Monthly Archives: August 2016

I Just Want To Be Happy

Several of my friends are going through less than pleasant life transitions. One of the repeated phrases is, “I just want to be happy.” Another is, “I just don’t want to hurt anymore.” A couple of weeks ago, their hurt, gloom, hopelessness and lostness overshadowed me—more like 99% humidity than an overhead cloud.

“This transition is a great opportunity for you to ask yourself what would make you happy. With a full life as your guide, what will you add, subtract to your life that will produce what you are now lacking? What does ‘happy’ look like to you? Write it down. Draw a picture.”

That is what I’ve been telling those friends. Among the top truisms is, “Unsolicited advice is seldom welcomed or considered.”

In the midst of my anguish for my “clients” and my friends, I ran across Andy Andrews’ ebook “Creating the Future You’ve Always Dreamed of….” ©2008 Andy Andrews. He suggests 5 questions:

Identify what you want. What do you want to happen over the next year of your life?

Identify why you want it. Why is this important to me? What will doing, becoming, or accomplishing this mean to me?

Identify how you will get it. What 5 or 6 actions will I take to accomplish?

Identify when you will take the action to get you there.

bserve your progress. Is what you are doing working? Why? Why not? What actions need adjustment?

I doubt that many if any of those on my prayer list and in the fog will take the time. None of us can see ourselves 3600. We all have blind spots and we fear and resist asking. It is like that question, “Does this dress make me look fat?” Any man asked that question should run like the wind! Historian and presidential biographer, Stephen Mansfield has a new booklet worth looking at: “Building Your Band of Brothers.” (Available from his website) We can’t answer Andy Andrews’ questions thoroughly while in isolation.

“As he comes home to a new vision of manhood, it dawns on him that he cannot achieve it alone. He needs men around him to help him. He needs the eyes of others on him. He needs a team, a pack, a tribe, a band of brothers—all committed to the noble project of achieving valiant manhood. He finally accepts the truths that nearly always launches men to new heights: we are better together.” (Mansfield, page 10)

Bill George is professor of management practice at Harvard Business School. He wrote the best seller True North. He and colleague Doug Baker wrote True North Groups. Not only did I read both books, I underlined almost every sentence. True North groups are defined as a resource—“a powerful path to personal and leadership development.”

The greatest need in our culture is for each of us to have at least one person—mentor, friend, small group partner, who will fill in the blind spots of our 3600 . Who will that be?

Start with Andy Andrews’ questions and then when you can’t figure out an answer talk to a brother or a sister who has no agenda other than your happiness, achievement and accomplishment. Join me at The Quest House for conversation in the Launch Room.

That is why we call it The Quest House.

© 2016 D. Dean Benton   writer, wonderer                             bentonministries.com

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About Boys, Teens and Men

We’ve been watching “Friday Night Lights,” a TV series about a Texas high school’s football team and the player’s lives. I hadn’t expected Jesus to be in the script along with people going to church or high schoolers having that much sex. In another age, the show would have been subtitled, “Hormones on parade!” The show takes on tough subjects with respect and directness. To me, the show’s constant theme is the place, role and responsibility of men. Fathers and how teens become men and how honorable men act.

I re-read my book Caught in the Tail Lights to make sure I am offering a quality product. Several of my relatives and friends are in the grisly process of divorce. I want to suggest they read it and find long-term help for themselves and the kids. There are some words in my book about the damage done to the kids when one of the adults speaks ill of their ex—which is the kid’s parent. A kid will personalize the verbal attack and will take the criticism or ugliness as a personal evaluation. When “love turns to war” obliteration of the ex becomes the primary battle strategy. When a relationship goes sour, the perceived rejection is the worst of all feelings and it sets loose a vicious tendency in the hurting. Retribution or a need to prove the ex is worse than infected pond scum. It is one thing to sit on a bar stool and sing, “She got the gold mine and I got the shaft,” and quite another to say it in the hearing of the children or adult children or attempt to convince the children. Jesus is quite clear about his evaluation of such–Matthew 18:6.

