Category Archives: Inspirational

In The Shadow of the Lady

Across the Hudson River in New York stands Liberty Tower where the Twin Towers stood.

Across the Hudson in New Jersey, is Liberty State Park. Close to The Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, two memory walls with names of those who perished in the Towers on 9/11 and an old railroad station and relic rails to points beyond the city.

Having experienced all of that and paying attention to the people probably making assessments of the impact 9/11 made and makes which were similar to mine, I listened to the languages. Voices from 360 degrees were not native to my ears, nor did some clothing match mine. I felt something.

These are not my people.

They were no threat to us, some even acknowledged us. Most were doing what we were doing. If this country is a melting pot, for many generations, this was where the first glimpse of the pot would have been. We have a DVD study of the Italians coming into and getting off the boats at Ellis Island. The immigrants expressing gratitude to be in the new land—the place of the American Dream. Yet in the shadow of the Statue of Liberty I was aware people around me were not my people. I didn’t know what the word “have a great life” sounded like in their language or what the pursuit of happiness looked like to them.

For us to be Americans—brothers and sisters—where will that happen if even in the shadow of common national symbols we are not “people”?

To be a people we must have common language, common experiences, common histories and appreciation for each other’s heritages. The Speaker of the House talked the other day about being a common people—Americans all. But we are not and that is part of the fractured core of our current culture. We have no common culture. Where can that be built, experienced and cherished?

At my wife’s mother’s funeral dinner, we had family from North Dakota sitting at the same table with family and friends from New Jersey. The mixed sounds were fun to hear and decipher. The other evening we ate supper in an Italian restaurant—no franchise!—a village restaurant where the hostess greeted some with hugs and kisses. I watched people and wanted to go to their tables and say, “Tell me your story.” I wanted our professional waiter from Greece to join us and tell me his story. He has been our friends’ waiter for a long time—but I don’t know his story.

We went to a favorite tavern for afternoon lunch and another mix of languages, belongings and greetings of which I knew none. But I was fascinated. But sure not my people—yet.

I went to Jr. and Sr. high school with kids who were not Baptist like I was then, whose parents and grandparents spoke different languages. When they began to talk to each other in native tongue, which I sure didn’t understand, I knew I was not their people. I was an outsider and afraid of stepping across some opaque line that would prove it.

The Founding of this nation has filtered all of this as we have viewed New York City skyline at midnight and then closer. By the time the Constitution was debated and then written, there were many dialects and languages and places of origins. From many came one. How? Common challenges, common goals, common beliefs and common meals that excelled the differences and they became a people.

It was called an experiment. America still is. Being a member of a tribe is different than belonging to silo tribalism. Becoming a people—Americans—requires having something in common and learning to enjoy the cultures learned around common tables. Bagels, baklava, Swedish meatballs, I like them all. Just waiting for an invitation.

©2019 D. Dean Benton—https://dean@deanbenton.org

Destiny Weaver

From Stephen Mansfield:

“The Celtic Christians understood God as the “Destiny Weaver” and I find this an apt summary of what scripture tells us. We are each unique creations, potentially endowed with great gifts in order to achieve a glorious destiny determined before time by a sovereign God. The original language of one verse even tells us that we are—

“God’s carefully crafted poem, written in advance for divinely ordained moments still ahead of us.”

Few words excite me more than the word destiny. Jeremiah 29:11 and God’s revelatory promise to the prophet:

“I knew you before I formed you in your mother’s womb. Before you were born I set you apart and appointed you as my prophet to the nations” (Jeremiah1:5).

Have you wrestled with those words? Are they limited to Jeremiah or does God set each of us aside or apart for a purpose? Destiny? I want to honestly exegete those words. Are the Four Spiritual Laws specifically accurate, “God has a wonderful plan for your life” or just generally true?

I do know that every person is formed, set apart, and appointed by someone or something.

