Monthly Archives: January 2015

Claiming My New Frontier

Just to alert you: the word for the next few weeks or months for me seems to be Frontier. I may use it excessively.

A friend talked about self-disclaiming. That is the statement, image and feeling I had in mind as I wrote Caught in The Tail Lights and Seams to Me. (http://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/journeybend/) I questioned yesterday why people resist applying biblical principles and resist establishing an irrevocable commitment to enter the new frontier of wholeness God is calling them to. Since asking the question, several bloggers and podcasters I’ve encountered have talked about fear. Most of us are more comfortable with what we know—no matter how bad—than venturing onto a new unknown.

A friend wrote on Facebook, “I’m so tired…. I’m such a loser and I’m tired of acting like I’m not. I’m drained from always having to put a disclaimer on myself. God, please make me whole.”  I’m urging a full commitment to the new frontier.

“How can we expect someone to give up a way of seeing and understanding the world that has physically, cognitively or emotionally kept them alive? None of us is ever able to part with our survival strategies without significant support and the cultivation of replacement strategies.” Brené Brown, Daring Greatly, (Hyperion, ©2012)

We have a list of reasons why the frontier—a new way of viewing and acting—is too risky and way too scary. A few knee-jerk reasons:

  • It doesn’t matter
  • It won’t help
  • It won’t work
  • I don’t have time
  • I’ve tried before
  • I’m too far gone
  • I’m the exception

Brené Brown quotes a student from her research on why people disengage and shut down:

“…most of us learn that it’s best to just keep your head down, your mouth shut, and your grades high.”  Ms. Brown observes, “…we can’t learn when our heads are down, and our mouths are shut.”

The past is gone. The life option is to enter the new frontier—reinvent yourself, let God remake you. You cannot keep tagging yourself with a disclaimer. That is not the person God had in mind. Put your body in the sandals of Abram as he hears God say, “I have a new land for you—it is an unknown frontier.  Come, let’s do it. Pack my promises and follow me.”

I imagined walking to the boundary line of the old and stepping onto the frontier. I wrote what I think I would need:

  1. Commitment—I’m going to cut loose and do this! I’m in! No matter what!
  2. Clarity—at this moment, what does a “new” life look like. (See WOOP below)
  3. Courage
  4. Compassion—I probably will chicken out, fail, bargain. I will need to have compassion for me—no name-calling, no cursing, no throwing myself away.
  5. Connection—I can’t do this alone. I’ll need 2-3 people who will support and encourage me. Someone I will talk to.

W—WISH. Be specific

O—OUTCOME. What do you desire to do? Change? Accomplish? Become?

O—OBSTACLES. What will lure you back to the old? What could stand in your way?

P—PLAN. What do you need to do each day to occupy the new territory?

Woopmylife.org  (I know nothing of the foundation or philosophy of this organization. I like the acronym. You might find it helpful.)

©2015 D. Dean Benton—Writer, Wonderer, Quoter

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Isolation or Buffalo Herd?

The Facebook singing network asked, “Have you ever sung in a unique setting.” Oh, yeah! But most of our memories are embarrassing more than funny—never want to do that again!

We did an evangelism event at a football field. We sang on a platform on the fifty yard line. The crowd was in the bleachers across the track from the field. During the altar call, a stray dog started walking slowly on the track at about the 20 yard line. I saw people turn their heads to watch this dog. By the time the creature got to the 40 yard line, no one—absolutely no one—was listening to me. The dog stopped on the track between the stage and the crowd and just stared at us. And then! Relieved itself—as in, runners, don’t step in that—right on the track. Not much of eternal value happened after that.

We were scheduled to sing in a Nebraska state park. Outdoor events are a challenge because you cannot control dogs, birds or mosquitos. We arrived to find it was a primitive camp. That means no electricity A couple hundred people had set up the circle of lawn chairs. My first thought was, “I can do primitive. If anyone can, I can.” I would run an electric cable from our bus AC generator which would drive our sound system, electric piano and reel-to-reel taped soundtracks. No problem. I started the generator which ran for five minutes before the generator muffler fell off. Now the primitive park was filled with loud, ugly noise that no amount of singing would overpower.

My solution was to run a power cable off the inverter. An inverter changes the vehicle DC voltage from the battery into AC current. The closest we could get the bus to the gathering site was about fifty feet. I ran a power line from the inverter to the PA  and sound tracks. We got a workable PA sound check.

