Monthly Archives: September 2016

Don’t Fly Alone

Do you still have hummingbirds in your lawn? We have one hummingbird and I’m concerned. He (she) comes to the feeder, sits on the swing (yes, Carole bought a hummingbird swing. I made fun of her, but as usual she and the birds were right.) The little bird swings for a bit, looks into the house through the window to see how we are or just to check in, and then feeds before zooming off. The bird follows the same pattern a couple of times an hour.

Has that bird noticed his buddies are gone? I wonder if it looks into the house to ask if it can spend the winter with us? My anxiety rises thinking about that moment when the little bird realizes he didn’t get the departure memo. What went into the decision for him to stay behind? Is he the Rudolf of his herd—they won’t let him join in…?

Does he plan to meet his flock at Joplin on their way to St. Petersburg? I’m also wondering about Wednesday when the temp is supposed to reach a high of 50 that the creature will decide he had better pack. How lonely will he feel when he reaches Keokuk or Columbia, Mo? Will he suffer severe separation anxiety?

Some years ago, I put Carole on a plane in Nashville to send her home to be with her sick mother. As I drove onto I-40 to head for South Carolina, Florida, Georgia, I felt all three words: Severe! Separation! Anxiety! and said out loud, “Dude, you are alone!” I don’t do alone well. A couple of weeks later, I was hurting so bad I went into a Macon, Georgia pet store to borrow a puppy to hold.

I am concerned about that hummingbird. He has become a family member. I’m also concerned about several of my close friends and a few more acquaintances who are alone today. Divorce. Post funeral. Living with the shakes kicking drugs. Abandonment, neglect, rejection, results of wrong choices, no clear pathway to day after tomorrow.

I want you to know—if you can make it to Joplin, I have friends there. There are also places along the way you’ll want to avoid. I know some of those places—don’t do this trip alone.

For 15-20 years, I’ve been building and equipping Southwood—the Community You’ve Always Wanted. Can you make it to Southwood? What is about the place that makes it so attractive? I’ve been thinking this weekend about the folks who live and work there. It is more than what they feel, need or long for. It is what they are becoming and what they do. It is the emotional and spiritual atmosphere—the culture. That is shown by how off-course hummingbirds are received, greeted, fed, encouraged and equipped for the rest of the journey. A 40-year old man said to me, “I need a man to embrace me—like a father does.” The culture is not a feeling.  It  is action!.

These are the essential elements of what makes a cluster of humans a family, or a tribe, a great place to work, church, life-group:

We BELIEVE the best IN each other

WANT (help make it happen) the best FOR each other

EXPECT (demand) the best FROM each other.1

I have been working this weekend defining each of those words.

1 Remarkable! ©2013 Dr. Randy Ross & David Salyers,(Enthusiasm Publishers)

©2016 D. Dean Benton

new email:

A Culture Builder

In the Afterword of the 25th year Edition of publication, author H. G. Bissinger describes interviewing several of the high school football players who had been central to the book Friday Night Lights. (Da Capo Publication 2015) Most of the players acknowledged they had not experienced, nor did they ever expect to experience, anything like the 1988 season. One player, now a businessman said,

“It took me about 10-15 years of working in different groups, different places, different environments, to finally come to the conclusion and realization I’m not ever gonna have a group of coworkers and teammates like I had then.” (page 402)

I am saddened to think that life peaked for many of them when they left high school. For some, the “tribe” experience was not duplicated off the field nor have they found another working relationship or friendship to equal.

Chick-Fil-A shifted their mission statement to one-word: Remarkable! That word was to define engagement with customers and the culture of the work place—how workers engaged with each other.

“A Remarkable Culture where people BELIEVE the best IN each other; WANT the best FOR each other and EXPECT the best FROM each other.”

Wouldn’t you like to work in that culture? Would that be a driving and defining mission statement for a family? Wouldn’t you like to be part of tribe defined by that?

©2016 D. Dean Benton        Writer, Wonderer.

High School Reunions

High school class reunions. Have you been to one lately? It is going to take me a while to figure out what I experienced. Most of my closest friends did not attend or else they were there and I didn’t recognize them.

Without name tags, reunions might as well be gatherings of the Lions Club from a different planet. Some of my class mates see each other around town or saw each other at the last reunion. We were on the road the last two, so we haven’t seen the folks for 15-20 years. After I talked to some of them, certain characteristics became familiar again. “Ah ha! You used to be Larry….”

These were the people who were the most important humans on the face of the earth to me. I needed their favor or approval and now I don’t even know them. These are not my people! And they haven’t been long since the wrinkle fluid was injected.

Charlie has been a professional photographer since graduation. He has been taking reunion pictures for decades. He shot photos for one of The Bentons vinyl record albums. I’m not sure he knew who I was. He took pictures of the graduating class and also the grade schools we attended. There were 5-6 grade schools that fed into Junior high. I attended four of them. We moved and when the family divorced, I changed schools a couple of times. That was kinda weird. I thought Charlie was going to limit the number of school pix one person could be in.

It was interesting to watch how people clustered. I was blessed in school by running with a very eclectic group. I noticed at this reunion I got hugged less. The last one I attended I hugged people I would never have touched in high school. Maybe once every two-decades was enough for them.

I am also blessed to have a couple of peers who are Facebook friends with whom I talk. How I treasure them. One of those ladies has been a friend since third grade. I really do treasure that connection and the memories she reminds me of. Another lady greeted me 20 years ago with “Why! Dean Benton! I thought you were dead.” We’ve kept making sure the other one is not  ever since via Facebook. She is one I hugged.

