Monthly Archives: April 2016

Your Kind of People


“Whenever I want to think hard, I need a river to help me lighten the load.”

South of Broad, Pat Conroy (Doubleday, 2009) Page 216

An hour on the riverfront to read and think. The book is about people who live in and the city of Charleston, itself. I am not relaxing, I’m trying to hone my craft and Pat Conroy is just the writer who can show me how stories should be told and the exact words to use.

I can smell the rivers and the flowers. I can see the streets and awesome houses as I read about a high school boy who does a terrible thing to two of his classmates. One runs back to his house of birth in the mountains just off the Asheville road. We have known for 350 pages that Niles and his sister are orphans whose mother was thirteen when he was born. His grandmother was twenty-seven. The only thing that has kept the sister and brother moving forward and running away from orphanages, it the hope that the mother will find them.

The author takes us along with Nile’s high school friends to that dirt floor cabin to talk him into returning to Charleston. It is there that we learn the thirteen year-old mother hung herself from a tree and her mother found her. She put a bullet in her own head.  All reason to hope has been removed.

Weeks later, the high school boy goes to a home where some of those high school friends are hanging out. Niles is there as is his sister and the second boy harmed by the cruelty. The reason for the visit is to apologize—to attempt to undo some of the damage he has done. The apology is gut-felt confession and repentance—the kind that might lead to convulsive sobbing and vomiting.

“I turn my back on Chad and continue to work on the hemline of Starla’s dress. Sheba did likewise and Trevor resumed his Schubert. Niles walked back to my room, and Chad stood in the middle of the room looking thunderstruck.

“Just a minute,” Mother said. “Niles, come back here! Trevor, knock it off. Leo, you and Starla, look at me. You can choose not to accept Chad’s apology, but tell him so to his face. Your rudeness I will not tolerate. This is not about Chad, really. It’s about the kind of people you are.”

About the kind of people you are.

My favorite two words in the gospel narrative are, “redemption,” and “restoration.” Jesus Christ can change who we are by the power of grace. His restoration is about the process of molding us into the person He originally had in mind. But there are a thousand flashpoints and determining moments in the dark when we cooperate with Him or undermine his most brilliant grace-filled acts.

It’s about the kind of people we want to become—the kind of people we will become.

© Copyright 2016 D. Dean Benton

The Jefferson Family

A new biography of Thomas Jefferson: “Most Blessed of the Patriarchs.” Annette Gordon-Reed and Peter S. Onuf (Liveright).  Gordon-Reed is a Pulitzer Prize winner and Onuf is called the country’s leading Jefferson scholar. The reviewer is Roger Bishop.

“Jefferson came to view the family as the microcosm of the nation.”

That line sets up what follows. I quote Mr. Bishop:

“A particular highlight of the book is a discussion of the critical importance of the years during his diplomatic service in France, when his slaves, James and Sally Hemmings, lived with him. When he returned home, Jefferson’s attitude toward slavery changed. He continued to see it as evil, but not as the main degrading foundations of his country’s way of life. At the same time, Jefferson insisted publically that patriotism began at home. The bonds that sustained family life, he thought, were the only stable and enduring foundation for republican self-government.”

I have read that a few dozen times to make sure it really says what I think it says and how Sally Hemmings—the mother of some of Jefferson’s children—factors into his view of the family. (DNA tests were used a couple of years ago to prove Jefferson’s paternity.) Roger Bishop says, “No one contributed more to the formation of the country or had more sustained influence.” Jefferson should know, then, how to keep the American Experiment on track.

Help me out, here. Am I reading correctly that the family is the most important structural beam of the Republic? If that is so, then which of the presidential candidates is going to help the family? What are three or four essentials that family provides?

There is a chapter in Malcom Gladwell’s book “Outliers” that stimulates me to do something. Speaking of geniuses “from the lowest social and economic class,”

“What did they lack? Not something expensive or impossible to find; not something encoded in DNA or hardwired into the circuits of their brains. They lacked something that could have been given to them if we’d only known they needed it: a community around them that prepared them properly for the world.” (Page 112 Little Brown, 2008)


If Jefferson, one of the masterminds of the Constitution, says “This is the only way this thing is going to work,” what do we do in response?

A PBS program on Saturday featured music in the 1930’s and 1940’s. One of the featured singers was Billy Holiday. Ms. Holiday had an extremely narrow vocal range and yet she captured the world with her singing. Her father was absent from her life which, the narrator said, drove her to seek out predatory men her entire life. She was working as a prostitute at age 12. As you know, she died at age 44 from damage to her body from drugs and alcohol.

