Monthly Archives: April 2015

Stopping in Baltimore

Stewart Alsop was a powerful journalist in the 40s-50s-60s. His brother Joseph was an international journalist while Stewart covered Washington and the domestic scene. In some ways they were king-makers and mind molders.

Stewart Alsop chronicled his terminal illness in his Newsweek column. I quoted this March 11, 1974 article titled, “I Didn’t Stop in Baltimore” in my 1982 book, Please Pass the Valium.

In a dream, Alsop announced to his fellow train passengers, “We’ll be stopping in Baltimore.” As he attempted to get to the door, the train lurched throwing him to the floor. He worked his way through a series of doorways until he came to a much larger door than had previously opened. The train stopped. Alsop saw what he assumed to be the station platform.

“There was something hellishly grim about the place. Suddenly, I was quite sure I didn’t want to stop in Baltimore.” The writer remembered. He also remembered saying “We won’t stop here. Start up the train and carry on.”

The episode, much to his surprise did not happen on a railway car, but in a hospital room. The bruises were real. He had fallen as he climbed out of bed four days after an operation that produced a grim prognosis. He wrote his analysis of the dream:

“My guess is that my decision not to stop at Baltimore had something to do with it. In a kind of fuzzy, hallucinating way I knew when I announced the decision not to stop in Baltimore that it was a decision not to die.”

It has been said before. I feel it today. America is at a crossroads—history may look at today as the date the country made the decision which road would be taken.

A news commentator said recently that four pillars of Western civilization are under attack from within and without. The future of civilization as we know it is being determined by this battle.

  1. Western culture and values
  2. Capitalism and the free-market system
  3. The Judeo-Christian view of marriage and family
  4. Christianity and Christians

With the vision of Baltimore burning and the anticipation of the Supreme Court decision, my prayer is that historians will write, “We didn’t stop in Baltimore.”

Copyright ©2015 D. Dean Benton—

Writer, Wonderer, Weeper

Lives Worth Keeping

We really didn’t belong out there. We were doing stress-management seminars for rural folks during the farm crisis of the 1980s. I knew stress well—been to the doctor a couple of times. I had studied the literature, talked to people, wrote a booklet about it, and had done seminars on the subject. It was our burden for the farmers that motivated me to focus on farmers.

Not until this moment have I made the connection. The people across the street from my boyhood home were the first folks in my world that had a TV. Test pattern mostly. The “folks” consisted of a single son and his mother. He lived in town and worked his two farms. My sister and I were at their house almost daily to watch TV. We knew them well. There was a murder and my farmer friend hung himself in his barn. I was about ten. Descriptive motivational words—anger, holding a grudge and pressure. I can’t be sure, but I wonder if the memory of “pressure” translated into stress and what it cost that family stirred me to focus on farmers?

I knew the guys who needed the message would probably not show up, but their wives sisters and mothers would. I was pleased that some of the men who had been through foreclosure came and some talked about their experiences. We went to 8-10 states and we were treated graciously. I hope those fine folks understood even though we had never lost a farm, we knew a small percentage of what they were feeling and most of all that we wanted to “be there” for them. I wrote a magazine article about the value of manure on boots.

We went to Georgia because a high-visibility pastor believed we had a message that could help. In more than one of those places I felt like a Yankee that had no business being there. I felt like a carpet bagger. No one suggested that, but I knew how thin my experience was compared to some of the folks I was talking to.

We heard so many stories about suicides. Nine hundred Upper Midwest farmers died by suicide in those days. I felt like a fraud. It wasn’t that I didn’t know the words; it wasn’t that I didn’t believe the stories I told. I had a conversation with a Georgia County Agent who had appeared on ABC Evening News. He told me the best healing voice was the person who had been through a foreclosure and would go visit a couple who was starting over when they should have been thinking about retirement. The words spoken or heard “I’ve been there” adds a tone of authenticity. The power of manure on boots.

Something happened to me today. I read an article on entitled “Farmers Have a Horrifying Suicide Rate.” I re-lived those terrible days of the 1980s. My body reacted as I remembered. All we had to go on was the belief that God could do a work in those breaking hearts if we made Him visible and available. We gave them some tools that worked for us when we chose to let them and when we worked them.

Some experts say that suicide among farmers is twice the national rate. It is the second highest of any job today. As I think of the drought in California, my concern increases. I don’t know many farmers anymore. It has been too long since I had manure on my boots.

