Category Archives: Uncategorized

PATTERNS

Renew Your Mind–2 of 4 

“Do not conform to the pattern of this world

Romans 12:2

PATTERN OF THE WORLD

John French gives us a definition of the world pattern:

“…a floating mass of thoughts, opinions, maxims, speculations, hopes, impulses, aims, aspirations…which constitute a most real and effective power, being the moral or immoral atmosphere which at every moment of our lives we inhale.”

Pastor Greg Boyd and Psychologist, Al Larson put it more concisely:

The world is a structure of presuppositions and values that work at cross-purposes with the plans and values of the all-good Creator” as defined in John 10:10.”

In research for my book about worldviews, Mining Reality and Truth, I found Boyd and Larson’s book Escaping the Matrix (Baker Books, 2005) very helpful in defining world patterns.

“The total packages of lies (and deceptions) that infiltrate our brains is ‘the pattern of this world—what we are calling The Matrix.” (Boyd & Larson, page 31)

“Christians sometimes think the pattern of the world is just about morally significant things—our problems with lust, greed, and the like. But the Matrix is about anything and everything that to any degree keeps the quality of our lives beneath the abundant life God created us to have and Jesus died for us to have.” (Boyd & Larson, page 39).

I was traveling and ministering alone on a Sunday morning in western Iowa. As I unloaded sound equipment my heart started pounding. It felt like my head was filling up with out-of-control thoughts, feelings, and foreign substance. My mind began to explain to me what was happening, but it was lying to me. Months of stress caught up with me. I was scheduled for a Sunday school seminar. I explained to the packed room full of people what was happening to me. I was attempting to protect myself from embarrassment and to put the folks at ease. A lady said, “I have anxiety and panic attacks, also. What is your usual reaction?” Wanting to get the class to laugh and put myself at ease I said, “I begin to take my clothes off.” No one laughed!

Someone in the room finally said, “Please don’t do that!” (Then! Laughter.)

While a person is in a panic attack or anxiety overload is not the time to attempt to teach them new patterns of thinking! All that person wants is relief or reassurance that they are not dying or about to totally lose control of bodily functions. The best thing for that person is to take control of their breathing and physical movement which will dispel adrenalin and the effects of cortisol. Breathing deeply will send messages to the brain—“Stand down. Calm is returning. Cancel firetrucks and ambulances.” The feeling of unreality will dissipate and connection to reality and truth will slowly be reestablished.

Lying down to breathe deeply is not an option in front of a class. The people will freak out! They will call for EMT help. That is exactly what I feared would happen and my mind developed and expanded that story going on in my head. I feared I would not be able to continue or would do something crazy and other possibilities my mind was lying to me about—in detail. So, I just kept talking and switched seminar topics to “Attacking Anxiety.”

“Anything and everything that to any degree keeps the quality of our lives beneath the abundant life…,” certainly describes what was happening and what I was thinking and feeling. The disturbing element is to realize that life can be hijacked by our patterns of avoidance and preoccupation, so we never have to feel that again. Fear of a specific fear will seek to control every piece of life. The ability to fight back or use spiritual armor must be learned prior to the crisis.

PATTERNS OF YOUR MIND

Do you recognize thinking patterns signaling that depression or anxiety is about to consume you like a wildfire? There is a gap between stimuli and reaction that may be small but is large enough for you to intercept the pattern. It is a learned skill.

I was able to tell that seminar group that I was having an anxiety issue because I examined my usual thinking and what my life had been for several months. I was traveling alone which usually makes me vulnerable to aggressive toxic emotions. No one is close to ask me questions. The day before, my granddaughter and daughter-in-law were in a car accident that did not look to them like an accident. No one was hurt, but I ruminated on the event and possibilities.

Where does your mind automatically go? Death? Illness? Failure? Incompetence? Guilt? Shame? Freaking out while shopping? Losing your self during a public appearance? When satan or demons come after you, what is their usual tactic? Is it fear, accusation, patterns of failure? Reminders of erroneous thinking? What did I miss?

Renewing your mind includes reframing the familiar patterns during your prayer and training sessions. Some of us have strong automatic negative thoughts and need meds to help break that automatic response until positive automatic reaction and thought patterns are practiced into habits. Two golden habits: Self-awareness and Self-care.

