Category Archives: Uncategorized

Hunker Inn West Wing

My wife and I just think differently.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

©2020 D. Dean Benton

Watch Mark Gunger, Tale of Two Brains

Factor of Plus One

Hunker Inn

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

The word cumulative has been heavy on my mind today.

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

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

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

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

Cumulative—storm plus one.

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

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

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

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

Monitor the cumulative

© 2020 D. Dean Benton

 

 

Bringin’ It!–Chapter 3

Bringin’ It!

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

      EXERCISE DISTANCING

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I Repeat. Take a walk.

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

          EXERCISE YOUR BODY—MUSCLES, JOINTS, LUNGS, NERVES

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

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

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

          EXERCISE YOUR RIGHTS AND VOICE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

            EXERCISE YOUR FAITH

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

Plan, Peace, Perspective, Proportion, Productivity

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

            EXERCISE GRATITUDE

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

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

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

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

©2020 D. Dean Benton

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

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

Bringin’ It!–2

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

Has the pandemic salted our fields?

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

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

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

RESTORATION

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

PLAN, PERSPECTIVE, PROPORTION, PEACE

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

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

Definitions that help me understand:

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

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

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

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

RECOVER—RECOUP—REGENERATE—REFRESH

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

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

When we have exhausted our store of endurance

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

When we reach the end of our hoarded resources

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

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

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

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

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

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

         RE-ESTABLISH—REINFORCE—REVISIT

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

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

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

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

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

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

REST—RELAX—RESET—RECREATE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

RELATE—RE-CREATE

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

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

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

He restores my soul.

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

God will not work without you to restore you.

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

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

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

© 2020 D. Dean Benton

       Bringin’ It!

Four Chapters

R–RESTORATION

E—EXERCISE

A—ATTITUDE

D–DIET

Bringin’ It!–1

BRINGING IT

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

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

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

How did I get on another planet?

What happened to my life?

Where does this end?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

R—Restoration

E—Exercise

A—Attitudes

D—Diet

©2020 D. Dean Benton

Good news & Good News—bringin’ it!

Landmarks

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

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

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

I can hear doors locking behind me.

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

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

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

Jeremiah’s words came to mind upon awakening.

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

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

Jeremiah 31:21-23 New Living Bible

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

Jeremiah 31:21-23 The Message

“Set up signposts to mark your trip home.

Get a good map. Study the road conditions.

The road out is the road back.

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

How long will you flit here and there, indecisive?

How long before you make up your fickle mind?

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

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

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

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

Dean

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

 

 

Finches and Pigs

The grape jelly is ready for Orioles to arrive. Hummingbird feeders are full and the finch food is in a hanging bag specially designed. Finches are beautiful; Zebra finches are fascinating. One book says the male always takes work with him when he sits on the nest.

Our daughter had a couple of finches. The primary job of a finch is to produce more. Her finches got right on that and a baby was hatched. Weeks later, the baby’s feathers began to disappear. First its wings were bare and then torso. Debi called a finch expert who told her the birds build nests with whatever materials are available. If the last brood of kids are still in the cage and there is no other material, the parents will start stripping the young of their feathers to build a nest for the next brood.

If the hunkering in lasts many months, the isolation, self-focusing and boredom puts us at risk of the beak of someone close to you. Due to this pandemic, domestic abuse is on the rise worldwide. Check your beak regularly. Keep track of your feathers. Or as Apostle Paul says in Ephesians 4:32-5:1, the way to defang the isolation :

Be kind
Be compassionate
Be Forgiving
Be Imitators of God

Former Iowa Senator Tom Harkin told the story about a man following a truck hauling pigs. The tailgate opened and one pig fell out. The car driver picked up the stunned pig, put it in the front seat and chased the truck to return the pig. After high speed miles, the pig rescuer was stopped by a highway patrolman.
“What are you doing? You were 40 miles over the speed limit.”
“I picked up this pig and I’m trying to catch the truck that lost it.”
The patrolman told the driver what he was doing was commendable, but he could not put other people at risk.
“What am I supposed to do with this pig?
“I suggest you take it to a zoo.”
The man thought about it and decided, given the circumstances, the zoo was the best thing to do.
Two weeks later, the patrolman pulled up to the man at a stoplight. Sitting on the front passenger seat was the pig—this time with a ballcap tied to its head.
“Hey,” the cop said, “Aren’t you the fellow who picked up that pig on the highway? I thought you were going to take it to the zoo.”
“I did. We had such a good time I decided this week I’d take him to a baseball game.”