By the time we were into our third song, the battery was losing charge. Add to that the loss of electricity through the long extension cable. Our tape machine was running slower and slower until we were singing our songs a key lower than the arrangements called for.

I do not remember the rest of the event. It has been erased from my mind, but I can imagine.

With that in my mind, a podcaster asked whether we listeners were extroverts or introverts. That is a question about whether a person is charged by being alone or by being with people. I’m alone in my office so much that I have missed entire fashion life cycles while sitting at my desk. I need to surface occasionally to be around people. Where?

It’s coffee shops for me. Sometimes food courts. I don’t need to interact with the people, just have them close by. I was in a mall food court the other day thinking through a creative blockage and an idea came with authority, like it had gained momentum and substance just by floating past Panera’s, the Greek place and the people around me.

When my emotional or spiritual energy is running low—batteries are dead—I often find taking a cup of good coffee to the river front opens the thoughts that lead to solutions or strategies. I think something mystical happens as the energy of the flowing water stimulates my thinking or awakens my contact with the Spirit of God.

How about you? In what setting do you do your best work? Going with, rather than fighting your innate wiring is most productive. Do you do your best work in solitude or while roller skating in a buffalo herd?

©2014 D. Dean Benton

—Writer, Wonderer, Out of fashion dresser.        http://www.bentonquesthouse.com/

Getting Clarity

So we are normalizing relations with Cuba. That might be a task. I remember sitting on the steps of the house in Denver with a baby on our knees calculating WWIII. The “Cuban Missile Crisis.”  We talked about being so far from family and what we should do in the final hours before the prospective nuclear attack. We wrote letters to friends and family members. We urged them, in the face of expected apocalypse, to give their lives to Christ. I was clueless about some things in those days, and uncertain about others, but I was absolutely sure about the feeling of crisis.

Normalize? If I remember correctly, the pre-Castro Cuba was filled with decadence. Funny! It would probably be pretty mainstream today. Normal compared to what?

Then, there are memories of the Bay of Pigs. President Kennedy was new to the job. He was busy sweeping out all that Eisenhower did and stood for. JFK was bringing in a new generation to do it right. Three events changed the way Kennedy did leadership. The Missile Crisis, Bay of Pigs and his meeting with Khrushchev. The Bay of Pigs’ fiasco changed his approach to executive management.

The post-mortem analysis of Kennedy’s leadership during the Bay of Pigs’ invasion by some of his own people said, “The operation was doomed by ‘bad planning,’ ‘poor staffing,’ bad intelligence, and a ‘failure to advise the President that success had become dubious.”

John Eisenhower asked his father if the failure could have happened if Ike had been president. The ex-president replied, “I don’t run no bad invasions.”

Kennedy’s first visit to Camp David came in the aftermath of the failed “invasion.” He met with Eisenhower. The General pressed JFK how the decision was made. One of the things JFK vehemently disliked about his predecessor was the way he made decisions. Ike said to the young president at Camp David, “You must get courageous men, men of strong views and let them debate and argue with each other.’

“Mr. President, before you approved this plan, did you have everybody in front of you debating the thing so you got the pros and cons yourself and then made the decision, or did you see these people one at a time?”

Kennedy did not like large meetings. Of course he hadn’t done what Eisenhower would have done. JFK liked to talk to a few insiders one on one. The operative word of his presidency was “pragmatism.” If it works—but knowing what will “work” if limited to your own opinion and those who agree with you may not be trustworthy.

The General suggested that success mattered more than secrecy. “I believe there is only one thing to do when you get into this kind of thing. It must be a success.” (Or, of course, don’t get in at all.)

Some historians say that Kennedy was “served both by the lessons he had learned from Eisenhower, and the ways in which he remained different.” Michael Beschloss writes that Kennedy’s style of crisis management during the Missile Crisis “may have saved the world.”

I can still feel the concrete of that Denver, Colorado stoop and the bleakness of the atmosphere as we talked about government things we knew very little about and our future of which we had no clue. The current president’s seemingly arbitrary decision to “normalize” relationship with Cuba brings back a lot of “stuff” to me. As I read these details from The Presidents Club, by Nancy Gibbs and Michael Duffy, (Simon & Schuster, 2012), several Proverbs were the back beat.

“…the more wise counsel you follow, the better your chances” (Proverbs 11:14—Message).

“Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisors they succeed” (Proverbs 15:22 NIV).