PATTERNS FOR MIND RENEWAL

Don’t let the world around you squeeze you into its own mold, but let God re-mold your minds from within, (Romans 12:2 J. B. Phillips).

“Embrace, don’t avoid anxiety.”

If we are not to allow the world to “squeeze us into its mold,” what “mold” are we to allow to shape us? Whatever pattern we embrace will become our automatic reaction and response. I will include St. Ignatius of Loyola’s Examen here as an example how we can renew our minds.

The Examen: A Daily Prayer

(From Google:)  St. Ignatius Loyola’s Examen is an opportunity for peaceful daily reflective prayer. It invites us to find the movement of God in all the people and events of our day. The Examen is simply a set of introspective prompts for you to follow or adapt to your own character and spirit.

(You will want  to use a journal or notebook to write your responses to these prompts to track your plans and monitor your progress.)

Begin with a pause and a slow, deep breath or two; become aware that you are in the presence of the Holy.

Thanksgiving

What am I especially grateful for in the past day . . .

The gift of another day…
The love and support I have received…
The courage I have mustered…
An event that took place today…

Petition

I am about to review my day; I ask for the light to know God and to know myself as God sees me.

You may want to pray “consolation” and “desolation” here.

Review

Where have I felt true joy today?

Did I Laugh today?
What has troubled me today?
What has challenged me today?
Where and when did I pause today?
Have I noticed God’s presence in any of this?

Response

In light of my review, what is my response to the God of my life?

A Look Ahead

As I look ahead, what comes to mind?
With what spirit (attitude) do I want to enter tomorrow?

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

The Examen adapted by Baylor University

Traditionally, there are five movements or steps in the Examen. The following steps outlined below are adapted from the technique outlined in the Spiritual Exercises developed by Ignatius Loyola in the 16th century. St. Ignatius required his companions, the Jesuits, to practice the Examen daily at noon and before turning in for sleep.

Instruction:

  1. Acknowledge an awareness of God’s Presence.
  2. Review the day in a posture of gratitude.
  3. Recognize a “Consolation” and a “Desolation” from the day.
  4. Choose a “Desolation” to pray into.
  5. Look with hope for new tomorrow.

A consolation is an experience that causes you to feel fully alive, at peace, joyful, happy, comforted, whole, connected, your best self, etc. and could be understood as an experience in which you feel close God.

A desolation is an experience that causes you to feel drained of energy, frustrated, irritated, angry, sad, sorrowful, alone, isolated, unaccepted, fragmented, less than your best self, etc. and could be understood as an experience in which you feel far away from God

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

“I have come to see that the normal Christian life means miracles, spiritual intervention, and revelation. It means peace, joy, love, a sense of well-being and purpose…”

Bill Johnson, The Supernatural Power of a Transformed Mind,” (Destiny Image, 2014).

©2022 D. Dean Benton

Cucumbers–Passion, Panic, Purpose

Cucumbers, Passion, Panic, and Purpose (1 of 4)

A warning to gardeners. You can kill a cucumber plant with one erroneous act. A cucumber plant has one life-objective and that is to produce cucumber seeds. Its life purpose is reproducing its seed. A master gardener knows that the moment the plant produces a cucumber, and it begins to turn yellow, you must—I repeat—you must! pick that veggie. If that cucumber reaches maturity the plant will begin to die for it believes it has accomplished its purpose. When you pick that first growing cuke, the plant has a panic attack—“I’m going to fail my purpose!”  and will go into production mode—growing as many as possible. The plant’s purpose is in full attempt to reproduce.

I didn’t make that up. A professional gardener told that story with documentation.

Passion and purpose are central to life, physical health, and mental health. To abandon one’s purpose does ill to our deepest core. A mid-life crisis is ignited when a person begins to wonder if it has gotten too late to accomplish dreams or to do what is sensed to be the very reason they were placed on the earth.

I am going to work my way through Romans 12:1-2 with four pieces:

  1. Your Body
  2. Your Pattern
  3. Your Mind
  4. Your Self

These articles are not to refute all you’ve heard about Romans 12, but to share with you a teaching that applies to this season of our lives. It seems to me that this paragraph leads to two objectives: We are to do what is taught here that the Follower of Jesus will grow to maturity and that the will of God will be known—the Follower will be convinced and satisfied.

