All posts by bentonquesthouse

About bentonquesthouse

Husband, father, grandfather, singer, songwriter, seminar leader, pastor. A provoker. A reader and writer of books. http://.www.bentonministries.com

Humble First, Then Healing

“In those days there was no king in Israel;

everyone did what was right in his own eyes”

(Judges 21:25).

Where there is a lack of vision and leadership people will make up their own rules.

We have the right to select our own priest and our leader. Do not forget–someone is going to lead. At this point there is a mob seeking to take control. That mob does not have the best interest of our country at heart. There are protesters and there are rioters. As long as the “protesters” move with the rioters, they are as complicit.

We have been warned. Benjamin Franklin said, “…if we can keep it.” Several of our godly prophets and writers have repeated that admonition. The reason we have a Declaration of Independence and The Constitution is because the Founders and Framers saw that Americans could manage themselves politically because they had shown they could manage themselves personally. The people in the streets are showing they cannot manage themselves. It has been said, “they have no choice but to riot.” That suggests they are being controlled.

I saw a Twitter picture this afternoon putting President Trump on one side standing in front of St. John’s Church holding up a Bible. On the right side, a picture of President Bill Clinton in front of St. John’s Church holding up a Bible. I remember seeing Clinton’s photo with Bible aloft, but I cannot confirm (from my memory) he was in front of St. John’s Church. (Photoshop may have been employed. I doubt it, but don’t know.) The Tweet has been taken down—at least I can’t find it. Clinton was said to have been celebrated for his faith demonstration, while Trump is castigated for his manipulative “photo op.”

Let me tell you how I perceived what went on the other day in Lafayette Park. I saw President Trump being a godly leader and responding to God’s invitation to Joshua:

“Every place that the sole of your foot will tread upon, I have given you….”

Our duly elected president was reclaiming what evil attempted to steal. He stood in front of the St John’s Church with Bible in hand to restate this land has a biblical foundation and prophetically saying God is calling us to repentance, justice and righteousness. My perception is that he was putting himself in submission to God’s Word from which comes our foundation of laws.

Some news people, politicians and some religious leaders interpreted our President’s action according to their prejudged perception. They cannot imagine this President could do anything of value. Several politicians and religious people said, “If he would open the Bible—maybe he could learn something….” How do they know whether Mr. Trump reads the Bible or not?

The perception is that there is no redemption for Trump. They keep calling him immoral. Are they contending that his sexual sins of the past still dominate his behavior today? Some of my mentors are close to this administration and see Trump as a flawed, sinful man in a faith journey. Can his antagonists claim a more direct route to God?

As long as the mental filters of their voices and behaviors deny grace, redemption and a yielded heart can change Mr. Trump, they block it for themselves/ourselves.

The most important liberal assessment tool in a more civil age was, “I cannot attribute motivation….” But every critic seems to know our President’s every thought 24/7. How magnificently brilliant! I thought only God had that ability–attribute.

My head and heart are having difficulty in getting a grip on what is going on. Men and women spiritual leaders—some who are my go-to people for understanding situations—are attacking the president. Some are saying his holding the Bible was a political “trick.” Am I to believe that many of my mentors—writers, speakers, pastors, evangelists, non-clergy, but serious disciples in other leadership callings—have been hoodwinked and seduced by the most wretched person ever to walk the earth? Can I be naïve and stupid enough to be another lemming?

My great concern is not about Mr. Trump. This is not a defense of this president, but the presidency. I fear for the outcome. I can take you to the parking lot in front of a laundromat in Salina, Kansas when I learned about God’s judgment. All He has to do is “lift His hand” from us. No hurricane needed. It is easier when you don’t believe in God—non-believers don’t need to worry about anything that a “god” would do. For those who believe Jehovah involves Himself in the affairs of men sense He raises nations and raises leaders. The patience of God is long, but as the Bible says in a non-judgmental statement of secular fact:

“Be not deceived; God will not be mocked; whatsoever you sow, that you will also reap”

Galatians 6:7-9

I have wrestled with 2 Chronicles 7:14 for months. I share what it says to me:

If My people will…

Humble themselves

            Empathy

To humble oneself is to agree that I am not the center of the universe. As a Follower of Jesus, we are called from the sidelines. This is not a call to sympathy—feeling sorry for a person’s hurt, but empathy—to walk with and to enter into a person’s pain. That is a hard assignment and nearly impossible. I can’t enter into a black brother’s experience, but I can walk in step with him. I can ask him questions about his hurt or whatever he is experiencing. I can keep quiet and buy him a coffee as he thinks without telling me anything. I can guard his back when he cries or screams.

Seems this is only possible if there a relationship.

            Omniscience

Humbling oneself is to live a humility-driven life and lifestyle. I don’t know everything! It is possible that I have gotten some things wrong. It is possible I have concluded wrongly because I was taught or assumed/consumed inaccurate information. Maybe I’ve made agreements—Brene Brown’s statement can be stretched here: “I don’t have enough facts to freak out!”

One more avenue: Humbling oneself does not demand that you abandon all you know or all you think to be true. Humility demands that we examine what we “know” and “believe.” It is asking the Holy Spirit to “Examine me and know my heart.” (Psalm 51)

            Curiosity

Humility is a motivator—look into things. Ask questions, search out things. I have not understood Institutional Racism, nor did I want to. It is a bit clearer now. It is more than rhetoric and I have repented. I’ve read biographies. Some of those people of color are now my heroes. When we heard the stories of a family from Somalia, we were enlightened and able to extend a measure of empathy. Humility calls forth our curiosity–What does this mean? What is going on, here? What is my role in creating and solving hurt?

Be intentional what you choose to read and embrace. Know the writer’s bias and especially what they want you to conclude and to do. What is their “Therefore…?”

            Service

The bottom line of marketing is—the consumer defines value. The seller cannot define value for the buyer. Service must have value to the people we serve. Service is not about doing something we think is noble, therefore, helpful to the needy.

Carole and I were involved in a Maundy Thursday event where the men washed the feet of their wives as an act of humility and service. I am not a method actor, but I asked the question. “What are we trying to say by washing feet?” The answer was, “Just do it.” Wasn’t a satisfactory answer!

Carole hated it! I was glad to do it. I’m not too proud to serve that way. I rub lotion on her feet when they hurt. But we were both uncomfortable and it was meaningless. It had no value. The server’s quest is always “What can I do?” “How can I help?”

“If My people will humble themselves….”

©2020 D. Dean Benton

 

Important Life Knowledge

I’m sharing a Facebook post from a friend. It was not written with knowledge it would be shared beyond the original post. I have permission to share it. It is, indeed, a good place to start.
Dean

As we move toward a new world order, I sat down today and tried to problem solve how I’m going to manage homeschooling my kid for the next few months. It’s hard for me to imagine keeping my child occupied while still adding value to his life, without having him glued to a screen all day doing online school work. So I built a schedule that would allow me to feel confident in teaching him, balance my need for personal work time, and still keep him on track with a first grader’s pace.

WHICH GOT ME THINKING (oh god, I know, bear with me here…😂)- Why can’t I be teaching him first grade education level skills, but apply them to REAL WORLD CONCEPTS?! We don’t know what the future holds for us, and as much as I want my son to be book smart, I also want him to be culturally educated and have a broad perspective mindset.

So I made a list- “Important Life Knowledge”
Things I want to teach my son that he might not necessarily learn in school. Things that he will face when he walks out of my front door a grown man. Things that he may have to face before then.

As I looked over my list, I thought to myself- these are things I’m still learning. These are things I see people around me still learning. These are things I see grown adults not having the slightest clue about.

It inspired me to share the list with you all. Food for thought. Think about what these things mean to you. Think about if you’ve started teaching your kids these things. I’m sure I’ll be endlessly adding to the list as I start this new journey with (my son), and I’m sure many of you have lots of great ideas to add to this list as well! But I thought this was a good start.

Image may contain: coffee cup

Bringin’ It!–Chapter five

Bringin’ It!

R—Restoration,  E—Exercise,  A—Attitude,  D–Diet

The first days of this seminar were marked by my rigid diet. I was a month or two after open-heart surgery and being given a diet. Carole listened to, read and researched experts. My diet consisted of very little meat. I consumed protein from shakes and followed the best medical wisdom. That means I consumed and talked a lot about oatmeal, bagels and other carbs.