Howard Schultz founder of Starbucks grew up in poverty in the home of a brutal and careless father. In a moment of rage, the father pulled Howard out of the shower and beat him which set them at silence for over a decade. It was when the younger Schultz learned about PSTD among soldiers that he understood what drove his father who came home from the war emotionally wounded. Now Starbucks is a participant in caring for such soldiers. But words and action set Howard on a different track.

A common sermon from the Apostle Paul is “encourage one another.” He even said, “I wish that you all would encourage.” To “encourage” is one of the elements of personal prophesying. It is my bet that most of us receive more negative prophetic statements than positive, guiding words from the Body of Christ. Observations or corrections or diagnosis can become life-defining.

I’ve been prophesied over a few times. (Prophesying meaning that a person speaks what they are hearing from God about the destiny, work, calling, family or discernment about a question.) Sometimes those prophesies over me were akin to, “God, help this boy grow taller.” Hardly helpful!!

I want to flush all the ignorant, well-intended, but misguided and those who speak curses. Calculate God-directed and Spirit-anointed “words” that give direction, guidance and open the soul to possibilities and God’s plan.

What is clearer to me is that the recipient of a prophet word is not given a “grace-gift.” It is not a present to be received like a birthday gift to which it would be awkward to say, “Thanks. What do I owe you for this?” A prophetic “word” (meaning an image or a verbal paragraph of what is to happen in God’s plan for you) is an implanted image of what is to be—what can be.

Passivity is a prophetic-word killer. (Usually.) We are generally given prophetic words or visions to tell us what God intends to do so we can prepare. Using another charismatic word—I think such a prophetic word should be accompanied by an “impartation”—instructions on what we are to do to prepare to effectively utilize what has been prophesied.

“Lord, what should I be doing to prepare myself and everyone affected by your insight into my destiny?”

If God is the Destiny Weaver, and I believe He is, He works best with us as co-workers. If we have a sense of where we are headed to accomplish X then we can learn what skills we are to acquire, what knowledge we need to add and partners we are to gather around us. Some of us give up too soon and question what happened to the promise or how  we screwed up so severely that God backed out of the deal. Perhaps we have not yet prepared to receive.

The last few days, through a political source and also from a promise 2-3 decades old, a song has added insight.

“Don’t Give Up on the Brink of a Miracle.

Mike Adkins

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TU9wxi6HXZY&list=RDTU9wxi6HXZY&start_radio=1

Don’t give up on the brink of a miracle

Don’t give in God is still on His throne

Don’t give up on the brink of a miracle

Remember you’re not alone.

Copyright ©2019  D.  Dean Benton           Writer, Wonderer, Witness

 

Breakfast on the Beach

What did you have for Easter dinner?

Traditionally it is ham, isn’t it? That’s what we did. Problem with ham—no dressing. Scalloped corn and potatoes and three kinds of cranberry sauce.

I’ve been reading about how Jesus “played” with the disciples as He appeared to them. Road to Emmaus, at the tomb and at the beach. I’ve never been satisfied with any of the solutions to why John records the miracle of the fish at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry and again at the end. I assumed it was the same event—the latter a reprise.

How does one say, “Tada! It worked. I’m back!”? After the resurrection, the guys decided to go fishing to wait out the “wait” instructions.

After not much luck at the fishing hole, an unknown man is seen cooking breakfast on the beach and a discussion ensues. During the conversation, one of the disciples must have said, “Doesn’t this seem familiar? De je vu, anyone?” Peter is the first to connect the days: “It is the Lord!” Exactly what was the one irrefutable evidence? Tone of voice, the way he smiled or the way he tended the coals? Perhaps the way he gestured to them that breakfast was ready.

They get the boat and net full of fish to shore and Jesus invites them to eat what He has prepared. What did He cook for that astonishing meal? Fish, toast, grits? Does a resurrected Jesus have culinary skills uncommon to the rest of us? I’m guessing some of the disciples ate without saying a word, too overwhelmed to even think; while others talked with their mouths full. So many questions. Was there fruit for dessert?