Kennedy got counsel after the fact from Hoover, Eisenhower, Truman, historians and many others, including Richard Nixon. It changed his leadership style in helpful ways. The phrase from Proverbs that kept ringing in my mind was “multitude of counselors.” Where do we normal types—not high profile decision makers—find a multitude?

“Counsel” is a collection of opinions based on worldview, experience and wise insight. Where do you and I find a crowd of people like that? It is one of the important questions and “advisors” are among our greatest need.

I wonder about Herbert Hoover’s counsel to JFK. He reminded him that he, Hoover, was a Quaker and against war, “…but, by heavens, if I were President of the United States I would order the necessary forces into the Bay of Pigs and I would decimate that Cuban army while they’re there…. I’d end the thing….”

Was Hoover right? Not all counsel becomes a blueprint, but some does.

© 2015 D. Dean Benton   Writer, Wonderer          http://www.bentonministries.com/

Focus on Flourishing

Brain specialist, Dr. Carolyn Leaf, contends that the brain can rewire itself if you do the work. Some of the books I read,  podcasts I hear and seminars I attend, I say, “Every entrepreneur, business owner and church leader must read this”. The first such book of 2015 is Seth Godin’s All Marketers are Liars (Storytellers). I did not expect to hear him talking about brain function.

“…our brain is always inventing a plot, a story, an explanation for what we see. We need to see explanations where there are none because our brains are too restless to live with restlessness. In the face of random behavior, people make up their own (stories).”

“We expect something to occur and our brains make it so. (Portfolio Books 2005)

To repeat: What you give your brain to work on, it will! If you aren’t intentional your brain will go to its default and produce last year over again. It will make up its own story based on the past. Do you want to live 2010…2014 one more time in 2015?

With faith, hope, love as the filters and streams for goals, plans, tactical actions, where do we make this work? Terri Savelle Foy’s book, Make your Dreams Bigger Than Your Memories. (Regal 2010) gives us patterns and fabric the brain will work on and work with. These are not limited to Ms. Foy. This list is used by Michael Hyatt and Rick Warren and long before I read Ms. Foy I used them in seminars.

Invest Faith, Hope, Love intentionally (with a written plan) and reciprocally these seven arenas and you will give your brain something to work with.

  1. Faith
  2. Family
  3. Fitness
  4. Financial
  5. Friendship
  6. Free-time
  7. Vocation

Under each category ask and answer:

  • What am I going to do?
  • Why am I doing this?
  • How am I going to do this?  Process. Pay attention to your daily process and the outcome will follow.
  • When am I going to do this?  Time each day and the “by date.” For a goal to work it must be S.A.M.—specific, attainable and measurable. The goal must have calendar dates connected. “By July 2, 2015, I will have done….”

We get what we expect! You are worthy!! You deserve it. Write your goals down and ask, What? Why? How? When?

©2015 D. Dean Benton—Writer, Wonderer, Provoker–Benton Quest House

2015–From A Chosen Advantage–6

Love

“Love extravagantly” (1 Corinthians 13:13 Message)

The story of Ruth and Naomi fits in the New Year structure we are building here. The Hebrew widow Naomi instructs her widowed Moabite daughter-in-law in a complex Hebrew betrothal event described in Ruth 3. When Ruth returns home from the evening, Naomi asks, “How did it go, my daughter?” Some translate that phrase, “How do you see yourself? Do you see yourself as a widow or a wife?”

The roles of Naomi and Boaz cannot be minimized. The story reads like a seduction scene. It is not. Naomi loved Ruth enough to help change her self-perception.

How do you see yourself?

I have been writing the novel, “Caught in the Tail Lights” for ten or twelve years. It is the story of a kid whose parents divorce. While editing the manuscript for about the 50th time, I realized not every divorced kid, not every kid with a dysfunctional family, not every kid in a different, but not dysfunctional family, experiences the wounds that are emotionally related in the book.

Every person I know who thrives after experiencing abandonment, assault or rejection has a Naomi or Boaz in their lives. There is a huge distinction between, “So, how did it go?” and “How do you see yourself?” The first asks for information, the second desires to know about your heart.

As I was reading my book, I realized I have to very loudly declare that healing is not only imperative, it is available. We have seen the brutalized and assaulted experience a miraculous healing. We have seen God reach into people’s hearts, memories, thinking processes and take horrible situations and produce whole, sensitive and thriving people. But in every case, there is a Naomi, there is a Boaz—“A kinsman redeemer.”