The article featured an Oklahoma crisis counselor named Mona Lee Brock. She is now 83 and retired. Let me quote a couple of lines:

“For years (after the crisis) at Christmas time, Brock says she found her office full of yellow roses and poinsettias sent to her from farmers whose lives she convinced were worth keeping.”

“…whose lives…were worth keeping.”

I’m praying for farmers.

Copyright ©2015 D. Dean Benton—writer, wonderer, boot scraper

The Orphan Mindset

I unpublished my book on children of divorce because something was missing. Freud’s book, The Interpretation of Dreams, took eight years to sell out the first printing of 600 copies. He made $209. Seven more editions followed. The new edition of my ebook will begin its trek to best-selling status in a few days.

One of the missing explanations in Caught in the Tail Lights was the almost inevitable implanted “orphan mindset.” Part of the Christian world calls it “an orphan spirit.” I’m trying to be precise. The orphan mindset can become a stronghold—a way of thinking that imprisons us. Many of us make it life’s controlling paradigm.

Brené Brown talks much about scarcity being the controlling element of this age. She identifies it as the “never enough” culture. The orphan mindset has companions—the spirit of poverty, the experience of emptiness and the feeling of or fear of abandonment.

Picture an earth-moving machine—a dragline—that digs a huge chunk of earth out of a hillside. Strip mining sites come to mind when I think of kids. On the cover of Robert McGee’s book called Father Hunger is the blurb:

“In the hearts of many men and women is a hollow place. We long for a blessing that only a father can give.”

Think with me about the “hollow place.” We can visualize it as a hole in our soul like a gash in the ground or out of a hillside made by an earth-moving bucket. It is the absence of something that cries to be filled. “Nature abhors a vacuum.” I don’t know who said that, but Jesus talks about dealing with emptiness or the latter will be worse than the first.

In 1991, Dr. Margo Maine wrote the book Father Hunger. She defined the hunger: “It is the emptiness experienced by women whose fathers were physically or emotionally absent—a void that leads to unrealistic body image.” She followed the publication of her book with another decade of research related to the impact of that “emptiness” on the family. That father hunger is now called “The father wound,” and impacts both males and females.

Freud thought of belief in God as a collective neurosis—a nice way to say mental disorder. He called the innate belief in God as a “longing for a father.” Could that mean the reality Jesus and Paul referred to as Abba Father?

Surgeon Dr. Bernie Siegel was one of the most highly visible medical people on TV in the late 70s and 80s. His books were/are opinion-shapers. He said that unless grieved and healed, loss can lead to illness. The body will attempt to fill the vacancy, he said.

Romans 8:14-17 talks about Abba Father—the Heavenly Daddy. Christian writers address the void (called the orphan mindset) as a lack of experiencing the embrace of Abba. The spiritual-emotional orphan feels like there is no place for him/her in the Father’s house.

“An orphan spirit defines a person who lacks emotional identity and seeks to earn his identity through his/her efforts (rather than because of inheritance or position or relationship). Their symptoms include a critical spirit, being defensive, unable to take correction, feeling abandoned and blames others.”

That is almost a verbatim description of over half of the children of divorce that become adult children of divorce. But it not limited to children of divorce, nor to those who have no relationship with God. It includes (as Ms. Maine describes above) those whose parent(s) is physically present, but does not connect emotionally. I think kids who grow up in single-parent households or where their primary caregivers are dysfunctional in the marriage relationship are vulnerable to the orphan mindset and its companions.

A feeling of being an orphan, living out of a poverty mindset, scarcity being a constant evaluation—not just not having enough, but never being enough. I might change my mind about this, but I think vulnerability to these characteristics is inevitable for a majority of kids.

We cannot be spiritually mature or emotionally healthy while controlled by the orphan mindset with any or all of the linked mindsets, occupying spirits or strongholds.

The healing has two tracks. Both must be deliberate. I want to save the second one until another time. The essential healing is to experience the embrace of Abba Father. Romans 8 and Galatians make me conclude that upon entering a relationship with God, that embrace and acceptance enters our spirit. But!!! What are we to do with the many serious Jesus Followers who are dominated by the orphan spirit?

My preliminary answer is that Abba Father with his look of love, embrace, acceptance and affirmation must move from our spirit into our souls—where we feel, think, choose to act.

  1. How does the “embrace of Abba” happen?
  2. In what setting does it happen?
  3. What does the overflow from spirit to soul demand—what is required to allow it to happen? God is not resistant or reluctant, so there must be some action or invitation we must make. What is it?