After dishes are cleaned up, did Jesus say, “Simon, bring your drink and walk with me.” With toothpick in his mouth, cup in hand, Simon Peter hears Jesus ask, “Do you love me?”
Was there a picnic bench where they repeated the seating arrangement of the Last Supper? Perhaps they stood around the fire. Were there seagulls fighting over the crumbs?

I would have most liked to have been there for that breakfast on the beach. “Oh, and Jesus, about the love question. After the past few days, I don’t know how to adequately say yes. I can’t find the words. After seeing and hearing how much You love me, no word of mine is adequate to express thank you for what you’ve done or Yes, I love you. May I hug you?

©2018 D. Dean Benton
Writer & Wonderer

Attacked By Broad Brushes

It’s not even 8:30 and I’m already wondering.

Seth Godin talks in a recent podcast (Akimbo) about the placebo effect. He claims that 95% of your brain does not understand English. The brain functions on chemistry and feelings. What your spirit “knows” informs the brain. If you know that you are “greatly blessed and highly favored” your brain will tell you ways to show that to be true and will open your eyes to solutions and opportunities.

I am a white evangelical male. According to those who are left of center, I am not only deplorable I am responsible for everything bad that has ever happened in our Republic since Colonial Days. Not only the secularists and radical, but I’m reading Christian media people (whom I rather like) talking about the WEM tribe in grossly dismissive and contemptuous words. I listen attentively to their indictments and I don’t see many of my male friends or mentors there. I am fairly introspective. I may be self-deluding, but they aren’t describing me. I am as concerned about environment stewardship, human rights as any of my peers. I am also often without a clue how to solve societal and racial problems, but it has nothing to do with my faith, or anatomy. You could surely find me self-justifying and ignorant, but it is not because there is a WEM gene that can never be redeemed or corrected.

A left of center, white, kinda evangelical (she doesn’t like the word. She is in a serious journey with Jesus.) media woman posted a study that says Christians are more than twice as likely to blame a person’s poverty on lack of effort rather than circumstances. I do not equate poverty with skin color. When I fail or find myself into any kind of need I ask if I’m blocked because of lack of effort. I have several ways of doing that. I apply my self-directed inquisition to others. Some are blatantly not trying—more don’t know what to try. An even larger number tried and what they tried didn’t work. Disappointment leads to cynicism and iron-clad self-doubt until there is no reason in their soul, mind and spirit to try at all. It is not either or. It is not about color.

There has been an all-out war on the white male since the 60s. Now the designated scape-goat is the white American, evangelical male.
If I understood the evangelical movement as media represents it I wouldn’t like it either. The left of center has co-opted and stolen “evangelical” for a variety of reasons. The term has been redefined and made it what it has never been intended. The WME critics tend to raise a placard of Pat Robertson as the ultimate example of ignorance and stupid comments. I also cringe when he says some things. He is grouped with robber barons of another century. Have these critics researched how much Robertson’s ministries give each year to help the poor or natural disasters? I think of World Vision, Samaritan’s Purse, Feed The Children and many mega-churches who give millions a year. White, American, Evangelical men.

An evangelical by definition is not political. It is a group of people who tend to interpret the Bible a certain way and understand that Jesus is the Son of God who came to earth to die for our sin and fix what was broken in the Fall. An evangelical tends to interpret what happened on the cross and how we are to share that message with the world. Among other things. Our understanding and beliefs influence our politics because of what we know about God and what His self-revelation teaches us about inter-personal relationships and relationship with God the Father, Jesus the Son and the Holy Ghost. The core values of an evangelical does not include our political party. We are not a lock-knee voting block.

Being an evangelical is to be “mission-minded” about the lost, the orphan, widow, poor, oppressed, hungry, uneducated and the sick—just to begin.

There is power in the pen. There is confusion and inaccurate claims in the broad brush.