Of course almost every dietary “law” of that day has been discounted or changed. Cholesterol is no longer the biggest threat, although my doctor is pleased that mine is in a good range. I wonder if he is going to put a happy face sticker on my forehead.

In the face of that, I don’t talk much about diet anymore. I’m still concerned about nutrition. I’m not going to suggest what you should or should not eat. For decades, I didn’t eat donuts, ice cream, candy or sweet rolls, but now I long for cookies, pie and cake like a smoker wants a cigarette.

If we had the money we’ve spent on books about diets and dieting, we could make a down payment on a new car. My family is very knowledgeable about food, vitamins, supplements and how they contribute to body and brain function. I have settled here: Nutrition, moderation, common sense, listening to your body and biblical wisdom is a good way to go.

Dan Buettner is the founder of Blue Zones as a concept and author of The Blue Zones. (National Geographic, 2012.) In recent weeks, the Seventh Day Adventists have purchased Buettner’s company. Blue Zones is a life-enhancing read.

In early reporting, COVID-19 was linked to obesity, at least recovery was connected to dietary health habits. Since body resiliency is part of dealing with the pandemic, Blue Zone habits can be a tool.

A RATIONAL DIET

A rational diet in contrast to an emotional diet. This diet is good news—it helps us live long, healthy and productive lives. Somewhere in this series I have talked about exercise and diet including fresh air, plenty of sunshine and bare feet and fingers in the soil. This approach to nutrition reconnects us and energizes us. The subtitle to my book, Mosquito Park Secrets, is “How to Live Outrageously Happy Lives.” Westerners who live the Blue Zone lifestyle contend the good news effect is outrageous.

Buettner found LOMA LINDA’S BLUE ZONE SECRETS

Find a sanctuary in time. (One day in seven.)

Maintain a healthy body mass index.

Get regular, moderate exercise.

Spend time with like-minded friends.

Snack on nuts.

Give something back

Eat meat in moderation

Eat an early, light dinner.

Put more plants in your diet.

Drink plenty of water.

I now know at least two words used in Okinawa. Ikigai-–the reason to get up in the morning. And, moai—the tradition of forming a moai provides secure social networks. “Always someone there for me.” That is some diet!

A HEALTHY DIET OF PERCEPTION

Early on in this world-wide pandemic, I began to pray for friends and family specifically to enhance their emotional, mental, spiritual immune system. These seemed important to me:

Plans, Perspective, Proportion, Peace, Productivity

I left out the most important element: Perception.

Perception is easily defined by the twelve God sent into Canaan to spy out the land and report what they found. The twelve all saw the same beautiful and bountiful land as well as the giants and barriers. Each group had a multi-colored picture in mind. The twelve described the giants’ size; the other two said, “take a look at the size of grapes.

Ten said, “We are unable to go up against the people, for they are stronger than we” (Numbers 13:31).

Joshua and Caleb reported,  “Let us go up at once and take possession, for we are well able to overcome it—we can do this!” (Numbers 13:30).

“Perception is all there is.”

That declaration by business writer Tom Peters and then others, seemed wrong, wrong to me. My perception is not all there is, I thought. There is reality! Peters’ statement is not global. My perception is all there is for me. In an 8:00 college accounting class I said, “That doesn’t seem right.” The teacher said, “Mr. Benton, you are welcome to your opinion, but it won’t work on a balance sheet or on my tests.”

Psycho-Cybernetics, the original book by Maxwell Maltz and the updated version written by Maltz and Bobbe Sommer has guided much of my thinking about human behavior. A director of the Maxwell Maltz foundation says people in a Covid-19 era need a reason to hope and a reason to believe.

Perspective and perception are attached, but different. Perspective is, “From my perspective….” Perspective of experience, standing, education, insight, as a Democrat or Republican. Perception is like your worldview. It is a brain “servo-mechanism” that determines perspective and guides in determining what will work. Perception gives permission to the brain to pursue, like a laser, the destination you give to your brain. Something like guard rails on a mountain highway. Perception marks danger or dangerous people and the route to success. Most of all, it tells us if we are worthy of success, belonging, loving. The most determining is perception of ourselves: self-image.

This reasoning says that people will believe only what fits with their perception. Much of the difference between Republicans and Democrats is their perceptions of reality, causes and effects. I listened to a political spokesperson and wondered how she could believe what she was saying. It contradicted the facts, as I know them, and projected a radically destructive outcome. The spokesperson wasn’t saying what she had learned or believed, she was telling what determines her life.   Perception is what we KNOW! 

I talk about perception in my book, You Can Handle It! (© 1988 Spring Daisy Publications).

“Your behavior—good, crazy, bad, sane, productive, self-destructive—comes from you inner being. This core mechanism gives you handles that you cling to in crisis and you depend upon to guide you in making decisions. These handles provide the coping mechanism that function or falter under pressure.”

“We always act in our own best interest—at least from our present point of view.”

“Eighty percent of your perception is visual. You do not think in many abstractions when you know what will meet a need. You have a real picture. You can see it.”

My thinking gripped the concept of Reticular Activating System and has not been the same.

Definition of RAS: “a diffuse network of nerve pathways in the brainstem connecting the spinal cord, cerebrum, and cerebellum, and mediating the overall level of consciousness.” This is an interesting piece of the brain and brain function. Put it in your computer search engine and see. It is what makes perception so important to how we act and respond to stressful events and feelings.

Again from You Can Handle It!

“It (RAS) is a filter that sorts out what we perceive as useful to us. If we have given that filter data to believe there is no solution for a specific problem or situation, the Reticular Activating System will screen out all solutions—we will not even see them.”

“Perception is all there is! An American proverb: Perception is so strong that if you do not believe there is a solution, you would not recognize it even if Fed-Ex delivered it to your front door.”

“You alone give meaning to events. The seriousness of any event is really in how you perceive things which is why Freud and Menninger taught that feelings are more important than facts.”

Still with me? Give me a couple of minutes to list sources from which we build our perceptions:

How Perceptions are Acquired.

  1. Biological needs (Survive, reproduce and function.)
  2. We need to belong. When we no longer believe that we belong, we question if we want to survive.
  3. Modicum measure of power. The less power we have—the power to get, provide, protect or determine–the more we stress. (Stress comes from inside us. We stress (verb) in reaction to external stimuli. Stress is not like pollen.
  4. Our wants. Some are legitimate, some are selfish. If our wants are threatened, we stress.
  5. Comfort zone.
  6. Influences: Social and culture context, heredity, current physical condition, mental health, psychological constitution, emotional wiring, personal values, attitudes, experiences, aspirations, education, spiritual maturity and view of God. Role behavior, personal values, reflex actions, brain wiring, spiritual beliefs, current mental health.
  7. Self-image. I have a five-foot two friend who weighs less than 100 pounds. She sees herself as fat. No one can change her perception—the mirror she looks into proves it to her. Our actions, feelings, behaviors and skill-building are consistent with our self-image, self-concept, and feelings of self-worth.
  8. Parental proverbs. These are interesting to trace: “Never loan money to, or do business with family.” “Good fences make good neighbors.” “We do not discuss family issues outside the house.”

In spite of the “diagnosis,” perceptions are not always wrong or negative. Biographer, Richard Norton Smith, says “Herbert Hoover became a victim of his own certainties.” Certainties are another way to say perception. An unexamined certainty  limits us.

Change your perception and you change your life.

Changing Incorrect or Inadequate Perceptions.

“…maturity does not come by age or accumulated experiences. It comes through basic responses to grace.” E. Stanley Jones

DISCOVERY

The discovery that one or more of our perceptions—our automatic response—is a grace-presented opportunity. That is a life journey bend. God won’t change your perceptions, but He will be or will send catalysts to question your certainties and offer alternatives. Agents include:

  1. Scripture can open the mind. A rhema word has the power to break through to teach something new. Beware—we interpret Scripture through the faulty lens we are seeking to refocus.
  2. Interaction with a broad range of ideas and people’s experiences. It is helpful to have a diet of information from those with whom we disagree. Why do they say what they do?
  3. New Information. All new discoveries are based on new information or on rearranged information. Discoveries follow seeking, asking, knocking.”
  4. Healing prayer.
  5. Direct revelation. Usually Holy Spirit works in combination with the above. Sometimes, He works apart from other stimuli. The soul receives a download of insight or mental adjustment. It is a gift of grace.