Since going to the zoo is out, and with no baseball games to attend we have been asking each other, “What will we do tomorrow?”

Well, I’ve decided to talk to you. Carole is cleaning her closet, baking cookies and taking notes on all things pertinent to Easter, Passover and deciphering what God is saying to us.

May the Lord bless and keep you

(c)2020 D. Dean Benton

An Easter I Remember

Hannah, our granddaughter, is 21 today. The words below are from the Postlude of my book, ON MY FAMILY WATCH. The ebook is available free to you during this COVID-19 crisis. Go to:

https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/DDBenton/

Scroll past the profile to the list of my books. ON MY FAMILY WATCH can be found there.

A short time before our third grandchild, Hannah, was to be born, Deborah’s blood pressure pushed the doctor to admit her and induce labor immediately. It was Easter weekend. We had a Sunrise service, a Sunday School seminar and a worship event scheduled. Carole has insisted on occupying the waiting room when her grandchildren were being born, so I drove to do the meeting alone. We thought Easter was a good day to give birth. You know—the day she came forth from the womb.

I called the hospital between Sunday School and church to chart progress. As I walked out of the church office, a man asked how Debi was doing. In my fogged state I said, “They are inducing pregnancy even as we speak.” He looked at me and said, “Oh, I think they are well past that.”

The organist hadn’t finished the postlude before I was in my vehicle on the four-hour trip to the hospital. The deal was, “Debi, I want the pushing, screaming, sweating over and a kid produced before I get back.” Well, it didn’t happen. The doctor said we were hours away. We decided I should go to the house, feed the cats, let the dogs out and take a nap. I’m not too great in the delivery room! I would rather opt out than pass out, so going to the house sounded like a good idea to me.

We prayed together before I left. Some weeks before, I felt instructed that we should talk to and about Hannah using her name. On that Easter afternoon, I prayed for Hannah’s journey through the birth canal. I spoke to her by name and told her she was going to be all right. It felt odd to pray like that.

When my chores were finished, I stretched out in the recliner and settled into a deep sleep. Suddenly, I was wide awake. An indescribable loneliness in my stomach had awakened me. I knew I was about to lose someone. I ran to the van, drove two blocks before the tears started to flow. I began to intercede for Hannah and Debi. I drove three or four miles before sobs and tears forced me to park. I prayed like a woman in travail. I applied the power of the blood of Jesus over the infant and mother. I denied Satan access to this child. I groaned and allowed Holy Spirit utterances that were more like moans. Perhaps a half-an-hour passed in prayer before the burden lifted. I drove on to the hospital feeling absolute victory and relief.

When I got to the hospital, I was informed there was a problem. They rushed Hannah to neo-natal ICU. She was premature, had come down the birth canal in the wrong position and was having a difficult time waking up. Several hours later, the specialist assured us Hannah would be fine. She awoke. She indeed came forth. We celebrated the victory! The constricting shell was not large enough. The emerging had been difficult. Breaking out of the shell usually is.

The Easter when she was four, Hannah told her mother that she was going to be a preacher, teacher and singer.

Palm Sunday 2020, Hannah is a junior at University of Kentucky majoring in music and math. Happy birthday, Hannah.

Carole and I are happiest being with children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews learning from them and listening to their insights and laughter.

(c)2020 D. Dean Benton—wonder, writer, witness, husband, father, grandfather

Fareway has peanut butter on sale.

God knows science!

Apart from the faith-based networks and programs, I have not heard the words “pray” or “prayer” in reference to the Covid-19 pandemic on all the discussions about Covid-19.  In an earlier age, leaders would have called us to prayers. Presidents and governors called citizens to prayer and fasting in crisis times. I suspect some leaders are avoiding “pray!” to avoid being charged with “…doesn’t believe in science.” My concern is an implication that, “We and the scientists have got this.”