The child listens, observes and concludes the words have implications for themselves in the present and as they grow into adult. They begin to question if the attacking parent will defend them or throw them to the wolves. Children are active listeners and observers and often terrible interpreters. They don’t translate cynicism, sarcasm and hate naturally. They are literalists—the nuances are lost on them.

Stephen Mansfield’s new little book Band of Brothers arrived. Like all of his writing, I underlined a lot of sentences. His line “Manly men tend their fields” comes from 2 Corinthians 10:13:

“…we will confine our boasting to the sphere of service God himself has assigned us….”

Mansfield uses the phrase “sphere of service” and translates it “field.” God has assigned men a field. That field has boundaries. That field contains everything for which God has given responsibility. (Page 35)

“That field is comprised of the people, things, and priorities God has assigned to you. Your job is to know your field, protect your field, and make sure that everything in your field flourishes according to the will of God.” (Building Your Band of Brothers, Stephen Mansfield, 2016 Blackwatch Digital Publishers)

Mansfield says health and healing of wounds come to a man (and/or  woman) who “…using your gifts for the glory of God, own the field you’ve been given and making everything in that field come into its destined state.”

Can you grasp the honor and beauty of “making everything in that field come into its destined state.”

God especially gets ticked when covenants are broken. I thoroughly get it that sometimes divorce is the best idea. There are embedded covenants in that relationship, however, that are not erased by signatures on a divorce decree.

The words about children of divorce are mine since I’m pushing my book on adult children of divorce. Some of my friends are divorcing and the men are alone or start looking for another woman to fill the vacancy. That leads to ill-health. Mansfield says we guys need to be connected to other men. I invite you to invest 15 minutes into your life by listening to Mansfield’s podcast. You can listen to it on your computer without subscribing to his podcast. Link:

http://stephenmansfield.tv/stephens-new-book-men/

Scroll to second page for the podcast.

©2016 D. Dean Benton       Writer—Wonderer

 

What is it about 4?

There must be something about “4”.

Age four. In unscientific observations, the age four seems to me to be a particular vulnerable time for molestation and abuse. Most of the adults I have “counseled” in a pastoral setting, tell me there were crises and events at age four.

Fourth grade. Stephen Mansfield reported in his podcast that prison authorities research fourth grade records for trends and social situations to determine what prison facilities will be needed in 15-20 years. Executive mentor Bobb Biehl says fourth grade (typically Age 9) is “The Single Most Shaping Year of a Person’s Existence.”

Fourteen. Most of the men and young men I have visited in jail and prison and have had across the table conversations tell me the trouble began or the critical event happened when they were fourteen.

Forty. This is the stereotypical time for the mid-life crisis. Some face it earlier, some later, but forty is about the median age.

Several years ago, I read Bobb Biehl’s book Mentoring. It is one of the most impacting books I have read. In the book, he has a small section on fourth graders which set me on a search. Ten years ago, a school friend sent me two pictures of our fourth grade class. The boys gathered in one and the girls in the other. Each person was identified. There was some confusion about which kid was me. I could be one or other of two standing side by side. No one knew, including some in my family of origin. The two boys are opposites in physical appearance and emotional expression. I concluded that I was absent from school that day and was not in the picture. Before I read Biehl I was plagued by the question: what happened to those kids?

If we only had the statement—“Fourth grade (typically Age 9) is The Single Most Shaping Year of a Person’s Existence”—should that be motivating and challenging?

Several years ago, I talked to a couple of school administrators about that phrase and we spend our time together discussing whether it was the fourth year in school—which would be third grade and not fourth. It was a nice conversation that determined nothing and developed into nothing.

After hearing Mansfield’s statement about the prison system planning, I was in touch in Bobb Biehl. The book Mentoring (Aylen Publishing) was first written in 1996–now updated. His DVD on 4th grade has a few years on it. Think how kids mature physically so much faster in 2016 than in 2002. That change has been attributed to a wide range of causes from hormones in cows’ milk to the influence of living in a highly sexualized culture.

