right time. So I encourage everyone to get my books and have them handy when the “moment” arrives.

I have wanted two things this summer. I have wanted to stand on a dock with commercial fishing vessels in view and a fresh seafood restaurant close by. The second thing is a desire to sit outside a coffee shop with good coffee and good company. Yesterday, I was sitting in one of our town’s better coffee shops. It has lost its ambiance. At the noon hour, only one other person was in the shop. I thought it was ironic that I was reading an article about a coffee shop some 50 miles away that has captured attention and draws people from miles around. I felt sad for the local shop and I can’t explain what has happened.

What is it that I want or expect from the dock or the shop? Presence, maybe. I think I expect my muse to show up and ideas flow out of the mist into my brain. I want that to happen at church—presence that heals, stimulates, smells like good coffee and music that soothes and stimulates. And a preacher who communicates to that mysterious hunger in me that he couldn’t possibly know about. It is that environment that Millennials desire and feel cheated when they go to church and it is absent.

Isn’t it odd that not just any water or dock will do? We live less than a mile from the Mississippi. We have a new metal dock on the city waterfront. NO! A dock is supposed to be made of wood! Maybe what I’m looking for is “there,” and there is no there, there. I want it to be on the Gulf Coast. To quote Miss Carrie Watts from A Trip to Bountiful, I want to smell the sea.

I proposed to Ms. Carole that we go to that coffee shop fifty miles away, sit outside and drink cappuccino or some exotic coffee blend. She doesn’t want to perspire and she drinks coffee as medicine. One cup in the morning. So I’m going to have to write a story about someone drinking coffee on the dock of the bay while reading the Wall Street Journal and talking to a close friend. I’ll let you in on a secret. In the manuscript Bethany Lodge, there is such a dock where the water laps against the pilasters and the wooden dock has tables where fine coffee is served. Maybe I’ll go there this morning, and talk to a few gathered friends about Gone to Southwood—the movie.

©2014 D. Dean Benton

Facebook—Benton Quest House.


Preachers cannot say every thing every time. Sometimes  they get it wrong. 

Bloggers don’t get it right every time–so I correct an error:

Not everything that comes into our lives comes from the hand of God. I differentiate: something coming to me from the hand of God, and something coming through the hand of God. That may be semantic triviality, but for me it says that evil does not originate with God. I even get nervous saying that sometimes God allows it. Evil, sin or effects of the fall can never be traced to God. 

Sorry. Changes everything!


Thorns, Daggers, Strength

I was young in years and in my faith when Catherine Marshall told the story of “A Man Called Peter.” The story is about her husband who pastored in Washington, D. C. and was Chaplain of the United States Senate. Hollywood made the book into a movie. Ms. Marshall also wrote a book about her grandmother entitled “Christy,” which became a long-running TV series.

If you Google Catherine Marshall the first dozens of pages will be about “The Prayer of Relinquishment.” With a superstar husband, Mrs. Marshall got sick, was bedridden and nothing helped. What worked for others failed to help her. Her illness lasted for months. It was only when she began praying the prayer of relinquishment that she began to heal.

I can take you to the exact spot on earth when I experienced what that meant—the prayer of relinquishment. I think I was nineteen. I “experienced” it. I did not understand it. I do not remember what I was dealing with, if anything, that I was required to relinquish. More than that, I began to see what the Kingdom was like—it was if a curtain was opened and I saw a sliver of Kingdom life. It was something about times when you surrender to win. I still don’t understand it.

Most of my tribe heard one of our favorite preachers talk about surrender over the weekend. Second Corinthians 12:7-9. Let me refresh your memory:

“I was given a thorn in my flesh…I pleaded with the Lord to take it away…He said no. He said, ‘My grace is sufficient, my power is made perfect in weakness…. (Now) I delight in weakness…for when I am weak; then I am strong.”

Paul and the preacher in question really upset my friends—especially those who are in difficult situations. I got calls from friends who are not in weak spots, but are concerned about friends who are. I said to Carole—“That brother is going to get cards and letters this week!”