A friend asked a question in response to my last blog:

“Is being transformed an ongoing process towards what we are to become? Do we ever make it or is that the Perfection we will one day achieve?”

Transformation and “renewing your mind” in Romans 12:1-2 is do-able, reachable, and essential to mental health, learning and success. Again, renewal of the mind changes the brain and brings healing and homeostasis to the mind. We do not wait until reaching heaven for this. The resurrected body will have a mind that is always on the same page as God. It is this body of clay/dirt that can drift from eternal and heathy reality. It is not about perfection; it is about thinking from God’s perspective. Using another biblical phrase—We have the mind of Christ. Here. Now.

YOUR BODY—Living Sacrifice

“Give your body to God….” Romans 12:1 TLT

“Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work and walking around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does tor you is the best thing you can do for Him” (

(Romans 12:1, Message).

This application of Apostle Paul’s instruction became real to me as I calculated Gen Z’s battle with anxiety and my own. Is paralyzing or tormenting anxiety, depression, burnout an example of a body being offered as a living sacrifice? It indeed could be seen as a contradiction.

Is anxiety, failure, viewing self as a victim or failure the will of God for any of His children? No! Regardless of how we learn the symptoms, whether from self-hatred, lack of sufficient nurturing or sufficient learning of essentials or abuse or abandonment it is not God’s will for us. God desires to heal the wounds or our personal neglect, so the Apostle tells us how to cooperate with The Healer: renew our minds: Build new mental habits, traits, and patterns.

An “offered body” is demonstrative. It shows what heart, mind and will are committed to. How we use our body as worship depends on our personal passion and purpose.

Dan Buettner talked to top scientists around the globe and then visited nations and communities where people live who have lived the longest. Buettner found several common traits, habits, patterns, and practices that connect to their long lives. These healthy regions are now called Blue Zones. Dan Buettner lists five lessons and one of them is…

“Okinawans call it ikigai, and Nicoyans call it plan de vida, but in both cultures the phrase essentially translates to ‘why I wake up in the morning.’ The strong sense of purpose possessed by older Okinawans may act as a buffer against stress and reduce their chances of suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, arthritis, and stroke.”

Dr. Robert Butler and collaborators researched highly functioning people between ages of 55-92 and found that those expressing a “clear goal in life—something to get up for in the morning, something that made a difference”—lived longer and were sharper than those who did not.

A friend has been listening to me preach for 4-5 decades about the value of a “vision” to which we give our commitment and energy. She responded to one of my newsletters to ask, “Is it enough for me to teach my grandchildren and teach them ways of the Lord?” I thought of her when I read this from Dan Buettner’s analysis:

“A sense of purpose may come from something as simple as seeing that children or grandchildren grow up well.” The Blue Zones, Dan Buettner, National Geographic, ©2012).

I’ve been thinking about Caleb who at 85 told Joshua he was as capable at 85 as he was at 40-45. (Joshua 15:12-14). One of my next books should be titled, “Value of a Geezer with a Vision.”

Caleb positively proved his point. The people in the Blue Zones do also. I’ve also been listening to those who teach high school and college. In my study of anxiety, stress, depression and giving up, there are scary studies about the impact of Covid lockdown: “The world is suffering from a trauma—many are afflicted by PTSD.” I believe God heals. To maintain that healing we find His plan to change thinking habits. Somewhere in the healing sequence is adopting of our innate passion and purpose—the passion and purpose residing at our core.

Perhaps a case can be made that “the patterns of this world” is the greatest threat to the health and well-being of the person at mid-life. We become vulnerable at any age when our path to life-fulfillment, therefore satisfaction, is blocked.

Victor Davis Hansen, Professor at Hoover Institute at Stanford, says that the past three years has stripped this culture of wisdom. (Knowledge gives us a grip on data, Wisdom is the gift, skill, ability to know how to effectively apply that knowledge.) With a lack of wisdom, the ability to maintain hope or solve problems at the family or government level is extremely thin. The natural response is depression, anxiety, stress, and burnout, and movement toward giving up.

