Monthly Archives: May 2022

The Alledged Doubter

From John 20:

19-20 Later on that Resurrection day, the disciples had gathered together, but, fearful of the Jews, had locked all the doors in the house. Jesus entered, stood among them, and said, “Peace to you.” Then he showed them his hands and side.

20-21 The disciples, seeing the Master with their own eyes, were awestruck. Jesus repeated his greeting: “Peace to you. Just as the Father sent me, I send you.”

24-25 But Thomas, one of the Twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. The other disciples told him, “We saw the Master.”

But he said, “Unless I see the nail holes in his hands, put my finger in the nail holes, and stick my hand in his side, I won’t believe it.”

26 Eight days later, his disciples were again in the room. This time Thomas was with them. Jesus came through the locked doors, stood among them, and said, “Peace to you.”

27 Then he focused his attention on Thomas. “Take your finger and examine my hands. Take your hand and stick it in my side. Don’t be unbelieving. Believe.”

28 Thomas said, “My Master! My God!”

29 Jesus said, “So, you believe because you’ve seen with your own eyes. Even better blessings are in store for those who believe without seeing” (John 20:19-29 Message).

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This Easter—just a few days ago—I became fascinated with a phrase from this narrative.

“But Thomas, one of the Twelve, was not with them when Jesus came.”

Where Was He?

Maybe he had momentarily run to get a cup of coffee. Or perhaps he needed to check on his family. Could it be he just needed to get away—maybe go to that place in mountains where Jesus had taken His disciple on retreat. It couldn’t have been too far—there had not been time to travel any distance.

Twenty-four hours before this gathering of the disciples, they had all fled—scattered from the authorities and killers of Jesus and scattered from each other. There is the possibility that Thomas didn’t get the memo that a get together was scheduled. Wherever he was, “he was not with them.”

What Was He Doing?

The truth would sink in:  My world has changed, and there is no repair shop that can make it like it was.  

Wherever Thomas was and whatever else he was doing he was doing what you are doing—grieving, mourning and…


Wherever he went, would you guess he just needed to sort things out? Grieve privately? Try to figure out what he was to do, now? Now that his life had upended and the One to whom he had given his allegiance, future and dreams was gone? He was wondering what was left.


Did I do something wrong? Did I miss clues and red flags? Could I have done things differently?


Having spent 2-3 years with Jesus, what would he be remembering? He surely would remember the trip to Lazarus’ funeral. All the other disciples had tried to talk Jesus out of going. Thomas had been the one to encourage him—“We’ll go and face down your enemies or we will die with you,” he had said.

He would have remembered when Jesus had told them he was going away. We have the story in John 14:1-6

14 Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God[a]; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.”

Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

What Caused Him to Return?

I don’t think this disciple had walked away from faith. As far as he knew, the reason for and the center of his faith had left—there was nothing left. It had vanished when Jesus said, “It is finished.”

Some Bible scholars say the other disciples knew where Thomas was hanging out and went to check on him. I heard a man tell his story the other day as he celebrated a family who came looking for him when he was trying to find his way from addiction. Thank God for those who come looking for us.

During that visit, the Bible Writer says the visitors said, “We saw the Master.”

Those words sound so academic, sterile. “Oh, by the way, The Master stopped by.” There isn’t even an exclamation mark at the end of the sentence in John 20—“We saw the Master.” I doubt it was like that at all. It would have been the first thing out of their mouths. It would have been loud and packed with emotion—lots of exclamation marks!

Don’t you think Thomas would have done a confused and dazed “Say what?” It would have taken a minute to assess that news. “What did he say? What did he do? From the beginning—tell me everything!”

“He said ‘Peace be to you…twice. He gave us His peace—twice.”


Jesus’ “Peace to you,” was not a unique way of saying, “Hi, Guys.” He was giving them peace to replace their present fear. They were hiding in fear. Jesus said, “Peace.” He may have been saying “shalom” with a specific application to the moment and their state of mind.

The Greek word Jesus uses means, quietness, rest, + set at one again—it is designated as God’s gift of wholeness—“when all essential parts are joined together.”

Turmoil, mental and emotional fragmentation can be a natural part of fear, mourning, grieving, stress. Nothing fits, all the old patterns and templates that had worked are questionable. Upheaval threatens to become the new norm. But God’s gift is wholeness. He puts the pieces together.

Apostle John tells us that Jesus was preaching a hard message and the crowd started walking out. Not just one here and there, but hundreds or thousands at a time.

“So Jesus asked the Twelve, ‘Do you want to leave too?’  Simon Peter replied, ‘Lord, to whom would we go. You have the words of eternal life’” (John 6:68).

Occasionally God zaps us with Peace or floods us with peace, but usually it comes to us in seed-like words or events.

I was told this story by the main characters. Grandmother knew how to bake desserts and sweets which made going to her house a great adventure. The grandkids don’t get many sweets at home, but it’s a different story at the Grandparent’s house. A few days ago, Grandmother died. This time going to her house was different, no cookies or cakes, but lots of questions. “How come Grandma is not here? Why did she get sick?” For starters.