               DECISION

Discovery is not enough, we must make a choice and then act on it. Remember that we think in pictures not equations. The decision is to change the pictures we carry in that brain file labeled, “My life—the way I want it, the way I can get it.” What picture(s) come to mind when Jesus says to you, “I came that you might have abundant life.” How is abundant defined? Are you qualified to receive abundance? What does Jesus’ promise look like to you as you plan for life beyond the shut down? How is that different than pre-Covid-19?

We keep hearing that this shut down is a reset. Maybe the decision is first. We decide to hit the reset button and then ask how to discover what limiting perceptions need to be changed and what creating perceptions need updating and embracing.

DISCIPLINE

Nothing fights back like an old way of seeing things. Again, we create perceptions to be mental infrastructure usually without much thought. They become protection, pathways and safety producing coping skills. To change any or all of that threatens our being. We are talking about changing the way we see ourselves and the world.

“Once you’ve used your left brain to challenge your false beliefs, bring your right brain into play to create new ones. Don’t forget that the subconscious mind needs vividly realized images to agree and comply with—‘new memories.’” Maxwell Maltz & Bobbe Sommer

Upgrade your mental picture album.

A MOTIVATING DIET OF PURPOSE

Around 2010, Dan Buettner visited and then designated seven Blue Zones. Sardinia, Italy; Loma Linda, California; Nicoya, Costa Rica; Okinawa, Japan and Ikaria, Greece where he found secrets of the longest lived people. The common denominator is living with a purpose. Purpose! The Psycho-Cybernetics people call this “A sense of direction—an objective to pursue.”

You can read everything in this chapter to this point and say, “Yada, Yada, Yada,” or “Blah, Blah, Blah.” When you have a purpose, mission, dream or revealed direction, you begin to ask what trip-trigger perceptions will keep you side-tracked or disqualified. You will formulate mission statements and strategies. When that purpose grips you, you shed the inadequate or unsatisfying certainties or at least you will ask how to lose the insidious, invisible limitations.

Buettner met a nutritionist in Nicoya, Costa Rica who told him,

“We notice that the most highly functioning people over 90 in Nicoya have a few common traits. One of them is that they feel a strong sense of service to others or care for their family. We see that as soon as they lose this, the switch goes off. They die very quickly if they don’t feel needed.”

Buettner concludes,

“…it’s the human imperative to feel needed that keeps the river of life running…”

(The Blue Zones, pages 190-191).

HUNGER FOR THE DYNAMIC GOD

Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert. For I am about to do something new. See, I have already begun! Do you not see it? I will make a pathway through the wilderness. I will create rivers in the dry wasteland (Isaiah 43:19).

What is your reaction and response to those words? Does “new” scare you? To your way of thinking and feeling, how logical is “getting back to normal?” Was the old normal acceptable economically? How about spiritually? Biblically? Morally? How did the old normal square with your perception of God’s best plan? Who can be trusted with your picture of a new normal?

“I am doing a new thing. I’m about to do something new. I have already begun. Do you see it?”

God is dynamic, not static. That is one of Isaiah’s messages. Making a way is God’s brand. Our assignment is to perceive what He is doing and to join Him. In normal times, we could respond with “I see what you are saying.” These days a gut-feeling may be perception. Clarity may come when a soul nudge says there is a better, more effective, more efficient way. Keeping ones soul full is imperative. Sustenance is found in a couple of phrases.

“The joy of the Lord is my strength,” (Jeremiah 8:10).

In the flock of our lawn birds, there is one that demands our attention. He is larger than a hummingbird, and about half to two-thirds the size of a sparrow. As small as he is, he has the largest voice of all. His call and melodies fill the neighborhood. That bird exudes joy and an invitation to join him.

“My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work”  (John 4:34).

“Beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news.”

Bring It!

©2020 D. Dean Benton

 

Hunker Inn West Wing

My wife and I just think differently.

If something gets dropped on the floor, she wants it cleaned up immediately. My approach is to let dry and then get it with the vacuum.

Today she is busy cleaning the guest room and asked me to help her move the furniture. Who is she expecting? In this day of isolation and staying home, if we invite guests we’ll probably be arrested. Move the furniture? Yep! A total rearrangement. Everything in “The West Wing” except the bookcases. To my way of thinking, any virtual guest will not notice that the bed is facing a different direction and that the plants have been moved to the porch.

The most annoying is that she doesn’t measure time well. Again today she asked, “Will you help me for five minutes?” I know, even if she doesn’t, that we’ll be working on the project an hour later. Moving furniture in the West Wing cannot be done in 5 minutes!

I heard when China began to open up from Stay At Home!, the first stop for many couples was the divorce court. (I didn’t even know divorce was allowed in China.) The government clerks were unable to keep up with the crowds. These days can pull at relationship seams.

One of my go to thinkers and writers about marriage is John M. Gottman, PH.D.

“Certain kinds of negativity, if allowed to run rampant, are so lethal to a relationship that I call them the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. Usually these four horsemen clip-clop into the heart of a marriage in the following order: criticism, contempt, defensiveness, and stonewalling.”

I come away from Gottman’s writing assuming the most dangerous is contempt. The other three can be fixed, but contempt is a heart issue that becomes physical.

“Couples who are contemptuous of each other are more likely to suffer from infectious illnesses (colds, flu, and so on) than other people.”

The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work, John M. Gottman and Nan Silver. (Three-Rivers Press, 1999) Chapter 2—How I Predict Divorce—with 91% accuracy)

Men and women are different. We are wired different, we function from different brain hemispheres. Of course this is a generality. Unless we acknowledge and celebrate the differences, we move toward contempt. Because I love my wife and want to affirm her, I usually give her the five minutes she requests. (I respond to her requests for “5 minutes” with “you lie.”) The real reason is that I don’t want her to lift the chest of drawers.

Experience shows that furniture is difficult to lift while one’s body is leaning at a 45-90 degree angle toward the door.

©2020 D. Dean Benton

Watch Mark Gunger, Tale of Two Brains

Bringin’ It! Chapter Four

Bringin’ It!

R—Restoration,  E—Exercise,  A—Attitude,  D–Diet

NOUN

“Attitude–A settled way of thinking or feeling about someone or something, typically one that is reflected in a person’s behavior.”

synonyms:

point of view · view · viewpoint · vantage point · frame of mind · way of thinking · way of looking at things · school of thought · outlook · angle · slant · perspective ·

“A habit (attitude) is a pattern that you inhabit, and it is not so much something you see as something through which you see everything else.” (Michael Hanby)

I ran across Attitudes That Attract Success by Wayne Cordeiro in my library. “You are only one attitude from a great life” the subtitle proclaims. The page marker indicates I stopped reading at page 17. Dean! oh Dean! Oh Dean! I have several of Cordeiro’s books and all have been helpful, so why page 17? If I had a therapist, I think I would bring that up in our next session.

You need an attitude adjustment? Maybe a whole new set of attitudes? The pre-Covid, Western world mindset and attitudinal worldview left us wide open. Unprepared emotionally and spiritual for the non-medical collateral damage of this pandemic. The mental and emotional damage is and will be great, if we are to believe the people who know such things.

Andy Stanley said, and our friend Sam Kirk reminded us:

Your PRESENT will become your PAST that will impact your FUTURE

We carry into this crisis all we did not know and all the unhealed issues. Unhealthy attitudes grow out of our experiences and expectations interpreted by the self-filter. Cumulative is a big word in stress, depression, burnout literature. Negative stress piles up–“Out of nowhere he went ballistic.”

          AND THEN, THERE’S ME

A young friend asked the FB family, (and I quote!) “Why am I only good at fucking up shit?” Assuming that is not just a single bad day, the words indicate, “A settled way of thinking or feeling” which inevitably leads to discounting possibilities and one’s future. Probably in more delicate language, but with the same passion, we trash ourselves. Those words become biblical strongholds which lock us into self-diminishment and dismissal.