Dr. Daniel Amen teaches “Change your brain, change your life.” He means it literally. Neuroplasticity describes the ability and the fact that the brain can be changed. In fact, it changes in response to your choices and thinking. To neglect or lose our purpose can lead to fraying of love, joy, peace.

“Having a sense of purpose in life may help you live longer…,” Daniel Amen. He asks, “What is important to you? What do you care deeply about? What makes your brain sing? Answering these questions can help your mood; they can also help you live a longer, fuller life.” (Change Your Brain, Change Your Life, Page 131).

He says a person must care for his/her brain to do that. Commitment to God demands that we care for our brain and care for our mind. “It is just reasonable,” Apostle Paul says. Changing our brain—renewing of our mind—benefits us to “Conquer anxiety, depression, obsessiveness, lack of focus, anger and memory problems.”

The first step to renewing the mind is our commitment to God and invitation to Holy Spirit (Paraclete) to walk with us to succeed in renewal and mind transformation. The second step is to define our purpose.

Pastor Rick Warren says, “Write out your major goals and purpose.” He suggests we use the five essentials to guide us: Faith, Food, Fitness, Focus, Friends. Those frame our goals; I think our purpose answers why we are concerned about goals.

One of the most important books I have ever read is In Pursuit of Purpose by Myles Munroe.

Purpose is the master of motivation and the mother of commitment. It is the source of enthusiasm and the womb of perseverance. Purpose gives birth to hope and instills the passion to act. (Destiny Image ©1992.)

We met a lady in western Texas who had moved there from Boston. She had left all her friends, vocation, and church. She drifted into depression. She was physically weak and psychologically weak. She began to fight back. She recalculated her gifts and rediscovered her passions. She determined to find people to interact with. She scheduled Tuesdays and Thursdays to call on the sick and those needing attention. When she transferred self-concentration to others she began to heal.

When our life-purpose is thwarted, our bodies and mind sense something is out of kilter. At any age, offering your body to God—in this life season—is imperative and reasonable. To grasp what Myles Munroe says is restorative and rejuvenating.

“God created you with a definite purpose in mind. Your existence is evidence that this generation needs something that your life contains. You are the creation that can meet God’s desired result.”

“We must ask the primary question—‘Why am I here?’—and reply with an unqualified answer—‘To be myself and to express myself fully.’” (Page 8)

Presenting our bodies as a living sacrifice,” for our discussion here, is also agreement that God’s plan is best and one we choose to adopt and engage. Whatever the process.  With the intent of renewing my mind and managing disruptive, destructive negative emotions.

©2022 D. Dean Benton

The Lost is Found

A handicapped lady approached us after concert with a handful of pictures.

“Want to see my son?”

There were sixteen pictures. She laughed and explained each picture:

“This is MY son. He is 23 years old. He is bowling.”

“This is MY son. He is reading.”

Sixteen pictures. Sixteen claims of relationship and sixteen delighted explanations. I asked if her son lived with her.

“No. I just found him.”

When she gave birth people around her decided it would be best if the child were adopted. She lived with him in her heart, but not in her life. She didn’t tell us details, just that she had found him. The empty chair in her heart now was occupied with her son.

God wants His lost children found! MY son. MY daughter.

“I have come to seek and save those who are lost.” Jesus.

©2018, 2022 D. Dean Benton

From Meanderings  https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/889323/

The Alledged Doubter

From John 20:

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

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

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

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

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

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

28 Thomas said, “My Master! My God!”

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

^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^

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

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

Where Was He?

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

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

What Was He Doing?

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

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

WONDERING

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

REGRETTING

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

REMEMBERING

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

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

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

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

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

What Caused Him to Return?

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

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

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

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

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

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

PEACE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There were 6 of those super suckers.

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

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

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

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

QUESTIONS

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

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

It was 2000 plus years ago last Sunday night—

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

“This time Thomas was with them”

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

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

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

“My Lord, my God.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Blessed & A Blessing

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

Contrasts–by Doug Benton

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I’ve been missing the beauty in the transition.

How are your contrast levels today?

©2015, 2022 Douglas Benton

You Just Wait!