Beware of the broad brush!
©2018 D. Dean Benton dean@deanbenton.org

Solid answers, reasons & strategies

I want to avoid extreme hyperbole, but I think 12 Rules for Life: An antidote to chaos (Jordan Peterson, Random House Canada, 2018) is the most important book of this young century.

It is not yet in paperback. Hardcover runs $15-$17—Amazon. An alternative plan is to get in line at your library or take a day trip to the nearest large bookstore and spot read it. There will be coffee and plush chairs.

If you have children at home, at least read the 3 page summary of Rule 5—“Do not let your children do anything that makes you dislike them.”
Summary of Principles:
1. Limit the rules
2. Use minimum necessary force
3. Parents should come in pairs
4. Parents should understand their own capacity to be harsh, vengeful, arrogant, resentful, angry, deceitful.
5. It is the primary duty of parents to make their children socially desirable (page 142-3)

When Carole hears that I went to the riverfront, she will ask, “Was He there?” I will exclaim semi-hyperbolic, “OH! MAN! OH MAN! OH MAN!”

After reading this chapter, I wonder why I’ve never seen a church advertise that they specialize in ministry to the single parent. The Kingdom is missing something here! (North Point Community Church has a Sunday evening gathering for parents and kids for Q&A.)

If you want a clear view of why there are school shootings, chaos, and troubled white, emotionally ill, distressed boys, read Rule 6—“Set Your House in Perfect Order Before You Criticize The World.”

Dr. Peterson speaks to the causes. One of Columbine shooters wrote enough clues. Peterson says about Columbine, Sandy Hook, Aurora, Colorado:

“The murderous individuals had a problem with reality that existed at a religious depth.”

I think the ideas in this book provide pro-active tactics. The writer, prof at Harvard and University of Toronto is described as “secular.” The more I hear him talk and read his articles (Newsweek) and books, the more I hear a biblical prophet.

Thank you
©2018 D. Dean Benton dean@deanbenton.org

Who’s Your Daddy?

“Compassion fatigue.”

The matriarch of the animal group in our family went to the vet last week for dental work. She did fine. The vets and workers vocalized how glad they were for her. One of the younger members of our animal kingdom made a trip to the vet today. Except for reptiles, we pretty much have the small animal kingdom covered with at least one rep from each segment. The vets in several communities know the names of our pets and understand that they are the 4-legged members of the family—except for the chicken, and bird. We are, therefore, troubled by the news that there is an epidemic of suicides among veterinarians specializing in small animals. The crisis is attributed to compassion fatigue.

A psychologist said this morning that you and I are subject to compassion fatigue. The feeling is of being overwhelmed by the constant news of nations, orphans, tragedies, absent justice and a thousand other assaults to the point we shut down and block out news because our compassion reservoir is extremely low, if not empty. Overwhelmed, overloaded, fatigued, self-defense cynicism.

The psychologist tossed another word into the story. Chaos. Compassion and chaos are connected. I don’t know which comes first.

I am obsessing over Abram & his tribe. It seems to me: God told Abram to get away from Ur of the Chaldeans before He told him there would be a Promised Land. Ur was in Mesopotamia. Jordan Peterson says,

“…the ancient Mesopotamians believed…that mankind itself was made from the blood of Kingu, the single most terrible monster that the great Goddess of Chaos could produce, in her most vengeful and destructive moments.” (12 Rules for Life, ©2018 Random House Canada, page 55)

There is, I believe, a gap between Genesis 1:1 and 1:2. In that eon of millions of years is when dinosaurs and all their companions roamed the earth. Nothing God ever created could be evaluated as “without form and void”—chaos. I also believe that satan was removed from heaven and landed on this planet during that eon. Where Lucifer is, chaos is or will be.

It interests me that the “Russia, Russia, Russia” period can be called chaotic and the reason Russia interfered in the 2016 election was to produce crippling chaos. When we (individually or culture) are overwhelmed we experience it as chaos—too many contradictory elements to easily think about or resolve into a sensible cause or result.