An aside. Through the writing of this series, I’m wide-eyed amazed how God, or colossal coincidences, put resources in my path just at the right moment. Thanks, Lord. Such as a book: Daring Greatly, Brené Brown, (Penguin, ©2012)

Brené Brown says the church in which she grew up made her feel, “…small, unheard, unseen.” She assumed that was the gospel. It still doesn’t feel like good news to her. Or to me. To be a Jesus Follower we must embrace the values and virtues of the Kingdom, not just acknowledge we are a sinner and need forgiveness. Some of us hear and feel “small, unheard, unseen.” God’s Kingdom message includes healing of the bad news that dominates the soul. Good News Bringers enlarge us, hear us, see us and talk to us about healing.

Stephen Mansfield said in a recent blog,

“That we are going through a bruising season is something I do not need to tell you. What I may need to remind you of is the toll it takes on you. The fear, the worry, the grief, the offense, and the sheer physical strain—even while you are simply sitting on your couch—all exact a great price. Medical doctors tell us that these forces drain us biologically and can even produce a destructive rewiring of our brains.”

Monitor the cumulative and respond with corrective and healing action. I’m still thinking about Ms. Brown. Did she ever talk to anyone about the “small, unseen, unheard?” What about my friend? We can understand how a person could come to feel what my friend does, but how do we continue to feel that until it colors out lives? Dr. Brown’s research leads her to believe scarcity is one cause. Listen to these words:

“Scarcity thrives in a culture where everyone is hyperaware of lack.”

“Scarcity doesn’t take hold in a culture overnight. But the feeling of scarcity does thrive in shame-prone cultures that are deeply steeped in comparison and fractured by disengagement.” (27)

“Never good enough. Never perfect enough. Never thin enough. Never powerful enough. Never successful enough. Never smart enough. Never safe enough. Never extraordinary enough.” Given the social media, Ms. Brown says, “…I see the shame-based fear of being ordinary. I see the fear of never feeling extraordinary enough to be noticed, to be lovable, to belong, or to cultivate a sense of purpose.”

Or, inadequate.

Brené Brown concludes the difference between people who feel they belong, are loved, are capable of competence and those who do not is—I am worthy of being loved, belonging, being seen and becoming competent. Worthy. The Children of God receive worthiness through their relationship with God.

Who am I in Christ? Then plan accordingly! What does He say about you? Therefore! Adjust attitudes and adjust lack into enough. That is what repentance means: To change our mind, turn away from the destructive self-appraisal and walk in Kingdom values. Repentance is not a one-time thing to get us into Heaven, it is also the decision to live by God’s assessment and Kingdom values.

Someone posted their new tattoo on the back of their shoulder that says, I Am Enough! I think those words should be engraved where the wearer can see them at all times.

Quoting Seth Godin, “Plan and act accordingly.”

SEEING TOMORROW

Debi, Carole and I were having lunch with Uncle Everett and Aunt Fern. Although Aunt Fern was 55 when she married, she was concerned that Debi, then in her middle 20s, was not yet married. Auntie leaned in and in a pathetic tone, asked, “Do you have any prospects…at all?”

At all?

The one most emphatic truth I’ve learned in the past dozen years is that we have not done our work of “getting people saved” until we market in healing the whole person. If local churches and Kingdom entrepreneurs come out of this crisis with a renewed passion and vision, we will experience a healed land. Kingdom driven and focused on: not one child of God dominated by small, unheard, unseen and not one person who hears the Good News and drops his or her head to think or say, And then, there’s me.

I’ve been confused by 2 Chronicles 7:14. “If my people…confess their wicked ways….” What wicked ways?

An acquaintance loved the Lord and followed God’s call to build church buildings and communities. While doing his work, he alienated his children because of his own wounds. He lived his whole life with a broken spirit and shredded soul. The Gospel he loved never reached far enough. He ended his life by blowing his head off with a shotgun. Were there no Bringers? Or, if there were, did he not listen? It becomes personal Good News when the offer has your picture on it and you specifically apply it.

God, send Bringers of Good News who creatively tell the world that You are concerned and have provided healing for us body, soul and spirit. Send Bringers who will refresh us with Your Word to regenerate us.

   EMBRACING MY GLORY

“…You, O Lord, are a shield for me, My glory and the One who lifts up head” (Psalm 3:3).

When I first heard that song, I realized how unimportant “You’re my glory” was to me. I’m all in on “Lifter of my head,” but “glory” sounded too ethereal. Then I read Psalm 3:3. That phrase is not a song lyric by a spiritual poet; it is biblical—words of a warrior. David wrote this when he was running from Absalom, who was intent on killing the king and usurping the kingdom.

Thank you, Hannah for the C. S. Lewis book, The Weight of Glory, (©1949. Renewed Harper Collins, © 2001.) I want to share some of Lewis’ words as he talks about “You are my glory.”

“Glory suggests two ideas to me, of which one seems wicked and the other ridiculous. Either glory means to me fame, or it means luminosity.

When I began to look into this matter I was shocked to find such different Christians as Milton, Johnson and Thomas Aquinas taking heavenly glory quite frankly in the sense of fame or good report. But not fame conferred by our fellow creatures—fame with God, approval or (I might say) “appreciation by God. And then, when I thought it over, I saw that this view was scriptural; nothing can eliminate from the parable the divine accolade, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant”….

“Indeed, how we think of (God) is of no importance except insofar as it is related to how He thinks of us.”

“To please God…to be loved by God, not merely pitied, but delighted in as an artist delights in his work or father in a son—it seems impossible, a weight or burden of glory which our thoughts can hardly sustain. But so it is.”

“Perhaps it seems rather crude to describe glory as the fact of being ‘noticed’ by God. But this is almost the language of the New Testament. St. Paul promises to those who love God not, as we should expect, that they will know Him, but that they will be known by Him (I Corinthians 8:3). Does not God know all things at all times? But it is dreadfully reechoed in another passage of the New Testament. There we are warned that it may happen to anyone of us to appear at last before the face of God and hear only the appalling words, ‘I never knew you. Depart from me.’ In some sense, as dark to the intellect as it is unendurable to the feelings, we can be both banished from the presence of Him who is present everywhere and erased from the knowledge of Him who knows all. We can be left utterly and absolutely outside—repelled, exiled, finally and unspeakably ignored. On the other hand, we can be called in, welcomed. Received, acknowledged…. And to be at last summoned inside would be both and honour beyond all our merits and also the healing of an old ache.” (Portions of pages 36-42)

C.S. Lewis is speaking in the last quote of that time when we shall stand before God as judge and hear Him say, “Come in!” or “Go away!” I say, while standing soul-deep in grace, that the Good News and good news are the foundation of meaningful and healthy attitudes. We have His approval! We are accepted, welcomed, received and acknowledged. We are in His pleasure.

To live to please God—feel, think, do—empowers us. No reason to be defensive or nasty. The knowledge of being accepted by God can grow healthy attitudes. It is the foundation of attitude.

I don’t want you to miss this from Lewis:

“Part of the bitterness which mixes with the sweetness of that message is due to the fact that it so seldom seems to be a message intended for us, but rather something we have overheard.” (p. 40)

Overheard as in intended for someone else. Not even in my cone of silence at Starbucks or Digger’s Rest does this seem personal, but in a private conversation God says to me, “You are accepted—I accept you. You are enough!” That does something to the soul and can influence attitudes tucked away inside or how we interact with our world.

What has this world crisis revealed to you about you? There are major-league attitudes that hit us like softball size hail; others eat at us like termites in our souls, to quote the doctor. Some just settle on us like, Oh well, it doesn’t really matter.

I question whether I should put product on my hair, trim my mustache, shave or use deodorant, after all who is going to see me. My wife’s example answers. She puts on makeup, fixes her hair each day and continues to remind me to clear the counter. She knows local or USA Today news people probably won’t drop by with cameras to do an article. But, her decisions are moderated by that overheard voice—how she feels about herself and her desire to please me. Yes!

Enough? Enough!