The crux of the pastor’s message was that there is a contradictory mystery he has witnessed. When people in weakness surrender, they find strength, experience and exhibit joy, and he gave examples.

I believe what he said. He just left out some important things. The first thing to remember about preachers and their sermons—a preacher cannot say everything, every time. Here is where I land on the subject:

Be careful what you surrender (relinquish) to whom. Surrender does not mean agreement, but it may lead there.

Not everything that comes into our lives comes from the hand of God. I differentiate: something coming to me from the hand of God, and something coming through the hand of God. That may be semantic triviality, but for me it says that evil does not originate with God. I even get nervous saying that sometimes God allows it. Evil, sin or effects of the fall can never be traced to God. Of course that is fodder for the Calvinism vs. Arminianism battle.

Jesus reminds me frequently that (John 10:10) while He offers life abundant, we have an enemy who targets us—“steal, kill, destroy.” We have an enemy who tempted Jesus (Luke 4) to surrender. In my lucid and spiritually tuned in moments, I ask:

  1. Is the issue I’m facing (We should ask) from God? He does discipline.
  2. Is my problem a result of the fall? We live in a corrupted world which affects aging, other’s behavior and a bent toward sin which gets people killed and such.
  3. Is this a spiritual attack? Most issues are, but there are demons, spirits, imps, entities that have been given assignments—“Take the guy out!”
  4. Is this situation of my doing—or something I neglected to do, or something lacking in me that I need to learn or experience?

Here then is the rule: Surrender to God, but never surrender to the situation. I also heard a sermon yesterday about, “Take your eyes off the problem and place them on the provider.” 

The last line in the paragraph from 2 Corinthians says, “…then I am strong.” That is the object of relinquishment. I can stay weak in my weakness or I can relinquish my weakness and be strong in God’s strength. Sounds like preacher talk to me! I keep asking myself, “Therefore…?” What follows the surrender-relinquishment acceptance of my current problem as a “gift from God”?

Paul had all kinds of problems. He had weak eyes, so he invited some stenographers to travel with him. He had a ton of physical complaints, so he hired his own physician named Luke to ride his bus. The Apostle had been beaten so many times that his back was laced with scars. Becoming mobile each morning required assistance. His back had to be oiled to keep the skin from cracking wide open and bleeding.

Gene Edwards in his series of novels which retell the book of Acts, says that the “thorn” was that group of people who followed Paul around to discredit his message. As I remember, the group was named something akin to the “People of the curved knife.” Their assignment was to assassinate Paul. For whatever reason, I’ve landed on that as the “thorn” for which God provided sufficient grace. The Apostle did not give up or go unguarded in crowds. His relinquishment did not include painting a target on his gut with the words, “Come and get me.” 

After you have “surrendered” or received your “thorn” as gift from God, what do you feel? If you feel like giving up, if you feel hopeless, if you say, “There is no use to go to the doctor or take my meds or….? Something has gone wrong in the transaction. We are not asked to relinquish personal responsibility or sources of hope or godly companionship. We are asked to give up our weakness and receive the strange strength that God gives in clandestine ways or from sources that we could never tap into with a cordless drill or jackhammer.

Again, the issue is: how do I get from my weakness to strength that is His, but comes to live in my experience?

Two more things: A blogger cannot say everything every time. Google Catherine and read about the prayer of relinquishment.

Talk to me

© 2014 D. Dean Benton

Facebook: Benton Quest House

The Uncomfortable Naked Truth

Some months ago, I stumbled onto the “reality” show “Naked & Afraid.” For the uninformed, a man and a woman get naked in the jungle where they try to manage (survive) 21 days and nights in the wild and the buff. Get real! I wear a long sleeve shirt to mow the lawn in August to protect myself from bugs and mosquitoes. The show asks me to stretch my imagination to think people would expose their total bodies to creepy crawlers and flying insects? Snakes?

Then someone told me about “Naked Shopping.” People go shopping for furniture while naked. I will never shop again without an industrial size spray can of Lysol in hand.