Chaos can lead to spiritual, emotional and physical death.

God wanted Abram to get out of that chaotic atmosphere of Mesopotamia. He wanted Abram to know the “blood that flowed in humans” was not from an evil source, but from a loving God.

Behind all that’s going on in our culture there is a war between the kingdoms. The kingdom of life and the kingdom of death.

Well, that’s how all of this connects for me. One of first results of a chaotic-overwhelming time is compassion fatigue.

Who’s your daddy? Who’s blood flows in your veins?
“Oh yes! I’m a child of the King. His royal blood now flows in my veins.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dRsm12Fd0qY
©2018 D. Dean Benton dean@deanbenton.org

Legacy leading to Your Destiny

Several years ago, I was watching a TV discussion that landed on the ministry of Billy Graham. Two men talked about what would happen when Mr. Graham died. This became known as “The prophecy.” I respect those men who “sensed” in the Spirit a wide-spread calling forth a new group of empowered evangelists for the new day. The heavy underlining was that something would break open that Billy Graham’s death would ignite. Others I respect have said the new group would be a generation. We heard Anne Graham Lotz speak prophetically of that at the funeral. It sounded to me like a ratification of the earlier seeing.

Ed Stetzer moved from Lifeway—an arm of Southern Baptist Convention—to Wheaton College. I followed his blogs and publications then and still do. Ed Stetzer holds the Billy Graham Distinguished Chair of Church, Mission, and Evangelism at Wheaton College, is executive director of the Billy Graham Center, and publishes church leadership resources through Mission Group
I want to share a portion of Mr. Stetzer’s Exchange blog from Christianity Today that fits into the “prophecy.”

My colleagues at the Billy Graham Center, Paul Erickson and Bob Schuster, shared with me one example of a hero maker by the name of Elner Edman.

Elner was the brother of V. Raymond Edman, a past president of Wheaton College. Elner and Herman Fischer, who was on the Wheaton Board of Trustees at the time, were on vacation golfing in Florida. There, they met Graham, who was then a student at the Florida Bible Institute, a then-unaccredited Bible college (today, it is Trinity College in the Tampa Area).

They listened to Billy preach, but they also went golfing and Billy served as their caddy,
carrying their golf bags. They found themselves impressed with him and encouraged him to consider attending Wheaton College after finishing a degree at Florida Bible Institute. Graham had said that his mother had always wanted him to attend Wheaton, but that it was out of their financial reach.

So, having been impressed with him, both Edman and Fischer came back a couple days and Elner offered to pay the first year of his tuition at Wheaton. They both also agreed to work to get him a scholarship. Graham did end up attending Wheaton College, which became a key transition point to his global ministry.

When I shared this in front of the 6,000 attendees at the Exponential Conference, I did not tell people who Elner Edman was. I simply put his picture on the screen and explained that for the last year and a half, I’ve carried a responsibility of something called the Washington Project.

In the Washington Project, my job was that upon Billy Graham’s death, I was to cancel my plans, to call and set into motion certain events related to the funeral, and more. I have actually carried a card with me that I held up to the attendees at the Exponential Conference and explained that I would get this call and then I would call certain people.

So, I explained to those at Exponential that by putting a picture of Elner Edman up, I wanted to encourage all of us that there are all kinds of hero makers. In this case, Elner met his caddy, thought he had potential, encouraged him to go to Wheaton College, and helped pay his way to go to Wheaton College.

After explaining a bit about the card and the Washington Project, I explained that Elner Edman’s caddy died recently, and I put a picture of Billy Graham on the screen.
©Christianity Today, 2018

The vision that came from several (and sometimes differing) parts of the Body of Christ seems to be coming forth.

Another “investor” in Billy Graham was Christian Educator Henrietta Mears who invited him to her summer conference. It was there that Billy Graham worked through the credibility of the Bible and then the role it would have in his life and ministry. He developed a biblical worldview.