I was on my way to a pre-weekend preparation conversation. I don’t remember what the current economic crisis was in Ohio. I stopped in a café for coffee before the church meeting. There was a poster on the wall which showed a car in a dark tunnel. The driver said, “I see a light at the end of the tunnel.” It was a speeding train heading his direction. I tried to describe to the committee the humor and possibility of the cartoon poster. No one got it! No matter how hard I tried to explain, they just stared at me and glanced at each other.

Let me try with you. Reading headlines from the Internet does not present good grist with which to build your day, tomorrow, next week or your future. I walked away from the news this morning and was struck with—this really is a big deal! We are not going to fix it in the next few days. Dr. Birx says we will be wearing masks for months. Tyson Foods says the food supply chain is broken. And this plague is returning in the fall. I felt like Wil E. Coyote in that dark tunnel facing the on-coming light and The Road Runner had blocked my only escape route.

If we can get our assumptions, commitments and relationships right with Self, our Future and God, the probability that our attitudes toward other people and blockages will be in the positive range. It is part of the immunity package. The key is to…

      Plan and act accordingly.

©2020 D. Dean Benton

“Beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news.”

Factor of Plus One

Hunker Inn

I’m not depressed, feeling lonely, isolated or bored. At this point, I have everything I need. There is something I want that I can’t name and can’t find. Arby’s is advertising a creamy orange shake that may lure us out, which will a momentary pleasure, but I know it won’t satisfy long term. I’ve talked to my wife, talked to Jesus and although that was good, it didn’t fill that “spot.”

The word cumulative has been heavy on my mind today.

Last evening, a news report talked about a possible meat shortage coming by the end of the week and we’ll be wearing face masks perhaps all summer. I don’t need meat—as long as we can fry up some tofu. But I felt something new I’m not used to feeling. One of my favorite writers said, “Many of the leaders I’ve talked to are saying this is just a dress rehearsal to what is coming.”

Today we got news a friend, a person we really like and have vested words and prayer with, will be moved to hospice. Feeling! “Moving to hospice.”

Horse racing was a big deal in the 1920s. That dried up with Prohibition. There were no laws in Mexico against gambling or selling booze, so Tijuana became the place to be. The maintenance people mucked the stalls and carried it to a common place. Over time, it became Manure Mountain. It seldom rained in Tijuana, but a huge storm hit the higher ranges and floods swept down through the streets picking up M.M. pushing it through the club house, racing pavilion and wiping out everything in front of it until it sank into a body of water.

The destruction was not caused by the storm, but the storm plus. Somewhere in the time line, somebody tossed one more shovel full onto the pile. Tipping point! Catalyst! Breaking point.

Cumulative—storm plus one.

Psychologist, Dr. Archibald Hart says about anxiety—ask what is missing in you. What void keeps pushing us to the fridge or filling comfort food? In uncertainty, we look for reassurances, guarantees, explanations, reasons, something, any something that will take the edge off.

Peach cobbler with ice cream would help, maybe a satisfying coffee. But not enough. What is that feeling? Fear, maybe. It really hit me—this is a big deal! It could become as scary as all the terror movies ever made, added to all nightmares.

Cumulative—I’m thinking that word was spoken to me by Holy Spirit. We could handle most things if they came one at a time. But the stuff keeps getting tossed onto the pile. We can help ourselves by guarding proportion of what we hear, see, imagine, and try to solve. Limiting the stimuli is an act of faith—it is part of expressing our faith.

Positive cumulative—faith plus one. “Faith comes by hearing…the word of God” (Romans 10:17). Peace, Proportion, Perspective.

Monitor the cumulative

© 2020 D. Dean Benton

 

 

Bringin’ It!–Chapter 3

Bringin’ It!

R—Restoration,  EExercise,  A—Attitude,  D–Diet

      EXERCISE DISTANCING

Dr. Tim Elmore says we should not practice social distancing. Practice physical distancing and connect socially. More than semantics.

Self-awareness is an essential skill, coping asset and tool for EQ. We are news junkies, always concerned that we not miss a news flash. I became aware this morning that I needed to walk away to distance myself from the constant barrage of numbers, percentages and on-the-spot hospital images. My body, emotions, mental speculations were in the hyper range.

We—you and me—can’t fix this crisis by putting on our white lab coats. The coats with patches on the elbows. Not even when we pull up our armed chairs to listen closely. That is not good news for those of us who are fixers and repairers or really, really want to be.

Know when to take a walk. Remove yourself from the news—give yourself a break.

Singer Gary McSpadden died a few days ago. Obviously, he has been on my mind, but was not when yesterday his voice came into my mind singing, “Forgiven! I repeat! I’m forgiven!” Where did that come from? Later in the day someone posted McSpadden singing, “I Am Loved.” The second verse begins with the proclamation, “Forgiven, I’m forgiven….”

What was that about? I wasn’t feeling guilty or thinking about Gary. It wasn’t the words that crashed into my consciousness. It was his projection. He was singing a proclamation. “I repeat!!!”

Because we can’t “fix it” doesn’t mean we are powerless or inevitable victims. The feeling of inevitable is a threat that could keep us locked in spiritually and emotionally. Jesus said,

“You will receive power after the Holy Spirit comes upon you to be witnesses unto me…” (Acts 1:8).

A habit of walking away from reasons to hang your head makes sense. Find time and place to be refilled with the Holy Spirit. Proclaim out loud and on purpose, “I am more than a conqueror through Christ who loves us (Romans 8:37. Also check out 8:15).

You’d expect almost any preacher to say that. I’m talking explicitly and aggressively distancing yourself from negative input and the constant suggestion that you are in the crosshairs.

I Repeat. Take a walk.

This is an emphatic, aggressive response to the constant negative. Why stand on the track waiting for a train?

          EXERCISE YOUR BODY—MUSCLES, JOINTS, LUNGS, NERVES

You know this drill. The point is to move. If you don’t, you’ll lock up. Stretching is as necessary to exercising as getting your heart rate up and for some of us more so. A sign we saw in Omaha:

“Take care of your body. If you don’t, where you gonna live?”

Being out of your routine causes your nerves and emotions to be super sensitive. If you are prone to depression, a walk, mowing the lawn or vacuuming the garage will help your mind, mood and more.

          EXERCISE YOUR RIGHTS AND VOICE

Being cautious not to attribute motivation—I don’t really know what drives some people to say and do what they do. There seems to be a lot of decisions made and words spoken to take advantage of the crisis to gain political leverage. Lot of that going around. More toxic and noxious than the virus. A side bar opinion:

We usually speak out of our expertise and/or experience. We want physicians to give us their best medical opinions on which they are focused. Giving them benefit of doubt, there can be tunnel-visioning. Most leaders are severely focused on helping their people survive the virus. In that commitment, The Bill of Rights, in some cases, is being ignored or trampled. I don’t know why one governor said he wasn’t even thinking about the Bill of Rights when he did what he did. My personal assumptions have an idea, but whatever, it is our right and responsibility to be reminders that more than vaccine is crucial in all this. To survive the pandemic, but to lose our sacred rights doesn’t bode well.

I’m not sure I want the “tracers” to have all my personal information. I’m not sure we can feel safe with tracers identifying our habits and locations. That sounds like Adventures of Big Brother That erosion of rights is excused by perps making fun of our protests. Ridiculing our suggestions that we have enemies and/or our questioning is linked to idiotic conspiracies—are just parts of the revolution manual. Given certain beginning assumptions, some of the conspiracy theories can make sense. (?)

Jesus’ words to our nation: “To gain the world, but lose your soul—what have you really gained?” Freedom is easy to lose. Ben Franklin was adamant about that. Vigilance and patriotic involvement is required. Among others, Os Guinness, Stephen Mansfield and Eric Metaxes fleshed that out in their writings. A couple of paragraphs from Guinness’ A Free People’s Suicide:

“If the founders were correct, contemporary America’s pursuit of political leadership without character, economic enterprise without ethics and trust, scientific progress without human values, freedom without virtue and negative freedom without positive freedom can end only in disaster.”

