Monthly Archives: December 2014

2015 From a Chosen Advantage-3

My favorite downtown building caught my attention last week from the post office parking lot. The crowning widow’s watch turned on my imagination. The building needs an occupant. I do not know why God doesn’t just hand me the deed and a monthly stipend to maintain it with its cobblestone alley and lovely side porch where you and I could meet for morning coffee and afternoon tea. When it is warmer!

Donald Miller writes in one of his books about going to a Robert McKee STORY conference. It changed his life. Miller now uses what he learned in that conference to plot marketing campaigns for clients like Lincoln automobiles. When Amazon told me they were recommending the book Story by Robert McKee I ordered a used copy. The seller emailed me an apology that the book was not “Just like new,” as advertised. If I wanted it he would take $5 off the price. He said there was a stain. I can almost always read past a stain. So it arrived with no visible stain, five-dollars cheaper and the author’s autograph and inscription: “Write the truth.” It feels to me as if God hand-delivered the book to me as a Christmas present.

So, I want to write as much truth as I can as we look at 2015.

I have been to the widow’s watch in that building. There are forty-two beautiful, highly polished steps (with rubber treads) on the curving staircase. I think I could see 2015 from there. One thing for sure, I have seen how we are to approach 2015 and wring out of it all God intends. Not everyone gets to climb those stairs. Only those of us who have the key to the front door and are willing to sweat the climb. The key that opens the door: Being intentional. Isaiah 43:18-19 gives us access to the advantage.

Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past.

See, I am doing a new thing!

Now it springs up, do you not perceive it?

I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland.

Do not dwell on/in the past

If you were like the founder of Panera’s (in my December 29 blog—Emotional Revenue Streams) https://journeybend.wordpress.com/  and found that yesterday’s successes or failures are holding you back, what needs to be cut loose? What resolution, forgiveness, embracing, dismissing needs to happen?

This is a call to monitor and perhaps change your thinking and self-talk. Those two unrestricted habits have the power to lock you in the past and lock away the future that expands your influence and probably your happiness and satisfaction.

God is doing a new thing

At your convenience, take 27 minutes to consider Andy Stanley’s message: http://northpoint.org/messages/this-one-thing. What is your “wall”?

Perception

Marketing guru Seth Godin says, “Worldview…refers to the rules, values, beliefs and biases that an individual consumer brings to a situation.” Another way of saying that is to consider what story you tell yourself about why you are where you are today.

  • What is your perception—how are you explaining life as you are experiencing it? What’s your story?
  • From what and whom did you build your current worldview—rules, values, beliefs, biases?
  • To comprehend the “new,” will demand a change in some part of your perception. The new is springing up. It should be visible. What is blocking your view? You cannot solve the problem with the same thinking that caused the problem.
  • Who will help bring clarity? Who is not enamored or affected by the past you are attempting to “forget”? Does the person(s) have an agenda for your future? Do they share your core values?

Utilizing the resources

“A way in the desert, streams in the wasteland.”

1 Corinthians 13:13 says three things last. Faith, Hope, Love. Your advantage grows as you utilize faith, hope, love.

Join me part 4 of 2015—The Chosen Advantage

©2014 D. Dean Benton—Writer, Wonderer, Provoker

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2015 From The Chosen Advantage–1

If the Christmas lights were shining, they could not be seen through the fog and drear. Dreadfully Drear. The dampness soaked through jackets and jeans right into the souls of those on the street. It felt like fifteen extra pounds of oppression on Terry Jameson’s chest. The damp darkness burned the back of his throat, and the back of his soul.

It had been several days since he picked up mail. There was no reason to make the trip on this day other than a need to get out of the house and keep himself alive by saying hello to everyone who interrupted his self-absorption. He didn’t even know the lady’s name. From her postal counter she always acted glad to see him. Worth the trip.