My family talked about opening a drive-thru healing facility where we would spray the person with Pam as they drove through. I personally thought it was rather clever—fast, anonymous and leave your offering at the first window. A person living as an emotional orphan, limited by the spirit of poverty and smothered by scarcity, will not find my drive-thru idea funny. What setting, activity or ritual would work comfortably? I’m seriously asking about a delivery system.

Dr. Brown uses the phrase “shame resilience” as a preemptive action. If the orphan mindset or something akin to that is inevitable or some of us are made vulnerable to it through abandonment, abuse, rejection, neglect, deficiency, then, what would the components of preemptive fortification be?

First, I contend, is the experience of receiving God into the hollow place as Abba Father. I welcome your input before I take my industrial size can of Pam on the road.

Copyright ©2015 D. Dean Benton

Writer, Wonderer –ebooks @ http://www/

Shorthand Praying

My prayers have recently clustered around three acronyms.

WIGO—What is going on?

I have been known to ask, “What the hell is going on, here?” At times that is not a prayer; it is a statement of bewilderment or anger. Sometimes, it is a request to know what demon or dark spirit is currently active in my environment. I think our world is currently being set upon by a demonic plan. What spirit is the architect? The Holy Spirit knows! He can direct me in my prayers.

I also have a habit of asking, “What in God’s holy Name is going on?” Depending on the tone, my family knows it’s time to take the dog for a walk or join me in prayer. I expect an answer when I ask those questions. I want to know whether to rebuke and armor-up or join God who is doing something. God’s work often begins with discomfort which feels more like the former than the latter. I have a column in my prayer journal to write down what I hear in response.

WSID—What should I do?

We (family) have come into new information about health and healing. New information tends to look bizarre and sound crazy because it is outside the realm of the current norm. Did this information come to us at this specific time for a specific reason? Lord, what should I do about this?

Two or three weeks ago, I was thinking about acquaintances we haven’t seen for 3-4 decades. We received a post last week. Last week I was thinking about a couple in whose home we have stayed, whose family we have ministered to and whose stories are in a couple of my books. We haven’t had contact with them since they moved in @2000. They called Sunday. Lord, what do you want me to do in response?

There is another acronym that is attached to this one: WSIK? What should I know? This is a request for the gift of knowledge—either through personal revelation or information that comes to me from an external source. Knowing what to do often, but not always, is helped by having pertinent information. I don’t always get an answer!!! Which is not only frustrating, it is bewildering and a bunch of negative stuff—like self-doubt. Self-doubt is not helpful in faith building.

The “new” information apparently is new only to me. We were led into knowledge about it. The cautionary lights came on. I was directed to ask and to research it. We have knowledge and guidance. The information we have can be used wisely because we prayed, “What should I know about this?”

HCIH—How can I help?

Borrowing an Andy Stanley question—What does love require of me? As I pray through my family, my tribe, those to whom I have been assigned and others who are in crisis or the “deep weeds” I speak their names with the question ever in front of me. How can I be of value to this person?

Does He answer?

I got the hose outside last week. The connection needs a new washer. I can see the end of the spray nozzle from the treadmill. Drip by drip the water came out. Because of the sun’s angle, it caught the drip as it appeared and hung there. It looks like the water ignites for a moment and then explodes as it falls to the grass. Quite a sight! Perhaps as I speak the name and ask my questions the Heavenly Igniter does something brilliant that is beyond what I see. He does! or I wouldn’t bother to pray.

©2015 D. Dean Benton

The book Caught in the Tail Lights has been taken down so I can rewrite sections of it. It will be republished after a visit to the editor. It is a stronger book.

The book on anger Turn Back the Tirade is available:

Until April 15, readers of this blog may use the code KM56H for a free download of Turn Back The Tirade. Use code at checkout

Lover of Roads

It is one of my favorite magazine articles. The page edges are charred having survived a fire. It is yellow from being in a forgotten file. But it has been rescued to share with you.

The writer is Leon Hale. The magazine is Southern Living. The page number and date was burned away. I love this tale. I share a few paragraphs:

“My father was a great man, and mighty successful. He was the finest traveling salesman who ever drove a Model T Ford across Texas, selling overalls and work shirts to dry goods stores. He never made any money, but he was a dauntless explorer, a broadener of horizons, an expander of worlds.