There has been a stack of very nice jeans just waiting for me to lose 5-10 pounds. After two years, I tried them on. I’ve lost enough to fit back into 4 pair. I concluded it better that someone have use of the other jeans in various colors that won’t fit me rather than put them back on the pile. I added all my ties to the Goodwill boxes, along with shirts I no longer wear. It is important to tell you I gave away no trash or worn-out items. Carole sent several boxes—it is better for someone else to dust around them.

Upon returning from my gifting trip to Goodwill, Carole told me she had just listened to a Prepper who had passionate suggestions to help us prepare for the coming and partially already arrived shortages. Including all the clothes we are going to need.

Quickly doing the calculations, I figured out if the food shortage is going to last, it won’t be long before I will have grown back into every pair of nice jeans I just gave away. Although I tried to plot a return trip to retrieve my generous gifts, I decided that wouldn’t be right. And I didn’t get a receipt!

The Prepper had good ideas to help us through the upcoming “Winter of death,” that our President has prophesied. The Prepper warned us not to throw away twigs, in fact we should be searching for, salvaging, and saving every twig we can find to ignite fires. We have some dirty trees in our lawn that shed enough twigs and small branches to ignite many heating fires. We’ll just park the car on the street.

I appreciate Preppers’ suggestions. We do what we can to prepare. But it feels impossible to prepare for every contingency. Last week, I backtracked a stream of water that was creeping across our basement floor. Plastic bottles of water had sprung leaks–water we had stored prepping for Y2K

The idea of Prepping is to give peace of mind, so we won’t be worried about all the possibilities that might be just around the corner or hidden on the calendar. I think that is a good idea. So, we take notes on what the prophets are saying. Each week we buy an extra package of oatmeal and coffee, and we are filling every available space with twigs and stuff.

But it feels like every day brings a new list of threats.

There are 99 counties in Iowa. It was announced today that three of those counties have been invaded by “Invasive Mosquitos,” that survived the winter. They can carry several diseases and are aggressive toward humans. Our county and an adjoining county are two of three infested counties.

Don’t tell Fauci! He’ll order us to wear hazmat suits. However, that may be our best protection.

We hear from every prophet in the Western Hemisphere. One told us last night that in 83 days all of life is going to change. “You just wait!” “Bleak” just got darker.

The worst thing facing Western Civilization is propaganda. A Prepper we viewed on YouTube recently was a stark example of staged insinuation. His gun rack was just below the white board h was writing on. He was alerting us to the untrustworthiness of all Capitalist institutions. One of our friends posted, “They are not predicting shortages, they are planning them.” Who they are was not revealed, but it may very well be true. Or not.

You just wait! We better not. While talking with you, half-a-dozen pop-up warnings have come on screen telling me, “This is your last chance….”

We are not gardeners. We are, however, thinking about tearing out a bush or two, tilling and fertilizing a section of our front lawn to grow veggies. Our version of a Victory Garden. The trees providing twigs keep most of the lawn in shade all day and it is questionable whether veggies will grow in shaded areas. It might be cheaper and a safer investment to buy buckets of survival food that will last “up to 25 years.” Think through “twenty-five years.” Those 5-gallon buckets of survival food would become the “farm” we will to our Grandes who will be middle-aged by then.   We’ll have to decide who gets the twigs.

https://www.youtube

There has been a stack of very nice jeans just waiting for me to lose 5-10 pounds. After two years, I tried them on. I’ve lost enough to fit into 4 pair. I concluded it better that someone have use of the jeans in various colors that won’t fit me rather than put them back on the pile. I added all my ties to the Goodwill boxes, along with shirts I no longer wear. It is important to tell you I gave away no trash or worn-out items. Carole sent several boxes—it is better for someone else to dust around them.

Upon returning from my gifting trip to Goodwill, Carole told me she had just listened to a Prepper who had passionate suggestions to help us prepare for the coming and partially already arrived shortages. Including all the clothes we are going to need.

Quickly doing the calculations, I figured out if the food shortage is going to last, it won’t be long before I will have grown back into every pair of nice jeans I just gave away. Although I tried to plot a return trip to retrieve my generous gifts, I decided that wouldn’t be right. And I didn’t get a receipt!

