Monthly Archives: November 2014

That’s It!

A waiting room is a great opportunity to people watch. I wonder things that I have no way of knowing. Some unique people. An interesting fellow in a 3-piece suit sitting next to a man in Carhartt coveralls, cap on backwards. So, I watch and wonder.

I took the book, Live Your Dream—Planning for Success, by Dr. Mark Chironna to read while waiting, watching and wondering. Chironna writes,

“There is encoded within you something powerful, something no one else has, and it is stirring within your heart. You are simmering with potential and it is poised to collide with opportunity. The energy released by that auspicious impact will create exciting new paradigms and propel you toward your destiny.

“Somewhere inside, you can already feel it.” (Destiny Image Publishers, ©2009, page 17.)

How about you? Do you believe that you are on the earth at this time for a specific, unique purpose? Are those words valid only at high school graduations or are they still operative for those of us in the Second Half?

Two of my high school classmates died last week. I was not close to either one, but they were in my larger “gang.” We had contact at a reunion and not much more than that since high school. I am grieving. Perhaps I am grieving part of my life that is diminishing? Odd! Their passing seemed to leave a hole in my world. I wasn’t going to mention this—just do it alone, but another classmate Facebooked me in case I hadn’t heard. The grieving is real.

I have been wondering if those two classmates felt as if they had fulfilled their purpose. Did they believe they were unique and alive for a specific reason? As I was thinking about them, I remembered the words of Dr. Laura Schlessinger who states her purpose: “I am my kid’s mom!”

Myles Munroe wrote:

“Authority is the Author’s permission for you to be what He designed you to be. You not only have permission, but also the commission and the power to fulfill your purpose.”  Myles Munroe

(p. 87 The Purpose and Power of Authority. Whitaker House, 2011)

“…permission and commission and the power to fulfill your purpose.”

I’m thinking that discussion of destiny and fulfilled purpose depends upon a belief that we are here at this time in history for a specific reason to accomplish a specific task and to be a specific person.

I’ve been wrestling for several months with the closing chapters of my book, Caught in the Tail Lights. I’m really fascinated with the story. Slowly, it has become clear to me that we need a purpose, calling, clearly defined destiny. One of the dynamic spots in the book is when Tim is walking across the prayer path on the crest of a hill sorting through the dilemma of his parents’ failing marriage and what has been revealed to him and what becomes obvious that God is trying to tell him. Tim comes to a conclusion about what he is to do with his life:

That’s It!

Near the end of the movie “Heaven is Real” the father of a little boy named Colton, who was given a view of Heaven, is looking at a CNN news report concerning a young girl in Europe who was given a similar experience and painted what she saw. CNN showed the first of her paintings. As the picture came on screen, Colton stepped up behind his dad, saw the picture, and said,

That’s Him!

It is the two requirements. To recognize and commit our self to the “It” God has given to us and to recognize Him.

So, I’m thinking about that waiting room of several dozen people. If a fulfilled life depends on those two elements, shouldn’t there be a time when I put my book down, stand up and say, “May I have your attention, please. I have something I must tell you.”

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

  Writer, Wonderer, Quester, Provoker

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Cranberries and adrenaline

One of my creative friends and ministry teams is finishing a tour that has sounded exciting, fulfilling and tiring to me. While listening to some of the debriefing, I was reminded of a lady in a blue polka dot dress we met in west Texas. She talked about her nagging depression—not clinical or requiring meds, just feeling empty, tired, teary and a list of aches and dissatisfactions. Of course I asked her the typical, “How long have you been feeling this way,” and “When did it begin?” She knew the answers: “The day after my son’s wedding.”

This is known as “post-event let down.” Predictable. It is a positive element of depression which tells us we need to recoup physical, spiritual, emotional, and/or relational energy. It is a dashboard warning light. The body does not differentiate between stress from good sources or negative.

My team calls this “The Mondays.” Any time we crank up for, or work toward, or look forward to an event, when that event or time is over there is a natural let-down. No matter how productive the weekend, I feel drained. When we were pastoring, Monday was a diagnosis. A weekend retreat or conference or a series of concerts and seminars often left us gasping for strength after the adrenaline and spiritual high began to dissipate. Usually one of us says, “I don’t want to talk to anyone!—not one more person.”

If you “leave it all on the court,” you will need to recoup for the next engagement or to bring your self into healthy homeostasis—balance. We attempt to take “The Mondays” seriously because our nerves are raw and the slightest provocation can set us into battle with each other or self.

