Monthly Archives: September 2014

Success at Life

I watched a movie about Sam Houston starring Sam Elliott. A couple things were obvious. The real Sam Houston looks nothing like Sam Elliott and I’m not sure Elliott’s movie ‘stache is real. This movie underplayed Houston’s drinking and womanizing. Houston’s first marriage ended, according to the raw history, due to his drinking and infidelity. The movie says that the woman was in love with another man and never loved Houston. According to the version I watched, the marriage was never consummated and Houston released his wife, resigned his office in Tennessee and went to Texas a broken man.

Houston rebounded to become a major political force. His leadership defeated Santa Anna the Mexican “Napoleon of the West” and secured an independent Texas. Sam Houston was a war hero. He was twice elected president of the republic of Texas, served as United States Senator when Texas became a state and then voted in as governor twice. He refused to sign documents about allowing slavery in non-slave states. His integrity and concern for freedom caused his removal as governor. He remarried and was revered in Texas.

My attention was drifting at the end of the movie when the voice-over summed up Houston’s life after the battle at San Jacinto. The last phrase—that I heard—was that Houston died considering his life a failure.

Wait a minute. Back up the track. A failure? What did he want to accomplish that would have validated his life? And you? I have a header at the top of each page of my journal:

“A well designed life lived intentionally.”

©2014 D. Dean Benton

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Greatness Displayed

Doyle Dykes is a guitar picker. He plays the Opry and churches and designs guitars. He is a serious Follower. I am being fed by his playing and his book The Lights of Marfa, (Moody 2010). Doyle worked with the Stamps Quartet for a short time, and was invited to play with the Elvis show. He is a Church of God (Cleveland, Tennessee) guy. He worked with Chet Atkins and every top drawer guitar picker known to man.

He was scheduled to play at the Grand Ole Opry as a soloist. There was a buzz in Nashville about his playing and many musicians were attending to hear him. He prayed with daughters just before he went on stage:

“We ask you to fill the House with Your Presence tonight with my guitar. I ask You to minister to Your people.”

He told the crowd, “I found out that if I minister to Him, He’ll minister to His people.”

Everything seemed normal as he began to play, but going into the second verse of How Great Thou Art everything fell apart. He had restrung his guitar that afternoon and installed a new pickup system.

Mr. Dykes says it was the worst thing that had ever happened to him. He was totally embarrassed and devastated. He knew he would never play the Opry again. He just wanted to escape. (I know that feeling and it is terrible—regardless the size of crowd.)

When he finished, Billy Walker came out and hugged him and said to the crowd, “Have you ever heard anything like that?” Doyle wanted to apologize that it had to come from him. Dykes just knew they were feeling sorry for him and trying to make it better for him. Then Bob Whittaker, the Opry Manager took him by the arm and led him back out on stage—center of the spotlite—and asked for another applause for the picker. When he got off stage on the verge of total humiliation, Jeannie Seely grabbed him and with tears told him how his playing had touched her.

When he escaped to the van, his daughters were exclaiming, “Wow Dad, that’s the best you’ve ever done.” Then his wife told him what she had experienced. His daughter said, “Dad, He did what we asked Him to do…He filled the House with His Presence.”

“Then it hit me…. I was so completely engulfed in my own self-motivation and self-promotion, I missed the whole event! None of this was about me. God showed up and people responded.”

Doyle said he examined the guitar and the strings were not installed correctly. He did not sleep well. He needed an answer to what had happened at the Opry. The family had a church concert the next morning. As he drove to church, he said, “Lord, nothing like this has ever happened to me before…if you’re trying to tell me something, I’m listening.”

The picker says “I don’t use the phase very often that ‘God spoke to me,’ but that morning, without a doubt—He did!” He played “How Great Thou Art.” God said to him:

“Son…My greatness…Does Not Depend…on YOURS!”


Missed a Step

You know what it feels like to step off a step onto a step you didn’t know was there or to miss a step. Thankful that you didn’t fall, you are jarred by the unexpected and abrupt. It feels like your whole body is stunned.

I’ve been jarred during the last couple of days. No “omg” exclamations. More like moaning moments—just walking around and moaning in hurt, sorrow, wondering how do I fix that?

The easy one first. Someone is going to have to crawl out on the porch roof and wash my office windows. Why didn’t I think of that when I installed that bay window? I can hang on or I can wash.

I was reading about Jesus’ temptation. Satan offers Jesus all the nations of the world. All their glory and power. He had acquired them when Adam and Eve handed them to him. Now he was willing to give them all back to Jesus. All Jesus had to do is bow and worship him. Here is what jarred me:

“Ever wonder how important worship is? Ask satan.”

(Jesus: A Theography, Leonard Sweet, Frank Viola, Thomas Nelson 2012).

When? I was confronted! When in the recent times have I worshiped at the level where nations were involved? What kind of worship elements would shift world power centers or power centers within me?

It gets even more personal. I have seen people so moved by the holiness of God or their own need that they walked to the altar when no altar call was issued. I’ve seen them kneel at the pew to worship or confess. When was the last time I was in a “worship service” when that response was even remotely called for? If worship is that powerful, how does the worship leader, lead? What is the worship environment?


I’m reading “Bittersweet” by Shauna Niequist.(Zondervan 2010). It is kind of a frilly book with lots of talk about girl things except when she lobs a grenade into my heart. Like yesterday:

“This year, we understand that staying married is indeed an accomplishment, and that staying married well—connected and intimate and giving—sometimes requires every last thing we have to give.”