Now! There is TV show called “Naked Dating.”

I don’t go looking for these shows. They show up next to the Cubs on WGN or the Weather Channel. Creep me out! Of course they blur the pixels and there is no actual visible nakedness. (I was going use the word nude, but I reserve that word for beautiful and classic art. This is naked! Like the difference between fiddle and violin.)

On my way to see if it is going to rain tomorrow, there was Naked Dating. Not a stitch! But the woman was wearing high heels. Naked and high heels. How real is that? What kind of people audition for these shows?

One of my cyber-magazines reported that Robin Williams accepted Jesus during his last rehab stay. The source is solid. I saw a clip of a Williams’ routine last evening. He said he saw a guy with a sign, “Unless you are born again, you cannot see the kingdom of heaven.” Williams asked the sign carrier, “You goin’? If so, I’m not.” The crowd laughed and applauded. So did I. The Kansas church that protests at funerals is going to carry their terrible signs at Robin Williams’ funeral and I want to use his line. I don’t want to be identified with them—if that is what God’s kingdom is—count me out. What kind of people sign up for membership class at that church?

I finished Jen Hatmaker’s Interrupted—When Jesus Wrecks your Comfortable Christianity. (NavPress, 2014).

I have battled my way through this book twice. Once when it was new—first edition and now Interrupted-2.0. I want to know what kind of person does Jesus call to this missional life?

I don’t do naked, tattoos, piercings or motorcycles. If any of those are pre-requisites, then I’m not a front row candidate. Ms. Hatmaker’s appeal is not to mimic her or Brandon or even adopt someone, but to abandon what she calls comfortable Christianity.

Prophets can be irritating and bristly. Prophet Jen’s words sometimes are like a wire brush rubbing old, cracked paint off a building. That’s not too comfortable! So I calculate the opposite of her usage of the word comfortable.

Being where I am stretched to the limit and enjoying it. We once called that being in the center of God’s will. Comfortable is adding value to people. I celebrate every tattoo that lady has because it gives her credibility with those God wants her to minister. I have no tattoo, don’t plan to and I know my voice among the bike crowd is weak and lacking. As long as she and her tribe are doing their work with the Harley group, I’m comfortable.

We were in a missional church months ago. The altar ministry song said, “Lord, whatever You are doing in this season, don’t do it without me.” Put me where I can be of most Kingdom value and most productive—I’m comfortable with that.

That’s the naked truth.

(c)2014 D. Dean Benton

Facebook: Benton Quest House


What a surprise to see a blooming weed growing under the overhang of the house. I found it wasn’t actually growing there. The bloom was attached to a root 12 feet away. That vegetation had grown straight up the open corner of vinyl siding in search of a better view and sunshine.

The very nature of plants is that they grow, blossom and climb.

About ten feet away from the root of that flowering weed is Carole’s mobile tomato patch. Our yard has a limited area where the sun is available for any length of time, so the lady planted her tomatoes in large pots and put them in a red wagon so she could put them where the sun was. The plants are growing vines, but the little tomatoes do not mature. They begin to rot from the bottom up before they ripen.

Nothing wants to climb more than a tomato plant. Unless you have found one, I can’t think of one use for a tomato vine. The purpose is to grow vegetables. Our plants are good at vines and blossoms. It is just the red tomato growing to maturity they fail at. If you are a gardener, you probably know why. We are not gardeners, so we don’t.

Maybe tomatoes were never meant to take it on the road. Could it be that the shaky wagon trips or changing neighborhoods damages the mechanism?

Are you a grower? Followers of Jesus grow because of their new nature. If we don’t, something is not right with the soil, the seed or environment. I know it preaches, but I also believe it to be true. We naturally will blossom and climb unless there is an impediment.

A friend asked if we were pulling off the “suckers.” Someone once told me to do that, but I forgot until Joel mentioned it. Oops.