In my healthy times, I follow a plan:

  1. Take the post-event seriously.
  2. Determine what we need. If you need laughter or a nap, a prayer meeting will not be totally adequate. Determining what you need requires self-questioning and attunement to the Holy Spirit. I have taken a nap when it would have been better to go for a run. I have holed up in my office when I should have invited someone to have coffee and conversation or hung out with my wife. I have hung out with my wife when it would have been better for both of us had I taken a day trip to Walgreens.
  3. Having determined what you think will recharge your batteries, giving yourself permission and time is important. Plot calendar or clock time to invest in your recovery.

I’m bringing this up because we are entering the season that can suck a person dry—the holidays. This is not your first rodeo or holiday season. Therefore, ask yourself what the holidays usually do to you. What will you feel on Monday, Dec 1? What will refill your soul? Refresh your emotions? Rejuvenate your body? God the Creator talks about the seventh day being a Sabbath. God the excellent HR person says to calendarize about one-seventh of your time for Recovery—rest, recreation, rejuvenation, recouping.

Happy Thanksgiving.  Carole and I intentionally give thanks for you and ask God’s blessing on your family, endeavors and challenges.

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

Writer, Wonderer, Quester, Provoker

Tea, Anyone?

Today’s Des Moines Register’s front page story headline: REBUILDING YOUNKERS.

When I was growing up in Des Moines, Younkers was the place. It was a department store. The ultimate place for clothing, dry goods, furnishings, window dressings—and about everything else upscale.

It was the landmark. If you wanted to catch a bus to the Southside, you stood at the bus stop on 7th and Locust or Walnut. The huge Younkers’ windows were on the corner of 7th & Walnut which attracted massive crowds this time of year with their Christmas display of moving trains, mobiles and sometimes real people.

Between my sister Phyllis and my wife Carole we had a child every year for five years. Carole and I were babysitting Jeff, Jill and Rob. One of us must have had a lapse of sanity. We decided to go downtown Des Moines. I cannot think of one good reason to do that. Maybe Younkers had a live animal thing going on in their windows.

There we were in front of Younkers—a person almost had to have an American Express Platinum Card to even stand there. Get the picture. Phyllis’ three, our two and Carole was carrying some unknown kid in her arms. A lady stopped in front of us, counted the kids—all pre-schoolers, looked at Carole with a sympathetic look and then looked at me, shook her head and said something like, “You’re disgusting.”

Younkers expanded. We have one in our town. Younkers began in 1856 in Keokuk, Iowa. The company purchased and was purchased by Saks, Brandeis, H. C. Prange, Carson Pirie Scott, Proffitts and today is operated by Bon-Ton Stores.

Younkers has been devastated by fires. In 1978 the anchor store at Iowa’s first indoor mall was destroyed by fire in which eleven lives were lost. In March of this year the infamous downtown store mysteriously was destroyed by fire.

Ask any native Des Moines resident of a certain age their memory of the downtown Younkers store and undoubtedly they will mention The Tea Room. It was Class! Women wore white gloves to eat lunch there. I recall eating their trademark sandwich which you had to have graduated from cuisine class to even order it. Pinky fingers had to be held at a certain angle when eating.

The headline announced today that the Younkers’ building will be rebuilt, renamed and will house condos. The secondary headline is that the Tea Room will also be rebuilt. I was sitting in McDonalds reading the newspaper. Ironic. Nothing is so far removed from the way people eat and the restaurants we frequent than thinking about The Younkers’ Tea Room while eating at McDonalds. (Actually, I was drinking a White Chocolate Latte with an extended pinky—the cup was sticky!)

Will white gloves be required? The first Iowa escalator was built in Younkers. I remember the elevators were operated by a live person who announced the “Mezzanine.”

Who eats at a “Tea Room,” these days? I wonder if any of that stair-step tribe that was with us that day on 7th and Walnut has ever been to a Tea Room. Most of them (I don’t know about the baby in Carole’s arms.) are fairly sophisticated and have visited some upper crust places around the world.

I am overwhelmed today by the different world we live in as contrasted to the world we encountered when going to the Younker Tea Room was a big deal. I don’t shop often at Younkers. Yesterday, as I was checking out at Wal-Mart (!) I had time to read the magazines. If I never have to think through the current Bruce Jenner crisis again, it will be soon enough. Does anyone remember that he graduated from an Iowa Christian college? If we never have to discuss a Kardashian self-exposure or try to explain to children why  a centerfold is on a magazine cover or why guys wear their jeans around their knees in -40o wind chill, maybe…. Get a grip, Dean! You’re edging toward sarcasm and crudeness. Too late!

I wonder if I will ever again listen to a President speak to the nation and not think how disgustingly cynical it sounds? And how facts have been adapted to fit personal political plans?  Where is John Quincy Adams when we need him? He may have been strange, but his integrity and servant’s heart were admirable. I have been vacillating between who on the prospective nominee list comes close to integrity, godliness, wisdom and have enough street smarts on one hand and wondering if there will be a nation in place to bother to have a presidential vote in ‘16.