The line was long. Of course. It was the busiest shipping day of the year. He found Christmas cards, no bills and some engaging advertisements in his post box, and a yellow card saying there was a package too large for the box.

“You may as well come join us,” invited a lady. “If the USPS had any class at all they would be offering Christmas drinks.” From the smell, she may have gotten an early start.

He played his usual game observing the large packages being mailed, making comments about how fortunate the recipient. Then, he asked himself, if that package were for me, what would I want it to contain? He didn’t long linger with that question before asking, If I were mailing that, to whom would I send it and what would I send that would make their life brighter, easier or rich?

“Good morning, Mr. Jameson. May I help you?”

He handed the nice lady the yellow card. She returned from the shelving to say there was no package too large, but there was a letter addressed to him that required his signature. As always, Terry’s imagination kicked in. Not many certified or registered letters arrived in his post office box. He was relieved this one wasn’t from the IRS or the deranged person who wanted to make sure he got the list of disgruntled complaints and suggestions that sounded like a terrorist’s demands.

“Merry Christmas, Terry!” The cheery voice of a rural mail carrier in the parking lot whose vehicle was covered with mud. He returned the greeting and looked again at the return address which he didn’t recognize. Reluctant to open the number 10 business envelope, he gave his imagination permission to have full run. If inside the envelope was $1000, he would make sure friends at the downtown rehab-training center received part of it. If $10,000 he would pay production costs for a friend’s new album. It was Terry’s intent to do for someone or many others exactly what had happened to his family with the last certified letter.

“Lord, please receive my thanks for your open-handedness to my family. Whatever is in this envelope, give me all the wisdom to use it for the purpose you have in mind.” Using the pen knife connected to the post box key, he neatly sliced the envelope. He was holding his breath.

Terry unfolded the heavy stock stationary. There was no signature to recognize, nor was there a letterhead. In beautiful blue ink, eighteenth century style writing, with flourishes and lines, he was instructed:

“As you look across the city, there is a building with a widow’s watch. The enclosed key will unlock the front door. Two hours after the key is used, the alarms will sound and the direct line to the police department will activate. You have two hours in that building. From the widow’s watch you will have a vantage point to see the New Year. Not a calendar of events, but the streams that determine the year’s productivity and value.”

He turned the watermarked paper over just in case there was a name or clue—perhaps further instruction. There were none. He knew his writing would not match the ornate design as he wrote questions and plans to fill his two hours.

<.>   <.>   <.>   <.>

Although I really like that story I changed my mind. I wasn’t sure I could tell a strong enough story that would impact you as powerfully as I am feeling these things.

This series includes:

1–The Post Office Parking Lot Vision

2.–Emotional Revenue Streams

3.–Power of Story

4.–Faith as Resource

5.–Hope as Resource

6.–Love as Resource

Join me for 2015–From Your Chosen Advantage–2

©2014 D. Dean Benton—Writer, Wonderer, Provoker

Emotional Revenue Streams

I was wide awake at 3:30 a couple of mornings ago. I had a feeling I was awake for a reason and that there was something I was to do, experience or learn. I quick thought and prayed through my family and friends. After checking our lawn and neighborhood, I turned on the TV news and nothing unusual seemed to be going on, so I turned on Carole’s Kindle for news. There was something in the air that I was supposed to know about. I made coffee and settled in to figure out what was stirring my soul.

I found a story in the Washington Post about Ron Shaich, one of the founders of Panera’s, He says,

“Entrepreneurs are guys who see opportunities that others don’t and see in that opportunity where value can be created.”

I don’t particularly like Panera coffee and their food is pricier than I prefer. But then, I don’t like Starbuck’s coffee either, but I sure like to read about and watch them do business. Half way through the article I sensed there was truth there that I was supposed to grasp.

