Monthly Archives: February 2016

An Apprentice Welcoming Culture

Stephen Mansfield tells about an African bishop describing what churches were doing in a difficult part of Africa. After the sermon-report, the bishop was asked why things he described were not happening in this country.

“Here is the reason…you Americans study your God. We Africans worship ours. You get smarter. We get changed. And then we change the world around us.

“By doing rather than merely studying, we create a culture. Newcomers and the young feed on that culture. They watch. They do. They, too, are changed. Our culture expands. You Americans create a system of thought. The most you ask is that people contemplate new ideas. You might ask them to give or to sometimes attend meetings, but no contagious culture is created. Nothing is offered to newcomers and the young but thoughts. So they think. They don’t do.”     (Mansfield’s Book of Manly Men. Nelson Books 2013)

I don’t know when that was said. It is overstated and generalized, but on target or fairly close.

 “We are changed. We craft a contagious culture. People feed on this culture and change the world.”

That is stimulating and motivating. Leading edge business people and pastoral-entrepreneurs talk a lot about establishing and maintaining their specific culture. A. R. Bernard is the founder, Senior Pastor and CEO of Christian Cultural Center (CCC) located in Brooklyn, New York. The church includes about 40,000 members. When the church was established, Bernard challenged them to include the word “culture” in the name. He was not establishing an art center; he was calling forth people who would inculcate and spread the New Testament culture.

Jeff Goins is a writer, blogger, podcaster, entrepreneur. His book, The Art of Work is one of the best on work, calling and vocation. The subtitle: “A Proven Path to Discovering What You Were Meant to Do.” The best part of the book (for me) is his discussion on apprenticeship and the place of guilds in an earlier century. If a person wanted to pursue a craft, they joined themselves to a mentor-teacher. They became an apprentice and then a journeyman working to become a master.

“Atelier” is a French word meaning “workshop.” In the Middle Ages, these workshops were where artists watched and were taught by applying what they had observed. They were in a distinct culture. The idea of “Atelier” has guided me through my Southwood series and Quest House thinking. Inspiring spiritual curiosity, building places of examination and questioning, making room for risking, trying and repair.

I heard this weekend:

  • If you want to increase your faith, get around people of faith.
  • If we were going to stop living poor, we had to change our thinking.
  • You will pursue the anointing of the person whose anointing you most admire.

All of that is accomplished in specific cultures. Every organization has its own culture. Some are destructive, some ruthlessly guard the status quo, while others celebrate people and risking and practicing correctly.

“A good apprenticeship isn’t about an exchange of information; it’s about passing on the skill of the master and multiplying it.” Jeff Goins The Art of Work (Nelson Books, 2015).

In the 1700s, Arthur Guinness laid out his Five Pillars of Success. The first is, “Discern the ways of God and business,” which sounds a lot like “Find what God is doing and join Him.” If I correctly read the times, the campaign of Bernie Sanders indicates a desire to be part of a movement that makes a difference.

In my book Carafe Conspiracy, an Atelier is built at Southwood. It has several suites where apprenticeship happens. Where does God seem to be calling people to become equipped to live their own lives but to grow into journeymen and masters?

  •  Purpose
  • Fathering
  • Marriage/divorce/children of divorce
  • Healing of shame and wounds.
  • Healing of depression, anxiety—learning and using good coping skills
  • Finances—how to: make as much as you can, save as much as you can, give as much as you can.
  • How to make a difference

There are several suites in that Southwood building. We have space available. If the culture was guided by affirmation and validation what skill/ability  would you add? Because you needed to learn? Because you have an idea? Because your heart beats faster when you think about the difference your knowledge could make?

“Are you raising great kids or raising kids to be great adults?” Andy Andrews. Who are you including in your tribe who can help you be all you want your life to be? Mentors, apprentices, journeymen, masters?

©2016  D. Dean Benton—writer & wonderer


Twitter:       @DeanBenton





Becoming a Man

Stephen Mansfield was in Damascus on his way to work with a relief ministry. Something was wrong with his passport so he was stuck. A friend, who is a member of the Syrian parliament, heard he was stranded and found him. The friend took him to officials who could help and then took him to his Orthodox church. The Syrian friend wanted to show off his American friend and to put that American next to his local friends. Ultimately, they ended up on the roof of a hotel in downtown Damascus with a dozen Arab men.