I have gone from OMG! To “Oh, my God, how do we get 2 Chronicles 7:14 right?”

Tea, anyone?

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

Writer, wonderer, quester

God, Did I do good?

Max Lucado and Tim Keller have published new books on prayer that people are talking about. Proverbs 39 Ministries has almost 40,000 people worldwide signed up to study Max’s book online. No matter what else we talk about, our life group tends to ask questions about prayer and find a way to do it better. We’ve really ridden the horse hard—what are we not doing right? We also want to pray the “effectual, fervent prayer of a righteous person.”

After our heavy-duty conversation following a webinar by Max Lucado, we got a FB message from former ministry colleagues and permanent friends. They told us about their four-year old daughter and her concern about prayer.

“Landrie said she needs to go up in the sky to talk to God. I told her God can always hear you. She then said, ‘But he doesn’t say, ‘What Landrie?’ when I say his name.’ After trying to explain it the best I could, I finally just asked what did you need to tell him. She said, ‘I need to tell God that I got to be the leader at dance today.'”

Concern about prayer is covered pretty well for all of us by Landrie.

“But he doesn’t say, ‘What Landrie?’ when I say his name.”

Does God know my name? Does He care when I speak His? Is this a one or two-way conversation?

“I need to tell God that I got to be the leader at dance today.”

I don’t know how God will do it, but I want Him to whisper into that little girl’s heart: “I like the way you dance and you did a great job leading.”

I’ve never been selected to be leader at dance, but I’m smart enough to know how important it is to know that God takes pleasure in something that I do—He pays attention and sometimes says so His inner circle can hear, “Did you see that?”

Thanks Landrie for your wonderful dance and teaching us about prayer.

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

Bookcases, Lamps and Destinies

Writer Robert Benson tells a story that has grown important to me. When his paternal grandmother died, she left him “a set of three waist-high pine bookshelves my grandfather built for the last little house the two of them lived in together. A fine gift, from him to her, and from her to me.”

If I’m thinking correctly, that carpenter was music publisher John T. Benson. My family became emotionally connected to the Benson family through the music they published, the recordings they produced and the stories Bob Benson told. Some of the stories were about his son Robert, whose grown up stories we treasure.

When Bob and Peggy’s family was growing, Bob’s study was converted into a bedroom for Robert. Robert said his father left his book collection in that room. Robert read the books his father brought home and stored close to Robert’s bed.

“I still keep a small lamp lit in the central hallway of the little house where I live. It sits on the top of the shelves my grandfather built, shelves that are crammed three deep with books. But the light of the lamp illuminates a single row of books held in place between two rectangular marble bookends. The row contains a selection of my favorite books by my favorite writers, some of which are from my father’s collections. The lamp stays lit all day and all night.”

Later in the chapter entitled “Under the Influence” from Robert’s book, Dancing on the Head of a Pen, (WaterBrook, 2014) Robert says of the influential books, “I keep them under the lamp in the hallway so I can find them when I am in the dark.”

Give me a minute to catch my breath!

How fortunate that a person can point to the person(s) who taught him or her and to keep one’s self reminded of that source. I have imagined what that hallway looks like and the spotlight. In contrast, I am confronted with friends who have reams of negatives upon which they have built dysfunctional lives based on crooked words.

In recent days, I have wanted to ask those friends, “Where did you get such a crazy idea? Who told you those lies? Who made you feel that you are not enough or are shy one innate capability to accomplish your dreams or to be competent and sufficient? Why did you believe them?”

The Gospel of Jesus is the antidote to the darkness. How dynamic and relevant Psalm 103—“He forgives all my sin and heals all my diseases.” Iniquities are to be broken and healed. They are the destructive bent within that we have received through family influence or words we chose to agree with—lies that become structural beams. The family of God has tools to replace the corrupt beams and straighten the trajectory.

“The light stays lit all day and all night.”

©2014 D. Dean Benton—bentonministries.com.

Anger at Wasted Life

A funeral for a 47-year-old friend on Saturday. News this morning of the private airplane crash killing Dr. Myles Munroe. Munroe has such a huge impact on my thinking. One or more of his books are usually on my current reading stack, and have been since 1995.

Yesterday’s Psalm in my Scripture reading plan says,

“Show me, O LORD, my life’s end and the number of my days; let me know how fleeting is my life. You’ve made my days a mere handbreadth, the span of my years is as nothing before you. Each man’s life is but a breath” (Psalm 39).

After the funeral on Saturday, pervasive sadness moved into my soul. My friend treated something very precious as trivial.  I could not make any decisions for him. I was not a major force in his life, but I wonder how I could have been a more impacting voice.

