Monthly Archives: November 2015

Thinking in a quiet house

Selecting a few words or a scripture to read at the Thanksgiving table was tricky. I chose words from Robert Benson, “The Game—One Man, Nine Innings, A Love Affair with Baseball.” (Tarcher/Penguin, 2001)

His few paragraphs on keeping score—“…it requires that you learn the language of the game.” For example, 1B stands for a single, HR for a home run, CS for caught stealing. There is room on a score card in the little boxes only for shorthand. If you are keeping score, you must pay attention to the game all the time. “Each pitch, each move on the base paths, each fielding play has to be recorded….”

A trip to the bathroom or to get popcorn can cost you two or three batters and the rhythm of the game. “You can end up with the dreaded WW marked on your card.”

“The WW is a mark invented by Phil Rizzuto, the famed Yankees player turned broadcaster. He said it stands for “Wasn’t watching.” It equals ‘I was not paying attention.’” (page 48)

“So, what are you most thankful for this year?”

The deepest thanks stimulants sneak up on you and they are upon you before you can reach your phone to take a picture. Some of them are not cosmic or recognized by the crowd. They come more like flashes of light, glancing blows or hints. When my turn comes to answer the “Most thankful for?” question and I settle for “family” or “Pumpkin Spice Oreos” it is a good indication that I haven’t been paying close attention. Wasn’t watching.

Headlines that caught my attention this season:

“Americans use to get happier in their thirties. Not any more.”
“Gratitude keeps us hopeful.”
“Positive emotions make us more resilient.”

The letters “PA” in the entertainment world means “Personal appearance.” That is foundational for having valuable experiences to talk about over the turkey gravy and dressing. Short hand for showing up and paying attention and I’ve carved back my narcissism. Whoever is keeping score be informed: I’m not going to get this perfect. I am self-absorbed at times just trying to survive or to indulge my pathetic self, but I intend to pay attention. I do take notes.

Jesus, thank you for forgiving my sins. I ask you to help me erase the WW from my brand—the way people perceive me.

PA

© 2015 D. Dean Benton bentonministries.com
Writer, Wonderer, Ponderer, Meanderer

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His Heart

Joel Heng Hartse, in a Christianity Today article says about the classic dcTalk album Jesus Freak, “Its production is exquisite and warm, and its songs both catchy and weighty. I listen to the album now and remember the way I loved it when I was 15, with a religious fervor. How fitting, then, that Jesus Freak opened my eyes to so many things about my faith: its dangerousness and complexity, its beauty, truth, and fragility.”

I’m wondering what album or song came close to opening my eyes to my faith’s “complexity, dangerousness, beauty, truth, fragility.” What song sent me onto a search for answers or solutions? It has been said that The Weatherford Quartet’s album In The Garden is the finest Gospel album ever recorded. The precision, startling harmonies and intricate chords captured us. I played specific phrases over and over as I tried to duplicate the sound of groups like The Imperials, Sons of Song, Statesmen and a dozen others. But open my eyes to my faith’s dangers, complexities, beauty, truth, fragility? I wasn’t looking for a mind stimulant. I never came away from a concert or hours with headphones mainlining music directly to my soul to say, “I’ve never thought of that before.” Some songs have a way of hanging around your heart.

Babbie Mason’s phrase “When you can’t trace His hand, trust His heart” raised questions and internal discussion. I was not enamored by the melody or interesting chord progression. The music felt a bit awkward at times, but that line fueled something in my mind.

God is too wise to be mistaken
God is too good to be unkind
So when you don’t understand
When you don’t see His plan
When you can’t trace His hand
Trust His heart

To trust God’s heart demands that we know Him—His character, His desire for us, His vision of our destiny. It depends on us believing—at least to have an inclination to risk believing—that He cherishes us, sees value in us. Our self-esteem comes from what we feel about ourselves which is constantly changing. Our worth is God’s evaluation and His gift. He can’t be talked out of that. The Bible reveals God’s heart; the Holy Spirit reveals God’s feelings to us as an individual.
Trust His Heart

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

Don’t feed the fear

One of the rules is “Don’t feed the fear.”