Ms. Holiday captured her times with a capacity to communicate. She said, “It’s been said that no one can sing the words ‘hunger’ or ‘love’ like me.” She said of herself, “I didn’t know anyone and I didn’t belong to no one.”


If I am correctly interpreting Jefferson, and if he is right, then what should be our plan of action for families? A news commentator said last week that “community” is lacking in America. I’ve been hearing that for 40 years. Reading Mansfield’s “The Miracle of the Kurds,” I agree that some of those families have the concept of family working. That news commentator suggested that a new influx of immigrants might teach us something about community/family. I want to listen to that reasoning, but it really makes me nervous.

The bigger barrier and complex issue is what will you change about your family that will help it fit into Jefferson’s model? I’m not sure that his parents fit the model and his chosen family shape isn’t exactly what I think of as family. Given the age of your children and grandchildren, what changes can you insist on? It gets complex, doesn’t it?

Community is not necessarily made of blood relatives. The Book of Acts becomes a model of the Kingdom at work in families, homes and workplaces. A revival like Azusa Street in 1906 that probably was reignited recently which spoke to racism. Establishment of Kingdom outposts with a bold font listing of core values which Malcom Gladwell speaks of in “Outliers.”  Companies who catch a vision that gripped Guinness, Cadbury and Lever Brothers two centuries ago.

How do you keep from listening to and reading the news without concluding, “We are screwed!”

Southwood—the community you’ve always longed for.

My “Upset Meter” is banging on max. So, I’ll go help my wife clean her portion of the garage. I wonder what Thomas Jefferson would think of my family.  I wonder what Jesus thinks.

©2016  D. Dean Benton—writer & wonderer



Twitter:       @DeanBenton





A Heavenly Father

From Porches & Pillars –The Years before Southwood—a prequel ©2016 D. Dean Benton

Brent says Elizabeth Everest is one of the bright lights guiding the Southwood Center’s approach and calling. Ms. Everest was the nanny into whose care Winston Churchill was placed. His parents could not love him. It was beyond his father’s capacity and it appears his mother could not be bothered. Winston said—it became the descriptive phrase of his young life, “I loved my mother, but it was from afar.” That was not his choice. Ever!

Elizabeth Everest loved Winston and taught him about God. One of Churchill’s biographers says that she also “embedded in him a sense of destiny that never left him.”

One of our callings is to duplicate that in each person entrusted into our influence. We will love, give opportunity to know and experience God and imprint each person with knowledge of their uniqueness. We are compelled to help each other to discover and pursue destiny.

Churchill’s father ignored his son, probably hated him. He rarely spoke to him and refused to acknowledge the frequent cries for attention. Young Churchill was shipped off to boarding school as if to get him out of his parent’s sight. One cannot hear this story without marveling that Churchill did not become a brutal, hateful person passing onto society and his own family what he had experienced from his father. Instead, he became a world leader and at the time of his death was deemed the “Greatest Man in the World.”

All that Winston Churchill became can be traced to what was planted in his soul by Elizabeth Everest.

Lord Randolph was a well-known politician who had a disease causing his brain to deteriorate. Young Winston did not know his father was ill. Had he known he could have filtered the savage emotional and verbal abuse. Instead, the rejection came at him full force.

It is said that Churchill made a choice. He made a choice! Instead of reacting and owning the constant negative evaluation, he chose to extend the best of his father. He made a choice. One of the first losses for the abandoned, neglected or abused is the ability to make choices. The self-survival instinct is to go along to get along and to hide. The ability to choose and the decision to choose wisely may also be traced to what Churchill saw in and heard from Elizabeth Everest.

We are dedicated to equipping each other to choose and to then make the best choice. But what about those of us who grew up without such care, love, teaching? What if we had no Elizabeth Everest or Kenneth Lyttle, Jr. to place their hand on our shoulder and impart the Holy Spirit’s unction to choose? And those of us who have not received the empowering of vocal blessings? That tells you what we are about here at Southwood. Healing, deliverance, skill building and community building.

We are not orphans, nor do we have the right to allow anyone under our care to be afflicted by the orphan spirit. We have a heavenly Father who has set into motion plans for our redemption for eternity and into the fullness of Life on this planet. Our heavenly Father partners with us to do His fathering.

We are well branded. Southwood—the community you’ve always longed for.

As I read of Churchill’s father, a song washed over me. “I Have a Heavenly Father!”  


What You Really Want

“What Steve Jobs recognized was that increasing sales, growth and market share is a side effect of understanding what people really want.

