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

Just how real is Jesus?

Tucked in at page 144 of All Over but the Shoutin’ is a yellowing 4X6 file card. It has been there for several years so I could find the most worrisome experience about which I have read. It is there at Rick Bragg’s history of waiting to experience the saving grace of Jesus.

     “Every Sunday, I waited. I waited for the invasion, the infusion, the joy. I waited for the Holy Ghost to sdlip inside my heart and my mind and, as He done to all those around me, lift me out of the pew and up to the altar, Saving me. I waited for it like a boy waiting on a train.

     “But while I felt wonder and maybe a little fear, I never felt what I had seen, or maybe sensed, in the others. I was not refusing Him, rebuking Him. I wanted it, I wanted the strength of it, the joy of it, but mostly, I wanted the peace of it. The preacher promised it. He promised.

     “I just sat there…as the Sundays drained away.”

(Rick Bragg, All Over but the Shoutin’ Random House, 1997) page 144

I’ve been studying and writing about needing to experience Jesus as a reality as much as we experience or experienced sin or to quote another writer, .

“What determines our state of being is not just what we think is real but even more importantly what we experience as real. So, unless the Holy Spirit does His work at the fundamental level of our experienced self-identity, in all likelihood we will remain essentially as we are.” Gregory Boyd, Seeing is Believing (Baker Books, 2005) page 68.

Is experiencing Jesus as real as stubbing your toe during the night? Is experiencing Jesus as real as the first time you got drunk? Or…, well, you make up your own.  Feelings are fine, but they are not the final factor. God’s Word is–the promises for example.

With Bragg’s desperate desire for Holy Ghost’s gifts, I suspect his soul has been saved. I keep looking for some word from Rick Bragg that he has experienced what he thought he had missed.

In my search for that testimony, I ran across Bragg talking about his latest book. Don’t miss this youTube. It is so very rich. If you are a writer, this is what a Pulitzer from Alabama writes like.  DON’T MISS THIS:

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

Publication of my book Mining for Reality & Truth—Digging Worldviews is pending.

©2022 D. Dean Benton

Squall Lines

If you commute or travel with talk radio, you quickly discover there is a limited number of topics to talk about. Chicago schools, Covid, Pandemic, Fauci and the hellish shape of politics. The atmosphere smells like The Matrix and the visual in each direction looks like a handbasket with a destination.

If you are snowed in or isolating from any possible germ, watching TV is not much better. A computer-based notification asked me, “Are you prepared for a squall line?”

As I prayed for my people this morning, I projected onto all what I’ve been hearing. “I’m drained, nearly depleted. I’m not shut down but am definitely paused. I am disturbed.”

My daughter said, “We need to balance things out.” I suggest balancers:

      TRUTH & REALITY

If you see AOC today, tell her that having sex with her has never entered my mind. Not once! I am not frustrated because she won’t date me. That is the truth!! She and her crowd are going to have to live with their delusions. Their “truth” and “realities” have different names in my mind and soul. They are a squall line I choose not to allow to blow me off course.

Neo-Gnostics in government, politics, entertainment and education are telling us they alone know what is true and real and that we must think, say and do what they tell us. I am certainly open to new understanding, but some things are real and true and if dismissed or eradicated from our daily experience, culture and persons are left with a black ice foundation.

With the recent release of the fourth Matrix movie, the preachers and teachers I listen to are again talking about the Matrix as a descriptive concept of biblical strongholds as in 2 Corinthians 10. Wherever our life is controlled by lies and deception brought on by the “pattern of this world” a neurochip has been installed into our souls—like the splinter in the mind.

Those neurochips lie to us about our identity and the life God wants for us. Whether the source of those deceptions is from the constant assault by media or satan, we too can be in a matrix-type bondage.

Balancers–squall line defenders:

      WORSHIP

You usually (not always) know what you need to restore your soul. None of the music on our favorite Sunday churches spoke to me. I went to First Baptist—Dallas online. The choir and orchestra offered “In Christ Alone.” They sang a verse or chorus I don’t remember hearing before. The words lifted my soul and spoke to my mind. I appreciate them singing words just for me! What I needed, what I wanted, what I sought.

We listened to 3-4 preachers on the Lord’s Day to hear a message we needed. The 5th preacher spoke of renewing our decision to walk with the Lord and to commit ourselves to trusting Him. Those two verbs—walk and trust—told me what to do while feeling drained, depleted, disturbed.

I don’t think I heard anything new, but the words refreshed and carried a message “in due season.”

     JOURNALING

Beginning at minute 27 on the following podcast, there are five reasons listed that journaling will be beneficial as you become aware of drainage. Specifics that can balance:

https://wildatheart.org/rhplay/podcast/wild-heart/world-draining

      RENEWED MIND

As result of re-reading and study of Escaping The Matrix, by Gregory Boyd, Dr. Al Larsen, (Baker Books, ©2005), I have a new appreciation for Romans 12:1-3, especially 12:2. “…renewing of the mind.” While the movies reveal how politics and the Left with its cancelations, censorship, fear and threats can hold us in bondage, the Boyd-Larsen book talks about spiritual bondage and the wellness of your soul.