“Amazingly few pay serious attention to notions such as sustainable freedom, the ecology and conservation of freedom—or to the idea that freedom itself requires a living system of immunity if it is to stay healthy. This carelessness may prove lethal.” (From pages 34 & 35)

This Guinness book was copyrighted in 2012. Nothing Guinness says speaks to the past few years more than,

“It is a mark of healthy societies in times of change and crisis, they throw up leaders worthy of the time. At this point, (2012) the United States urgently needs such a leader to lead and the nation to follow.”

The Founding Fathers knew the success or failure of the American Experiment depended upon self-management. The historians I have read say the Founders could agree on the risk because they observed the habit among The People: They were self-managers and self-reliant.

I’m still in the opinion side bar. When I hear, “We are never going back to the old normal. Nothing is ever going to be the same,” I want to know the specifics of how the left and the right see the “new.” I also want to discern how God sees the new.

“See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland” Isaiah 43:19.

Given that, we speak in a positive, calm and respectful tone. Somebody or some group is going to interpret the times and opportunity to exploit (positively or negatively) the crisis to shape their vision and commitment to reshape our nation. How will you voice your preference and opinion? I repeat! The various political interests have a plan. Exercise your voice and Constitutional rights.

            EXERCISE YOUR FAITH

Faith can be defined as confidence in God. To trust in Jesus for your salvation is expressed faith. To make Jesus the center of decisions and the source of hope is faith. Faith is mostly a verb word. Faith can be spiritual energy. When we read, “Without faith it is impossible to please God,” or “Your faith has made you whole,” a church brand is not being described. I pray that my friends and family will possess and display…

Plan, Peace, Perspective, Proportion, Productivity

Faith is a spiritual muscle that is strengthened by testing and expressed in traits like those. The process is to find what we understand to be God’s desire and join our spiritual energy to God’s specific plan. James one says if we lack wisdom about God’s plan or our difficulty, just ask God and He will give it. “Lord, what should I know about this? What do you want me to do to join you in this?” Faith describes our active participation.

On my way to exercise, I read a new letter from our Compassion person in Ethiopia. Kassahun is twenty and in a college-level school. He wrote, “Dear Carole. How are you my dear mother?” He signed off with, “Your child Kassahun.” In the letter, he outlined his school experiences and then he asked, “Where did you start learning? Where did you finish?” He was asking location and subjects. The questions imply the huge limitations if we stop learning. He also asked, “What kind of books do you like from tales, spiritual, scientific, novel and etc?” He may really be our kid. Just from a different father and mother. The words, “…my dear mother,” and “Your child…” reverberate in my soul.

I took a podcast to the treadmill. It sounds like the voice of God in this Spring 2020. It is called, “The Boring Decadence of our Society.”  (Art of Manliness Podcast #604. Author Ross Douthat also did two programs with Eric Metaxes.) Douthat includes, but broadens, the common definition of decadence. After exercising and those two encounters, faith looks more essential and focused to me.

I came back to my desk with a fresh definition of the focused faith we are to exercise.

Kassahun needs our faith in him. God calls us to express confidence in His providential plans for His creation. We also need a fresh grasp of faith as described in Romans four and Hebrews six. “Things hoped for but not yet seen physically.” That faith will ignite our vision and authority to speak and do what we’ve been called to be and do.

Dr. Leonard Sweet said last week that we need a Rapture theology that “sends us into the world and not to escape the world that God so loves.” Those who are able to do that will influence the post Covid-19 pandemic world.

Exercising our faith will motivate us to think through our praying. Within my arm’s reach, are 50 (+ or -) books on prayer. I still don’t understand prayer. Why am I to ask God to do something that He already knows and wants to do? I want to know the mechanics. How is God attentive to six billion people? I can’t even hear my wife if the TV is loud. Does God personally hear and respond or does He delegate? I have not allowed any of those questions to restrict my praying, but I’m often disappointed in my intercessory production. There’s got to be more.

Princeton educated, author, TV host, speaker, Evangelical and acquaintance of many high visibility scholars and entertainers, Eric Metaxes said a few days ago, “If you have a prayer language, this is a good time to use it.”

We are social distanced from Kassahun by several thousand miles. We can’t physically pray with him or look into his eyes and understand the empty spots or thin areas that need to be filled, girded up or released through deliverance. I keep asking Jesus our Intercessor what He is praying for Kassahun so I can agree and join Him.

Holy Spirit—who knows real needs and real solutions—can pray through us. If you do not have a “prayer language,” or don’t even want one, (!!) Holy Spirit is able to reveal what to pray and how to pray God’s plan, peace, perspective and proportion into someone’s soul—their thoughts, emotions, will. We must listen with pen in hand. Ask, listen, record, pray in faith.

Country act, The Forrester Sisters, sang a song in the 80’s that captured my attention. There is a line that says, “He’s already there.” The Collingsworth Family has updated the message.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lmH5QQSLtNk

That nudges me into another prayer form. We can ask, “Lord, since You are also in the future, what do you see that I should know about? Where will I fit with the gifts You’ve given me? How do I prepare? How do I pray for family and friends?”

“Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done” (Philippians 4:6).

Exercising faith in uncharted 2020 will lead us to reassess prayer. It will also stimulate us to inventory and think, feel and act out of gratitude. “Pray with thanksgiving”

            EXERCISE GRATITUDE

There seems to be an agreement among many of the prophets, preachers, teachers that I read and listen to that Passover 2020 was unique and important to our destiny. My spirit felt attuned, although I don’t know why.

Prophet/Seer James Goll says that an epoch—an era—ended with the beginning of Passover. With the beginning of Pentecost 2020, a new epoch/era will begin. I haven’t been given a glimpse, but I am praying and listening.

It’s a cliché, but true. God wasn’t surprised by COVID-19, nor did it catch Him napping. He didn’t cause it, neither will He abandon us. We cannot be too thankful as we pursue ways to participate with God during these days.

The end goal for all my words is that you and I will survive this world changing crisis. If the normal we were used to never returns, my vision is that we will be equipped and empowered to recognize and fill our spot while we influence what the new will be.

©2020 D. Dean Benton

“Beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FNfbpDcHZ7k

Bringin’ It!–2

When Rome destroyed Carthage (146 B.C.), they reportedly “salted the fields.” The ancient practice of “sowing the fields” or “salting the fields” was more figurative that literal. It was a symbolic cursing of the land of a defeated foe. The literal practice of salting the fields was to destroy the productivity of the soil, thus the economy, which made places uninhabitable.

Has the pandemic salted our fields?

When I heard, “The worst is yet to come—wait until the fall and winter,” I thought of Carthage and the ancient Middle East. I’m wondering if Covid-19 is inflicting harm on our land for years, or generations to come. The prospect is this pandemic will define the young generation. The biggest threat is psychological, spiritual and mental. These days are an attack on our souls, focused on individuals and consequently the nation.

Brain specialist, Dr. Daniel Amen published a new book last month: The End of Mental Illness. He was the first from whom we heard about brain plasticity which means the brain can be changed, repaired, enhanced and enabled. He was the first one we heard talking about brain scans showing different colors in the brain to indicate the condition and working or “shut down” spots. He says the burned out, stressed out, super anxious, depressed person’s brain will show up as blackened.

It is not only possible to change the dark to healthy colors, any plan to become healthy or maintain our health during this epoch of hunkering down must include restoration as part of the plan. Immunity is paramount. Having a strong body, spiritual, soul, emotional and thought immune system fights off the demonic-level panic, fear and terrifying financial uncertainty.

RESTORATION

Early in this world-wide crisis, I felt directed to pray that family and friends would acquire and maintain…

PLAN, PERSPECTIVE, PROPORTION, PEACE

It seems to me, that healthy people possess those anchors and skills. We will need those strengths to get through these times, and for sure, finding our places and filling our spot post-pandemic. Human beings are taking brutal hits in body, soul and spirit. My concern is that on the other side of this many will be wounded and weakened. An idle and laissez-faire response to the threat will darken the brain, body, soul, spirit. There are no guarantees, but there must be principles and practices that inform the mind and feed the soul.

Dr. A. R. Bernard, pastor of Christian Culture Center in New York, serves in NY on action boards with the mayor and governor. He also was hospitalized with CORVID-19 and says he is still trying to process it. He says, “This virus is evil.” His testimony, analysis and description reinforces for me that we are fighting an attack against our souls—personal and national. Bernard says the most formidable part of his experience was “the darkness.” My God!