I found myself asking the same question of people whose faces hinted that I knew them in earlier life. “Tell me about you.” Several reminded me how they remembered me. I was the one voted most apt not to graduate from the 8th grade. Every conversation reminded me how different I am—due to the redemptive love of Christ. How lost I was during the years those people knew me. I desperately wanted to hear people’s stories—what has your life been? The big questions I kept asking about me: Who am I? Who are my people?

My mother operated a café across the street from one of our grade schools. Surprising how many remembered Mom. I was Vi’s kid to some of my peers. I was pleased for her. Had I ever asked her what her mission statement was, she wouldn’t have understood. She had a phrase that described it. Listening to some of the memories, she fulfilled her mission.

I felt honored to be asked to pray over the meal. During that prayer, I suddenly was aware of the teachers who invested in us. It was a startling, moving moment for me. Some of those classmates had also influenced me. One of the guys who came to sit at our table was not among my closest friends in school. He told me he works with Celebrate Recovery in his church and I felt closer to him—we belong to the same Kingdom family. Had we had time I would have found more of Jesus’ friends.

It has not been easy to figure out the traffic in my mind or soul. I don’t think I am as old as that gathering, but I realize the Chicago Cubs are probably not going to call me up. Therefore, Who am I, now? And who are my people?

Two or three decades ago, I told a seminar group I was going to my high school reunion. The story fit into the seminar. “So I sent in my $10 fee….” One lady asked with loud unbelief. “How much did it cost you?” I told her $10. She said with great passion: “$10? It cost me $700!” I asked her how it could have cost me $10 and her $700. She replied, “You didn’t have to buy all the new weight loss exercise equipment.”

Thanks for being my people.

©2016 D. Dean Benton                   

Fanatical Focus

Glen Jackson talks with Andy Stanley about being a preeminent organization by listing Seven Pillars. Number 6 is “Fanatical Focus.”

Find what you do best and do that. Do what you do best. Outsource other things to release you to do what you do best. Pastor A. R. Bernard adamantly says, “Manage your weaknesses and increase your strengths.” Glen Jackson says, “Stay in your swim lane.”

The ironic thing is if you try to do what you are not gifted to do you will undercut your premium gift(s) or become discouraged with your weaknesses that you will abandon or undersell your pathway to achievement.

Andy Stanley says in the podcast that when the cash flow is strong and the opportunities are many, it is easy to lose your focus. That grabbed my attention hard. I’ve been obsessing over the oil boom and bust of the 1980s. Let this statement set up the discussion:

“Of all the deals that Aaron Giebel had made from his base of operations in Midland during the boom, the hardest part, by his own account, was figuring out which one was the worst.” (Friday Night Lights, H. G. Bissinger, Da Capo Press, 1990 & 2015) Page 234.

Giebel had degrees in geology and petroleum engineering from Texas A & M. He says, “…I was a heck of a businessman. I became a fast-moving promoter type.” He was generally a cautious and careful business man. He knew how to do oil. He had the Midas touch. He drilled 195 wells with a 55% success rate. The oil boom was seductive. As Andy Stanley says, the cash flow was deep and the opportunities plentiful.

“The moment was suddenly at hand not only to make ungody sums of money but to build an empire, a lasting monument.” (Page 236)

He lost his focus.

“Had the five planes, and the three full-time pilots to fly them, really been necessary? Should he have bought the Brangus bull for $1 million? Should he have paid cash for the thousand head of hybrid cattle. Did he think it through as carefully as he should when he took a multi-million position on a method of breeding ‘super cattle’ by hormone injection and embryonic implant? Had it been reason enough to pay $17.5 million for the 7000 acre ranch with the palm trees that had been flown in and the private runway and the breathtaking view of Mexico when he used it largely for entertaining and hunting? Should he have planted 28,000 pecan trees when the only thing he knew about pecans was that ‘they’re all named after Indians?’ Had it been smart to go into the home construction business and end up losing $1.2 million? Had he really needed the trucking business that cost him $4 million? Had it been slightly impulsive when he decided to open five additional offices in San Antonio, Oklahoma City, Denver, Calgary, and Lafayette, Louisiana?” (Bissinger, Page 234)

What I have read about him, I like him. I think I  would enjoy sitting on the porch looking across 100 miles of flat West Texas with the view broken only by pumping oil rigs and listening to his stories.

“He spoke about it with candor, as if he saw a danger in what had happened that needed to be exposed, materialism and a desire for money and wheeling and dealing that became as impossible to resist as any addiction.” (235)

He lost a lot of toys and things and about $55 million. He declared bankruptcy and by 1988 he was back in the oil business “although on a far reduced basis.”

I don’t know his heart or thinking, but it seems to me that it was not greed that drove him into the ditch, but his loss of focus. He knew little or nothing about the businesses he diversified into. He knew the oil business.

I’m  just gonna make a huge guess here that most of us—you and me— will never get to make the decisions to diversify at that level. I’m guessing our greatest hazard is not knowing what we do best and then doing it.

Ephesians 2:10 has bright insight on this. What if our abundant life—our “more than enough life” is connected to knowing what we do best and then doing it?

What do you best? What imbedded talents? What Spiritual gift(s)

©2016 D. Dean Benton   Writer, Wonderer—and at least one more thing.