Monthly Archives: June 2015

More Words about the Flag

It is a headline bound to get attention: “Neanderthal hybrid suggests humans bred with them much later than thought.”

“…modern humans and Neanderthals may have interbreeding in Europe as recently as 40,000 years ago.”

I didn’t know had been around that long.

In the body of the article. which comes from a study published in Nature, is an even more interesting sentence:

“Scientists are certain that our modern human ancestors interbred with Neanderthals suggesting that the species didn’t go extinct so much as blend in.”

So, when I go to a coffee shop or the mall, what should I watch for to identify a Neanderthal? Are they recognizable or have they blended in perfectly? Other than snarky remarks by some of the female persuasion, I don’t know that I’ve ever seen one—a Neanderthal which means they have done a great job blending.

Do they have a secret handshake or a way of lifting an eyebrow to identify themselves to others in their tribe?

Genesis 6:1-4 may reference this.

All I know is that I don’t want to act like one or sound like one.

Driven by that fear I haven’t written anything about the social battles although I have done some research and lots of thinking and inner-family talking, I enter the fray.

I love South Carolina. My favorite restaurant in the world is a place called The Lizard’s Thicket in Columbia. They serve 17 kinds of veggies. Lots of stories are tucked away in the Benton Memory file that happened in South Carolina—99.7% of them good

I have never owned a Confederate flag in any shape or sewn on a ball cap or shirt. It has no emotional connection with me. We do feel attachment to South Carolinians in the Low Country and Upstate who do have an attachment to the Stars and Bars. About 2 miles from our house—not even on the south side of town—a Confederate flag is clearly visible. It is to make a statement! The statement is different than most of the people I have met. To some the flag is an expression of pride in their region and a life that was more genteel than gross. It is not an expression of racial hatred or refighting of the Civil War. (I have met people who talk about “the war” and I was stunned to learn which war they were talking about.)

I love the columns, the fences, the porches, sweet tea and everything beautiful about the South. I have never had to deal with the ugly parts or even seriously consider what went on—goes on—behind the “genteel.” I’m a kin of Scarlett O’Hara and her way to thinking. I love the plantations in my fantasy and deplore the select real plantations where brutality and sexual abuse was rampant.

I have this feeling that good people in South Carolina are figuring out the right thing to do with the flag with its various meanings and heritage. They don’t need a bunch of Yankees telling them what to do or to offer them moral guidance as if the people whose boots are on their own sacred ground can’t figure it out themselves. They are offended by “outsiders.”

One of my former parishioners has a passion for Civil War Reenactments. His home is close to Rock Island, Illinois. If you know Civil War history, you know that location was a terrible spot. My friend sees all this discussion as an attack on heritage and a precursor to the attack on the United States flag and regional shaming.

My thinking about the Confederate Flag’s questionable meaning and locations took focus when Pastor Steven Furtick, a South Carolina native, asked why a Christian would display a flag if it caused others so much pain. He has biblical authority for that as Paul talks about not doing the controversial if it causes a brother to stumble. (1 Corinthians 8) My Civil War history friend counters by saying to Walmart, which took the flag off the shelf because it offends some, that Walmart (and others) should then, using the same rationale, take Bibles off the shelves because they are offensive to some. Pork should come out of the stores for it offends Muslims and Jews. Offensive sexually-oriented materials should not be sold. You know the sexually-oriented books are not going away! Being offensive is trumped by First Amendment Rights in the sexual realm.

As we were discussing this in the relative calm of our living room, where the liberals among us (who surely were picked up at the pound when days old and adopted into the family) said “no discussion—just get rid of it!” I wondered what symbol carried as much emotional weight for Iowans. I couldn’t think of anything. I also was alert to how complex the discussion will become when “outsiders” start insisting we abandon or surrender a practice or symbol that we treasure.

So that is how Neanderthals are recognized. Whether we are stating our opinions about same-sex marriage or a cloth symbol or a picture of that symbol, if we are “on the wrong side of history,” we are being recognized as Neanderthal in our thinking and so named.

This issue has become viciously politicized. Not many weeks ago, we watched as gangs and mobs burned the flag of the USA—Stars and Stripes, not Stars and Bars. I don’t recall a comparable passion to do something about that. Removing any symbol that has become a synonym for hate is appropriate, but nothing has really been or will be changed. The Confederate Flag did not cause the murders in Charleston, nor will its absence from store shelves, or flag poles keep such things from happening again.

I’m left with the question about anti-racism and counter-hatred. What would the behavior and mind-set/worldview be that would “blend in” and surreptitiously change a culture? The best answer I have heard in this discussion has come through testimonies of people whose hearts have been changed through instant transformation in some and for others a longer, but just as radical, when Jesus Christ came into their hearts.  Blending in to become a change agent.

Really wondering about this!

©2015 D. Dean Benton

Writer, Wonderer

Cup Cake Testing

A family of bakers in the “old country” (I don’t know which one) was so broke they could not buy adequate ingredients to bake their cakes. They had enough money to buy small portions to bake a few cupcakes. The family guarded the recipe and passed it to children who came to America. Years later, a granddaughter, who treasured the cupcake recipe, opened a cupcake shop which is flourishing.