“Every year, I go away for Christmas usually to a beach somewhere, and I think about where I am and where I want to be in five years.” Ron Shaich

Shaich says he was emotionally “down” during at least two of those Christmas beach Sabbaths. A phone call from one of his partners changed the way he was seeing bread. Instead of the bread being the prime product, he changed it to the platform on which to sell soup, salads and sandwiches. Without the “down,” and retreat to think and the phone call, Panera’s would never have happened. In 1993, he went to the beach again to sort where they were and where his company needed to go in the following months. He became aware that “…what had made us successful were starting to limit us.” When you visit a Panera’s this week, you will be standing in line for products that are valued because Shaich responded to the challenge to change and get rid of what was limiting the company.

  1. What is your real product?
  2. What are people really wanting to buy from you?

When the interviewer asked Ron Shaich what he wished he had known earlier and what he would tell people today, he said—“Trust yourself.” Trust your gut. He is able to say that because he has spent time and other resources to fill his “gut” with experience, knowledge, information and counsel.

One conversation this season produced a list of assets and streams of emotional revenue. The list was larger and the assets much more wealth-intensive than the writer of the list had first guessed. So build on that! Cut loose from what is limiting you, including all the self-destructive and self-imposed limits and build on that list of emotional and economic revenue streams!

Of the 2-3 dozen messages Carole and I have listened to this holiday season, one of the sermons we heard on Sunday made a huge impact. We have heard the message at least three times. When it was first presented in 2012, then as a podcast and again on Sunday on a repackaged program on a different network. It seems so important to our friends, family and to us as we prepare for the New Year 2015. I invite you to contemplate a strategic plan from Andy Stanley.

http://northpoint.org/messages/this-one-thing

Thank you for joining me for a series of blogs this week before the New Year.

©2014 D. Dean Benton—Writer, Wonderer, Provoker

A Thrill of Hope

Long lay the world in sin…,

Till He appeared and the soul felt its worth.

A thrill of hope…

Cynthia Clawson’s Christmas album was recorded in New Mexico. Her producer found software that put her voice in major European cathedrals. As she sings O Holy Night, you can hear the sound delay as her voice echoes from wall to wall. As I listened to her magnificent voice with the unique, huge sound, the words carried meaning I don’t always hear.

I doubt that generally “the world lying in sin and error pining.” I didn’t see anyone in line at Walmart overcome with an awareness that it was their sinful status that Jesus came to earth to address. If research is accurate, the post-modern culture doesn’t think about personal sin very much, except to explain it away and discount it. Come to think of it, I wasn’t exactly weeping over my sin, either.

From whatever cathedral the voice was currently in, Ms. Clawson sang a truth into me. The acute desire is that our soul might feel its worth. During most of Advent my mind went to the huge market for encouragement. You and I are empowered to speak for Jesus as we announce to people in our areas of influence—“You have worth—you are valued! No matter the long litany of rejection and criticism, I see you as valuable.”

A friend described her Christmas Eve to us. She opted for a bar instead of a church service. At the close of the evening—“I’m feeling hope for the first time in a long time.” That’s not the last line of a story I would have written.

Til’ He appeared and the soul felt its worth.

Jesus appeared. He spoke. And through those who probably didn’t have a clue they were Jesus’ “conduit” they told someone they care about—“You have value. God didn’t make a mistake when He made you a living soul!”

One of my favorite Christmas songs is “I Want Your Presence for Christmas.”

 http://www.godtube.com/watch/?v=9MC00MNU

The second verse says, “When the holiday is through, and the year is fresh and new….” I’m going to be on a diet and the house will be stripped bare of cookies. I promise you the one thing I want you and I to carry out of these days—the warmth of His presence and…

A thrill of hope.

It has a direct link to that miraculous assurance that we have worth—therefore, we have hope!

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

Writer, Wonderer, Listener

Gift Idea

I think it was Hemingway who would never talk about his current writing lest someone would be critical too soon and destroy the idea or incentive.  Writer Doris Grumbach says: “Only if I bury (ideas) like bulbs, in the rich soil of silence do they grow.”