Definitions that help me understand:

Body is the physical part of us head to toe including the brain.

Spirit is that element of the human that houses our relationship with God. The pipeline is vertical. No one can reach into our spirits but God. No person can snatch away what is there such as our salvation. It is the spirit that is born again—it comes alive when we give our lives to Christ. If we are to become as a disciple/follower of Jesus, what is in our spirits must reach what is in our souls. Again, this is a rough sketch, but it works for me.

Soul. The mind dwells there which is the software for the brain. The soul is made of our thoughts, emotions and will. I contend that we are battling a soul attack. We are battling the uncertainty—what we feel, what we think and what we do or can’t do.

None of us will reach the other side of this unscathed, therefore, we build a plan and or regimen that keeps our internal gyroscope functioning to keep us upright. This demands that we build recovery time into our schedule—“He restores my soul…” (Psalm 23).

RECOVER—RECOUP—REGENERATE—REFRESH

Recovery takes about one-seventh of our time which God set aside as Sabbath. Sabbath did and does require planning and preparation. This sheltering in place hits me most with the loss of coffee shop attendance—which is a religious act. Carole and I enjoy being together, so leaving the house is not to get away from each other. Sometimes, she has a look that says, “Don’t you need to do something in the garage for a little while?” If I’m in my office there are always things that attract my attention and call me away from thinking, reading, praying. There may be 100 people in a coffee shop with clattering dishes, scraping chairs and chattering people and I will be in a cone of silence focused on praying or thinking. I especially like coffee shops in book stores! Ah, the smell of fresh coffee and new books.

Drive-thru just doesn’t get it. So, I make a fresh cup, take a book, Bible and journal and go sit in the car to think, pray, read, fall asleep. Solar energy is wonderful. I can go to the riverfront or sit on Carole’s porch or in the patio swing. Usually, I am renewed, replenished and given a fresh perspective with a hint of clarity for the next step.

When we have exhausted our store of endurance

When our strength has failed ere the day is half done,

When we reach the end of our hoarded resources

Our Father’s full giving is only begun. (Annie J. Flint)

When the residual resources are gone, what replenishes your soul?

You may not find pleasure sitting in a sunbeam; coffee and books regenerate little in you. What does? After her husband died, Catherine Marshall prayed hard to refill her empty soul with not much result. God spoke to her heart and instructed her to go work in her garden. I’ve known men to feel replenished when they work on their custom cars. Others are restored while fishing in the middle of a lake. This is a total person thing—not just about church things. Our souls are threatened, our emotions, thoughts and will to do, to survive, perhaps to thrive.

There is a company near Chicago that studies book selling for Walmart. Their research determines on which shelf and in which position each book should be to attract sales. Each book’s position and which shelf often shifts from week to week.

The Bible is the nation’s current best seller with sales up 60% and higher. We are looking for insight, answer, certainty, hope and how our current crisis may fit into the long term—are these the last days? The research, however, cannot tell us if the buyer is looking for God, hope or guarantees.

Guarantees are hard to find, but probability rises when we schedule restoration times and practices.

         RE-ESTABLISH—REINFORCE—REVISIT

A provocative verse says that Isaac re-dug the wells of his father. Doing so made them his own. Some who teach journaling say it allows us to return to our own testimonies of God’s faithfulness which strengthens us to trust and replenishes faith. Reinforce your life landmarks. Revisit your commitment to Jesus. Can you reimagine the altar or place when you acknowledged your need and placed your trust in Jesus?

“Jesus, I would do it again—I repeat my commitment.”

A lady I haven’t seen for decades has been in my mind lately. She was a single-mother with a difficult past. I can still hear her voice—remarkably comforting and calm. We were good friends and invested confidence in each other. Carole, our pre-school kids and I lived on and worked at a church conference center. Summer camp pushed us to build, repair for the incoming gang of kids and leaders. The open tabernacle was important to me that first summer. The first person to walk to the altar to make a commitment to Jesus was that lady’s daughter. A sense of God’s faithfulness was engraved on my soul. His faithfulness to my friend during her struggles is vivid. God did more than pat her on the back—though He did—He also guided her and empowered her. That experience is a landmark for me.

A new book came to my attention this week. The Wedge: Evolution, Consciousness, Stress, and the Key to Human Resilience. The author talks about facing stress or threats. Our mind asks if we’ve encountered anything like this before. The answer can determine our reaction. The “wedge” is the period between stimuli and reaction. What he calls “wedge” I talk about in my book on anger, stress management and depression, Turn Back the Turmoil in the chapter, “Widen the Gap.”

Reinforcing life-changing, determining events and changes strengthens us and builds resiliency. Before we react to the craziness or confusion, the gap/wedge gives us pause to calculate how we managed before and what tools we should use this time.

I’m not too quick to say that God is in control. He didn’t cause this, I am thinking that evil behavior has seeded the atmosphere to this pandemic. God gave us dominion. We can argue about what that means. It is beyond refute that God gave us dominion and responsibility for our own actions, reactions and behavior. Ephesians four tells us that negative anger (not positive anger or any emotion) is what quenches the Spirit. I’m hearing people say, “I’ve not been this angry….” If your anger or raging emotion can do something about what you face, then do that something. Your anger is legitimate, but even healthy emotions can drain energy and hope. Restoration is required.

REST—RELAX—RESET—RECREATE

Fear and anxiety are felt first physically. Muscles tense, adrenalin and cortisol flow to prepare the body to flee, fight or freeze. Sleep is disrupted, blood pressure rises, pores sweat and vision narrows. All of this is followed by exhaustion. If you do not rest and relax, burnout can follow when your body lays down and refuses to function. The body is efficient and works to protect you in response to something you feel, thought, said or do. Therefore, rest and intentional relaxation is required.

Relaxation isn’t spelled r.e.c.l.i.n.e.r. If you have an anxiety attack while driving, the best thing to do is park the car and go for a run. Flap your wings. That is what your body has prepared to do. If you do not dispense the adrenalin you are simply revving your engine, putting yourself in gear while holding the brakes on tight. That can’t be good!

Intentionally relaxing is learning where you carry stress and tightening your muscle groups until (some say) they are ready to cramp and then relaxing them. Lie down, begin with your toes and work your way to your eyebrows. Tightening your eyebrows at a stoplight is fun and will attract attention. This practice attacks anxiety rather than allowing anxiety attack you.

No seminar leader is worth preservative salt unless he or she talks about breathing. Deep breathing is a mandatory tool to bring restoration. Watch a healthy and safe baby breathing. Their stomach moves not their shoulders. Stick out your gut, breathe into your abdomen. A counselor I listened to today called proper, restful breathing, “Foursquare breathing.” Breath in through your nostrils for 4 seconds, hold your breath for four seconds, purse your lips and breathe out for 4-seconds and then hold it four more seconds. Be careful, deep breathing can make you light headed or cause hyperventilation. Deep breathing takes getting used to.

Correct breathing sends a message to your brain which alerts the body: everything is cool. Relax, you are not the target of incoming missiles. One of the ways I know I need to breathe is I feel my shoulders acting like earmuffs. When we are anxious we tend to hold our breath. Our family automatically says to each other, “Don’t forget to breathe.”

You cannot hit your notes or sing well until you breathe right. Breath control is the first thing to learn. Dr. Amen says intentional relaxed breathing is part of the regimen that will turn your brain from dark to bright colors.

Before the pandemic, Americans were severely sleep deprived. Getting adequate rest is part of the restoration. The first 90-minutes of sleep nudges growth hormones to rebuild the body. That sleep must be undisturbed. I won’t recite all the rules about not having your cell-phone next to the bed or having the TV on. Rest will help restore your immune system.

RELATE—RE-CREATE

Dr. Oz and Dr. Phil, both scientists, are saying the isolation may be the worst thing that could have been done. Obviously, it restricts possibility of spreading the virus, but it will affect many more people in the short and long run than the disease. We need relationships. We need touch and interaction. One of our preachers said Jesus knew the leper needed a touch. A leper was isolated and quarantined outside the city, outside the camp. Jesus touched and the touch was a healing agent.