“He didn’t give people reasons to choose. He gave them reasons to crave, to covet and to belong.” (Berndadette Jiwa, Marketing—a love story. 2014)

Ms. Jiwa has stimulated a ton of questions as I calculate what “people really want.”

I have eight Os Guinness books in my library. The first one written and read in the mid-seventies. Os is the great, great, great grandson of Arthur the beer brewer. Os was born in China during WW II to medical missionaries. When the Japanese invaded China, Os had two brothers who died from the terrible conditions one at age two years and the other at seven months.

“There was no time to grieve. The Japanese were closing in and they had to flee the day after Reginald died, carrying Os, their remaining toddler, in a basket on a pole the 1000 miles to Bombay and the boat home.” (p 242 Genius of Guinness)

One might assume that beginning his life fleeing the Japanese army and then being one of the last to leave China after the Mao revolution would influence his values and pursuits—what he really wants.

Rand Paul said in one of the early debates, “But I think society and civilization needs structure. There is a theologian by the name of Os Guinness I like who says ‘that liberty requires restraint, but the only restraint consistent with liberty is self-restraint.’”

See if I am anywhere close with this list of “what people really want”? First is Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, then my list in no particular order.


Given the chaos in almost every sector of the world ranging from violence to sheer lack of common sense to upheaval—like confusion of who gets to use the girl’s bathroom—people want someone to make sense of “all this craziness.”

We want someone who can make sense of things for us or will give us tools to help us make sense of things. I think leaders who can give us guidelines, and sign posts of where we are headed according to his or her reading of scripture will attract a crowd.

Henry Grattan Guinness was a preacher, then in his middle years he was an educator training missionaries. He wrote twenty plus books in the latter third of his life which earned him degrees and positions in national societies. In 1888 he wrote a book to make sense of cultural direction. Based on his study of astronomy (not astrology!) and the lunar calendar, he projected 1917 to be a probable important year for the Jewish people. He wrote at the end of Ezekiel in his Bible the numbers, “1948.” He was making sense of a new day sixty years in advance.


The voice of Rick Joyner keeps alerting me. Several months ago he had an awakening that he interpreted as a vision or revelation that the Right would rise up in reaction to what the Left was doing. His moderate word was/is left or right—when out of control is a concern. Solutions must be measured against the long-term impact. Getting the trains to run on time fixes today’s problem but at a high long-range cost. That is the filter through which I’m hearing political speak—left and right.

Most of us just want to know how to get through the week. How to make decisions, what basis is there to evaluate and discern, how to understand the kids math problems? Some of us most of all just don’t want to think about any of this.

Are there solutions to my anxiety? What about eczema? How do I hear God’s voice? Where do I find answers to those questions and can you tell me if there is a fresh approach I have not tried to process all of this through God’s Word?


Do you know about aquaponics? I didn’t pay any attention until last week when a website suggested that the west coast water situation is going to have national significance. The website is selling plans for aquaponics. With not too much water, a family can grow a wide variety of veggies and fish. The water is “recycled” and not evaporated. The fish fertilize the vegetable plants, the plants get and give to build a self-sustaining farm in your basement, a small room, pots, or garage. (Will the house smell like a river if I have one of these “farms” in the basement? And what do we do when we get tired of fish? And post-cleaning fish innards?)

The point is: there is a strategy to solve the problem of diminishing water sources and a self-sustaining food source in the case of crisis. I like Newt Gingrich as a theorist. His staff says he comes up with 10,000 ideas before lunch. People not only want ideas, they want “how to” instructions. That is the difference between a theorist and a strategist.

I like Andy Andrews’ podcasts. He is an awesome writer and comedian, but he is also a wise parenting and marriage strategist. Last week’s podcast was “How to get your teen to talk to you.” Searchers want strategies. I am extremely appreciative of the business writer Bernadette Jiwa. Her small books on Difference and Marketing are full of strategies. I plan to read everything she has written–She gives me “reasons to crave, to covet and to belong.”

I like to listen to Pastor Andy Stanley because his sermons are strategic. He touches my heart, teaches biblical messages in an expository style that equip me. He doesn’t “offer advice” he teaches strategies. In my opinion, many of us want our church to offer in some setting—not always on Sunday morning—life (personal, family, marriage), business and career strategies. The ones who do will not lack for interested participants.


Henry Grattan Guinness was linked with Spurgeon and Moody as the three greatest preachers in the 19th Century. One of his biographers says, “He had all the drive, industry, energy, initiative, flair and philanthropy of his brewing and banking cousins. But he also had extraordinary personal charisma and presence.”