“No power of hell, no scheme of man

Can ever pluck me from His hand

Till He returns or calls me home

Here in the power of Christ I’ll stand.”

        In Christ Alone– Adrienne Camp

Copyright 2022 D. Dean Benton

See Mining for Reality and Truth,  one of my new eBooks. Published soon.

The Leaf is Out of the table

“Looking a lot like Christmas is over—fa ala, la, la.”

The guest dog’s toys are put away, living room vacuumed, cookies packaged for sharing, dinner leftovers divided for later meals and trash taken out. 2021 Christmas was different.

The leaf is out of the table. Now, back to routine beckoning  and planning for the next year. Adventure, journey, challenges.

Traditionally for me, the time between Christmas and New Years Day has been used to position my files, calendars, planners for the new year. During these days, I have focused on what seemed to me that vision God has for the next months—where our energy and planning should be.

A friend said she should not have wasted her money on planners the past 2-3 years. Planners are different in purpose and content than calendars or journals.

With all that going on in my mind—at least subconscious mind—my planning has seemed to be a border-line questionable use of time. The tell-tale indicator of soul uneasiness moved me toward search for something to satisfy a hunger that I could not find, a source of a fresh thought or bright feeling that evaded me.

I found part of what I was searching for. I hadn’t listened to a message from a preacher or a conversation that ignited my thinking for too long. I tuned to a YouTube sermon from Pastor Bill Johnson:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=321T3thS38Y

He talked about disappointment. I paraphrase some of his thoughts.

  1. Bitterness, regret and disappointment change the way we see ourselves and the way we approach the future.
  2. Disappointment dislocates us from our purpose and future, including God’s plans for us.
  3. Some hide behind disappointment when in fact we blame God for being absent, ignoring us or not being faithful to His promises.
  4. Satan and his crowd focus on our disappointments to derail us.
  5. We lose our capacity to dream when disappointments are ignored and not processed.

Of course, I was disappointed that the Chicago Cubs 2021 season was beyond horrendous. But that is not personal to me. It has not affected my income or anything shaping my family or life. But 2020-2021 was and is a trauma. I have to ask what has really made me mad and driven me to doubt or abandon basic assumptions. What feels like betrayal? Abandonment? Assault? Look at the 7 areas of influence: Education, religion, business, government/military, arts/entertainment, media. (Somewhere in there we should include the medical community and pharma.) Any of those arenas/institutions disappoint you? Make you angry, question? What disappointments have set you up to walk away or to settle for something less?

Maybe on the last few pages in our planners or journals we would be well-served to list those disappointments. How will we consider the big, big disappointment—the one that isn’t really true, but we wonder—God you could have done something, but you didn’t!

  1. Say it out loud or write it down.
  2. Talk to the Lord about it.
  3. Have someone pray with you and for your healing of that specific disappointment.
  4. Take communion with disappointment specifically what needs to be defanged. The symbol of Jesus’ blood to cleanse and the symbol of His body to strengthen you for 2022 and beyond.

I have focused on Psalm 37 during 2021. Only recently did I notice that the chapter is bracketed by the word “delight.”

              Psalm 37:4

Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.

             Psalm 37:23

When Yahweh delights in how you live your life, he establishes your every step.

My response to those two statements is:

Let nothing interfere with your delight or His.

Staggering to think of The Father being delighted over us and being asked to heal the damage done by disappointments.

Happy and free New Year.

© 2021 D. Dean Benton

I will publish the eBook

Seizin’ The SeasonSpace for Sum & Substance

 the first week of the new year with plans to publish the companion eBook

Mining for Reality & ReasonDigging Worldviews

 a few days later.

Sounds of a weary world

Who started COVID-19 and who is keeping it alive as a world-changer is still being debated. The impact on economies, culture, individual liberties and society is alarming apparent.

In 2020, a huge number of the largest corporations CEOs resigned which became known as the “Great Resignation.” In three months of 2021, Eleven and half million (11.5) employees walked off, walked out, and walked away from their jobs.

Thom Rainer, former CEO of Lifeway Resources and a major Southern Baptist voice who is today the CEO of Church Answers, predicts a 20% increase in resignations of pastors in 2022. This is not just related to pastoring, but the role of leadership among all groups and gatherings.

In a two-part Andy Stanley Leadership podcast, Andy interviews Dr. Tim Elmore about the new leadership being called forth. One of the reasons for the Great Resignation is the role of authority.

https://podcasts.google.com/feed/aHR0cDovL2ZlZWRzLmZlZWRidXJuZXIuY29tL2ZlZWRidXJuZXIvQW5keXN0YW5sZXlsZWFkZXJzaGlwUG9kY2FzdA/episode/YjIwZTYyOTQtNjQ1MS00MmMxLTk3OTctYWRjODAwZWE0NGI3?hl=en&ved=2ahUKEwiKx4bF9PD0AhWU-mEKHWEQBWQQjrkEegQIAhAI&ep=6

For a moment, take any possible role of The Far Left and an attempt to overthrow Western Culture from your mind and closely examine the place of authority. The removal of law and police might bean  indicative reaction against authority of any kind in any setting.