The Prepper had good ideas to help us through the upcoming “Winter of death,” that our President has prophesied. The Prepper warned us not to throw away twigs, in fact we should be searching for, salvaging, and saving every twig we can find to ignite fires. We have some dirty trees in our lawn that shed enough twigs and small branches to ignite many heating fires. We’ll just park the car on the street.

I appreciate Preppers’ suggestions. We do what we can to prepare. But it feels impossible to prepare for every contingency. Last week, I backtracked a stream of water that was creeping across our basement floor. Plastic bottles of water had sprung leaks. Water we had stored prepping for Y2K

The idea of Prepping is to give peace of mind, so we won’t be worried about all the possibilities that might be just around the corner or hidden on the calendar. I think that is a good idea. So, we take notes on what the prophets are saying. Each week we buy an extra package of oatmeal and coffee, and we are filling every available space with twigs and stuff.

But it feels like every day brings a new list of threats.

There are 99 counties in Iowa. It was announced today that three of those counties have been invaded by “Invasive Mosquitos,” that survived the winter. They can carry several diseases and are aggressive toward humans. Our county and an adjoining county are two of three infested counties.

Don’t tell Fauci! He’ll order us to wear hazmat suits. That may be our best protection.

We hear from every prophet in the Western Hemisphere. One told us last night that in 83 days all of life is going to change. “You just wait!” “Bleak” just got darker.

The worst thing facing Western Civilization is propaganda. A Prepper we viewed on YouTube recently was a stark example of staged insinuation. His gun rack was just below the white board h was writing on. He was alerting us to the untrustworthiness of all Capitalist institutions. One of our friends posted, “They are not predicting shortages, they are planning them.” Who they are was not revealed, but it may very well be true. Or not.

You just wait! We better not. While talking with you, half-a-dozen pop-up warnings have come on screen telling me, “This is your last chance….”

We are not gardeners. We are, however, thinking about tearing out a bush or two, tilling and fertilizing a section of our front lawn to grow veggies. Our version of a Victory Garden. The trees providing twigs keep most of the lawn in shade all day and it is questionable whether veggies will grow in shaded areas. It might be cheaper and a safer investment to buy buckets of survival food that will last “up to 25 years.” Think through “twenty-five years.” Those 5-gallon buckets of survival food would become our        We’ll have to decide who gets the twigs.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zIvCGooNbR4

Does it seem strangely odd to you that we have a major bird flu going on right now? Preppers are telling us to buy chicken, but chickens are being killed by the millions to “flatten the curve.”

BEAK MASKS — The Lunatic Farmer

I read an article that urged us to determine our vision of outcome and work toward that goal. The non-connected next Tweet quoted Psalm 107:30

“They were glad when it (the sea waves) grew calm, and he (God) guided them to their desired haven” (NIV).

Joel Salatin, the Lunatic Farmer, has scheduled a 2-day event that will provide a “Tool box” of skills and habits to help us manage our reactions, survival and thrival abilities. We are too many miles from his Virginia farm, but I need and want what he and company are offering.

This from the linked promo:

“This year’s summit focuses on helping you build a “Tool Box” so you can become more resilient physically, mentally, emotionally/energetically and spiritually. From learning to cook using healing herbs to rewiring your nervous system to literally using your own hands to heal yourself, by the end of the summit, your Tool Box will be filled with a diverse array of remedies and strategies to help you unlock the healing potential inside your body.”

TWO DAYS OF TRUTH NUMBER TWO — The Lunatic Farmer

I am very serious about prepping. Prepared for projected shortages, dark days and for eternity. After a preparing trip to the store, we weren’t sure what we could find for supper. Living with “You Just Wait!” threatens to take energy away from living today. Yes, it keeps us from kicking the can down the road, but it may push life out of the present.

Listening to an interview with Jennie Allen who has a new book: Finding Your People. Her family moved from Austin, Texas to Dallas. From her experience, she suggests finding 5 people within 5 miles to befriend and live life with them.

I asked friends what I should add to my list of content to “pour into” people with whom I am “walking with.” One lady said to be more intentional about Research. Being prepared speaks to that. A man says to include the value of a few close friends and good songs. We can’t wait for some valuables.