“Cast aside everything that might extinguish this small flame which is beginning to burn within you and surround yourself with everything which can feed and fan it into a strong fire.” Art of Prayer

If you need a last minute gift idea—encouragement is always fitting, regardless of size. Some things demand to be said!

On this Christmas Eve 2014, we thank you for gifting us with your participation in our lives.

Benton—Dean & Carole

Cataracts

There is a neighborhood cat who visits us several times a week. He is healthy, big and friendly so I assume this black and white feline has a home. He wants to live with us. He likes to lie on our porch, talks to us when we use what he thinks is his sidewalk. I have told this creature in various tones and volumes that we don’t want a pet. We invite and host guest pets frequently. In fact, Molly the dog is sleeping next to me in my office at this moment—a day visit. We just don’t need a resident cat or dog. We are satisfied with the one Nuthatch, Woodpecker, a transient pair of Cardinals and 16,000 sparrows.

The real problem with the neighborhood cat is lack of manners.

Our treadmill is at eye level with the side lawn. I can listen to podcasts and look at the sunrise, then the day unfolding on our street and neighborhood. The cat has never—to my knowledge—ever seen me walking on the treadmill while looking out the window. I don’t want to be crude or insensitive, here. The cat feels some compulsion to spray on my window. I don’t think it is personal. Perhaps the cat is making a comment?

I have purchased and tried several home made concoctions to scare deer, bears and cats away. I have explained to that cat its behavior may carry severe consequences which the cat listened to, but ignored. It wanders away talking to me in a tone that sounds like it doesn’t deal well with rejection.

In the summer, I make sure the window is tightly closed and hose it off while filling the bird fountain, but in this cold weather that doesn’t work.

There it is on my ground level window. I see the lawn, neighborhood and contemplate my day through the evidence of the cat’s visit.

Several people of various ages—people we do not know well, but well enough to have heard their stories—have visited our lives in recent months. Years ago, they were abused, abandoned, assaulted, neglected and thrown away. But right there in direct view is the memory and emotional evidence. They can’t view anything in their lives except through “that.” What happened, years ago, is present as if it happened day before yesterday and it is the filter through which they see everything else.

These words have been nagging at me for several weeks:

“How can people call for help if they don’t know who to trust? And how can they know who to trust, if they haven’t heard of the One who can be trusted? And how can they hear if nobody tells them?” (Romans 17:11-15).

A good news speaker. Our new acquaintances need someone in whom they have confidence to tell them there is One who cleanses not only the past, but the cataract left behind.

A couple of days ago, I put on elbow length, steel lined rubber gloves and with industrial strength window cleaner I washed my window on the world. While washing, I confessed those “things” that have filtered my view. I also asked God to send hand-picked proclaimers into the lives of the new acquaintances.

God not only sent angel choirs, wise men with gifts, but window washers and One to be trusted. That is a reason to sing!

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

Writer, Wonderer, Window Washer

In Line @ Starbucks with our Grandes

We have studied, enjoyed and been influenced by the work of Dr. Caroline Leaf. She is a brain specialist. In her most recent post she says,

“I have been telling you about the amazing neuroplasticity of the brain, the literal ability to rewire the brain and create new and better networks.”

This is based on the science called Epigenetics.

“I want to make you aware of how your thoughts not only affect you, but also your family and children and even as far as your great, great grandchildren. Science is showing us that the life experiences, thoughts and decisions of grandparents and even great grandparents change eggs and sperm so indelibly that this is passed onto their children up to 4 generations…this sounds like Numbers 14:18:”

“…the iniquities of the father reach to the third and fourth generations.”

“This scriptural principle is scientifically termed transgenerational epigenetic inheritance and basically means something outside the cell (diet, exercise, thoughts, nurturing) changes the on/off switch on the genes of the DNA in sperm and eggs.”

What the young become is effected, if not determined, by the actions, thoughts and wiring in the elders’ brains.