“My mother was the Most Faithful Methodist Lady in Texas. She was also a cook who could slice a pie in five equal pieces, and that ain’t easy. My father became the salesman-explorer. His world was monstrous. He knew places like Corsicana, Waxahachie, Nacogdoches, Wichita Falls, Monahans. His world was more than half of Texas. He would come home and tell us about it and expand our horizons. He knew what the road looked like between Sonora and Eldorado, between Borger and Pampa. We would be driving to Grandma Hale’s farm and come to place that wasn’t characteristic of our immediate world and he would say, ‘This looks like the road between Cuero and Yoakum.’

“He never stopped trying to increase his range. I eventually saw a majority of the states and a few foreign countries. One of my bitter regrets is that he was not able to go.

“Toward the end of his time he had a stroke, and when I went to him in the hospital he had an atlas open on his thin middle. He put a shaky finger to Italy, where I spent a year in World War II, and he said, ‘Tell me what the road looks like between Naples and Salerno.”

I read that article in concerts and seminars. In Texas they would correct my pronunciations and I loved them for doing that. There is more to the article. I am so glad I found it again.

“…he was a dauntless explorer, a broadener of horizons, an expander of worlds.”  Those words always were instructive. They seem to define a father’s mission and task. Thank you Mr. Hale.

“He never stopped trying to increase his range. ”

©2015 D. Dean Benton

Writer, Wonderer, Explorer

Middle of the Channel

One of the sentences I underlined in my reading today describes a president and two of his top advisers during an intensely difficult time in world history. The three did most of their work backstage and quiet, but they kept some very bad things from happening.

“…they kept the ship in the channel.”

That is a fine phrase, don’t you think? Carole has been watching two TV series about living in Alaska. Both extended families have boats. One family lived on theirs until it sank. The other family had a barge-type boat. One pilot was verbally worried about getting out of the channel. Staying in the channel is kind of important.

I don’t know who is at the helm these days. The Ship of State seems to have no rudder or a pilot with any sense of where the channel is. I can’t imagine what John Quincy Adams, Andrew Jackson or Thomas Hart Benton would have said after hearing that Harry Reid intentionally lied about Mitt Romney on the senate floor and justified it because it helped his party win. There would have been hell to pay and the rhetoric would have been hot and loud. They would have verbally shredded him for dishonoring the very house in which he spoke.

“Dishonoring” is a word that isn’t used much anymore.

America has lost her way. The prime example is the current battle over Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Freedom Act. I have no legal or political training so I miss the nuances that headline writers play with and absolutely and totally change meanings the news story was originally about. That we even need those new laws tells me that our Constitutional rights and the specifics of the Bill of Rights have been dumped.

I have rethought the Christian bakers who won’t bake cupcakes for a same-sex wedding. I do not want government or brown-shirted hoodlums forcing that baker to do business with anyone. But, I can’t see how baking cupcakes for someone whose life-choices are objectionable threatens the faith of the baker. I’m betting they serve brownies to adulterers, robbers, perhaps killers, with no reluctance. My gas station does not ask about my sexual preference before they sell me gasoline.

I’m thinking the baker should feel honored that anyone respected his/her business enough to ask them to accept their money for value-added goods. Put a tract in the cake if it makes them feel better. “Show me the money!” The Christian baker is in business to provide a product or service and to show the love of God in the process. A profit-driven business is for making money.

Having said all that, I abhor the government or a hostile minority disrupting businesses or telling the person whose livelihood and capital is at stake how they should run their business. There are more anti-discrimination laws than can be policed.

An Indiana pizza place closed down today. The lady said they wouldn’t cater pizza to same-sex weddings because they are a Christian business. I understand why she said that. I understand the language, but her customers didn’t and the headline writers were panting for someone in the fire fight would give them fodder. I think the Christian pizza people  need to do customer related advertising that says in bold font—

“We cater pizza to same-sex weddings because THIS IS A CHRISTIAN BUSINESS.”

  Selling scones to someone doesn’t condone their lifestyle or make you a convert. If not serving cupcakes, brownies or pizza would change minds and hearts, then, Jesus should have found something else to do on that Friday.

Well, Choir, I’m fully aware that conversation is not being sought. The underlined words seem larger today because it feels to me like we’ve lost track of the channel.

“…they kept the ship in the channel.”

Who feels called to do that?

©2015 D. Dean Benton

Two NEW Benton books:

Caught in the Tail Lights—a novel about divorce. (Nothing novel about divorce!)

Turn Back the Tirade—Anger healing and management