Be a Dr. Prepper…?

©2022 D. Dean Benton

.Examine my new ebook–Mining Reality & Truthhttps://www.smashwords.com/books/view/1139107

Grandpa Always Said

An interesting conversation with a 92-year-old lady yesterday in a bookstore. Surprised me when she volunteered that she was 92. I think she had just come from the hairdresser or an expensive clothier. Maybe both. She was looking for a non-fiction or political book to stimulate her thinking.

“Things don’t look good for our country,” she said. So, we talked politics. One of her friends saw her and invited her to lunch. She postponed lunch so she could finish her conversation with me. Nice!

She kept referring to “Grandpa.” I assumed she was using a nick name for her husband, or some influencer I should know. No. She was quoting and talking about her grandfather. Do some math. What calendar years would her Grandpa have been talking about when he sowed wisdom and information into this lady? Do you suppose he ever said, “When I was your age…”? “Grandpa” could have referenced his life in the late 1800s. What could he have told her that still stands up in April 2022?

The lady told me one of her questions is whether she should have paid for her grandson’s college years. “No common sense”—among other things. Given what I perceived as a hunger for knowledge and what other people are thinking and writing, it is interesting to me that she quoted her Grandpa and not her father or grandson.

Grandfathering and Grandmothering has changed.

I wonder if that lady decided her postponed lunch date was the wisest choice. I know our chat set me on a search for those things I learned from my grandparents—or someone’s grandparents—and the things to which I wish we all would have paid more attention.

My entire life, at least from my earliest recollection, I have heard the biblical prophecies of a cashless society and the one-world government: the motivation for and the bad outcome. I heard stories of the Great Depression. I wish grandparents would have been clearer about the causes that would make sense in the 1920s and the 2020s. More certainly, to what our culture should be paying closer attention.

Two of my non-fiction ebooks have been published in the past six weeks. (Seizin the Season and “Mining for Reality & Truth).  A novel—The Carafe Conspiracy—is waiting for me to finish the last section. A half-dozen years ago, I heard someone say they were committed to “Walking beside” and “Pouring into.” I wondered exactly what it is that will benefit the people we walk beside. What shall we pour into them? And what is the source of those life-productive resources and relationships?

This is where I am so far. Besides, “I love you,” I want my grandchildren to quote me about:

  • RIGHTEOUSNESS—Personal alignment with God, Truth, Reality.
  • REDEMPTION—Of all things, nations, tribes, and people lost.
  • RESILIENCY—Ability to discern, bounce back and stick with it.
  • RESPECT—For all life, personal property, people’s opinion & experience. Empathy. Revealed Truth and instruction.
  • RESOURCEFULNESS—Aimed at preparation, solutions, strategies, critical thinking.
  • RHYTHMS—Life seasons; being present to laughter, tears, celebration, silence.

The rhythm section must include March Madness, open day of baseball season, time by a body of water.

What would you add to this list?

Papa Dean

©2022 D. Dean Benton

You Gotta Sing

One-hundred-fifteen years after the crew abandoned Endurance and she sank, that great ship has been discovered.  The expedition led by Sir Ernest Shackelton . Twenty months of constant life-threatening experience.

Five-thousand men applied to go on the Endurance Expedition. Each job application contained the same question: “Can you sing?” One man protested that he was not a performer to which Shackelton defined the task as joining in to sing with the rest of the crew.

During the ten months on the doomed ship, regular nights were designated as gramophone nights for listening to and singing with recorded music. When orders were sounded to abandon ship. Shackelton informed the chief musician that he had already carried his banjo off the ship. Months later, the crew was informed they would be limited to two pounds of personal articles. Shackelton said the banjo would be taken on the trek. “For we shall need it.”

One of the strangest parts of the A&E movie about the expedition was watching the crew singing after supper. Can you imagine mechanics at your car dealership or stylists at the beauty salon singing as they work on your car or style your hair? How about your family singing at the supper table? Feels odd, doesn’t it? Had there not been singing in Antarctica, life would have seeped out.

There is no way to describe the harrowing months for this crew. Shackelton joyfully proclaimed that not one person was lost. Sometimes, you just must sing or hum!

