Monthly Archives: June 2017

Desperate for Dialogue

Stephen King says a story needs several essentials: Narrative, description and dialogue. Dialogue reveals the persona of each character. I love South Carolina language except when a Yankee is trying to mimic it. Dorothy Benton Frank writes novels about the Lowcountry of South Carolina. Female Southern writers use words that smell of azaleas. A couple of paragraphs that paint a picture of the Miss Livina, Grand Dame of the plantation:

“Miss Millie” was polishing my mother’s Strasbourg silver flatware which had been given to her mother before her by a dear family friend descended from Robert E. Lee himself on the occasion of her marriage. Well, alright, I got it through Neiman Marcus online, but who needs to know that?”

“I just adored escaping to my bedroom. It faced a
long stretch of the Edisto River. From my windows I watched the sunrise and in the evening I would go out onto my terrace as it slipped into Mother Nature’s pocket for the night. My dear Nevil had restored the suite of rooms for me years ago.
He always understood my little indulgence for shoes and had built a special sliding storage area that held all two hundred pairs in their original boxes and acid-free paper.”

“The room was exactly as it had been before my darling Nevil left the earth. When he was in the room my heartbeat picked up and I became giddy with sheer delight of just sharing the same space with him.”

If that last paragraph doesn’t make you want a mint julep, you’re not paying attention. It’s not just the South, it shows up in literature from the Southwest. Leon Hale, a writer from Texas, told the story in Southern Living magazine of a man who lost his pocket watch. The story teller told us about his ancestry and third cousins and how they all fit into his life and losing of his watch, which was found in the belly of a fish. He was fishing off the old steel bridge that got knocked down by that barge. The watch fell out of his pocket when he reached for a can of beer. His wife had told him not to drink and fish. And he told her….

I started to say I don’t talk that way, but I think I might. Not as beautifully, but as detailed. If I’m quoting someone to you, I will tell you about the person quoted and why his/her credibility should impress you and demand your attention. But I can’t write Southern dialogue or description.

“I will admit that the girls and I had been out on the courses killing clay birds, and perhaps we had imbibed a bit of something to ease the glare of the sun.” (Plantation, Penguin Group, ©2001)

I am also reading Jesus Speaks by Leonard Sweet & Frank Viola and studying the biblical patriarch Abraham with the questions: How did God speak to him, how did he understand and discern it was really God? God spoke differently to Hagar and Ishmael than to Abram. To each of us, He speaks in our vernacular.
Jesus says, “Let him who has ears, hear….” And “My sheep know my voice.” Frank Viola encourages us to take the example of Jesus.

“Each day that He lived on this earth, Jesus lived in constant desperation and neediness for His Father. He indicated this when He said, ‘I can do nothing on my own” (John 5:30 NLT).

Desperate for dialogue
©2017 D. Dean Benton dean@deanbenton.org

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A father’s guideline

In the night, Hagar sneaks out of camp to allegedly escape Sarai’s harassment and perhaps abuse. I have learned that Hagar may have been the daughter of Pharoah and was given to Sarai when they left Egypt.

After conflict with Sarai, Hagar was headed home in what looks like a suicidal trip. She was alone in a dangerous and deadly desert without maps or protection.

Genesis 16 tells a fascinating story. Most interpreters say that the angel who shows up is God in angel garb. He tells her about her future, Ishmael’s destiny and that the boy would have favor with God. God, who Hagar names, “The One who sees me (El Roi)” sends Hagar back to Sarai and Abram’s camp. That couldn’t have sounded like good news.

Why was Hagar sent back to “the authority” of Sarai? With the help of Charlotte Gordon’s writing in The Woman who Named God:

“God may have wanted Hagar’s baby to bear Abram’s stamp. It was important that the nations acknowledge her child was indeed Abram’s. It was also crucial for this child to know his father, so he could learn the customs and rules of an extraordinary leader. Finally, God may have wanted Hagar to have Abram’s protection while she raised her son.” (Little, Brown & Company, ©2009)

1. Be like his father
2. Nations would know Ishmael’s heritage
3. His father could teach the boy because boys become men and God had plans for Ishmael
4. Abram would protect Hagar and Ishmael physically, spiritually and mentally.

Later, Abram and God would have a discussion about the fate of Sodom. God wanted His prophet to know how He (God) made decisions and came to conclusions that led to action. Perhaps, God wanted Ishmael to have the visuals and words of the method his father used to make decisions and encounter life. Abram made a ton of mistakes especially with Sarai and Hagar. God probably wanted Ishmael to see how his dad handled them, made them right and restored his relationships.

Those four reasons give me a short guideline of a father’s purpose. Loving the child’s mother is one that Abram may not have gotten right.

©2017 D. Dean Benton Dean@DeanBenton.org
Being challenged by the Abrahamic epoch and covenant. Genesis 12ff
ort

Hard to Imagine

In my prep to rewrite Meanderings, I am focusing on how God speaks and how to hear Him and conclude that He is speaking to you. The center of the book is the Abraham and family story which is central to three religions: Judaism, Islam, Christianity.
Genesis 15 finds Abram after he has rescued Lot. Lot leaves his uncle and Abram’s fighting party of 318 go home to their tents in Hebron leaving Abram alone. God has not told Abram his own name. He shows up at Abram’s tent to reassure His follower. It is an extraordinary story. Abram asks God questions. God responds:

“God took Abram outside and said, ‘Look toward heaven and count the stars, if you able…” (Genesis 15:5).

