Monthly Archives: October 2014

Good Vibes

The thought is outrageous. Craig McConnell, associate of John Eldredge, was on the Ransomed Heart podcast talking about “What brings you life?” He was asked how he finds the answer. The first way, he suggests, is to ask God—this is so outrageous—ask God what He created you to do with Him. What does God want you to do so He (God) can enjoy doing it with you?

Going to the coffee shop could be God’s idea to bring me “life”? I seldom go to a coffee shop to drink the coffee. I have a full drawer with a dozen coffee flavors and Carole keeps bringing home bargain coffee that through some miracle she will like. No, darlin’ that is the way coffee tastes and only through my bartending skills, I produce an interesting coffee flavor—on a good day.

I go to coffee shops or bagel stores to experience God as I pray, sort out His plans or in an effort to hear from Him. I don’t always get it straight—but Jesus seems to show up in certain places—and for me it is a coffee shop or specific parking lots or on the river front. Recently, I’ve been drawn to a gravel road overlooking a flood plain.

“When the ‘constellation’ of vibrating energies between two people move toward one another—in all their juxtapositions and oppositions—and those vibrations are in sympathy with each other, we say two people are ‘on the same wavelength,’ or they ‘make beautiful music together’ or ‘give off good vibes.’ (Leonard Sweet A Cup of Coffee At The Soulcafe,  B&H Publishers, 1998)

Some go for a run. Some work with clay. God apparently likes to ride Harley bikes with some of my friends. What does God want you to do today that He can enjoy doing it with you?

Lord, what do you want to do with me today? What can we do together that will cause the vibes between us become sympathetic?

©2014 D. Dean Benton http://www.bentonministries.com/

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Standing in front of the dryer

One of my favorite teenagers asked, “Mom, do you ever stand in front of the dryer and want to just cry because you can’t find clean jammies?” The momma said there were two pairs of clean jammies but the girl couldn’t find them because she was in overwhelm mode.

Apostle Paul writes in Galatians 6:9—“Do not grow weary in well-doing for we shall reap if we faint not.” He repeats that admonition in 2 Thessalonians 3:11-13. He engages in circular arguing—it is the “fainting” that we are concerned about. It sounds like the gnarly, tough traveler holds out the reward—“not fainting” a surety if we just don’t faint.

I’ve been standing in front of the dryer in recent days. Some of my friends and family are tired—just flat worn out in the struggle. Can’t find the jammies. Overwhelm mode is the new normal—at least for now.

It is common knowledge that the only way to get out of writer’s block is to write. If a writer is interested in writing out of a deep well, then it is important to read and listen and interact to keep the well filling. Some of the best communication comes when our well is low. Watchman Nee says that we are touched spirit to spirit and then only when our spirit is broken. But it is in the diligence of filling the well that makes the trickle refreshing to someone.

The Tuesday segment of our tribe talked briefly about the toxins that wear us down and the ways and means to deal with the wearies. I wasn’t finished listening or talking about that this morning as I stood in front of the dryer. One of my morning voices asked, “What brings you life?” For me, it is a combination of words, music, interaction. So I put Cynthia Clawson on Spotify.com to be background music to my work. Cynthia Clawson is not elevator music! So two hours later, I was deep into her message and music and feeling warmed by the sounds.

I am taken by the person and artistry of Cynthia Clawson. She hits notes right in the middle and sells a song in a natural and alluring way. She pulls the listener in. Just watch and listen to her on youtube (http://wn.com/it_won’t_rain_always_by_cynthia_clawson/)

I like to watch the people in the singer’s circle at the Gaither Videos. Magic and secrets are sometimes captured as they listen. That is especially true when Ms. Clawson sings “It Won’t Rain Always.” The listeners are veterans (tough audience!) and they are listening to precision and hearing sounds and phrases that are not only on perfect pitch, but credible. After you listen, go to “Cynthia Clawson interviews.” It will give you a clue where the “credible” comes from.

What brings you life? To what source do you go when you are weary—not to the bone—but to the soul? Today, I put on spotify.com and let it play through Cynthia’s album “River of Memories.” Tribe members gave me gifts of written words and conversation. They are soul tenders.