People of all stripes and religious opinion are saying, “We are fighting for the soul of America.” In my opinion that war was fought in the 60s & 70s and won by the dark side.

Otherwise, how can we explain sixty-plus million abortions with a willingness of the current political administration in office willing to place all assets on continuing the practice?

What else will explain the role of pornography in mainstream America? Billie Elish is the youngest recording artist to win a Grammy for best album in 2020. She was about twenty years old. Her songs are dark. In a recent interview she talked about her addiction to porn at the age of eleven which affected her view of people and affected her view of sex due to porn’s abuse and violence. She says porn wrecked her brain.

The January 2022 edition of Commentary Magazine leads with a well-studied article about “The New Misogyny” which the author and other researchers attribute to wide-spread access to pornography among the young with 8-year old’s regular access to online porn sites. https://www.commentary.org/articles/christine-rosen/the-new-misogyny/. This article is important to understand the vicious attack on the family, femininity and women.

How do we answer the question about what has happened to teens, especially girls, who are “transitioning?” The Trans Cult is discussed in this article:  https://www.commentary.org/articles/naomi-schaefer-riley/transgender-children-craze/

The mentally ill on the streets can be traced to a Left-Wing extremist who became a heroine to the extremists of the 60s-70s. She wrote books, was interviewed and spoke at rallies while leading the battle to close state-funded mental health hospitals. When those doors closed, the mentally ill moved to the streets.

The revolutionaries of the 60s insisted God be removed from our society, schools, marketplace and court houses. They insisted the Ten Commandments be hidden with seasonal ornaments in storage rooms of churches and synagogues. The reigning chaos is the result.

The First Commandment of ten is about authority as well as worship.

Honoring of father and mother—(#5) authority and respect are elementary fabric of society. Respect begins and is nurtured at home.

The smash and grab activity is covered in # 8 of 10. Nancy Pelosi can’t figure out where the crime craze could be coming from. Nancy! Nancy! Broken people do sinful, sick and illegal things.  It is not difficult to see the fallenness of humans and the predisposition to sin, No other rational “cause” is needed to hold law-breakers accountable.

  1. You shall have no other Gods before me
  2. You shall not make for yourselves an idol
  3. You shall not misuse the name of the LORD your God
  4. Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy
  5. Honor your father and your mother
  6. You shall not murder
  7. You shall not commit adultery
  8. You shall not steal
  9. You shall not give false testimony
  10. You shall not covet

Not all of America’s Founding Fathers were Jesus Followers or Committed to Yahweh. They built America and the Constitution with God’s laws as essential infrastructure regardless of their personal religious beliefs. It is no surprise that the removal of the girders caused the structure to crumble.

Can Yahweh be kicked to the curb without His laws being weakened or also dismissed? What is going on in the world 2021 is the inevitable conclusion of the 1960’s conquest. This civilization now is lawless. Just because Progressives declare that God is gone or not important does not mean there is no spiritual void or vacancy by his absence. In my opinion, spiritual law and power currently controlling the 7-Mountains of Influence comes from Baal whose primary spirit arch angels are Jezebel and Ahab. Jezebel was the Queen of Israel, wife of King Ahab, but the Bible speaks of her as an age-less spiritual being—1 Kings 17-21 and Revelation 2:18-29.

Please note the heavy talk about Post-human and Trans-human entities in our current world. Hybrid humans–a replacement?

On December 22 the next episode of The Matrix will appear in theatres and on HBO. A question surfaced the other day:

“How can I disconnect from the Matrix? What people don’t realize is, you cannot be free from fear, hate, depression, anxiety unless you first become aware that this system is designed to keep you that way.”  Gavin Nascimento

The Matrix is a good symbol for the “world system” the Bible speaks of. Darkness, blindness and bondage. The blue pill is powerfully seductive—just let me have life as I want it. Like all things of God, the choice is ours to make. If the Bible is to be trusted, (I can’t find the snark icon.), we have evidence that nations can make the decision. Maybe, the hunger to return to “normal” is part of that decision? “Just hand me the blue pill.”

Robert Kennedy, Jr. has a new book on the shelves which is in its 7th printing. No mainstream media outlet will take advertising for it. Other than Steve Bannon, no one is interested in interviewing Kennedy and yet the book, The Real Anthony Fauci, is outselling all the other Bestsellers. There may be a serious attempt to bury the book and protect a certain bureaucrat. The Kindle edition of Kennedy’s eBook is available at Amazon for $2.99. I have read the first few pages and am astonished, appalled and angered. Kennedy lists 70 footnotes in the Preface to undergird his contentions. I am convinced!

Psalm 37 is the biblical base for my latest two eBooks which are soon to be published. I was trying to explain to Carole, in a few words, all that Kennedy says in those first few pages. Lying on the table in front of me was a printout of Psalm 37 which my eyes fell upon during my heated comments:

“Do not fret because of those who are evil

    or be envious of those who do wrong;

 for like the grass they will soon wither    

like green plants they will soon die away.

