Category Archives: Inspirational

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

 

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.”

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