Guard your heart—Tend your soul today.

©2014 D. Dean Benton, http//:bentonministries.com/

Dear Boys and Girls

Hello Fellow Penguins

Do you ever pull back the drapes in the morning to see just how crazy the world has become? I’ve gotten into the habit of awakening at 3:00 to 3:30 to turn on the news just to see what has happened while I was asleep. I don’t pretend to have many answers, but I’m concerned about my growing pile of questions.

I keep thinking someone needs to plead, “No one strike a match. This powder keg could go up….” I have generally felt that people smarter than me were making the decisions—people who had more information. A secret memo. A report from the CIA or Navy Seals.

What rational information led to the decision to refrain from calling boys and girls by those words? Purple penguins is better? Do the deciders know the role distinctions of penguins? I am absolutely committed to justice for all regardless of preferences, but refusal to acknowledge distinctions—I was not diminished by being referred to as a boy. I don’t think! Perhaps you would know more about that than me. However, to be called a penguin in a serious tone might be damaging.

I’m not going to add any light to this crazy discussion. It feels like our culture has slipped off the tracks—our world has slipped off the axis. I keep asking, “Whose idea was that?”

Three hours before dawn yesterday, I was loading up after our weekend getting ready to drive home. I heard what sounded like shotgun blast one block over. My immediate response was, “Someone just died.” A few minutes later, the sirens were headed our direction. My day was filled with a question I have no way of knowing: What part of life had slipped off the rail for whom that a shotgun seemed to be the only solution?

I was sensitized. I had awakened from a dream in which I was talking to a friend to reconsider ending her life.

A friend attends AA meeting as a participant and volunteer. It is a concern for him that so many addicts blame God for their addictions and dismiss Him as a healing, saving factor. A component of the Millennial Generation is that “God is not even on my radar. I’m not mad at him or blame him, he just doesn’t factor into my life.” The meeting my friend attends is using the book The Shack as a stimulant to deal with their perception of God. I asked him why he believes that God wants him to be involved in those meetings.

“I think he wants me to love the individuals involved, to be available as a gentle conduit. To show up where seeking is going on….”

I can think of nothing more engaging or stimulating than “to show up where seeking is going on.” Who knew that the person who wielded the shotgun was “seeking?” Or had given up seeking?

I’m hearing Henry Blackaby’s phrase: “Find where God is working and join Him.” Where is that in your world?  It is where people have run out of hiding places. It is where people are asking questions. Jesus gives us some clues—“…like sheep without a shepherd—knocked down, worn out, wandering about….”

Fellow penguins—fellow pilgrims—“Showing up where seeking is going on.”

©2014—D. Dean Benton—http://bentonministries.com/

When Presidents Talk to Each Other

Sometime in the past 25 years, probably after an election cycle, I wondered out loud why former presidents seemed to go into exile and all their experience was wasted. I now know the former presidents do interact—at least most of them do. The President’s Club is a New York Times Bestseller about “The World’s Most Exclusive Fraternity.” Nancy Gibbs and Michael Duffy, (Simon & Schuster 2012).

I’m seven pages in and have a dozen quotes already.

On the night of Kennedy’s murder, LBJ said to Dwight Eisenhower, “I need you more than ever now.” The former president drove to Washington, “came to the Oval Office, and wrote out on a legal pad what he thought Johnson should say to an emergency joint session of Congress.”

There is a brownstone across the street from the White House used for meetings of former presidents and their families.

Richard Nixon said to Ronald Reagan on Reagan’s election in 1980:

“President Eisenhower said to me when I visited him at Walter Reed Hospital after the election of 1968, ‘I am yours to command.’ Nixon told Reagan, ‘I now say the same to you.’”

Bill Clinton speaks of himself as one of the Bush family, albeit the black sheep. The affection between the two Bush presidents and Mr. Clinton has been good for America and the world’s poor and hurting.

In a great interview last week, President George W. was talking about the interaction among the former presidents and was asked if President Obama ever called him. The answer was predictable—at least I wasn’t surprised.