What would “growth” look like? My knee-jerk response is to list something I’ve learned or a cognitive insight. I’m reading 6-8 books every day. Currently, I’m reading a book by a woman with tattoos, a loud laugh who wears cowboy boots and regularly assaults my soul with global challenges. I’m also reading a book by a refined lady who talks a lot about fruit and vegetables we seldom stock in our pantry or fridge. I’m reading marketers, film producers, personal coaches, marriage experts and Robert Benson’s book on the life of writing.

I’m learning about blogging, podcasting, writing dialogue, missional living while working my way through the Major Prophets in the Bible. But, growing? I’m not sure about that.

After hearing about Robin Williams’ death, I watched clips from Chonda Pierce’s DVD about her stay in “Rehab and Recovery” and her bouts with depression. (YouTube––Chonda+Pierce–depression&FORM=VIRE2#view=detail&mid=13F961B042AF9ABA679513F961B042AF9ABA6795 ) As always, I was moved by her description of “group” and her statement, “That’s what I’ve always expected or wanted the Church to be….”

I wondered if Mr. Williams was in “group.”

Group! Kind words, warm hugs, feet under the table, tough questions, verbalized high expectations and proud high fives. That produces!

(c)2014 D. Dean Benton


Yesterday afternoon, I stood in front of the TV listening to the horrible news from the Middle East. I didn’t recognize what was happening to me. It is not the first time I have experienced that kind of emotions. It was larger than anxiety. I was afraid. A feeling of hopelessness swamped me. “Nothing we can do—the viciousness, brutality, satantic slaughter….” All the words moved over me and into me. Maybe emotional paralysis?

The purpose of terrorists is to engender terror. The visual and word descriptions of what is happening in Iraq and what is intended in Israel can terrorize us.

In retrospect, the sense was that it came on the wind—more insidiously on the breeze. The terror, fear, hopelessness, not knowing what to do to protect loved ones (and me!) came in the air. It was like a substance in the air that attempted to smother me.

We spent a couple of hours last evening with a family who will return to the Middle East in a few days to study and work. They will be in the path of the extremists. I wanted to implore them to take a job closer to home where they have sanctuary while able to work with those to whom God has called them. I didn’t. They wouldn’t have listened.

On my mental split screen, I now have faces of those for whom I will pray to counter the masked faces. It is no longer just a news story from the part of the world where the butchery is generations old, I now know people who love the people on the 24-hour news channel.

My wife said a few minutes ago, “There are a lot of upset people this morning.”

Some of those upset friends are uniquely wired. Words I read this morning from Dr. Mark Chironna:

“…you don’t have the benefit of your completed biography to help you figure out what your potential really is. Instead you have to search it out…. When you don’t know what is inside you—the dreams, abilities…unique wiring for a specific kind of success—you cannot and will not grasp the loss that would be suffered by letting it go to waste.”

Live Your Dream, Dr. Mark Chironna, (Destiny Image Publishers, 2009)

If you are wired with a raw edge to depression or anxiety, you may also be gifted as a seer, a prophet or an intercessor. You see things coming before others do. You feel the wind changing. Sometimes it is depression, but other times it is a spiritual awareness that you have been given a heads-up: an alert that feels like anxiety.

Jeremiah is known as the Weeping Prophet. What he saw would make anyone cry. He did not have an emotional weakness. Out of what he saw and felt he preached and comforted.

There is evil on the wind in our small city. Shootings, violence, craziness. My friends who are so wired are feeling it at a level others do not. Scared, of course. But they are tuned in to the evil at a visceral level. The Holy Spirit will give to them, upon request, the Spiritual gift of discernment—a revelation (Jeremiah 33:3) of the spirit that is driving the evil behavior. With that knowledge should also come solutions, an alternative answer to what is happening. Diagnosis is not adequate. The Holy Spirit will also provide solutions and strategies.

“Bomb the hell out of ‘em,” is one option. Calling forth intercessors to pray into the environment the solutions and strategies revealed may be another. Reframe what you are feeling (What may feel like fear may be the sharpening of your spiritual sensors.) Listen for God’s instructions—no matter how crazy they may seem. Test the spirits—what you think you hear may indeed be crazy so run it past your spiritual director or wise friend.