God’s instruction is: “(You) trust in the Lord and do good” (Psalm 37:3).

I shudder when people say, “All we need is Jesus.” If they mean for everyone to get saved, that is not all we need. If the statement is shorthand for the need to acknowledge and embrace Jesus the Christ and all He demonstrated, displayed and taught, then that is, indeed, all we—the world—needs. We need Jesus and His Kingdom. “Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness…” (Matthew 6:33).

From the song, O Holy Night “Long lay the world in sin and error pining.” The “world” and the world system is still lost and needing to receive the provided Savior.

I don’t know that evil doers are going to imminently go away. Doing good includes being aware of your spiritual and political surroundings and live out God’s Kingdom in “peace, joy and righteousness. One of my friends said to me, “It is hard being afraid all the time.” The choice and expanding skill of living in peace, joy and righteousness is challenging, but most beneficial.

All of this is of acute interest this Advent. While the world system is appealing to teenage girls to transition, we celebrate a teenage girl named Mary who is told,

“And the angel came in unto her and said, “Hail, thou that art highly favored, the Lord is with thee; blessed art thou among women” (Luke 1:28 KJV).

There were lots of reasons the World System would say to her that an abortion would solve all her problems—unmarried, father in question, poverty, a politically bad time to bring a child into the world.

I wonder and doubt that we will return to “normal.” I am, however, not without hope. I celebrate the Messiah who came to live among us. I will also celebrate the holidays. From the cradle to the cross and empty tomb, Jesus invites us to relationship with the Father.

Scattered thoughts.

“Christ in you, hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27).

Copyright 2021  D. Dean Benton

Rule # 1

Pre-marital counseling is a challenge. If return could be guaranteed, the couple most often would benefit by having counseling conversations 1-3 years after the ceremony. Before the hard-clad decision to marry this specific candidate, couples should talk through:

  1. What generally triggers anger. The way they express anger. How they fight. How they get over it, come back together, and say I’m sorry.
  2. What is their relationship with money? Expectations about goals, budgets, bookkeeping debt.
  3. Some examples each has of their model of marriage. What does each not like about their parent’s marriage? Their favorite part of Mom and Dad’s marriage?
  4. Sexual expectations.
  5. Role and expressions of faith.
  6. Who gets custody of the dog if you split?

That is not an exhaustive list, even if possible and the right questions. Some “pastoral counselors” lean heavy on topics we need to think through and/or carry heavy scars.

One year after the covenant is “signed” a couple might write down: “What we should have talked about!”

After my wife came home from the hospital recently, I was especially sensitive to Carole’s needs and really glad she had come home. A short time later, I heard her say she knew we were getting back to normal because I was getting irritated with her. (Only because she wouldn’t help me rake the leaves!)

When a friend asked for “wisdom” about marriage, the # 1 relationship rule for couples that repeatedly came to mind as most helpful is from Romans 12:10 NIV:

Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other.

Honor her! Honor him! Always. In every situation.

Honoring requires faithfulness, fidelity, cover his/her back, speaking kindly and have your partner’s best interests at the forefront of your intention. Honoring means to keep your mate’s personal development, mission, goals, dreams, ambitions with covenant strength. Never make fun of or diminish in public. Unless you have a death wish.

All of this assumes each of us knows what honoring means. It requires knowing your love’s heart well enough to know how he/she feels honored. That is a good question to ask. “What can I do to express my honor for you in___________” (name a specific).

God put Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden to “keep” it. The traditional wedding ceremony includes the question, “Will you keep…?”

“To keep” means “to protect, to preserve.”

How do you intend to “keep” the person to whom you have given your heart? How will you protect your own heart if the “honoring” gets to be manipulative or destructive? Protecting and preserving are promises to build on.

Honoring one another is a Kingdom rule for all relationships.

Honor one another.

D. Dean Benton

Visit our website–Deanbenton.org

Trying The Daily Office

I don’t know if I’m depressed, tired, lonely, post-crises depleted or just flat feeling sorry for myself. I can’t even find coffee that tastes good.

Being a soul-tender is important to me. Not to please God, lest He kick me to the curb, but if I don’t satisfactorily tend my soul, I feel crappy.

An acquaintance told me they expected about 70 family members for Thanksgiving dinner. Seventy! And Carole consults the Internet just to seat our tribe. I asked the lady from the huge family if they sat around the table.

“Yes, but not the same table.”

She also said they did not sing this year. When the crowd was smaller, she directed them in singing 3-4 songs each year. With a gathering that large, singing would have been spectacular. The four at our table probably would have been self-conscious. We should have sung anyway!

I need to pray, worship, be touched by music and art, exercise, read and engage in conversation. Seventy is a not a conversation group, it is a crowd. I need a table full of people who like to talk about everything. I think 4-8 talkers of the story-telling variety is about right.  