As I viewed 2015 from my chosen advantage, the necessity of having reciprocal, redeeming relationships with several people is essential if we are to experience the New Year as God intends. Absolutely essential!

I’ve been reading The Big Leap by Gay Hendricks. (Harper One ©2009) The subtitle is “Conquer Your Hidden Fear and Take Life to the Next Level.” The Introduction—“Remove Your Last Obstacle to Ultimate Success in Wealth, Work, and Love.”

Hendricks contends that each of us has an upper limit syndrome. We move forward as far as our self-concept will allow and no further. We sense the restrictive ceiling and sabotage ourselves to keep us under the Upper Limit. That author says, “I found that my biggest resistance was the fear of owning my own potential.”

Again, we face the “I’m not worthy—I don’t deserve” self-perception.

“How did it go, my daughter? How do you see yourself?”

Without losing authenticity, think of love as a spiritual resource. It is one of the three major resources you have to make 2015 what you want. Let’s put love in do-able actions.

  • Connect. With whom are you connected? Your personal network members?
  • Bless. Who speaks blessing on you and your destiny out loud? Who blesses you to your face and in their prayers? Blessers release God’s resources and their blessings set positive spiritual energy into motion. The stream demands inflow and outflow. Who will you celebrate rather than just tolerate? How will you prepare yourself to authentically ask, “How do you see yourself? Is life related to dead-ends or new beginnings?” Who will you target for blessing?
  • Help. I think the best words spoken to people we love is, “How can I help?” Rather than offering unsolicited advice, ask the person what they think would help them.

Make yourself available to your dream.

The story of the guy at the post office came to mind almost instantly as I looked at the building with the widow’s watch. It came with a reminder we have a limited amount of time, so it seems imperative to get at it and stay at it.

“…these three things remain: faith, hope, love. The greatest of these is love.”

How Can I Help?

©2015 D. Dean Benton       Writer, Wonderer, Coffee pot washer.

2015–Your Chosen Advantage–4

“And now these three remain: faith, hope and love” (NIV).

“Trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly” (Message).

1 Corinthians 13:13

As I stood in the post office parking lot, looking across the valley to my favorite downtown building, my imagination produced an instant image. I could see the New Year’s resources.

  • Faith—connection with God and your God-given assignment—vertical
  • Hope—personal infrastructure—inward
  • Love—relationships—horizontal

As I “looked” out the widow’s watch window I saw the three streams. Carve away all the extraneous stuff and the message I got was—these resources demand our daily attention. The active flow must be reciprocal. I think it was Dwight Moody who committed to witnessing to at least one person each day. If he was in bed and realize he hadn’t told one person about Jesus, he would get dressed and find someone to tell and urge them to receive Christ. That is the required commitment to maintain these resources.

It may be simplistic, but I’m thinking these three elements are the primary filters and the primary resources.

FAITH

Trust steadily in God

I don’t know if this is a lake/reservoir that requires our attention to the daily inflow and outflow or if is a stream which flows through us. I know it requires our attention—keep the passage open and any blockage cleared. Do all that can be done to increase the flow and volume.

Faith in something or someone is to believe enough to act upon it. Faith is not something you hide away in a lock box. It is a verb and must be used. I am carrying several maxims out of 2014 that border on absolute. Dr. Brené Brown proclaims that the feeling “I am not enough…” (You fill in the blank) is the major block to joy and achievement. The antidote is feeling, believing and living out of a faith statement:

I am worthy

The contradictory statements “I am not enough,” and “I am worthy,” are a couple of the most important things I learned in 2014. My worthiness rests on who God says I am.

To say that we are worthy is not to claim entitlement. Quite the opposite. We are worthy in Christ’s worthiness. Every person who accepts their non-worthiness assumes they are flawed or some universal contract has been written that eliminates them as a player. That is not true in God’s economy!

Another faith-defeating phrase is, “I don’t deserve….” I don’t know where the records are kept, or how such measurements of deserving are made. Several famous people have said “Luck and probability of success increases with preparedness.”

There is a $3 million condo near Concordia, Kansas that can withstand a nuclear attack. It has an indoor swimming pool, a 17-seat movie theatre, a hydroponic vegetable garden. It is 1820 square feet and can house 75 persons. It is 174 feet underground. It is a decommissioned missile silo.

With the security threats, global pandemics, catastrophic weather and terror attacks, developers, real estate sales people are finding a growing market for such safety features. All that protection will not keep us from the self-destructive corrosion of “I’m not worthy,” and/or “I don’t deserve.”