“Staying married well.” Catchy phrase. Caught me by the throat. Missed that step! Jarred!

My morning reading moves from something light and moves to heavy as if I need to give my soul a few warm up pitches before facing the .400 hitters.

I’ve been reading Father Fiction by Donald Miller, (Howard Books, 2010). It was first published with the title, To Own A Dragon. The sub-title is, “Chapters for a fatherless generation.” Miller writes about growing up without a resident father, in fact he didn’t know his father was alive until age 30.

I talk to people frequently whose family has no daily connection with a genuine father figure. A family bush with no connective tissue to men. I hear and see large damage as well as little things that determine life trajectory. On pages 70-71 Miller captures some things that explain a lot. Jarred! I grabbed for a railing.

“I felt there was a club of men I didn’t belong to.”

“I felt as though all the men in the world secretly met in some warehouse late at night to talk about man things, to have secret handshakes….”

“And then…at the end of the meeting, they gathered around and reminded each other that under no circumstances was anybody to tell me about these things.”

If I ruled the world—or even had a warehouse—we would gather to talk about the secret handshakes.


OMG! (A moaning prayer)

 ©2014 D. Dean Benton

Benton Quest House—

Drive-by discernment

In 1973, we moved out of a parsonage into a bus to work full time in concerts and conferences. We owned a bread truck (with our logo emblazoned on the sides) which we stuffed full of things, we rented a storage unit, gave away some things including an upright piano. I can’t remember where we got it. No room in the bus! We gave it to a family with then young children. That husband and wife later established a church and then built a church building where 200-400 people gathered to worship.

We received a letter today about the piano. Since the five “little ones” now have little ones of their own—in college, involved in ministries—the family has no need for the piano that sat in their house since October 1973. Yikes! You do the math.

“…we just walked ‘your’ piano (the one our five kids took lessons on…) to the curb. During evening and late afternoon, we watched as people came by, tinkering with, playing on and gazing on this lovely piece of history. One lady came by and sat down and played a tune, stopped and talked, relating earlier piano times of her own, wishing she could ‘just take it.’ We replied ‘Of course you can.’ A young man driving by, pulled into the drive, flung open the door and began to play. He too wishing he could take home ‘such a grand instrument.’ He said he ‘hoped to find a way of getting it home.’ Pure excitement and wonder from a twenty-something.

“None the less, the evening wore on and the night came. No one had come to escort the ‘grand dame’ home for keeps. The morning came. I was sure I’d see her at the curb still waiting for someone. Thru the dim of the morning, I thought I saw her still standing in all her dignified manner. Not so! She was gone to a good home, I presume.”

As I remember the piano, it was not “dignified” when we owned it. Add four decades. It was played by a couple of Gospel Music’s finest pianists and a songwriter or two when they visited our home. Carole, Joyce and I rehearsed for hours around that piano. We were glad to have that family want and then use it for what became ministry gifts.

The writer of this letter has a dramatic flair. Jen Hatmaker’s parenting style is familiar to us because Camille came from the same training ground. Permit me self-indulgence and space to celebrate God’s work as the letter continues:

“Your legacy still lives on. All the music, words of joy to match, live on. The music does live on. The ripple of hope is still alive in the hearts of so many. We will never know how many ‘til “The Gate”. We give God the glory and thank you.”

As I remember, it was an old-style, black, upright piano which weighed a ton. I don’t recall it possessing any inherent spirit of grandness or dame-ness when we had it. It spent many more years in our friends’ home than ours. At the same time I do not doubt that those people who stopped to play it were attracted to “something about it” which was imparted by the family in whose home it soaked up atmosphere and listened to the conversations.

Forty-one years—if I did the math correctly. What inanimate object has lived in your house for four decades? Think of the conversations it has heard, atmosphere that has soaked in—spirit (not Spirit) it exudes to traffic on the street.

I hope that piano can still hold tune and that it will bless its new home with the best it has absorbed.

©2014 D. Dean Benton

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He Leads Me

Molly is a family hand-me-down dog. Carole’s sister Joyce inherited Molly who is a mix of Cocker and Llaso Apso. She has been in the family for 8-10 years. She likes to visit Carole, likes cauliflower and Mac-N-Cheese. She thinks we should understand her muttering, whining and barking. She likes to be with me in my office, likes to sleep with us, and watches Animal Planet—she barks at dogs and cats on TV. I think she can smell them.

Joyce did research on taking Molly for a walk:

“I learned something about walking the dog in my research today. I thought I was being nice to her by letting her set the pace and somewhat the route. Letting her stop to sniff and investigate, etc. But dogs are happiest when the walk serves one purpose. That is to relax. That can only happen if the human leads the pack. When a dog takes the lead and walks ahead, they assume the role of pack leader and therefore the responsibility of decision making and leadership. They become stimulated and aware of everything around them and react to it. To truly relax and use the walk as exercise and stress reliever they need to be relieved of that responsibility. Take the thinking and reacting out of their control and they are much more content to just enjoy the outing. Mental stimulation and dog park play are important…but not appropriate or beneficial on a walk. Today I consciously kept her lead short and kept her by my side. She seemed to “get” it and quit trying to pull me along pretty quickly. Hope it wasn’t a fluke. She came in the house and seemed quite content. What I read said that if they return home all excited and rowdy you haven’t accomplished the purpose of a good exercise/de-stressing doggy walk.”

Does this shed light on “He leads me beside still waters”…(Psalm 23)?

©2014 D. Dean Benton