Time has gotten hijacked—stolen or filled with important stuff. But none, not one, thing on my list gets crossed off. Oh, I have prayed. Short sentence prayers to ask God to be with friends who grieve and those who need God’s attention and healing. I’ve skimmed Ezekiel chapter by chapter. That counts for something, doesn’t it? And severe gratitude for healing my wife!

I ran across a book title that captures my mood: “Go Tell The Bees that I’m Gone.” My bee-keeper friends tell me how our world is dependent on bees for food, flowers and things not usually considered. The book title is upside-down. I don’t have anything to offer the bees. They wouldn’t notice my absence.

King David was faithful to set prayer times. He prayed seven times a day (Psalm 119:164). Daniel, who was a busy, busy government leader of integrity, prayed three times each day (Daniel 6:10). Lately—not me!

Ten or fifteen years ago, we met friends/missionaries for lunch. We were early, so I went to Half-price Book Store. Half-way through the store, a specific book caught my eye. It almost fell off the shelf—“choose me, choose me!” Emotionally Healthy Spirituality, by Peter Scazzero. About ten minutes into lunch, John asked me, “Have you ever read “Emotionally Healthy Spirituality?” You can guess how stunned I was.

It must have been in the same time frame I picked up Scazzero’s little book, Daily Office. Clearing a bookshelf this week, I found the book. In that little book, he includes

  1. Silence, Stillness, Centering
  2. Scripture
  3. Devotional reading
  4. Question to consider
  5. Prayer

The phrase “Daily Office” designates setting times aside each day to “do the work of God.” For many of us it is quieting self and centering for a minute or five several times during the day using Scripture, Prayer, Stillness and/or intentional and vocal blessing .

I like warm days when I can sit in the car on a parking lot for an extended period. This “Daily Office” approach assumes we’ve got two minutes, five or ten minutes. Finding a place to warm one’s soul is important as the days grow shorter and elements chill us.

This discipline sounds wooden and lacking spontaneity, but my barren soul needs  stimulation and direction. 

(c)2021 D. Dean Benton 

Won’t Need An Excuse

Thanksgiving 2021.

Our list is long.

I can’t move far from concentrating on my wife being actively preparing for this season. Carole walked to the edge a couple of times over the past six weeks and triple-bypass surgery. She almost gave up. Contemplating how things turned toward healing focuses on medical people who released the blessing—they prayed with us, promised to pray for her and they spoke hope. Those acts released energy and healing into the room. I’m talking about real energy and real healing that lifted our sagging heads and hearts while nudging the body to do its best work.

Just last week the Kidney Specialist talked dialysis possibility. Carole was asking how could she could go from perfect kidney numbers to critical stage in six days? Her GP said, “Wait a minute—let’s look at the large picture.” 

A couple of med adjustments seem to have been the solution. Meds that had been needed post surgery had been ordered as permanent. The doctor’s words lifted sagging heads and hearts, again. Psalm 3:3 became one of my go-to scriptures for this season:

“But you, Lord, are a shield around me, Lord, You are the lifter of my head.”

God did that and He selected an interesting group of people to be co-lifters. Yesterday, I looked through cards and letters Carole received. Friends and family walked with her and poured into us. Thank you for gas money, food, words, prayers. They prayed when I was out of words and single-minded. They stood steady. We are Thankful!

Thanks! – Praise – Celebration!

A friend sent me several pages of her book proposal. I couldn’t grasp why I was crying while reading. Tears of thanks and grief. I was thankful for a Savior and a Kingdom anxious to heal her wounds and pain. I grieved that Kingdom Life had not reached her sooner. We hurt over friends who gave up. “Lost” takes on so many shades. I am very thankful for those who cared for the hurting and grieving while striving to keep their own selves together. Some “lifted” when they were deep in their own grief. Thank you!

Another go-to motivator from Ephesians 5:19-20:

 Don’t drink too much wine. That cheapens your life. Drink the Spirit of God, huge drafts of him. Sing hymns instead of drinking songs! Sing songs from your heart to Christ. Sing praises over everything, any excuse for a song to God the Father in the name of our Master, Jesus Christ.

Any excuse for a song to God.

Carole asked me to get her a 2022 calendar. I couldn’t find what she wanted. “Not in, yet.” Are you kidding me? It is Thanksgiving and there are no calendars? The clerk checked with management and was told their shipment of calendars are on parked trucks and stalled on ships in harbors.

(I found several cases of calendars in the back room at Menards.)

I am thankful that we—you, Carole and I—have a reason to want and need for a 2022 calendar.

I am also thankful for our nation and the faithful founding fathers and mothers. George Washington had this to say a few Thanksgiving Days ago:

President George Washington’s Thanksgiving Proclamation:

“Whereas it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor– and whereas both Houses of Congress have by their joint Committee requested me to recommend to the People of the United States a day of public Thanksgiving and Prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness.

“Now therefore I do recommend and assign Thursday the 26th day of November next to be devoted by the People of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be – That we may then all unite in rendering unto Him our sincere and humble thanks–for His kind care and protection of the People of this Country previous to their becoming a Nation–for the signal and manifold mercies, and the favorable interpositions of His Providence which we experienced in the course and conclusion of the late war–for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty, which we have since enjoyed – for the peaceable and rational manner, in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national one now lately instituted – for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed; and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and in general for all the great and various favors which He hath been pleased to confer upon us.