Two major Christian research groups studied Generation Z or iGens, which follows The Millennials. Their research says that 4% of iGens (including Christians) have a biblical worldview. This percentage has been eroding beginning with Boomers. A Biblical worldview is almost impossible as long as a person is Biblically illiterate. I take this one step further by quoting:

“The Bible is, for better or worse, the foundational document of Western Civilization (of Western values, Western morality, and Western conceptions of good and evil.)” (©2018 Dr. Jordan B. Peterson, 12 Rules for Life, Random House Canada.)

My lengthy blog “After thoughts & Prayers” (https://bentonquesthouse.com/) outlines how I see a possible way the vision above—calling forth heroes and building a generation of leaders—could work. With the dismissal of God and the Bible from our culture, the younger generations have no basis for thought about or words to conceptualize America’s faith systems, our form of government or a solid understanding of the virtues. Or a capacity to understand or internalize The Constitution, let alone live as a Follower of Jesus.
To whom will you become a hero? How?

Thanks for thinking about this.
©2018 D. Dean Benton
Writer, Wonderer

Today’s Underlinings

“In our world, women took care of everything, especially each other, and the art of making each other look good was something that gave us great joy and satisfaction. Lesson one of adulthood was putting the needs or even just the wishes of others before you own and then taking pleasure in making them come to pass.”

Lowcountry Summer, Dorothea Benton Frank, (Wm Morrow, 2010)

That is a pretty good definition of love.

Dean dean@deanbenton.org

Hard to Imagine

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Invested in the future.

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

Our Generation

A dear friend, who edited my early books, missionary, teacher, office manager, magazine editor, secretary to a denominational head, went to be the Lord on Good Friday. We have not had any communication for about three years when Alzheimer’s set in.

She married for the first time after she retired. We visited the couple in Florida and listened to their stories of mission work. Marion baked bread to sell to raise money for mission projects in her Florida condo. She and Ernie shared their lives and asked about our work and lives.
Miss Marion was of a different generation. I’ve always wondered how we moved into the relationship. She used her blue or red editor’s pencils with abandonment. She was more liberal with verbal affirmations. When too many weeks passed without a note from us, she would call to ask about us.
I have been surprised and confused by my reaction to her death. I’ve tried to name the deeper reasons. I’m glad she is free from her illness. She’s home with Jesus and family. I, however, feel as if I have lost something more than precious—it feels as if I have lost a supporting pillar: Someone who believed in me when she had to cast a minority vote. A disconnect with a former life.
One of her friends said she was like King David who…

“When David had served God’s purpose in his own generation, he fell asleep; he was buried…” (Acts 13:36a).

That may be the finest of all epitaphs.

In the 80a—90s, Youth evangelist Ron Hutchcraft said the Millennials would be characterized by four things. One was that suicide was an option. Today in America, suicide is the second cause of death among young men of that generation. In England, it is the number one cause and surpasses the next three causes combine.

Matthew West captured us with his song, “My Name Is.” His book by the same name was released yesterday. He and Max Lucado talked about the subject matter and emphatically stated a basic issue among us is that many do not know “who we are.”

“Served his/her own generation.”

I have young friends who have responded to the call to minister to evangelism on college campus and other ethnic and geographical peoples. I do not think I have ever heard an altar call given to minister to the Millennials who do not know who they are or what their calling is. Lost. Vulnerable. Angst. See no purpose. It is a large constituency.

Who has the passion? Where is the ignition point for the belly fire? Who is doing that ministry, today? It demands a special call and education.
A generation in secular terms is defined by historical/social events that shape the youth who live in the era. A biblical generation is 40-years. A ministry generation are the people alive in your “neighborhood” during your lifetime. We found Carole’s mother served her generation. We were not aware that her “generation” covered a wide age spectrum.

“I’m Possible!”

Can we talk?
Copyright 2017 D. Dean Benton dean@deanbenton.org

Ran across two podcasts that speaks to this crucial work: “and Sons.com” and “Dan Allender Center”