Can you imagine being in conversation (prayer) with God and he takes you by the elbow or puts his hand on your shoulder and says, “Let’s go outside. I have something to show you.” You had asked for an answer or guidance and God says, “I’ll explain and I’ll show you.”

“When God told Abram that his descendants would be as infinite as the stars, He had to be sure that His prophet could truly comprehend infinitude without being paralyzed and that he could retain his sense of self without indulging in grandiosity.” (Charlotte Gordon)

Okay, my artist friends. Draw a picture from the open tent flap of God with his right hand on Abram’s shoulder and pointing to the stars with an open left hand sweeping the sky from right to left.
God never interacted with Adam or Noah with such intimacy. And it had taken the relationship of Himself with Abram to grow to this level. Charlotte Gordon in a gripping book called, “The Woman Who Named God” (Little, Brown, ©2009) explains why He decides to be so open with Abram.

“…possible that God had learned something from His experience with these two earlier partners in creation. He had not allowed them to be invested enough in the future. He had not shown them enough of His plan for the world. Now He chose to give Abram an inkling of what He Himself saw.”

That is breathtaking. Does it not also help you to be more open to His voice if you believe He is inviting you to participate with Him?

Want to guess how many Father’s Day cards Abraham would receive?

Invested in the future.

©2017 D. Dean Benton dean@deanbenton.org
Wonderer

Being a father when things break

One of our young friends broke his arm/wrist last night. He is with his family “on the road” on tour. His father expressed a father’s feeling when a child is hurt and 14 other things happen at the same time—like the bus running out of fuel just as they pulled into the hospital parking lot.

Doug was in second grade when he fell out of a tree on a Saturday morning and broke his arm/wrist. His mother was Sat morning shopping. The neighbors heard Doug and came running and took us to ER. I sat in the back seat with Doug. He asked me, “Am I going to die?” I assured him he was not, but it must feel like it.

Seemed to me, and I’m sure to Doug, he was in a holding pattern in the hospital hallway for hours. He had eaten all of the Friday nite left-over snacks for Sat morning breakfast, so what they would use for anesthetic was a discussion.

Carole arrived before they took him to OR. While standing over Doug, the doctor said, “We’ll have to put him to sleep.” We have always had pets and putting an animal to sleep was serious. And that is how Doug heard it. He thought I had lied to him—he really was going to die! Broken arm or not, that boy was leaving the ER. He was fighting off the assassin and running for his life.

Later we told the doctor what “putting him to sleep” meant to our son. The doctor was horrified. He apologized with many words.

The anesthetic they used was a hallucinogenic drug. The boy was on a trip for three days. He saw rabbits in my office and accused his sister of causing his pain.

The helplessness of parents to ward off all threats and the inability to relieve all pain is heavy.

Then, add grandchildren. Carole and I said to our married children—“No more kids! We can’t stand the pressure.”

I missed the course on fatherhood. I must have been absent the day the announcement was issued. I at no time felt prepared. I feel I should have more wisdom to offer or solutions. I don’t think I worry about two offspring and three grandchildren, but they take center stage in my prayers.

I am honored this Father’s Day season to be married to the mother of my children and to be a grandfather to the specific three.

Happy Father’s Day.

©2017 D. Dean Benton Dean@deanbenton.org
Books, Blogs, Blurbs, recognizer of privilege.

Needed: Community Organizer

Outside our living room is a Rose of Sharon tree in a small garden. A bird bath, lots of sunflower seeds. 3 bird feeds—a buffet—and two birdhouses. A wren family occupies one. They know how to sing!

Every story needs a villain. A nemesis. Squirrel. Squirrels have no table manners; absolutely none. One hangs upset down from the feeder roof with toe nails dug in and uses front paws to extract seeds and eat them.

A variety of birds visit the garden neighborhood and bird feeder. Some aggressive grackles, a pair of Cardinals, a huge blue jay, not enough yellow finches. A grosbeak showed up for a couple of days to drink out of the hummingbird feeder. Big black birds come uninvited. Last week a Turkey Vulture circled while I was extracting a partially eaten, partially decayed possum.

I was watching the squirrel hanging upside down when he was buzzed by the wren. A wren is a little larger than a hummingbird and smaller than a finch. The wren aggressively kept attacking the squirrel to scare it away. I think he was trying to knock the varmint off the feeder. He didn’t have the body size or weight to inflict any damage or knock the squirrel off. But he or she has not given up trying.

I explained to the wren he needs to talk the male cardinal or that blue jay into a couple of fly-by warnings. That blue jay could knock the squirrel off the feeder and perhaps into a pattern of better behavior.
The wren would benefit by being a community organizer. Assign the big birds as blocking backs. I have never seen the wren eat out of that feeder. It appears Mom and Pop Wren are guarding their little house and family.

Last week the common message among several of my podcasters was: “Strengthen your strengths and manage your weaknesses. Andy Stanley says, “Enlarge your strengths and delegate the areas of your weaknesses. Use your best time doing what you do best and empower others to do what they do best that you’re not so good at.

Now all I have to do is enroll my birds in an Andy Stanley Avian seminar.

An aviary community organizing: Strengthen your strengths. Manage your weaknesses.

©2017 D. Dean Benton dean@deanbenton.org