“And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech Him to pardon our national and other transgressions – to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually – to render our national government a blessing to all the people, by constantly being a government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed – to protect and guide all Sovereigns and Nations (especially such as have shown kindness unto us) and to bless them with good government, peace, and concord – To promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the increase of science among them and us – and generally to grant unto all Mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as He alone knows to be best.”

Happy Thanks giving

©2021 D. Dean Benton

Lifter of My Head

An excerpt from a closing chapter of The Carafe Conspiracy. ©2021 D. Dean Benton.

The Carafe Conspiracy is the act of walking beside and pouring into companions, associates and clients. That is clearly the work of a Jesus Follower. What do we pour? What is the point of walking beside? It is to experience together the coming of God’s Kingdom onto Earth in and on individuals, communities and nations. We are not conspiratorial. We desire to discover and pour the essentials that develop a Jesus Follower. Our Carafe ministry is a mission that matters. The unknown—hidden to us—feels like a conspiracy as Holy Spirit guides people, reveals what needs to happen, how we are to respond and reveals through discernment, revelations, conversations, the path to healing, and the significant life. All of this is based on the answer to, Just how far are we willing to grow?

“Your kingdom come! Now!”

But it didn’t seem to be coming. Chad packed his case into the car, waved to security and drove toward wherever his vehicle would take him. He drove past the hospital’s parking lot where he had been slugged and the hospital where his friends had brought him when he had been found in the old building. Chad had forgotten how long he was a recovering patient or even if there was a diagnosis. Closed head injury with temporary amnesia sounded right. Not much clarity about that hospital stay. He stood in the spot where the drug dealers had beaten and kidnaped him and the Patient Discharge door where his friends had picked him up to take him back to the Southwood campus to recover.

“I’m going to ask Brent what he remembers.” With that he wrote a note in his phone and pointed his car to the Interstate truck stop to settle into his favorite coffee shop booth. Favorite because it gave him the best view to sketch the customers, waitress and what was going on in his head.

Two cups and a piece of peach pie into the second hour of his mental free-wheeling he started a fresh sketch pad page and a new customer. A man with dark, short hair, glasses and a mask he adjusted into place between sips of coffee. This restaurant catered to truck drivers and travelers. The man taking shape on Chad’s paper wore a blazer and a badge. Maybe he liked chrome things too. There was something familiar about the man which drew the artist’s full attention.

“Seoul, Korea. I met him at a church or the embassy in Seoul.” He returned to his pencil work. But something didn’t fit. He puzzled until he realized no one in Seoul would have been wearing a mask like that when they would have met.

“May I join you for a minute?” Chad introduced himself and sat uninvited at the table. “Do you work in Seoul?”

The man chuckled said he did not. “I’m a doctor at St. Luke’s on 176th Street. Not in Seoul, but in this city. Have you been to Seoul?”

There was no answer, just silence as the puzzling continued. Of course, Chad would have seen people wearing masks at the hospital. His amnesia had been deeper than he thought.

“I traveled to Seoul on NGO trips. I didn’t meet you there, I must have met you in your hospital. You came into my room to talk about my head injury.” Slowly clarity slipped in. He remembered this masked man being in his hospital room wearing a mask. Other hidden memories began focusing like lens focus when twisted. “Dr., any clue what I’m talking about?” I would have had friends with me. Nurse Della….”

“Of course. Della is a close friend. I remember! Every event including the Putnams is memorable.” Chad knew the Dr. was smiling behind the mask. “Yes. I was working at Nicol’s Memorial that day, but your injury demanded my skill so, I was called in to St. Luke’s. It was a chaotic time for us.”

“Did you tell me you would pray for me?”

“I did pray for you. I told your friends I would be praying for you and for my judgement and ability.”

“Do you say that to all your patients?”

“Well, that is what we do.”

“What we do?” Chad asked.

“Yes.” The doctor paused. My grandparents and great-grandparents would regularly go to Prayer Mountain in Seoul at 4:00 a.m. to pray. Their prayer altars were in an excavated-out hole in the mountain. That prayer tradition comes to me. Miracles! Spiritual awakenings. You may have missed South Korea if you didn’t go to Prayer Mountain.”

“At four a.m.?”

“Yes. If people did not arrive until 5:00, my family thought they were backslidden.”

Chad felt he had missed something and that he was late. Definitely late.

“We Western Christians have missed….”

If he lived long enough for his mustache to grow as bushy as Ross’ and he adopted all the habits of Brent, Buddy  and Charlie, he would never forget that phrase: “Well, that is what we do!”

The physician’s digital device jarred Chad back into the moment. The doctor was being called to an emergency. “Got to go. Talk to your friends about that hospital visit. They will know more than I do.” As he walked toward the door, Dr. Cho turned and addressed Chad. “And—I want a copy of that drawing.”