The granddaughter’s husband quit his corporate job to join his wife operating the cupcake store. It is the post Great Recession story. By 2020, 40-50% of the American workforce will be freelancers. By 2030 the projection is the majority will be. Personal branding and launching are buzz words as more people become entrepreneurs.

There is a trend of having cupcakes at weddings instead of or in addition to cakes. That family is positioned perfectly. This is a true story. Our grandson works in that shop—but is not trusted with the recipe—no one is, not even their red dog named Duke.

Being able to create alternative plans is a precious skill. Expanding options is ignited by developing curiosity and unquenchable desire to learn and knowing what to do with reverses, rejection, refusals and blockages.

Seth Godin’s blog capsulates the marketing challenges for the blogger, every creative and cupcake baker:

  1. Who are you trying to reach? (Everyone is the wrong answer.)
  2. How will they become aware of what you have to offer?
  3. What story are you telling/living/spreading?

Whether you are starting a new coffee shop or trying to expand your church, those three questions must be answered. The tighter and more researched the answer, the more apt you will get to sell your widget, whether it is something to read or wear or eat.

Marketing is story telling.

Don’t forget your free Benton ebook “On My Family Watch.” Follow the link: Use the code XH25Q at checkout for a free copy. If you have a problem, let me know. I’ll ask our IT person—who had to help me.

©2015 D. Dean Benton

Writer, Wonderer, Cupcake taster

Things I Should Have Learned Earlier

The singer is back.

Last season, a little bird with a beautiful voice moved his wife into a birdhouse outside our window. They filled it with twigs, branches and logs and then never lived in it. The two birds abandoned their home. They never came back. In the early winter, I opened the back door of the bird house and sadly cleaned out the house. Perhaps a new family would move in.

We were stunned last evening to see that little bird fly into the house, look around and then step out onto a branch to make remarks to the neighborhood. Our window was closed, the A/C was running, so I didn’t hear the song or comments. I could see its beak moving and he looked bewildered. I think he was questioning who emptied his house.

I don’t know this as a fact, but it seemed right. You ornithologists will know more. I think the bird made plans last year for his housing needs for the summer of 2015. I’m not making this up. I seemed to know what was going on with that bird—someone trashed his house and he was protesting—what kind of a neighborhood is this? Carole questioned me about birds using second-hand bedding. She didn’t have a better explanation.

Another skill to add to our personal tool box: the ability and habit of planning ahead and creating margin. Who plans for next season? Who builds margin into everyday life? The unstressed, people with active Planners and those of us who don’t spend our best moments looking for keys, lists, files and the cat who has to be under one of these piles of documents on my desk.

Repeating. Important habits and skills: Planning for the next season and building margin. A couple of helpful older books: Ordering Your Private World, Gordon MacDonald  and Margin by Richard A Swanson, M.D.

If you have an idea about the strange habits of the little bird, I’m listening.

©2015 D. Dean Benton

Follow me on Twitter:  @DeanBenton

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I Like Pockets

I need pockets. Summer brings a challenge. Polo shirts may or may not have pockets, but putting a pen in a polo shirt pocket is the ultimate picture of wrong. Where do I carry my phone, pen, keys, dollar bills, handkerchief, notes and receipts? Cargo pants seem to be a good choice. Cargo pants with a filing system.

Guard your heart.

I know preachers have warned us that because “the heart is desperately wicked,” we must guard it—like stationing a Marine to keep the heart from escaping and going on a crime spree. In contrast, several of my favorite writers say the warning is not to keep the heart under control, but to keep destructive elements from damaging our hearts—not from keeping the heart in, but to keep potential harm out.

We must guard our hearts from being overtaken by all the other things in our lives.

You’ve got to fight for your heart.

That is the dominant phrase of my week. All those “pockets” will take over. Keeping your life enriched and potent means to fight for minutes or moments or hours to listen, think, read, interact or tune it—whatever fills your soul. The alternative is to live with an empty soul, which in practical terms is called stress, depression, emptiness.

Soul Tending: self-aware of what makes you hopeful and being motivated and fueled by love, joy and peace. Think of those three as essential commodities. How do they manifest in you?

I filled holes in our lawn this spring with extra potent soil. I planted Viagra-driven grass seed and covered it with a mesh to keep the soil from eroding and to encourage the grass to germinate. That is the image that has dominated my thinking and the words have been: What are you doing today that will germinate and enrich?  Everything else in all those pockets of your life will be stimulated or thwarted by what is happening in your “heart.”

All those pockets are filled with stuff that needs to be done and they are militant. They will steal your lunch. They are not to be neglected or abandoned, just kept in their proper place. One of the rules is—no stealing or replacing my Soul Tending time.

Fighting for my heart.

©2015 D. Dean Benton

Writer, Wonderer, Meanderer—- follow me on Twitter–@DeanBenton

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