“That’s where I became a man,” the writer says.

Nadeem decided to host a small party over Mansfield’s objection.

“I found myself…surrounded by high-ranking government officials, their submachine gun-toting bodyguards, several expensively dressed businessmen, and one man in a shemagh—the traditional Arab cloth headdress—who looked to me as thought he had just come in from the desert. Of course, the desert was about three blocks away.

“Nadeem…began introducing me to his friends, and he insisted I recount my life since birth along with everything he and I had ever discussed. This got the party started, meaning we spoke to each other as well as we could—which was badly—while we ate cashews the size of a man’s thumb and bowls of watermelon. Some of the older ones smoked the nargillah, the intriguing Arab water pipe often called a hookah. All were gracious and interested.”

Because they had limited understanding of each other’s language, the conversation lagged. That motivated the fellow wearing the shemagh to lean forward and ask a question.

“There was great wonder in his face, as though he was inquiring about one of the great mysteries of God.

“‘A son. Do you have?’ I’m telling you every man on that roof stopped what he was doing and turned to hear my answer.

“ ‘I do,’ I replied.”

“ ‘Ah,’ he grew excited. ‘His name?’

“Jonathan,’ I answered.

“The man slapped his knee and shouted, ‘Aha!’ Then you have a new name! You are Abujon!’ Suddenly, there was a lot of smiling and head nodding and Arab voices one on top of the other.

“They could tell I didn’t understand. Nadeem tried to explain. Apparently, when an Arab man has a son, his name changes. From that moment on, he is addressed with a combination of Abu, which means father, and the name of his son. Apparently, Arabs consider fatherhood so important that once a man becomes a father to a son, he is honored for it the rest of his life.

“So I became Abujon.

“When this was announced that rooftop erupted. Men started shaking my hand and slapping me on the back. Food arrived by the platter-full: the best lamb I have ever had and a dozen types of baklava. It just wouldn’t end. After a while, music sounded from somewhere, and several of the men started teaching me an Arab dance, one holding his submachine gun in his other hand. It was a night! Finally, at three or four in the morning, they drove me back to my hotel and backslapped me out the car door.

“ ‘Gooooodnyett, Abujon.’

“I went to my room, as spent as I was, I sat up for hours longer staring out the window at the brilliant Damascus night. Something had happened to me. I could feel it but couldn’t put words to it.

“It came to me a day or two later. At first it was a great sadness, and then it became a ferocity and strength that has never left me. … Never before in all of my life had I ever been welcomed into the fellowship of men. Not once. Not ever. Nor had I ever undergone any sort of ritual to mark any of the important turning points in my life as a man. No one had ever said to me, ‘Congratulations. You are now a man among men.

“Frankly, I didn’t know I needed to hear it.

“When the moment finally did come, it was a gift of Arab men who issued the welcome with hardly a word. They named me. They celebrated me. They gave me gifts. They made it clear they understood. They counted me as one of their own.”

“Mansfield’s Book of Manly Men” by Stephen Mansfield, (2013 Nelson Books)

Carole and I were having a discussion about yesterday’s post which referenced this. It didn’t speak to her and we questioned whether men would read this. Our discussion was interrupted by the police scanner announcing a non-medical emergency on a street corner we could see from our kitchen window. The police were on their way to help a man in a life-death crisis. I did not know the man, but I knew that whatever was going on, it had to do with his perception that he was a failure as a man. It may have been work-related, or marriage or parenting, it didn’t matter. It was that he was feeling like a loser as a man.

Only a man or group of men can confer manhood onto a boy or another man. Mansfield talks about this in the book.  The book is currently on sale at Amazon Kindle. It will help mothers and wives understand.


©2016  D. Dean Benton—writer & wonderer


Twitter:       @DeanBenton




Honorable Fence Clearing

When John Adams and Thomas Jefferson were running against each other for the presidency, the Adams’ campaign put an ad in the paper: “Adams—God; Jefferson—no God.” That was one nasty ad among several.

