Monthly Archives: April 2021

Who Needs Wings

After three days of early mornings, late nights, hard work, heavy lifting, no room for relaxing or deep breathing, I awoke early this morning and decided to sleep in. Five-thirty. So I made coffee with no gumption to do anything else. By mid-morning, I realized the most exerting and exciting thing I had accomplished was taking out the trash and making a second pot of coffee.

Stephen Mansfield suggested we ask staff members or friends (who can be trusted with a sharp object) to give us some insight on us to help us become better peers, leaders, family, friends:

What is my greatest weakness?

If you could remove one habit or tendency of mine in order to help me lead better, what would it be?

What is most off-putting about me?

What about me is most likely to cause me to fail?

What is something I like about myself that isn’t serving me well as a leader?

Before I put myself in that probable prospect for pain, I thought I should go onto the porch where the warm sun is and read for a while. Fortify myself. A perfect book for a day like today is Population: 485 by Michael Perry. Perry lives in Wisconsin, but he writes in a specific style by adding a comma to the end of each story as he thinks, and sometimes says, “That reminds me of….”

In one chapter, Michael Perry takes us with him on his jogging route and tells the stories of each house and/or people who live there. That’s when I met Herbie Gravunder.

“Herbie was stone deaf. A result, ironically or not, of the years he spent running a rock crusher for the county. And (his cousin) Delmer says in the old days they always pulled the mufflers off their tractors, figuring the louder the engine the more power it had. .

Herbie always had little tufts of cotton sticking in his ears, but then so did most of the old farmers I remember from my childhood. Anyway, what with the deafness, and the cotton, and the flannel earflapper cap he wore most of the time, Herbie lived in a muffled world.”

Herbie was a heartfelt cusser, a hard, hard worker and given to his own imagination for adventure. He bought a hovercraft that wouldn’t hover and a plane that wouldn’t fly.

I got sidetracked by wondering how Herbie and Delmar would deal with Stephen Mansfield’s list of questions. I also wondered what my siblings would answer if I asked them, or my high school friends? Or parishioners. A couple years ago, I saw a parishioner down town. I was wearing grubbies. He said it was the first time he had seen me not wearing a suit. I like suits, but I wear/wore them such a small percentage of time. Perception can be based on a very small sliver of information.

“The truth is, when I head out to run the loop these days, I feel better when I jog past Herbie’s place. Life can’t always counted off or neatly arranged.”

Michael Perry and his brother bought Herbie’s hovercraft at his farm auction. They rebuilt it and invited friends to experience the re-launch. “The deafening, dusty hoo-rah…was:

“…a celebration drawing on the legacy of a man who never let a lack of wings keep him from flying.”

Want to go with me to a farm auction?

©2021 D. Dean Benton

Population: 485, Michael Perry, Harper Perennial, Copyright 2002

Strategic Hubs

Carole and I were watching and listening to a teacher during our devotional time. He was talking about God’s Kingdom and shared what he is hearing God saying.

“‘My Ekklesia kingdom hubs will now begin to see miracles of realignment in people’s lives, government, and culture. This will be an era of miraculous realignment.”

The words that struck me most were, “Ekklesia kingdom hubs.”

Carl George served as director of the Charles E. Fuller Institute of Evangelism and Church Growth. His writing and teaching on the “Meta-Church” was built on the idea of Kingdom hubs. His 1991 book, Prepare Your Church for the Future, (Revell) is not just some guy’s idea, it seems prophetic for a time like 2021. The concept sub-title is “Large enough to celebrate, small enough to care”.

Many pastors, prophets, evangelists, teachers and apostles are saying America is on the cusp of our Third Great American Awakening. Without looking for it, I’ve been hearing a lot about revival and awakening.  There is a rising desire for an American Awakening.

One of my mentors was asked if he had ever seen a national revival. He said he had not, but he is desirous to experience one during his time on the earth. What he sees coming is a move of God that impacts our nation.

I’ve been wondering what a national awakening would look like—what the catalyst(s) would be and how such a revival could be shepherded. There have been regional events like the Wilmore, Kentucky college-based event, and historically, the Cane Ridge Camp Meeting revival. The Toronto Awakening comes to mind as does the Jesus People movement. God’s sovereignty is the catalyst in those as described as a “visitation.” God’s presence came in a dimension that was fresh, stunning, frightening. God “visited” and people were awe-struck.