The more we read about this science, the more exciting and scary it sounds. Dr. Leaf will present on TEDX February 4, 2014. Her book, “Switch on your Brain” is helpful.

Her current email post has the headline: “Sins of the Grandfathers.” The text of the post is about a 4-point font. I’m amused. Dr. Leaf is from South Africa and talks twice as fast as a New Yorker. But, the headline jumped at me like a 64-point font. It really captured me!

You can rewire your brain. Genes inherited from your ancestors come with a switch attached. You, to some degree, decide whether the switch is thrown on or off. You do this by your own thoughts, words, habits. Your destiny is not determined by your family of origin.

I have studied Millennials. In my consulting, I find churches desperately want to program so they can reach that generation. Millennials are the brass ring. I thoroughly understand and appreciate the vision and plead for adequate strategies. But Dr. Leaf has challenged my thinking.

If grandfathers are that influential and responsible, should they not be our targeted market? The simple thinking is—let’s lead a spiritual crusade for grandfathers! All the researchers and arm chair observers are saying Ferguson, Missouri burned and the current societal upheaval and the hoodlumism is result of the deteriorated and disintegrated American family. (I differentiate between protest and anarchist riots.) Eighty-five percent of men in prison had no father in their home or life.

I see two challenges. Proclaim the full gospel of Jesus to grandfathers so they will be healed, trained and commissioned. Through some mysterious transfer, what affects granddad will affect the youngers. That is task one. (I understand the severe up-hill fight.) The second challenge is to prepare young men for their own grandparenting. That means igniting the commitment to destiny and an obsession on legacy.

The reality check comes when I remember who the grandparents are. This will shake the cobwebs out: Kris Kardashian is a grandmother. You want to tell her to act her age? She is. Grandparents are still working, wearing sexy clothes and making headlines—good and bad.

If the “sins of the grandfathers” (What! No grandmothers in this?) are responsible, then aren’t they also the key to industrial-size influence? Not all grandparents move to Florida or Arizona retirement villages. What about building some churches around grandparents who have a viable and strategy-oriented vision. The vision is not to recapture 1956 or 1981, but a tactic-linked vision of the future where the modern family leans biblically.

Interesting to me: Millennials desire to have relationships with their elders.

You must add your thinking to this before we call for a march to stand in line at Starbucks with our grandes.

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

Writer, Wonderer, Provoker

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Coming soon: Caught in the Tail Lights

Have I told you lately?

I’ve been moping around for a few days. I’ve been grieving and measuring if the recently deceased’s callings and purpose were fulfilled. I have friends who have ended 30-year marriages. Some of my young friends are making choices they may regret. Acquaintances have disappointed me with behavior that I had not expected—I just expected more from them. I’ve been hurting over spiritual barrenness and the social upheaval in our country. The image of that body lying on the Ferguson street is not easily erased—regardless of the surrounding causes and effects.

The past few weeks have been emotionally tough. An extended family member said the only social activity she and her husband have is talking to their friends at funerals. Two classmates, a musician, former parishioners who were also good friends have died. There is another friend who will be with Jesus by the weekend.

I ran across a list of youtube videos of The Rev Grady Nutt this morning. My family listened to his albums of stories and felt enriched. I miss Grady. His sudden death 20 years ago left a hole. His humor still makes me laugh. I listened to all the material I have swiped from him. The recent death of Myles Munroe in the plane crash was a personal loss to me although he was a public figure. Friends, colleagues and public figures whose ministry poured vast amounts of instruction and hope into me—physically silent, but so present.

I saw a picture of an acquaintance who is now so rascally, rude and sometimes mean and irrational once was beautiful, at the top of their class and was pursued not avoided.