A friend who has two daughters teaching fourth grade in different schools said Mansfield’s remarks fit the observations of the teachers. My friend’s tone was sad. So I asked Biehl if he stood by his statement:

“Yes. I believe 4th grade…actually age 9—typically the 4th grade…is a physical development issue…more than a cultural development issue.” (Bobb Biehl)

“The Single Most Shaping Year of a Person’s Existence”—

If that statement is anywhere close to being true, should we not be organizing youth ministry around 4th graders? I have never heard of a church that focused ministry on 4th grade. Why not? Okay. Most of us grandparents and most parents, acknowledge that today’s 4th grader is a whole lot different than we were in 4th grade. But, is first grade the new fourth grade? So, let’s give it some space and say 3rd or 4th grade is…. How come more churches do not market their ministry to the most shaping year…? I do not have statistics in front of me, but based on memory, most kids come to Christ at ages 8-9-10. Grades 3-4-5.

In my book, “When Whales Sing,” a man and his child psychologist daughter are standing in front of an orchard. The question is “What do we plant?” The child psychologist answers “Depends on what we expect to harvest.” If we want to reap at 14, 24 or 40 a specific harvest, then we will be intentional what we plant at 4 and 4th grade and how the seed is nurtured.

In my work in process–The Carafe Business–you will meet Lance. He is 9–at least he thinks he is nine and he is self-named and a run-away. He was abandoned by his parents and given up on by the state.  What do we pour into him if we want him to be a productive citizen at 40  and healing at 24?  How do we minister to anyone at 24 or 40 who did not fare well in fourth grade?

© 2016 D. Dean Benton           writer & wonderer           bentonministries.com

Moral Authority–Good

We’ve been watching a TV series about a news room and broadcast. It is fantastic! I didn’t know it existed. After a terrible broadcast, the Executive Producer says to the news anchor, “You are leading from fear. Be the moral center of this show. The integrity. This is Friday. On Monday I want you to come in here …and tell me if you are in.”

That was the best few seconds of television I have ever seen. Someone needs to sit our two major presidential candidates down and repeat those lines. This is the worst campaign cycle in the history of the universe. The USA is better than this! We are presenting democracy to the world as if we are a fourth-world country. Yes! Worse than the third-world countries. We are better than this railroad yard rock fight.

I want a president who will be the moral center, the integrity. Someone whom we respect, not because he or she is perfect and never screws up, but because they are good.

In the middle 1800s, Frenchman Alex de Tocqueville came to America to study our form of government—democracy—to measure whether it would be a plus for the French. His book “Democracy in America” is his debriefing. You know more of his quotes than you can guess. To me, the most important is,

“America is great because she is good. If America ceases to be good, America will cease to be great.”

Donald Trump contends (I paraphrase) that he has never asked God for personal forgiveness because he has never felt the need. Mr. Trump, America has been keeping score and making a list. We have a list you may want to use as primer.

Mrs. Clinton told us that we didn’t accurately hear what FBI James Comey said to the congressional committee. I heard him say she had not been honest. Mrs. Clinton says he didn’t say anything of the kind. I trust my hearing more than I trust hers.

I’ve been mulling 2 Chronicles 7:14 for a while. “If My people…turn from their wicked ways….” I’ve been trying to picture what that would look like in USAmerica 2016.

I want my president to know how to repent. Mr. Trump gets into trouble when he tries to be funny, cute, cynical. He may or may not have meant what it sounded like he said about the Second Amendment people. He would have benefitted with an acknowledgement that in spite of his slightly bent humor it was a bad statement. Saying I’m sorry is a powerful skill. Mr. Trump you are a better man than what you sometimes sound like.

If Mrs. Clinton is the most qualified person in history to become president, then she must follow Lincoln’s path from skeptic, agnostic, to a person of prayer with an emphasis on asking for mercy and forgiveness and then godly wisdom.

Some time in the past 24 hours, God spoke to me. It may as well have come via Facebook. He didn’t tell me who is going to be the next president, therefore, He said, I am to pray for both of them. Seriously pray. That the winner of this cage fight will have earned authority and trust and the right to be heard when they express condolences and present challenges. How is that “moral authority” ranking achieved? Sincere expressions of “I’m sorry” and—oh, you know what we teach kids whom we want to be good. Good and tough and honorable–honest, respectful.