I’m angry at the guy! Anger is mixed with the sadness surrounding my friend’s death—more accurately, his life. He wasted so much of his life. His huge talents were dwarfed only by the wounds that led to addictions and bad habits which he used as coping tools which were inadequate.

I cannot get away from memories of another funeral, another life thrown away and the words of another friend who deals each day with a severely challenged daughter. His anger drove his words. He would give his life that his daughter might have one and the body in front of him represented a life thrown away. Wasted opportunities, talents, family left behind in a selfish life of indulgent choices.

My anger is aimed at the refusal to “get it fixed!” The anger focuses on those who created the environment, the wounds, and the craziness.

Yesterday morning, I read the Psalm and joked with God that I had hoped for a better word. I feel corrected. Calculating words like brevity and waste, I am thinking how to fine-tune my aim.

I don’t remember who said it. The speaker was in Bible College chapel. His text was the words of Jesus in Mark 8:34-35. The preacher concluded with these words:

“Throw your life away with careful aim.”

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

Rememberings

I recently helped a church, celebrate its 150th Anniversary. We pastored that church 1967-1970. Talk to an historian and they will tell you 1967-1968 were among the most shaking in American history. Modernity died in those years. Assassinations, race riots, music change and Woodstock. Talk to a church historian and he or she will tell you life changed for traditional churches during that time. Mergers, splits, new books of worship and the beginning of the charismatic renewal in traditional churches. It was the year when Methodist became United Methodist. American church life has not been the same since.

Twenty-five miles from our farm community, race riots burned neighborhoods and threatened us all. We “adopted” a seven-year-old inner city kid for two weeks to bring him to the safety of our community. It was the year the community built a swimming pool and his black skin in that water surrounded by white skin could be seen by people on Mars. Our lily-white community was challenged by his black skin presence. We discovered a lot of ignorance—we just didn’t know. I wish I knew where Larry is. He touched my extended family. I was working on my undergraduate degree after 4 years in Bible College and six years in full time ministry. I was studying Sociology and that “helped” me interpret the social upheaval.

We remodeled the sanctuary to add seating, replaced carpet and painted. The church bought a larger and newer parsonage during that time. One person is still mad at me for insisting the youth group do Bible study. I’m sure the world of those nice people had to feel like my family was a source of constant upset. I, no doubt, made it worse than it had to be. The guy cornered me to tell me how ruinous I was to his youthful years.

I’ve always been willing to start a fight with my rebuttal of people’s contention that “Our youth are the church of tomorrow.” Our responsibility to the youth is to prepare them to live for Jesus—but probably not here. They will move away. Many of that youth group has moved away. One to Turkey and others to other churches and cities.

Preachers in small churches come and go. They are a necessity, but often people don’t get to know them or share much of their lives. The above church has had 14 pastors since we lived there. Some were my acquaintances. They’ve had some good ones. But the parsonage family who drew the emotional reaction/response was the one we followed.

Reverend Gaide and his wife lived in the old parsonage with a flower and vegetable garden in the back yard. They were retired and spent time with and loved the people. They had no need to remodel or change anything. The church assignment was what Methodists called a “two-point” charge. A small outpost church and a larger—usually “in-town” church. Had the two churches linked programs, they could be ten times more together than each church trying to conduct individual programs, but that was kept them alive and invested and able to say, “We are small, but….” To join the bigger church forecast the possible end of their generations’ old family church. Wasn’t going to happen!

Christmas Eve, the pastor would attend both services. They would rush from one church to the other in time for the opening hymn. The roads were slick, there was an accident and the Reverend and Mrs. Gaide were killed. When they didn’t show up for that second service, parishioners went searching. They were the ones who found their beloved pastor and wife.

We followed that pastor into the pulpit a year later. The grieving continued and it affected ministry. Almost 50 years later, the people pointed to three pivotal points in the church’s history. The death of their beloved pastor was one and the grief still saturates the mention of those names and memories.

My family benefitted from the perennial flowers in the back yard and the constant reminder of the gracious gentleman and his wife.

I’ve been processing my trek back to the village and church after 44 years. Two things have gone into my journal. First is the awareness that we do not minister in a vacuum. I cannot evaluate our ministry without acknowledging what was going on in the society and culture around us. Our predecessors influence and color our ministry. Another item is a sign in front of a school on our way home from the celebration.

“We still need mentors.”

We acknowledge the shoulders upon which we stand and think carefully about how what we do and in whom we invest will pay off. We still need to be and provide mentors.

A 98-year old church member, asked about me: “Who in the hell is that preacher sitting next to that cute boy?” The cute boy is our son who was in kindergarten or first grade when we left that community. I think Doug got top billing and that works for me.

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