Dr. Caroline Leaf talks about the toxicity of seriousness. Our brains need laughter, fun, play and light as lubricant. The problem with loving CNN, Fox News, MSNBC and NPR is they keep my brain on constant vigilance and my adrenal gland pumping at warp speed.

How does one not “feed the fear” with hours or days of listening or watching the graphic news about terrorist attacks? (Film at 11.)

I have met refugees from the camps of 450,000 residents. The ones we met are unique in that their manners were shaped by British caregivers (afternoon tea) and they gave their lives to follow Jesus. Some of them, however, are scarred by the experience that led to the camps and the months and years in those camps. Not all of them are safe. There are some I wouldn’t rent a room to!

Before you make a major decision about inviting Syrian refugees to camp in your backyard, please read the article from The Atlantic entitled “What Isis Really Wants.” (available online)

Democracy invites conversation and debate. We do not come to truth by debate. Truth is! It does not depend upon contrasting voices. We do come to an understanding of the truth as we talk and debate. We are hearing both Republicans and Democrats and the rest of the political spectrum demanding everyone else just shut up—stop “popping off.” Adult debate—conversation about the right thing to do—does not equate to tossing grenades or launching verbal missiles at each other. Nor does the refusal to talk make sense.

“What you are saying borders on insanity—keep talking to me.”

The inflexibility and absolutism of paradigms—an inability to even consider anything beyond our adopted paradigm even though all the evidence calls for an alternative explanation—is never as apparent as during political campaigns and when we are frightened by the unknown or have every reason to be afraid.
We don’t need a

Mocker-in-chief
Scolder-in-chief
Lecturer-in-chief
Divider-in-chief
Blamer-in-chief

Leaders win few followers with contempt, sarcasm, belittlement.
The “refugee” situation is worthy of civil and deeply studied conversation with no reference to polls, ambition or elections.
I’ve been thinking about Caleb. (Joshua 14) Whatever practice he used to not be controlled by his fear, it worked when he was 40 and was still working when he was 85. He and Joshua saw possibilities when their comrades were terrorized. As it turned out….

©2015 D. Dean Benton check out our updated website: bentonministries.com

Do branches have feelings?

From Wild at Heart by John Eldredge. (Thomas Nelson, 2001).

“Most men have a hard time sustaining any sort of devotional life because it has no vital connection to recovering and protecting their strength; it feels about as important as flossing. But if you saw your life as a great battle and you knew you needed time with God for your very survival, you would do it. We’ll find a way to make it work when we are convinced we’re history if we don’t.” (Page 170)

Sitting by the Mississippi this week where I go to hear from God and long for a better cup of coffee and a visit to Alabama, Mississippi or Louisiana, I’ve been experiencing Bible reading and prayer about as motivational and helpful as a bent nail. The branch staying connected to the vine (John 15:1-11) is part of my spiritual DNA—that is, I know how fundamentally important it is even when I neglect the practice. I want it to be like a fresh Shrimp Po Boy or a bagel with exquisite cream cheese. It hasn’t been lately.

Amazing that the weatherman can say on Tuesday morning that on Thursday evening at 6:05 a fast-moving storm with high winds and potential for tornadoes will move through our town at 60mph. How do they know that? Sure enough. Right on the dot.

Carole and I react to storm warnings differently. I pack up all the flash drives containing my books, manuscripts in progress and office forms to get those treasures protected. Carole said as I was carrying my case to the basement, “Will you vacuum for me?” That would never be my first prep idea. Never! Of course I vacuumed and restrained my caustic, sarcastic words. But really! You sure don’t want the floor to look trashed if an E-5 tornado drops in. The Lady explains if only a wind gust shows up and takes out the electricity for four days (as it has done) she doesn’t want to have a trashy floor if she can’t vacuum because people will drop in—probably CNN and reporters from Fox who will comment on the carpet.

So with the Kirby idling in the pantry, I’m wondering if I should run down to the riverfront today just in case Jesus is there and has something he wants to tell me. An agronomy fact spoke to me. The nutrients and life-energy flowing from vine to branches leave no notes. The branches do not feel the nutrition inflow. It is when the flow is interrupted, that the branch senses something is wrong. I picked up branches in the lawn this morning–the end result of interrupted flow and disconnection.