A couple of days ago, the grandmother’s son, his wife and their young children went into a convenience store and while there, the little boy acquired a snack. They took it to the counter—the young clerk came around the counter knelt to look the boy in the eye and talk to him. As the clerk placed the snack into a sack, he told the little boy his own story of his age.

When in the car, they opened the sack and found not only the sack of snacks but suckers. Six big, extraordinary suckers. The Mom asked where the suckers came from. Since no one knew, Daddy thought they should be paid for. He took them back into the store and told the clerk about the mysterious suckers. No one in the store knew anything about them. None had placed them in the sack. There were no winks—every clerk claimed total ignorance of where they came from including the young fellow who shared his own story.

There were 6 of those super suckers.

The young father and mother immediately knew where they came from! They were the kind of sucker that Grandma would buy. And there was one for her grandson, one for her granddaughter, one for Mom, one for Daddy, one for Grandpa and one for an important Uncle.

They may have been super suckers, but they mostly were peace seeds—words of eternal life—to speak to the grieving hearts and fragmented minds. A message from Grandma and a gift of wholeness from God.

Apostle Paul describes the peace—God’s gift of wholeness when nothing fits together:

And the peace that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus….” (Philippians 4:6).


The disciples described that evening and that Jesus suddenly appeared in the room, one of the disciples said to Thomas, “Then he showed us his hands and his side.” (20:21)

It was not a doubting or impudent Thomas, but a stunned Thomas who said something like, “Well, if he showed you his hands and side, I should see them also.”

It was 2000 plus years ago last Sunday night—

26 Eight days later, his disciples were again in the room. This time Thomas was with them. Jesus came through the locked doors, stood among them, and said, “Peace to you.” 27 Then he focused his attention on Thomas. “Take your finger and examine my hands. Take your hand and stick it in my side. Don’t be unbelieving. Believe.”

“This time Thomas was with them”

I wonder if Jesus was looking at Thomas when He said, “Peace to you.” Did Jesus repeat the ordination and promises and authorization?

Thomas had questions; Jesus had answers. There was no ridicule or judging or eye-rolling. Jesus made room and opportunity for questions and wonderings—the “Why’s” and “Howcomes?” And he still does! And that is the most important point of this narrative. Jesus gave Thomas His presence and attention, not just answers. That brought peace, joy, hope, direction. Presence!

We have no video evidence that Thomas took Jesus up on the offer to touch his hands and side. We do know what he said…

“My Lord, my God.”

That was not a cognitive declaration. Thomas was not saying, “You’ve convinced me.” It was not just mental assent. We have no description of this disciple falling onto his knees before Jesus, but it seems probable.

For a couple of weeks, I have tried to ascertain what all Thomas meant with his proclamation. I have a clue. In 1961, President John F. Kennedy met Soviet Leader Khrushchev for the Vienna Summit. Kennedy wanted to challenge the Russians to a “Peace Race” rather than an “Arms Race.” Khrushchev was impressed with Kennedy’s preparation for their talks but had no interest in the proposal. He seemed to be committed to a nuclear subjugation of the USA. Given the President’s goals and hopes, the Vienna Summit had been a failure. President Kennedy was described as despondent.

On the long flight home, JFK wrote a paraphrase of a quote from Abraham Lincoln:

“I know there is a God. I can see the storm is coming. If He has a plan for me, and I think He has, I believe I am ready.”

The Sunday night altar surrenders, and dedications are so important. This goes beyond. At some point we must establish the pattern of “My Lord, my God—whatever your plan for me, I am ready.” For Thomas the frequent “My Lord, My Master, My God” led to India.

The next step, next season, next “next” depends on the response–“My Master,  my God.”

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Romans 15:13).

(c)2022 D. Dean Benton –A specialist in wondering.

Blessed & A Blessing

I’ve been re-reading my ebook Meanderings to prepare it for marketing on another digital outlet. The book is a substantive look at Abram/Abraham, his family, and his journey of faith and into Canaan. The covenant and promise God spoke to Abram is:
“I will bless you…and you will be a blessing to others” (Genesis 12:3).
Before I quote a couple of paragraphs from Chapter 22 in Meanderings, I am wondering how much time you have thought about God’s blessing this morning. We have listened to a daily devotion which didn’t exactly speak to me. We listened to an hour of news and commentary. My mind is filled with abortion, baby formula, inflation, and distorted “fact”-speaking. Not much about God’s blessing. I blessed my wife. This is an important day for her, and I would be pleased if God would bless her in ways meaningful to her. I firmly believe God spoke to her the words he gave to Abram. “Blessing” is not just academic—it is about life lived and shared.
“How would Abram know that he was blessed? How would he bless others? How would nations be blessed through him? God promised him a son, a heritage, and a land.
“The arrival of a boy child and possession of a land. The child arrived, but Abram did not. He owned a burial plot. A small part of the inheritance. Is half of the promise adequate? Hebrews 11:8-10 gives external clues. Abraham was a curious seeker who maintained an atmosphere of encounter for his family.
     “The Abrahamic walk of faith for us is to stimulate curiosity in yourself and create atmospheres where the diminished can encounter the Lord that ignites their own curiosity and vision.”
     “Abraham did it by keeping his eye on an unseen city…designed and build by God.” Hebrews 11:10 (The Message)
(c) Copyright 2022 D. Dean Benton