©2015 HopePushers, D. Dean Benton, (Smashwords, Spring Daisy Publications) Chapter 13

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/572059

Water. Trees. Leaves.

The words from Revelation 22:1-2 have hung in my soul space for three weeks.

Then the angel showed me a river with the water of life, clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb. It flowed down the center of the main street. On each side of the river grew a tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, with a fresh crop each month. The leaves were used for medicine to heal the nations.”

I admit my lack of expertise in the End Times. I have avoided Revelation out of concern of misinterpreting it and misapplying it. This book in the Bible is not a collection of revelations about the unknown. It is rather The Revelation of Jesus Christ as He accompanies us through the restructuring of the world and establishing The New Earth and the New Jerusalem. For whatever value it has, the chapter heading/title is “New Jerusalem” which was inserted by a group of editors. That title tells us where and when this incident with the angel and Apostle John visioned it happening: Post-establishment of The New.

Part of our family is vacationing in Guam today. That seems extremely odd to me, though they really like the place. All I can think of is how bloody its history during WW2. In my mind that island never moved beyond the fighting and devastation. I have to keep reminding myself that our family is not in Ukraine.

I have tried to figure out Putin’s motivation, listening to lots of news and opinions. Neither have I figured out how or if Ukraine figures into biblical prophecy, although Russia seems to be connected to the Bible prophecies of Gog and Magog.

I listened to Andy Andrews’ podcast this morning with his guest Joe Savage who is the director of the largest rescue ministries in Eastern Europe. https://andyandrews.com/roads-of-hope/   100,000 orphans in Ukraine and for those who are trafficked—and that business is brisk along the borders among the refugees. Sexual and slave labor trafficking! Half of those orphaned kids will be dead before they reach twenty years old.

We watched the news during supper tonight. My lettuce did not want to be swallowed! Nor did anything. The word “corruption” defines so much of that nation. At the same time, the arts are alive with music. Loyalty, patriotism, and courage are capturing headlines and social media videos.

I have a young acquaintance whose adopted grandparents are close friends. He spent several years in a Russian orphanage. I have generally avoided the Baltic, Balkan and Slavic Nations. They seemed so far away and so very different than me. But there is that young man whose wounds have been touched by Jesus. It doesn’t seem so far away, now. Two years ago, we were on a work trip listening to Glenn Beck talking about Hunter Biden and corruption in Ukraine. The Slavic Nations became part of our personal and national conversations. CORRUPTION!

To Revelation 22:1-2:

That river fascinates me. Does it flow in a median? Is it The River of Life? The headwaters are at the Throne of God and the slain but resurrected and enthroned lamb. Will we swim in that river?

Trees on each side of the turnpike which yield a fresh crop each month. How many trees per city block or rural mile? Is there any connection with the Tree of Life in the Garden of Eden? Is the eternal assignment of that tree in the garden revealed in Revelation 22? The Creator has always been into fruit and orchards. I heard recently that there are so many kinds and types of apples that if you ate a new variety each week, it would take you 20 years to get to the bottom of the peck. But it is the leaves that John the Revelator tells us about. Water, trees, leaves.

Here is the point of the revelation:

“The leaves were used for medicine to heal the nations.”

If, historically, this event happens in the latter stages of The End Times or in The New Times, what are the nations? Which nations? In the Reign and Rule of God’s Kingdom, are we to understand there are still nations? Nation states? Sheep nations and goat nations? If this is “historically” after the Rapture of the Ekklesia and the Revelation of Christ, why would those nations need to be healed?

What kind of trees are they? What is the substance in the leaves that heals nations?

Back to World, 2022.

I think each nation has powerful exceptionalism and treasures—natural and human. Yet those treasures are damaged and destroyed by what God calls sin. Every nation needs the healing Apostle John describes.

I’ve been wondering if God wants to turn on the spigot, plant trees and harvest leaves. The news people keep telling us there are nations that need to be healed.

Please, Father. Heal our nation. And Russia. China. Ukraine. Portugal. Ethiopia. All of the nations. And those who hurt and cry.

©2022 D. Dean Benton

Dean’s ebooks: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/889323