“But if you saw your life as a great battle and you knew you needed time with God for your very survival, you would do it.” (Eldredge)

…………..

It sure would be fun and enriching, maybe a life-line, to get together with a bunch of guys to talk about guy stuff that Eldredge talks about in this helpful book that has sold well over 1 million copies.

©2015 D. Dean Benton

Our upgraded website is online—http://www.bentonministries.com/

Changed to What?

Donald Trump raised the question. Can a person change?

Trump defined Dr. Ben Carson as “pathological.” And the only way anyone who did the things Carson did as a boy or early teen could be different would be to “stay on his medication.” Dr. Ben Carson has spoken widely about his story of redemption. Fifty years of exhibited change is convincing to me.

Mr. Trump has told us—I paraphrase—that he has never felt a need to ask for forgiveness. Now he vehemently denies the power of change or redemption. My take-away from an interview: Trump infers that how we come into this world is our destiny. Cast in stone. No possibility of change outside the realm of drugs—chemistry. That is a dangerous assumption especially for those who see themselves beyond the need for grace or change.

I’ve been thinking about the possibility or impossibility of change all week otherwise I would have thrown Mr. Trump’s statement onto the pile of his outrageous statements. I would have assumed he was really running for Pope—the infallible being. Except—I’ve been thinking about Saul.

Talk about candidates! Saul was prime. He was the package. Head and shoulders above the crowd, most handsome in the country, raised in a wealthy family, had the right connections. The prophet Samuel privately anointed Saul to be king before the people voted. It seemed that even God had voted in the poll that put Saul at the top.

It did not go well for Saul. His 42 year tenure as Israel’s first king was overshadowed by the dark clouds that accompanied him through his entire life. He apparently didn’t stay on his meds. But the outcome contradicts the anointing and inauguration speeches and prophesies. At the outset, there is a prophecy.

“…the Spirit of the LORD will come powerfully upon you and you will prophesy with them. You will be changed into a different person. After these signs take place, do what must be done…” (1 Samuel 10:6).

The prophesy was that Saul would be restored to the person God intended him to be. The promise was not a “different” person, but different than what he had become. He was hijacked from God’s intention. Saul missed it. He continued to be extremely shy. (On inauguration day, they found him in the storage room hiding under the piles of stuff.) Saul was bi-polar with a problem of paranoia and a jealous commitment to kill David. What happened to the “different person?”

This story distresses me. Not just as an academic pursuit, but at a feeling level. My soul hurts and distresses. What went wrong? Saul’s story comes to mind as I pray for friends in psyche wards, in jails, fighting addictions and living in bondage.

I’m attracted to Irving Stone’s book title—“Men To Match My Mountains” which is the story of the men and women who “won” America’s far west. Stone says, “Biography is not always a sweet tune, even when played by master musicians.”

Saul looks to be “the man.” Did God set him up to fail? Was Saul a place-holder until David was properly groomed as God’s real first choice? Was Saul doomed regardless of his anointing, good looks and marketability? Most confusing is the prophesy.

think sociologically while sitting in a psychological arm-chair as a Kingdom resident. What could or should have Saul done to fulfill the prophesy? The answer informs how to be helpful to my friends needing freedom. If God’s intent is that individuals and nations be changed by the impact of the Holy Spirit, in what environment and setting does the Holy Spirit work most effectively?

Perhaps, Samuel was listing for Saul not just one-time life changers, but the pattern he must follow the rest of his life to maintain the change and the new. With Samuel 10:6 as a guide:

  1. Go where the Holy Spirit is working.
  2. The importance of music. Prophesying in this story is music-oriented.
  3. Join with the ministries your soul resonates with.
  4. Participate in the ministry and the music. Spectators are usually disappointed.
  5. The participation will lead to the work you are to do. Ministry that brings invigorating positive change.

God changes us through the power and work of the Holy Spirit. We cooperate with the on-going change as we determine what we are to be changed into. This demands conversation. The minstrel band coming down the hill from worship holds great promise. Who are they? Where are they? How do you fit in the group?

©2015 D. Dean Benton—bentonministries.com (website open during reconstruction)