Chad Wilson sat at the truck stop counter staring at his pencil drawing. Slowly, he remembered the minutes after the doctor had left his hospital room that night after his journey into absence and forgotten-ness. Chad repeated out loud what he had said to himself that night, “What just happened here?”

The next morning, he related to his “friends” the truck stop encounter. Then, he asked them, “What did happen that evening? What was your take-away?”

There were no instant answers. There was a lot of staring into coffee cups. There was no one answer. There was a feeling that even after an answer was found or many answers, they would be inadequate.

Brent chuckled and said, “I would think that a prophet-at-large would know what happened!”

“You would think so, wouldn’t you? Chad good naturedly responded.

“You’ve been thinking, apparently, that you came home that night. You had been in the hospital for three days,” Della said. “You were pretty much out-of-it most of the time You talked about Sondra. I don’t remember your wife’s name being a Sondra.”

“Great! You going to tell the media what I said?”

“You were down, weak from discouragement and depression—on the verge of giving up and we couldn’t figure out why,” Della’s voice was soft, “and I was concerned for you.”

Ross was on his way to work with a last swallow of Mountain Dew. “The medical people kept saying it was a Closed Head Injury. I was thinking Lance and I could really have big fun with a Closed Head Injury theme. Do you notice how disciplined I was? A real grown-up. I restrained myself. Nothing inappropriate when I had such a huge opening.” Ross could have “left the stage” but he wasn’t finished sharing his take. “I’m not experienced with this, but it felt to me like it was what y’all are talking about when you say, ‘Kingdom.’ It was and is—as in still going on—a Kingdom event.”

The tribe muttered an assortment of responses.

“It was that!”

“Dr. Cho released the blessing!” Brent said with gentle passion. “It took me hours to be able to put a label on what happened to me and to all of us. He released the blessing and Ross is right. It is still being released.”

“What exactly does that mean?” Ross asked.

Felicia placed her hand on Chad’s arm and answered him. “You turned from depressed to hopeful, jubilant and positive anticipation. Your demeanor changed, something got healed that wasn’t closed up in your skull.”

“Holy Spirit lifted up your head, Chad, literally and in every other way.” Charlie was experiencing the moment, again.

“But you, O Lord, are a shield around me,   my glory, the Lifter of my head…” (Psalm 3:3).

His wife Della said, “We all heard you singing those words in praise. Something just beyond definition moved through that room into each of us, at least that is what you have described.” Nurse Della was at that moment touching a radical healing realm. “I have wondered ever since what if we had sung those words.”

“Well, let’s see.” Charlie used the interlude to pull up “You’re My Glory” on his phone playlist.

“I call out to the Lord,

and he answers me from his holy mountain.

 I lie down and sleep;

I wake again, because the Lord sustains me” (Psalm 34-5).

Chad spoke the words into a quiet room. “That is my testimony. I own those words. ‘I wake again—Lifter of my head.’”

©2021 D. Dean Benton

The Carafe Conspiracy. A novel, will soon be published as an ebook.

Maybe Not So Strange

Strange dream in which I was involved with a house-based fellowship’s renewal gathering. It wasn’t a large house, but it was exciting and energized. The families decided to move to the house during the meeting, sleeping in sleeping bags on the basement floor. Acts Two describes a gathering in the Upper Room. The dream had that flavor.

That small fellowship was hounded by non-faith people and harassed by some churches, especially a church across the street. That group gathered on their front lawn to protest their neighbors—the fellowship with whom I was connected.

Given my recent study of secular worldviews and biblical worldviews, there is no mystery where that comes from. In the dream, I walked around the block and the properties to capture a sense of what was going on. The leader of the harassing church was sitting in a lawn chair on their church lawn. I sat on the grass and asked him what the hassle was about.

“You people are obsessed with healing. That stuff stopped with the Apostles. We have doctors and medicine these days….”

Of course! I thought. I remember staring at the grass in front of me and feeling badly that this man could miss the Kingdom message that far. I was celebrating doctors and medicine and all the skills the techs, nurses and doctors had learned and stewarded into growth. Several times surgeons and physicians have told me about studying to solve mysterious cases. Their late hour research saved their patient in what could have been the last hour. That kind of commitment is worthy of celebration and thankfulness for it is God’s gift of healing through skilled people.

“Jesus now called the Twelve and gave them authority and power to deal with all the demons and cure diseases. He commissioned them to preach the news of God’s kingdom and heal the sick” (Luke 9:1-2).

A nurse’s statement to me that day: “We can give all kinds of care and medicine, and we do, but healing comes through the patient’s eating and personal efforts.” (paraphrase) The “pro’s” job is to equip the “sick” with tools and the will to position self to receive God’s healing intervention. Russ Taff’s wife talks about her husband’s addiction being a family of origin problem. Then she says, “Nor was his healing alone!”  

I still feel like I sit on the grass on that church lawn seeing a resistance to the supernatural or what is not “reasonable” by Western standards—anything we do not understand or can’t measure. I don’t want to waste my energy with wishing, denying or being possessed with naïve illusion. Jesus talked about His Kingdom that placed a lot of leverage on curiosity and creativity.