A movie I saw a long, long ago is about a man who was exiled by his country. He was no longer a citizen and no other nation would accept him. He belonged to no one, no group accepted him. He had no one to play catch with, no one to sit across the table. No one to hug. Totally outside every camp! That causes stress just to think about it. We need people. Fellowship, no matter how you define it, is a basic requirement. Talk about essential!

Your number one coping mechanism against stress, depression and burnout is one close friend with whom you interact regularly. According to research, your number two coping tool is to belong to a group. Relationships are necessary. Participatory relationships restore us and keep us thinking right, feeling right and doing healthy things. The single habit of not interacting with people will salt your fields. Loneliness is more dangerous to your health than smoking.

He restores my soul.

Governor Cuomo, speaking of flattening the curve, said, “God didn’t do this.” I don’t know what he meant, but I tend to agree with the words.

God will not work without you to restore you.

Proverbs 16:9 says, “A man’s heart plans his way, but the Lord directs his paths.” It always feels to me as if the word ‘but’ in the statement should be ‘and.’ “…and the Lord directs his paths.”

Proverbs 3:6 “In all your ways acknowledge Him and He shall direct your paths.”

“Beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news.” I pray that good news was received.

© 2020 D. Dean Benton

       Bringin’ It!

Four Chapters

R–RESTORATION

E—EXERCISE

A—ATTITUDE

D–DIET

Bringin’ It!–1

BRINGING IT

The good news is that your emotions are God’s gift.

Anger tells us to do something about something that has gone south or sideways.

Anxiety is the natural outcome of uncertainty. It pushes us to prepare. But, we are currently uncertain what we are asking. That moves anxiety to another level.

How did I get on another planet?

What happened to my life?

Where does this end?

Could that vaccination Bill Gates is talking about be the Mark of the Beast? The “mark” that determines whether I work or not? Only access to fresh air and food? (Revelation 13:16-18)

Why do all of my edges and margins feel blurred and squishy?

While we are wearing masks and gloves, are blinders being surreptitiously placed over our eyes?

Whose counsel can I trust? Do the conspiracies have any basis?

I think anxiety is the best initial reaction to what we are thinking and asking. If this crisis doesn’t cause us to be a bit anxious we are not paying attention. But while you take your meds prepare.

The TIME magazine people have been publishing a series about science. The Science of Losing Weight, Science of Gender. My favorite is Science of Success. It is helpful. Most of the ink and words busily say that our Emotional Quotient makes the biggest difference.

We are being told to make all decisions based on science. Governors, news people and critics of our government urge us to ignore feelings and obey only the equations and lab-centered speculations. The assumption is that emotions are always out-of-control and never to be trusted or listened to. It is true that our emotions have been vulnerable to error since the Fall in Genesis. Bible teachers and preachers warn us to beware that emotions can be taught and misinformed. Of course! Absolutely! But what are we to do with “go with your gut!”? Love is not lab-driven predictabile or repeatable in controlled tests.

We must listen to the health scientists. “Must” being the operative word. Dr. Oz and Dr. Phil are also scientists who are saying current isolation concerns are not just about psychological deterioration, but will cause the physical body to break down. Dr. Phil is adamant that the current approach is as deadly as the virus. Loneliness is a killer.

I am asking which of the conspiracies have truth enclosed. Our Constitutional government and the free market system have enemies. (Even paranoids have real enemies.) Our sense of self is shaped and maintained by interaction, self-awareness knowing what is and who is safe. Yet, many of those edges and margins have been removed from us. We can become blurred and squishy. (George, don’t go squishy. Margaret)  Let me explain.

Carole and I often ask each other about movies or TV plots, “Is that the way you would have written it?” Yesterday we watched a movie that left the conclusion to us—no closure. We don’t know if the person survived surgery or if the mother ever got the relationship with her kids straightened out. Unsettling!

It may be that I am slightly bent or it may be because of my imagination. I can get lost in a movie or story. (When I saw “Back to the Future,” they had to send a rescue party to get me.) With so much time in front of screens, the possibility of getting lost and losing touch with self and reality is a threat. Therefore, staying in the moment or having lifelines to the moment is necessary and healthy.

A health-care management official says that after this crisis is over we will have lots of health-care workers suffering with PTSD. With opening our country again, I wonder how many will opt to stay hunkered down because of something akin to post trauma. With the forecast that everything will be changed—we will never go back to the old normal, I’m not too happy. I wonder if while the nation was closed for repair, some used the opportunity to remodel it according to their agenda and design. While we were distracted or our attention diverted…? I’m wondering if we will be in any emotional, mental and spiritual condition to find and then fill our places in the new normal.

I kinda liked the old normal, like the woman I’m living with. Carole and I are negotiating with God about Heaven. No marriage in heaven? Whose idea was that? Maybe a suburb where she and I can be together? “Never be the same” doesn’t sit well—makes me nervous. So I’m putting together a plan.

I really want to be a solutionary—a bringer of good news: a plan to keep body, soul, spirit in shape. During another crisis, researchers found that nurses were the most apt of all vocations/callings to burn out. One of our teacher friends spoke of her distress over her students not being in school and the broad scope of what they are missing. It is that commitment and urgency that makes us vulnerable. A health-plan for body, soul, spirit was suggested for nurses. We adapted their outline to our audiences with a seminar, “Closed For Repair,” that we used in a couple hundred settings. Over the next few days, I want to share the updated, printed version with you at Benton Quest House. You will receive notification and link via email and Facebook.

R—Restoration

E—Exercise

A—Attitudes

D—Diet

©2020 D. Dean Benton

Good news & Good News—bringin’ it!

Landmarks

Telling Carole about my early morning dream. I asked her if I appear to have lost my mind, would she tell me. She said she would lure me outside and lock the door. That didn’t help me. So here’s the dream:

I was in unknown territory trying to find my way home. I stole a little car and painted it yellow then took off on back roads to find an intersecting highway that would tell me where I was. I went through several small worn out villages. Nothing looked familiar. Finally I crossed Interstate 79. I asked out loud in the dream, “Where is I-79?” I didn’t know and when I woke I still didn’t know.

I-79 runs south from Erie, Pa through Pittsburgh. Getting to I-79 from Iowa, means I had to take a serious wrong turn.

I can hear doors locking behind me.

I’ve learned to take my dreams seriously. Some are crazy, but this one seemed meaningful. I questioned that when I looked into the mirror. “You look like you’ve been on a long road trip.”

A common background thought among us is that we do not know where we are in all this crisis talk. Don’t know for sure how we got here, where we are in the process or where we are going. It just feels like we are in absolute unknown territory.

We don’t know whose opinion, knowledge and viewpoint is to be trusted. The contradictions are disturbing. The political wars—reminds me of Anne Lamott’s line: “It’s bad enough to make Jesus drink Vodka right out of the cat’s bowl.”

Jeremiah’s words came to mind upon awakening.

Jeremiah 31:21-23 New King James Version (NKJV)

“Set up signposts,
Make landmarks;
Set your heart toward the highway,
The way in which you went.”

Jeremiah 31:21-23 New Living Bible

“As you travel into exile, set up road signs pointing back to Israel. Mark your pathway well. For you shall return again, O virgin Israel, to your cities here. How long will you vacillate, O wayward daughter? For the Lord will cause something new and different to happen—Israel will search for God.”

Jeremiah 31:21-23 The Message

“Set up signposts to mark your trip home.

Get a good map. Study the road conditions.

The road out is the road back.

Come back, dear virgin Israel, come back to your hometowns.

How long will you flit here and there, indecisive?

How long before you make up your fickle mind?

God will create a new thing in this land….”

Land marks seem important this morning. Today is the firm landmark. Good Friday. Whatever is in question, it is the Cross that is THE landmark. We are God’s children, we are forgiven. The Resurrection is imbedded in each of us—new life and a future. Hallelujah! Out loud and real loud.

My dream makes more sense now. But that little car–you may have to help me with it. Painting it yellow? And I only painted the front half—that would surely be good camouflage: unnoticeable in the mountains of Pennsylvania.

Be safe, be well. May the Lord bless you and keep you.

Dean

At Calvary.   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aVwBKV_OYBc