An awakening creates an atmosphere where a general population receive an idea of God’s true nature and character—I think it will come in terms of His generosity of grace and what His judgement is about. Dr. Karl Menninger’s book title came to mind, “Whatever Became of Sin?” An awakening grows out of an awareness of personal and national sin that desperately calls for personal repentance and gracious forgiveness—grace-ious—because God is not obligated.

This weekend we watched a bio-video of Keith Green, a rock n roller on a search for truth. When Jesus entered his life, Green began to share his story—“He changed my life completely!” Those closest to him said Green was telling the truth. A resistant insider said she didn’t want her life changed. “I was happy with it as it was.”

The Western culture wants to return to normal—few are looking for a Person or power to change life “completely.” Jesus is welcome to come in if He will assimilate, but there are not wide-spread urges to fit into His Kingdom—kingdom come, will be done. How will Holy Spirit initiate that transformation? It is His job.

Over the weekend, we were reminded about the Brownsville Revival—Pensacola. Several years of daily meetings. People visited from across the nation, arriving in the morning to gain a seat for evening meetings. Lindell Cooley was the worship leader during that awakening. He now pastors Grace Church: Nashville. When I went to tell Carole about my experience, she was watching Pastor John Kirkpatrick preach. He was the senior pastor at Brownsville during the “revival.” I promise you, tuning in to Kirkpatrick preaching is not on Carole’s regular schedule. Something is going on here!

The word revival tends to have images and experiences of past generations or our past. The coming Awakening probably won’t duplicate what once was. Not everyone is going to plug into all the music or preaching styles. Like every other age, the awakening will be contextualized—it will speak many languages and fit into different cultures. Like the Day of Pentecost: everyone heard the Gospel in words and tones they recognized and understood.

Kingdom geography has always been about hubs. Not isolated events in isolated places, but in centers to which people traveled and then returned equipped and empowered. Think about the church at Ephesus—a cultural center and a training place. There are many such hubs in our world. I’ve included a link that focuses on what God could be doing related to hubs.

Pastor Cooley’s music leadership moved us from vocal music to preaching with the song,

More about Jesus would I know
More of His grace to others show
More of His saving fullness see
More of His love who died for me

More, more about Jesus
More, more about Jesus
More of His saving fullness see
More of His love who died for me.

Carole asked me, “Are we a Kingdom hub?”

©2021 D. Dean Benton

Called to be a weighted blanket

Walmart has a sale on weighted blankets. We’ve heard and discussed them. They are comforting—one-sided wombs, kinda. They were recommended during the height of the pandemic. Ten pounds. Got one. Haven’t decided. Ten pounds! The blue comforter may prove to be comforting, I think it is reassuring as I’m waiting for Carole to be bring my warm milk. I reacted to today’s challenges with anxiety. I wanted my blankie.

After thrashing about to find something funny about it, I can see how in fact, it could give a feeling of being embraced.

Award-winning writer, Karen Mains, is writing a new book about listening. She has directed 200 plus “Listening Groups.” Three or four people meet every couple of weeks. The format looks something like this: She invited people from her list of friends. These strangers to each other gather to listen. Karen welcomes and invites them to sit in silence. She gives these directions: One person talks at a time. Fifteen to twenty minutes. No questions, no comments, no advice—listening only. The person finishes, followed again by silence. Then the listeners are allowed to ask questions in reference to what they’ve heard. Silence follows and then another person speaks and the others listen.

David and Karen Mains have a friend from Chattanooga who studies the brain. He told them the brain responds when a person feels they have been heard, listened to and understood. In their podcast, Karen says she cannot repeat all the neurological words, but the brain of the person, who experiences being heard, responds with a “happy dance.” There is physical activity by the brain indicating pleasure.

After the meeting, Ms. Mains asks participants to think through each season of their lives and write the name of the person who “heard” them—really listened and understood. “They got you.”

There is something extraordinary to feel that you’ve been heard. Pastor David Mains predictably named a band teacher. Karen said she cannot remember a time when she was not listened to by someone who cared what she thought and understood. Perhaps not understanding the intricate details, but understanding why she would think those thoughts and how they would be beneficial to herself and others.

And you? Who “got” you when you were five? Ten? Fifteen? Now?