A faith word is alignment. We put in the work to keep ourselves aligned with God’s commands, (See Jesus’ words about vine and branches in John 15), and aligned with God’s assignment—the place where our greatest joy intersects with the worlds need.

Faith needs an object. In this context—having faith in the dream or vision that you believe or once believe came from God. If from God, then faith dictates we pour thinking, studying, talking about, asking mentors, praying and formulating plans, time tables and strategies to get it to market. Staying in alignment is first, but the actions in this sentence are expressions of faith.

The faith flow works only if you sustain it with frequent deposits and outlets. Deposits and outlets. You might ask at the close of day what you did to increase the faith inflow actions of thinking, studying, talking about, asking, praying and strategy building. What faith-action related to faith did you deposit in someone?

Faith might have you make files:

  • Stuff I can’t change or fix—defeats, disappointments, failure, rejections.
  • Stuff I’m not ready to attempt—not ready for prime time, yet.
  • Stuff I can’t explain—“What the heck was that about?”

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

2015–Your Chosen Advantage-5

HOPE

“You must decide today not to rob the world of the rich, valuable, potent, untapped resources locked away within you.” Myles Munroe  (Understanding Your Potential, Destiny Image Publishers, 1991, 2002)

If the feelings, “I’m not worthy” and “I don’t deserve…” destroy or neutralize faith, then “It doesn’t matter” is the feeling that keeps your hope level low. Of the books I’ve written, I have favorites, but the most important is HopePushers.  It will be published as an ebook in January 2015. The book’s purpose is to describe hope as the infrastructure of your life. The book’s content can be distilled to….

  • Hope—what it is
  • How to gain it
  • How to maintain it
  • How to dispense it.

Pay Attention to your emotions

Hope cannot be gained by direct approach, it is a by-product. One of my tribe asked why hope is not a fruit of the Spirit. It has those qualities. Hope, more than the fruit, is dependent upon your decisions, actions and pursuits. Hope comes as you manage your mind and feelings and follow an inflow regimen.

Guy Winch, author of Emotional First Aid. (You may also see him on Winch’s Tedx Talk). The soil where hope grows is more fertile as you pay attention to these:

  • Pay attention to emotional pain. Don’t ignore it, do something! Emotional needs healing.
  • Take Action when you feel lonely. Reach out. Connect.
  • Stop your emotional bleeding. Take control of what you can: preparation, planning, effort and execution. (“But it won’t make any difference.” That is not true. Hope grows as you consistently do what you can.)
  • Protect your self-esteem. “Guard your heart for out of it flow the issues of life.” Self-esteem (what you feel about you) is like an emotional immune system. How? Avoiding negative self-talk and negative people who target you with their poison.
  • Revive your self-concept after a rejection. Winch suggests: no name-calling and treating yourself with compassion—kind, understanding, supportive. Tell yourself your story carefully.
  • Battle Negative thinking.  No rumination—find ways to stop re-chewing it.
  • Know the impact of wounds and how to treat them.

Commit to self-satisfying work and avocation

Design your work space

  • What is your vision/dream?
  • What do you love to do?
  • What do you do in your work that doesn’t seem like work?
  • What is energy efficient? It brings back more than it uses up?
  • What in your work requirements are you not good at? Outsource it! Have someone do what you suck at so you can do what you love and excel in doing.
  • How can you increase your value in your work assignment? Seminar? Book? Mentor?

The chosen advantage is that you daily invest in hope-building activities. You keep the flow open at these entrance points and flowing out into deserts and wastelands—to those areas and people whose barrenness needs what you are receiving, learning and applying.

My grandfather had an outdoor shower. He built a structure to hold a barrel with a chain to open the valve to let the water flow upon him. He would fill the barrel with a hose and let it warm in the sun so it would be ready when he came from the field at the end of the day. Faith, hope, love demand the same attention.

Honor your daily appointment with God

The inflow depends upon hearing what you don’t already know. Jeremiah 33:3 is a remarkable source for a productive life.

Come on over here to the window—the chosen advantage. From this view of your world, make a list of your assets. Friends who think you are worth their time and affection, family members who invest in you and want to help you hang the moon, perceive opportunities, and build skills.

There is one more chosen advantage—Love. Not an emotion, this is about your relationships—the third resource. Join me for this last conversation in this series. Bring your list of assets.

©2015 D. Dean Benton—Writer, Wonderer, Provoker