So where would be find some of that?

In the 1960s, there were revivalists and healing evangelists who prayed for legs to be lengthened. Later, a spread of specialists prayed for the filling of teeth. What seemed to me to be ridiculous, was a genuine experience for people I knew. There have always been “healing specialists” who were frontier people willing to risk to market answers and God’s redemptive power. For example:

Some of my friends and acquaintances have lost their taste and smell post-Covid. I am asking God to anoint a tribe of healing-gifted Jesus-Followers to speak His healing into those Covid-19 Long-haulers. I don’t visualize tent-meetings or a 4th window at McDonalds for drive-through praying. I am asking God to strategically place these pray-ers in churches, fellowships, coffee-gatherings—wherever there is a need and people risking to ask for healing and faith-ers who will speak to and on behalf of God.

In our rationalist age, that sounds silly or crazy. Jesus said, “Proclaim the good news of the Kingdom and heal the sick” (Luke 9:2).

  • Curiosity.  Where are people hurting, stuck, oppressed or in bondage?

  • Creative. Listen when Holy Spirit says, “Let me tell you how.”

  • Courageous. It is not the “healer’s” boldness or faith. Courage is born of our empathy that grows into action—the sight and sound of those who are empty or hurt that motivates us to speak healing.

“Pray ye the Lord of the harvest to send laborers…” (Jesus—Matthew 9:38).

LORD, SEND ME.

©2021 D. Dean Benton

I DO IT!!

Our Granddaughter Rachel at about 3-years-old could chase off any non-invited helper with, “I DO IT!!”

Carole says the best bonus’ of hospital stays are warmed blankets and chipped ice administered by caring nurses and techs. It was early in the second day in ICU after triple-bypass that my wife was holding a cup of ice chips. I saw it was tipping and helped her hold the cup. She opened her eyes and asked me with fire: “What are you doing?” Then she declared. “I do it!!”

It sounded so familiar I backed off. Don’t mess with Carole’s ice chips! A couple minutes later, she allowed the cup of ice chips to gently empty into her lap which alerted her nurse to a clean-up in aisle 4.

We have learned there are some things that happen only if we do it, and in somethings we need all the help we can get.

Jesus said what we permit on earth will be permitted in Heaven; what we prohibit on earth will be prohibited in Heaven. (Matthew 18:18). It makes a lot of sense when we get past the “Let, Loose, bind.” Bluntly, if it doesn’t matter that much to you, Child of God, why should I bother? (God).

When the specialist pulled the breathing tube from Carole’s throat, about 2 hours after she gestured, “I am so finished with this!” we discovered she had lost the tiny bit of soprano range she had. She talked like she was drunk. There were days of worrisome thoughts and trying to figure out why she couldn’t stay awake. The anesthesia hung on to organs and cells. After they moved her out of ICU, I talked to the lovely nurse about concerns. She said, “We can use—and do use—all kinds of meds and drugs, but the best med for her is to walk and to eat.” That is a big principle. There are some things others can’t do for you. And the inferred promise from Jesus is, “You do what needs to be done—what you can do—and I’m committed to some of the heavy lifting.”

In the months after my bypass surgery, I wrote Mosquito Park Secrets. It is about why the list of Fruit of the Spirit should be posted in cardiologist’s offices. They are the fruit of the Holy Spirit. What Holy Spirit grows in us. Fruit is product of what is planted. What, I wondered, should we plant, nurture and steward that Holy Spirit can use to grow things like….

“Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness and Self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23).

When we thought the procedure would be a stent, I wondered if that writing held up after 23 years. I read the book and concluded it does. Great stories and quotes from medical writers and many disciplines. I share my actions, reactions and failures. Fruit of the Spirit is broader than medicine and health. The Fruit of the Spirit have been called the characteristics of Jesus.

I DO IT!

Amelia Earhart said,

The most difficult thing is the decision to act. The rest is merely tenacity.

When I arrived at the hospital today, Carole was sitting in a straight back chair. Her bottom was hurting. She had been in that chair for an hour, she said. Not a happy lady! The other change was that she was wearing a striped, green gown which means she is self-helping. No one told her how to fulfill her Green Gown Commission. Some of the limitations were removed. There were strict rules about lifting with her arms, but no longer. No one told her. Her walker was just out of reach and she wanted to sit in the butt-cushioning chair. She was doing the best she could with the info she had.

One of the pulmonary techs talked about his career experience and plans in his country of origin and in USA. Carole responded to new skills he has added by saying, “now you have more options.”

“Options. What exactly does that mean?”

He fits the tall, dark, handsome picture. When I met him the other day, he was non-verbal and sour. When Carole told him what new and more options meant, his countenance changed. He turned to me with a smile a positive shake of his head. Wow!

“People are doing about the best they can.”

I don’t remember who said that, but it resonates with me.

The Kingdom Good News is telling people the options available.

I DO IT!! If you know alternative options are available.

©2021 D. Dean Benton