I wonder if the Apostle was hinting at an emotional/mental weighted blanket when he talked about the Armor of God. A grown-up mobile blankie that translates into security and stability? (Ephesians 6:10-18).

After a seminar, a lady asked us to forgive her for not entering into the discussion—most of all, for not offering any suggestions, ideas and opinions. She told us when she was precocious as a pre-schooler. She enjoyed adult conversations. One evening her parents had guests. She was sent to bed. She needed a drink and walked through the meeting room and stayed long enough to ask a question or offer a point of view. He mother put her in a closet for being impudent. She told us she spend many hours, thereafter, in that closet. She learned to keep her opinions and ideas to herself. (This story has a productive ending!)

Many therapists I read and hear say, “We have not yet seen the damage done to youth during the Pandemic lock down.” Isolation has the capacity to make the brain do whatever the opposite of the happy dance is. Trying to live life from behind a mask does not automatically build confidence or self-assurance.

Did you come up with names? A name?

A lady said to her granddaughter, “Come sit with me. Let’s talk.” The child said, “I love the sound in your voice when you say that.”

An acquaintance replies to my question, “How’re you doing?” with “Livin’ the dream.” I’m not sure if she is telling me all she wants me to know or she is being cynical. I do not have her permission to ask more questions. Within your scope of influence working hard to “hear” someone is an aggressive act to build strength and confidence in them. How would you like for that to be your legacy? I was a weighted blanket. Even better—I help those close to me feel heard—I get them.

© 2021 D. Dean Benton

For the David and Karen Mains podcast: “Before We Go”

Have A Good Friday

Our Doug took a picture of an abandoned ore mine that ignites my imagination. The photo stirs a story in me about a hideout—an underground bunker. Have you, at least once, during the current culture non-COVID pandemic given thought to where you would hide or seriously hunker down?

Reading a report from CNN which says it is nearly impossible to determine at birth the child’s gender, I realized how often I’m thinking or saying loudly, “OMG!” as in praying. Or when hearing one of our brighter politicians say, “To call the ‘surge’ at the southern border an invasion is just the words of white supremacists.”  OMG- OH, My God!

Do I look to the government and news people that my life consists of Lincoln Logs, Legos, Tinker Toys, a digital mouse, a gullible mind and an open line of credit? Who gave the government permission to spend multiple packages of $ trillions? 

Frequently I wonder if I could minister to a community in that iron ore mine. But I wonder where I would shop for coffee, get natural vitamin D and fresh air. I also wonder what the optimum number is for a workable community and if I could find a USB port. How many bars would I receive on my phone and how would I publish blogs? I won’t even ask if you would help me pack for life in an iron ore world.

I’m serious about the density of my prayers with OMG! And “JESUS! Are you paying attention?!!”

Keeping in mind the approaching Good Friday 2021, I was accosted by Isaiah 61:1-2. I haven’t thought of those words for a long time—a sobering fact. To remember that Jesus used these words as His mission statement and I haven’t even thought about them is a concern to me.

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me,

because He has anointed me to preach good news to the poor.

He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners

and recovery of sight for the blind,

to release the oppressed,

to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

Isaiah is said to have spoken/written these words forecasting the work of the Messiah: Preach good news, proclaim freedom, release prisoners from darkness, and proclaim favor.

How could I have neglected this? Note the demonstration and benefit of Messiah’s work (Isaiah 61):

“…to comfort all who mourn

Provide for those who grieve

Bestow a crown of beauty instead of ashes,

(Provide) the oil of gladness instead of mourning,

(Provide) a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.”

Listen to this list of recipients: poor, brokenhearted, captives, prisoners, you….mourning, grieving, marred, despairing, and the inadequate…the hiding.

Oh, MY God!

What an exchange: My need for His gifts—provision: comfort, beauty, gladness, praise.

Messiah shouts into the mine shaft—“I will change you, your purpose and image—how you will see yourself and how you will be seen.”   

“You will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the LORD for the display of His splendor” (Isaiah 61:3).

Oh, My GOD!

Think of the energy released at the Cross to redeem and cleanse and change people and culture. Imagine the energy released at the Resurrection. From those fountainheads flows energy. Not just stuff to believe, but fuel—energy that can’t always be measured by Geiger counters or lightning meters.

It is what makes Friday good.  and the news the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Have a Good Friday

©2021 D. Dean Benton