If you are “sensing” in your raw spirit or there is an urging, find a place and time to get away to listen. Take a notepad. Expect God to speak.

  1. Quiet yourself.
  2. Focus on God.
  3. Present the question to Him—solutions & strategies—
  4. Listen for the first things that come to mind and heart.
  5. Write down what you hear.

There is danger. If you are given to a low estimation of yourself, depression, anxiety, panic, hopeless thinking, then isolating yourself and being alone for any period of time can be a wide open invitation for self-indulgence or spiritual attack. So, ask for prayer cover and don’t stay “away” very long. Tell your covenant life-team partner(s) what you are doing. They will pray for you and check on you. You are the watchmen on the wall.


D. Dean Benton

Benton Quest House—

Big and Shiny

If you have read my early books, you have heard stories about our bus and ministry vehicles. When Old Blue died in Florida, I had a vision of a replacement bus that had a red stripe down the sides. I believed God was going to provide that bus for us. It never happened and put me into a dark place.

A chapter in one of my books: “Anyone who owns a bus deserves it.” More than a few ministries desired a bus for all the right reasons and then had to work to pay for the bus and all their energy was spent on keeping it running.

I am obsessed with buses while at the same time very happy I’m not trying to make payments, buying fuel and spending time along a roadside waiting for a tow truck. I have recurring bus nightmares. A couple of years ago, I awakened to announce that I had “sold the bus.” We, in fact, got rid of Old Blue in 1977.

I love the TV series about high end RVs. I settle in with a bottle of tranquilizers and a square bottle of Kentucky bourbon to make it through the program. A ministry can spend upwards to a million dollars on a bus or RV to take them to a free offering. (I’m lying about the pills and booze, but not about the emotional reaction.)

A young man with a rich, rich Southern Gospel heritage is challenging my faith. His parents and the groups they built are among the most revered in Southern Gospel Music. That group worked in one of our churches a couple of times. They invited us to share some stages with them and from our earliest days were our models of harmony. The man is in his late 40’s or at 50.

He knows buses and knows the music business. He is currently walking out onto the faith frontier. It is familiar territory for him. He tells stories of his ministry family being given buses. He tells stories of giving buses to other groups. He is willing to give his current bus to the right group/ministry. Here is where I can pit out my shirts. Giving away, as in giving away equipment worth tens of thousands or hundreds of thousand dollars. Stated another way—he is sowing seeds in Kingdom ministries.

He and his wife have laid hands on a specific bus and claimed it for their ministry. He’s been doing the right things financially. He needs $10,000 more to drive it home.

The picture of that singer standing with his hand on the bus dredged up some severe memories. My wife won’t even talk to me about it. How many times we claimed a bus, motor home, scooter, and an assortment of vehicles to get our group, equipment and product to our commitments.

My faith is challenged in both positive and negative ways. The singer man says,

“I woke up today excited about what God is going to do today. Just about every day in the past 3 months, he has done something cool. I’ve learned to expect miracles. Having this bus would be one since it’s just out of my reach, and I think that is how God rolls.”

Have you heard about the Easter evening when The Hatmaker’s gave away their prize cowboy boots and walked home from church barefooted? This giving, or planting seeds into the Kingdom, is the way God rolls. “Claiming” things—that very word will curdle some people’s milk.

In her book Interrupted, Jen Hatmaker tells of being prepared to lay their new, expensive boots on the altar. It is the way God “rolls.”

Listen to Mark Batterson tell about one of their Washington, D.C. facilities. An evangelist had laid hands on the building decades before as he claimed it for Kingdom use when it was far from being a church or non-profit. Listen to mega-church pastor Robert Morris tell of emptying his family bank accounts several times to give to those whom God designated. His family gave their home(s) as well as 9 or 15 cars. We are reading Jen Hatmaker’s books because her family placed their new boots on an altar. There is a direct line from those gifted boots to the story. The Hatmaker’s HGTV program airs tonight.