It has been going on since the beginning of the republic. I am totally disgusted with it. I can’t believe that a grown man would publically trash someone’s momma. That is grounds for a thrashing! And I wouldn’t be surprised if Mrs. Bush gets at it! I can’t imagine Jeb doing it, but what if he intentionally started trashing Mr. Trump’s mother? Or had no monitor on his use of vulgarity in the presence of a Trump daughter and/or wife?

A friend celebrated her mother on this the sixth anniversary of her home going: “Thanks, Mother, for the high standards you taught us, and for leading us in paths of righteousness.”

Bill Johnson is senior pastor of Bethel Church in Redding, California. That church has been a cutting edge church. He was asked last Sunday at the celebration of his 20th year as senior pastor what influences he brought to his leadership. He talked about his father who pastored during the influx of the Hippie era and the Jesus Movement. “He built a ‘culture of honor.’” Every person was honored. That culture does not always come without cost. At one point, the choice to honor everyone cost Bethel Church 1000 attendees in one week. Long run: the decision to honor drew many more than it cost.

“Honoring one another,” is what is lacking in this mud-slinging cage fight called an election. The culture of honor. I don’t know how the details work out in this political election madness, I just sense we have watched our society turn into a vicious habit of dishonor—in social media and the news. Our shattered society needs better.

There are candidates I wouldn’t want in my house, let alone the White House. Would they use those words when addressing my wife or talking about my family?

My primary concern is not about teaching politicians how to honor and be honorable. My concern is me building a culture of honor in my own sphere of influence.

Miss Linda gives us some guidance in sorting this out. Her mother exemplified and taught… “…high standards and leading in the paths of righteousness.” The more I have thought about this the broader and more intense the call to honoring, building high standards and teaching the path’s of righteousness by honoring God, honoring others and honoring self. I have witnessed the results of Linda’s mother’s demand for “high standards” which played out and paid off in excellence.

I want a level-headed person having access to the nuclear code and the red phone. I want a person who has a wide circle of wise counselors as the immigration policy is set. I want integrity and toughness in the Commander In Chief. But high on the scale is a person who is honorable and given to honoring.

Pope Francis said The Donald is not a Christian because Christians don’t build walls. I applauded when several of the other Republican candidates came to Mr. Trump’s defense. An honorable thing to do.

The Pope’s unfortunate timing—this being the opening of baseball spring training. Going to be some fence clearing.

©2016  D. Dean Benton—writer & wonderer


Twitter:       @DeanBenton






There has been so much noise lately I’ve had no desire to add to it.
I like the political process. One of my friends posted she doesn’t like political discussions. They upset her and make her sad. It is not the discussions that are puke-ish. It is the non-discussion—the grenade throwing.

Social media has become a sewer of snarky, hateful and bad-mannered negativity. One of my favorite Christian writers has posted some nasty comments about all others who oppose her candidate. I’m not sure I will buy another of her books—her comments have damaged her worthiness to influence my thinking.

This morning I read a few pages from a Quaker book on silence. I then worked my way through several pages of Twitter. With some exceptions, the political comments were nothing but noise. NOISE! Not helpful, insightful or even good for my ears to hear—just noise.

I haven’t chosen who to vote for. The list is growing shorter. I won’t even listen to anyone who does not exhibit civility. Civility—does not use guttural language, treats others respectfully even when the opponent is talking craziness, chooses to debate not sling vitriol at opponents. I am waiting for a debater to say, “Alfred, help me understand what you mean and how it will work when you say….” If the idea is nonsensible—as some of them are—the opponent will grease his/her own slide into oblivion.
I thought Christie’s “…there it is…” to Rubio was clever, perfectly timed and for the moment the exactly right thing. In the long run it may have hurt the Governor.

Stephen Mansfield’s book is now available—“Ask it.” Mansfield says more than anything we need a statesman—a Churchillian type leader. Of the viable candidates, who would that be?

A rhetorical question which I think we know the answer: Has our culture and society become so base that to cut through the verbal clutter, a speaker has to use the f-word to get people’s attention? And no one calls him down! I remember when the words, “Not in the presence of women and children!” pulled speech back from the sludge. Dear God, the barbarians have entered the conversation. Maybe even paid big bucks to perform on half-time shows. (Incidentally, Beyonce did not arbitrarily decide to do all that stuff. Some higher-ups who can’t do choreography made that decision.)