Henry Grattan Guinness died as he was born, in the year of Halley’s Comet. At his funeral, all who spoke paid tribute to his “breadth of vision and achievement.” People want their lives to have significance. It is interesting to me that “El Chapo” the Mexican drug cartel leader who was recently captured, is reported to be currently reading The Purpose Driven Life.

Was Henry Grattan energized by something related to Halley’s Comet? Whatever the source, people want purpose. There is a difference between what people “need” and what people “want.” We don’t always want what we need. Sometimes we don’t know what we need. Until we know and want what we need, we will not be shopping for solutions or answers and we’re not going to be in a buying mood. So, we minister to what people want until they become aware of needs.


“The brands we care about don’t just make innovative products; they shape our culture and make us feel like better versions of ourselves.” (Jiwa)

“A great brand is not a mark burned into a product—it’s something we want to belong to.”

From Ms. Jiwa’s latest blog:

“Christian Louboutin is one of the most successful shoe designers in the world, selling more than half a million pairs of shoes a year. A pair of Louboutin’s will set you back between $395 and $6,000, their distinctive red soles are a marketing coup.

“Louboutin once said, ‘When a woman buys a pair of shoes, she never looks at the shoe. She stands up and looks in the mirror, she looks at the breast, the bottom, from the front, from the side, blah blah blah. If she likes herself, then she considers the shoe.’”

We want to belong to and give time to and purchase products that make us feel better about ourselves.

Southwood—The community you’ve always wanted.

©2016  D. Dean Benton—writer & wonderer


Twitter:       @DeanBenton




It’s about The Life

Several weeks after the resurrection, some of the disciples were arrested and jailed for preaching and healing in Jesus’ Name. If Emory U is any indication, words have more power than any of have guessed. To this point, people have been offended by words and then painted signs with their own words. “That’s your opinion,” or “that’s your truth….” But the situation in Acts 5 contains more than words. Many have been healed and changed by those words—“throngs of them, bringing the sick and bedeviled. And they all were healed” (5:16).

Off to jail. During the night an angel shows up to let the disciples out and then locks the doors when they leave. The angel gives them directions:

“Go to the temple” (the place where they arrested you a few hours ago) “and take your stand. Tell the people everything there is to say about this Life” (vs. 20).

Note please. They are to talk about “the Life.” The word is capitalized. Their curriculum was not catechism or the Commandments—Ten or 644—but The Life.

“Every day they were in the Temple and homes teaching and preaching the good news that Jesus is the Christ.”

What is that “Life”—what does it look like after deleting the rhetoric and rules? My take away is the disciples are instructed to use all the words that describe what has proven valuable to them—what works in places where stained glass does not exist.

The following words are important for the witness, entrepreneur, CEO, pastor or blogger to understand and to actionalize. (Okay. I made that word up.)

“In a world everything is a tap or a click away, what matters is not what is taught or sold, but how it’s delivered, and how that made someone feel as she walked out the door.” (Bernadette Jiwa, Marketing: A Love Story. ©2014)

A phrase I have used in church growth/marketing seminars for many years is true today, but now must happen within ten seconds:

“Tell me why I should care!”

“In a world of finite time and infinite choices, it’s easier than ever before to rationalize walking past. The only way to matter is to first determine what matters. You need to give people a reason to stop and listen to your song.” (Bernadette Jiwa)

“Tell the people…about this Life.”

I’m drinking coffee from Indiana mixed with chocolate from Paris. The chocolate is from a Paris tea-coffee shop from which our niece brought us the gift. At the opposite end on the rue (street) is the Arc de Triomphe. I don’t know how to say “wow!” in French.

Think about the major path of pedestrian traffic in your city.

My guess is that most people at the Temple, on Champs-Elysées, or Jefferson Street, have little interest in what you or I believe. Unless! They believe our belief will make their lives better and we know what getting through their day is like.

If an angel instructed you to “Go to (the center of the mall?) tell the people everything about the Life….” What would you say about the Life that answers your friend’s question, why should I care? What about The Life lived in your skin this week?

This paragraph grabbed my soul:

“The American evangelist, Dwight L. Moody arrived in London in 1873, initially for a few weeks, but stayed two years. In that time almost three million people heard him preach. His influence on the Guinness family was immense. He introduced them to the Holiness Movement, and encouraged them to ask God to revitalize their ministry with the power of the Holy Spirit.” (P 89, Genius of Guinness by Michelle Guinness ©2005.)

They did what Moody suggested and their ministry was revitalized. Three generations reached around the world from China to North America with good news about the Life.

It’s about the Life.

2016  D. Dean Benton—writer & wonderer



Twitter:       @DeanBenton





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