I like the bus story. Big and shiny! A symbol of success for me in a challenging venture. But it raises serious questions that have kept me awake and troubled for three decades. Now, I’m questioning if my desire to join this venture is motivated by God.

I don’t know which excites me more. To watch someone venture out onto the frontier, listen to and watch people join the adventure or to personally participate in the faith adventure.

I’m being urged to lay my hands and “claim” something. I wish it were a bus. That would be fun. I am drawn to this “thing” and don’t know why. I don’t know what I would do with it if I got it. Claiming it seems imperative—for it is a link to the rest of the story. It seems to be the “way God rolls.”

Claiming—to intentionally focus on what it appears God wants you to do without the advantage of absolute clarity. This story makes me nervous and exhilarated at the same time. And you?

D. Dean Benton

Benton Quest House

Wrecked my Week

The last time I remember seeing my copy of Interrupted by Jen Hatmaker was at Dunkin’ Donuts. I thought I had lost it, but I may have just left it laying on the table and walked away. Ms. Hatmaker’s ideas ruined my cup of coffee, my weekend and, as it turns out, the book’s premise sucked all the words out of me for several days.

The publisher promised this edition had been revised and expanded. Not true! It is as painful as the first edition. No revision there!

It started to unravel when at a critical point in my self-evaluation I read a quote on page 71:

“…power, prestige and possessions are the three things that prevent us from recognizing and receiving the reign of God…. The only ones who can accept the proclamation of the reign are those who have nothing to protect, not their own self-image or their reputation, their possessions, their theology, their principles, or their certitudes. And these are called ‘the poor,’ anawim in Hebrew.” (Richard Rohr, Simplicity Crossroads, 2003).

Power, prestige and possessions.

I found the book—Interrupted—it had fallen (?) into my paper recycle box. Ms. Hatmaker needs to know that her book is not the only one I’m reading. One writer gave me an assignment for the weekend: BECOME REMARKABLE. Only remarkable brands and products are going to survive—only the remarkable will even get any one’s attention.

Another writer told me I must experience my “Awesome.” Another says we must “Wow” our customer at every encounter—make their experience with our product wow-full. We also need to capture attention in the midst of all the noise and clamor for attention. 3000 commercials a day screaming for our ear, time, money, allegiance.

Since I don’t have many or much of the three, I’m compelled to say that a person or company has to have a modicum of power, prestige and possessions to survive, surely to impact people with our message. How can we be remarkable and be downward mobile at the same time?

Hatmaker’s book sub-title is “When Jesus wrecks your comfortable Christianity.” I don’t know if it was Jesus and I don’t remember it being comfortable, but something has been wrecked.

I know and appreciate the point. Ironic, the people who have indicated to me the most interest in Interrupted are those who have had enough possessions to bless the Kingdom people and work. If we get rid of all our power, prestige and possessions, we have nothing to send to World Vision or Compassion, Inc or have enough power to defend those without. We have no forum or platform from which to proclaim the Good News with credibility.

P3 are gifts to be shared. They are not to be abused or tossed away carelessly, they are gifts and tools and provide options.

Okay, I’ve had my say. Jen Hatmaker says….

“The pursuit of ascension is crippling and has stunted my faith more than any other evil I’ve battled. It has saddled me with so much to defend, and it doesn’t deliver. I need more and more of what doesn’t work. I’m insatiable, and ironically, the more I accumulate, the less I enjoy any of it. Instead of satisfaction, it produces toxic fear in me; I’m always one slip away from losing it all.”

“The path of descent becomes our own liberation. We are no longer compelled to be right and are thus relieved from the burden…. We are released from the idols of greed, control and status.” (p 72-73 NavPress, 2014)

Now that I’ve found the book, I suppose I’ll finish it and let Jesus do His work in me. He is not trying to wreck my life; He is trying to clear space for that which is richer, fuller, deeper.

D. Dean Benton

Benton Quest House

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