Our friend Beverly Mathews Coupe and her husband Mike operate a ministry to addicts and the hurting downtown Nashville. It is licensed by the state and ordained by the Kingdom. Beverly posed a healing proposition which caught me in my “mood”:

“Make a list of all the things you would miss about each of your friends and loved ones if you were to suddenly find that they weren’t here anymore. What are the things you would give anything just to see or hear them do ‘one more time’. Then begin to make a habit of cherishing those things.”

Then she did just that. We know most of the loved ones she named which made the message to my heart personal and powerful. She showed us how to do what she proposed. Reading her words was healing and instructive. We’ve been talking about the connection of joy and vulnerability. Dr. Brené Brown says we are “joy starved” due to our unwillingness or inability to be vulnerable. Telling people that you love them and which of their habits or practices is especially endearing really is raw vulnerability.  Therefore, a short distance to joy.

Have I told you lately…

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

Writer, Wonderer, Provoker

Truck runaway ramps

It began with an UPWORDS® game. Carole thought of the word, “alloy.” That led her to a question about a song using that word. Of course I remembered—we used to sing it. I just couldn’t remember the words or the melody. Almost! Right on the tip of my brain, but when I tried to sing it—not even close! The song we were thinking about is

“I’ve Discovered the Way of Gladness.”

I’ve discovered the way of gladness,

I’ve discovered the way of joy

I’ve discovered relief from sadness

‘Tis a happiness without alloy;

I’ve discovered the fount of blessings,

I’ve discovered the “Living Word”

Twas the greatest of all discoveries,

When I found Jesus my Lord.

I haven’t sung the song in many years and haven’t used the words alloy or unalloyed in as many. Those words are not in my daily vocabulary.

I’ve been reading Brené Brown’s latest book Daring Greatly. (Penguin 2012). Before the turkey came out of the fridge Thanksgiving a.m., I was spiritually awakened by Ms. Brown’s words.

“…having spent several years studying what it means to feel joyful, I’d argue that joy is probably the most difficult emotion to really feel. Why? Because when we lose the ability or willingness to be vulnerable, joy becomes something we approach with deep foreboding. This shift from our younger self’s greeting with joy with unalloyed delight happens slowly and outside of our awareness. We don’t seem to even know that it’s happening or why. We just know that we crave more joy in our lives, that we are joy starved.” (pages 117-118 emphasis mine.)

Ms. Brown says joy is a threat, so we allow what she calls “foreboding joy.” Joy is allowed as long as it is alloyed. “Alloyed” means to mix in an inferior metal. The habit is to use foreboding joy (alloyed—not pure joy) as armor against hurt. Her self-descriptions:

  • … “my constant disaster planning.”
  • … “try to control all of the outcomes.”
  • … “rehearsing tragedy.”
  • … “practicing perpetual disappointment.”

“We wake up in the morning and think, Work is going well. Everyone in the family is healthy. No major crises are happening. The house is still standing. I’m working out and feeling good. Oh crap. This is bad. This is really bad. Disaster must be lurking right around the corner.” (page 118)

So, what is this, “happiness without alloy”?

On the way to Asheville, N. C. there is a hill that is so long the village at the bottom looks like a miniature Swiss town in a Christmas display. In my imagination, that Interstate is always covered with ice—even mid-August, therefore…. On I-65 south of Nashville or on I-55 south of St. Louis, there is a long downward grade. I don’t think there are warning signs announcing “% down grade.” But I keep my foot on the brake or poised to slam onto the pedal. Have you seen those “Truck runaway ramp ahead” signs?

One of the first times I drove that long, downward slope, a voice in me said, “Just let it roll.”

The holiday season is filled with “runaway warning” signs. Some of us are incapable of experiencing unalloyed joy or happiness due to the probability that something dreadful is about to happen and we are singularly responsible for thinking through every possible contingency. So we keep our foot on the brake.

What would happen if you let it roll?  Joy without alloy—not diluted with imagined, anticipated catastrophe.

©2014 D. Dean Benton

          Writer, Wonderer, Provoker