There is something mighty and powerful in the words, “I am yours to command.”

I heard personal instructions this morning as I read an Internet journal. Franklin Graham said interceding for President Obama is now imperative. After reading words of Leon Panetta today that his former boss has lost his way, I feel compelled to pray for the president and invite you to join me.

©2014 D. Dean Benton—http://www.bentonministries.com Facebook pages:  Benton Quest House and Dean Benton

I was looking through Mosquito Park Secrets for a quote and concluded that I would like that book even I hadn’t written it. Check it out on our website.

Trimming Trees

The trees that have provided such great shade for the lawn and our house became a problem with limbs hanging on the roof of the house and the garage, We called a tree trimmer friend who gave our trees a Marine cut. We can now see the street. I watched him study the trees before and during the trimming. Before each cut, he examined how each branch intertwined and interacted. Fascinating. A true craftsman.

Two of our trees belong to the city. One was threatening a porch roof and the other is just plain ugly. The ugly one, I was told, has a couple more years of life. It is a river birch and is not pretty. Trimming made it look like Charlie Brown’s Christmas tree. Pathetic! It was battered by an ice storm 7 years ago and we thought it would not survive. I have enjoyed watching it regain strength and stature, if not beauty. I think that tree wanted to build an arch over the street like they have in Louisiana.

The forester wanted me to learn about trees, so he pointed out that the tree on the front parking needs pruning each year. The branches were cross-wise and woven together. He said, “You see those two small branches close together? They will never grow healthy because they have no room to grow. That tree needs to be kept thinned in the middle to give the tree growing room.

I noticed most of the interior branches were stunted or dead. I’m not inviting you to come visit our forest—not very pretty, but it will be. Nottingham.

I watched a conversation between Michael Hyatt and Jon Acuff after watching the tree trimming. The forester’s words about giving limbs room to grow really impacted me. Acuff’s words talked about the business and personal applications of pruning and growth.

I’m reading a book about the power of habit. It describes how Tony Dungy turned losing NFL teams into winners, and how AA works and what makes products sell. There is a chapter about the making of Michael Phelps into an Olympic winner.

I ran across a paragraph and one line the other day that were so rich. The chapter is about how tough it is at West Point and how one man succeeded:

“I found this group of guys…we started this thing where every morning, we get together to make sure everyone is feeling strong.”

Giving the tree room to grow. Small groups, mentors, friends who question you and hug you. Tribe building.

Interaction—the New Testament calls it koinonia—street-level fellowship. Wow, what an asset.

©2014 D. Dean Benton, bentonministries.com/

The Benton Quest House—Building the I’m Possible Life

Starbucks–America’s Educator

One paragraph in the book Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg (Ransom House, 2012) stirs fire in me.

“…Starbucks—like a handful of other companies—has succeeded in teaching the kind of life skills that schools, families and communities have failed to provide. With more than 137,000 current employees and more than one million alumni, Starbucks is now, in a sense, one of the nation’s largest educators.” (page 130)

I have not seen the curriculum, but it sounds like Emotional Quotient (EQ) is at the core. They are teaching essential competencies: Self-awareness, Self-motivation, Self-control. Duhigg says, “…willpower is the single most important keystone habit for individual success.” Starbucks teaches willpower as a habit.

I am a capitalist. The fact that Starbucks (and other companies) is providing those benefits pleases me. I have said for a long time that I wanted to pastor a church where the unchurched would choose to attend because they were benefitting in their careers, marriages and life skills even if they did not presently buy into the being saved part of the Good News being preaching. A cup of water in His Name sometimes looks like teaching life skills.

Starbucks is doing what the family and church should be doing. I understand why the fragmented, dysfunctional family isn’t getting the job done. I suspect that any church that captures this vision will be both attractive and sticky—people are going to attend and they will stay. It is the catalyst to a movement that Millennials will join.

I would like to talk with you about—The Power of Habit.  I encourage leaders to read it.

©2014 D. Dean Benton

http://www.bentonministries.com

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