It is odd that one of the two most distrusted people in our country will become our leader. Leader in what? As in “moral center?” “Integrity?” Repenter in Chief? How about it? Can you get it started by Monday?

Yes, Mr. Tocqueville, I hear you. To be great again—to be good again.

©2016 D. Dean Benton         writer & wonderer,         Bentonministries.com

A Voice for Us

“He sensed that mighty changes were on the horizon in America and that time was running out. He had to finish his work, raise up the leaders, and fulfill his duty to his beloved America.”   Speaking of George Whitefield 1745

Since the age of 3-4, I have been fascinated by preachers who have vision for the masses. George Whitefield, one of the first Methodists and friend of the Wesleys has been at the top of that list. He invented mass evangelism. When in his early twenties, he preached to 80,000 people in England’s Hyde Park. Not only was his voice capable (as proven by his friend Benjamin Franklin), he spoke with such power it was said that actors would weep when he said the word “Mesopotamia.”

Writer Stephen Mansfield calls Whitefield America’s “Forgotten Founding Father.”

“Had Whitefield never gone to America, the great revival there might never have happened. And, had there been no great revival, there may well have been no American Revolution.”

This preacher was different. He began every sermon with a joke and told stories. Pulpits were closed to him, so he went to where the people were. He preached in open fields and went to the mines when miners were getting off work and early mornings when they were headed for work. One of my favorite images is from his preaching to miners in Kingswood, England.

“Hundreds had gathered with their coal-blackened faces peering back quizzically at the young preacher. He continued not knowing what to make of their silence. Then he noticed something. There were white streaks appearing on the faces…the miners were weeping. Repentance followed and soon laughing and singing.”   (Forgotten Founding Father, Stephen Mansfield, (c)2001, Highland Books, page 77)

When Whitefield arrived in the colonies, there was nothing to unify then into anything that could be called “United.” That changed. The unifier was his preaching. From Georgia to New England almost every resident heard Whitefield preach.

“Whitefield was the ‘first inter-colonial event.’ For the first time, the American colonists had a common experience that gave them a sense of corporate life they had never had before.” (Mansfield page 110)

His method was “preach and return.” He would preach and plant the gospel. He gave no altar call. He left that locale and after giving the “seed” time to germinate he would return to preach again and to invite people into the Kingdom. Those who responded were placed in small groups or communities for Christian growth. That was not just for Bible study, but for fellowship. They would share their own growth and see others being transformed by Jesus. The populace had followed England into debauchery and drunkenness. The fellowship groups gave the converts an alternative to gin houses on Friday nights.

The second piece of the plan was to share his vision for good work. He told stories of those very people feeding the poor, building schools and caring for orphans. There was deployment into significant ministries.

“He did this because he wanted more than just revival: he wanted a spiritual revolution, a transformation of society by the power and truth of God’s kingdom.”

I see parallels of the days leading to the American Revolution and the days following with our own. That makes these days quite open to revival and awakening that will heal and transform. If some visionary can see what is attempting to manifest—I like what Mansfield says:

“Already a man on a mission, now (Whitefield) had a method to match his call.” The evangelist said, “Field preaching is my plan….”

So, we pray for the right person to hear from heaven and discover 21st Century field preaching.

Before Whitefield’s first tour of America, he was not sure whether he should stay in England and attend to the monstrous crowds and nurture of converts or go to the new country. While wrestling with his life purpose, a letter came from John Wesley who was already in Georgia. Wesley spoke of great opportunities for the gospel and the “harvest that awaited the bold and the willing.” Wesley closed his letter with the challenge, “What if thou art the man, Mr. Whitefield?”

I cannot hear the daily news and the images of a culture on the verge of destruction without being prodded by Wesley’s question: “What if thou art the man?” The question is not about preaching to 80,000 or millions, but where I (you) fit in the promises of 2 Chronicles 7:14.

WHAT IF YOU ARE THE PERSON?

©2016 D. Dean Benton       Benton Books & Blogs       Bentonministries.com