Contrasts–by Doug Benton

Perfect morning. As Kona (Dog) and I came to the edge of the property on our walk this morning, I became aware that this was one of those moments. If only there was a way to capture it. Not on film, but in my spirit. As we walked out of the cool shadows and the filtered light that found its way through the trees that have just about given up for the year, and into the fullness of the morning sun I stopped and soaked it in. I wanted to memorize it. Not just the image of it, but the essence. The contrast of the warmth and coolness wasn’t limited to the air temperature. As I was standing in the sunlight watching and feeling Kona’s joy in the moment, I looked back up the trail we had just came down and noticed how blue the light was in the relative darkness of the trees. I hadn’t noticed it while I was in it.

Kona and I have walked that path many times since moving here. It’s been hot and sweaty, cold, and windy, and everything in between. It wasn’t really the coolness or the warmth that struck me this morning, it was the contrast, the experience of them in relation to each other and at the same time. The warmth and weight of the sun on my face and cool emptiness on the back of my neck. The frost in the blue light, on the shadowed side of meadow, turning into big droplets of dew clinging to the blades of grass as the yellow light of the sun washes over it.

The richness and fullness of the moment wasn’t in the warmth or the cold. Nor was it in the wet grass vs. the dry path. The darkness of the trail or the brightness of the open field. It was in the contrast. The one, defining and emphasizing the other. It’s the contrast and the transition that brings awareness and appreciation.

I’ve been pondering and mulling this over for a couple of hours now. The truth is, I hate the cold. I hate the long death of winter. Given the choice, I would never be cold again. In fact, this morning I put on a sweatshirt, hoody, coat and gloves before I went out. Plus carried a hot coffee with me. I did everything I could not to experience the cold. For the most part I was successful. The only part of me that I hadn’t protected from the cold was my head, and I hadn’t gotten very far into the woods when I wished I had worn a hat. It wasn’t really cold; I was just aware of ears being uncomfortable.

I wonder if my experience in the meadow would have been different or missed had I been toasty warm the whole way. Would I have just kept walking, finishing the loop and headed home still absorbed in whatever it was I had been thinking about before I became aware of how perfect the moment was? Would I have missed the moment without the contrast?

If I have talked to you about lighting, you’ve heard me talking about the importance of contrast and shadows. Without them there is no texture, form or depth. It’s the contrast between light and dark that shows texture. It’s the shadow that reveals the form of a thing. Beauty is often in that revelation. Movement and life in the transition. Here’s the key though, that’s only true when there is balance, and the contrast is is not too great. It’s when the brights are too bright and the darks too dark that things can be difficult, confusing, hard to understand or just plain ugly. The more the contrast, the less transition. Things that are supposed to be in the middle get forced to the edges. Grays have to choose a side and become light or dark as they cease to exist, until the image is made up of only blacks and whites. At the point that the contrast is too great, and you can’t see detail in both the darks and the lights, the photographer has to decide what will be seen. You can overexpose the scene so that detail can be seen in the darkest shadow, but that means what is already bright will be blown out and lost. If you expose for the brightest part of the scene, the shadows will block up to pure black and all detail will be gone. When the contrast is too great, you will have to choose which you will see, you won’t be able to see both. Seeing one will come at the expense of the other. That’s just the way it is. Unless you have the ability to control contrast. The good news is, there are ways that we can in fact effect or control the contrast range of the scene through exposure and processing techniques as well as other tools like reflectors and lights. That takes both knowledge and effort. Both. You may know how to fix it with lighting, but if you decide hauling around and setting up all that equipment is too much, the knowing doesn’t change anything. If you are willing to do whatever it takes to fix the problem, but don’t have a clue how, you are in the same boat. The desire to control the contrast doesn’t have any impact on the actual contrast. Controlling the scene contrast is up to the photographer.

If you have a photographer friend on Facebook you’ve probably read about how “photography is like life”. Cute and cliche’ on a tee shirt, but still true as I overlay the concept of contrast over my own life. There is no doubt that when things get way out of balance, it’s hard to experience the fullness of life. When the contrast between joy and sadness becomes too great, we have to choose which we will see. Exposing for the sadness will leave joy blown out and unseen. Just Ignoring the sadness and “exposing” for joy isn’t much better if the sadness is still there hidden in the darkness. I wish it was as easy to control the contrasts in life as it is in photography, but it’s not. The good news is though, there are techniques and tools available to help control the contrasts in life as well, but they too require knowledge and effort.

If only there was photoshop for life, complete with contrast and exposure sliders to fix things. Not to mention salvation of the clone stamp and control-Z. Until then I’ve been watching tutorials and taking notes trying to figure it out. Next comes the doing. The hard part. I do believe that life is a gift and that its possible live it to its fullness but it’s not a given. I guess if it were easy, everyone would do it. I’m working on it.

I’ve been missing the beauty in the transition.

How are your contrast levels today?

©2015, 2022 Douglas Benton