One line from a reporter cleared the fog for me: “Is this a person who you want to be a role model for your children?” The next president must accomplish much with international terror, energy, education and 6 million other things. He or she must also find ways to do what John Wesley did: Repair the manners of the people.

Trying to avoid the noise and slop.

©2016 D. Dean Benton—writer & wonderer

Twitter: @DeanBenton

Depot is available from Smashwords and on the way to Barnes & Noble and other outlets.

Hooked by a Paradigm

I read recently that a writer’s initial job is to invite people to join the adventure. In case you missed the innuendo, come join the tribe. Begin to see your life as an adventure and your tribe as players in the drama and share your adventure with me.

More than a thousand times people tell me concerts and seminars, “You are making up those stories.” No. If so, I would make them better. We went to a funeral a few days ago and saw a former family member we haven’t seen for 30 years. She came to the funeral to see us. It was wild! We heard stories! (I didn’t know a person could talk for 52 minutes without taking a breath. While I was taking notes on my inner clip board.)

Tell me the adventure of being you this week. I said grace over a meal from the band stand in a bar recently. That was interesting. The funeral was sad and out of my tradition, but I experienced God’s presence. That was part of the adventure. Did I tell you about going to a coffee shop where they were cooking with curry, onions, garlic and other herbs? The adventure of trying to recapture my best winter coat from a horrible smell wasn’t funny, but it will explain why that coat is hanging in the middle of our kitchen if you should visit and wonder.

It is not a starving ego that makes me believe that “The Adventure of being Dean” is of value. I believe my experiences rung through story telling or my slightly-bent inner interpreter will teach us something that will bring added value to both of us. Let’s look at the day we left home early to beat the blizzard.

An experienced diver in Jupiter, Florida, put a shark into a trance so he could remove a hook from its mouth.

What does a working “anti-establishment” presidency look like? Someone has to convene the meeting and write checks to pay the light bill. We are not an absolute democracy which means we do not gather the entire population or membership to vote whether to pay each invoice or to fuel Air Force One. How does an anti-establishment presidency get the coffee made, floors swept and the kids to school on time? (Metaphorically speaking.)

One of the anti-establishment candidates is using the word “revolution” frequently. Does that word mean a movement or anarchy? Vince Lombardi began each training camp holding a ball and instructing the team: “This is a football.”

Back to the metaphors. Every four years, the Supreme Court—or someone—should get out the Constitution and say, “This is the Constitution.” You boys and girls can do almost anything you want (no eye-gouging or deflating) as long as you stay within the wide markers of this document. We are a republic and our economic system is capitalism.

Does an anti-establishment presidency just change who makes up the establishment?

I’ve been thinking about paradigms. A line from the “Family Ties” TV series. The teenage girl is making a case to her parents for her boyfriend: “Great citizen! He has already done 10,000 hours of community service.” A paradigm is bias in concrete. The bias may be good and accurate or stupid. The paradigm limits how we see reality beyond our own mind.

I meandered through a huge bookstore the other day while in a trance. I wanted a very good book for very little money. I kinda woke up in the Current Issues department with all the books by presidential candidates. Since I want to know the vision of each candidate, I would read every book. But not at cover price! A clerk was moving books around. I asked him how soon he thought the prices would drop on the “gone home” candidates. It was an effort at snarky repartee. He missed the cleverness. In explaining that not even store managers know ahead of time, he began making comments about each of the candidates. He doubted that Bernie’s book would ever go on sale. Then he landed on Dr. Ben Carson.

“The only reason he is running is for the book deals.”

And then the clerk told me a story from Mrs. Carson’s book which he concluded disqualified both Mr. and Mrs. Carson from everything, including membership in the garden club. Dr. Carson?!

In it for the book deals? What paradigm is that clerk stuck in? He can’t think a thought outside what he absolutely knows is true. It may be about physicians, all Republicans, Black people or a dozen other things. No one will ever convince him differently.

The diver successfully removed the hook from the shark’s mouth. If a shark can be put into a trance, how about humanoids?

It is a dangerous question, but necessary: What am I not getting right? Or, Am I thinking straight?

Regularly questioning your pet paradigms may be the greatest adventure of all. And most important.

©2016 D. Dean Benton—writer & wonderer

Twitter: @DeanBenton