Update:  Our daughter said President Trump has called for prayer. I’m gladly corrected.

One of my favorite leaders in the NBA (whose family numbers 19 kids—biological and adopted)—said, “Don’t forget the Lord is in still in control.” Out of a good heart he said, “Just stay close to the Lord during this time.” I know what he means, but I’m not sure how a biblically illiterate world will understand. We have declared that Jesus is Lord. Is God in control? That is a legitimate faith-statement. We cannot forget we have an enemy who busy seeking to “kill, steal, destroy.”

We are inventorying our pantry and water supplies. (Peanut butter is on sale at Fareway for 99 cents—limit two.) We discovered we still have several gallons of water we stored for Y2K. The fresh part of fresh drinking water may have diminished. Some things are just not adequate—but we do what we can. I can assure you that…

GOD KNOWS SCIENCE.

Inviting Him into our journey doesn’t release us from responsibility or dismiss the role of health care workers and scientists.

We are praying against the virus, praying for all the scientists and praying for government leaders.

The root word for corona is the same from which we get “crown.” That might suggest there is a spiritual component. Fear is satan’s prime tool and seeks to make it our response or knee jerk reaction. So we pray against such a reaction. God is not the author of chaos or confusion. Life, not death, is His thing.

Stephen Mansfield issued his “Seven Thoughts On The Crisis.” Number seven is “Utilize your community.” That is a stark concern. Isolation and social distancing are key actions in fighting this virus. However, isolation by itself will cause serious health—physical and mental—problems. “Staying in touch” is foreboding, forbidden and healthy. The wise closing of churches is also removing our support systems. After cleaning your devices, use them to stay in touch and to hear God’s message.

I have a benediction to my children and grandchildren when they leave our house or sign off an email: “Lock your doors, use your seatbelts and don’t sleep in the subway—and have fun.”

Now to the serious stuff. Spring training has been cancelled, March Madness has been cancelled. No sports on TV. Is this the beginning of the Great Tribulation?

Be safe, be careful, be blessed.

Psalm 91

Dean

Gnarly

“This is a brutal and gnarly time to be a human.”

John Eldredge

We have a small birdhouse that served as home to a small, loud singing bird for a couple of years. He/she found better digs last year. The lease was picked up by sparrows. During the winter, a sparrow built a nest in the tiny house.

Several days ago, three grackles visited our yard and feeders. One perched on the front rail of the little bird house, looked inside and began tearing the nest out. The resident sparrow sat on top of the house and watched, but largely outsized he did nothing but pace. The grackle tried to get in, but was too large. I wondered if there were chicks, but this is not nesting time. Finally the home wrecker seemed satisfied and flew away and hasn’t been back.

Yesterday, the sparrow was sitting on the corner of the railing and obviously grieving, mourning—head hanging. I don’t always know what birds are thinking, but discernment of spirits was not necessary. That bird was hurting and discouraged. After a bit, she or he climbed into the house. Within a few seconds, another sparrow entered the birdhouse.

I don’t know what was going on inside. The couple may have finally gotten a room. But it was like discernment—I sensed that second bird just went in to be company for a grieving flock member. Or to help straighten up the place. It all happened in a few seconds. I don’t want you to think I’ve slid into bird-brain-ness. It sure was a Kingdom moment, for Carole and me.

An adult friend has recently received racial harassment. I had to question what “race” he is. He really is one of us. His skin is beautifully brown. I had never thought about that—he’s part of our extended family. I don’t know how to help him resettle his house.

These really are gnarly days to be a human—harder yet to live out Kingdom humanness. Even the best-intentioned words can sound trite or undo-able.

The coronavirus is a challenge. A preacher said that “corona” comes from the root word we also get “crown.” He seemed to know what he was talking about. (?) That pastor thinks it is a demonic agent to grab power and attention. How do we respond and react Kingdom-ly? Pray and wash our hands? Keep your hands off your face! Good advice and a tools to avoid illness.

I read that on average we touch our faces 23 times an hour. I can’t think without my left hand holding my head up. When I fret, I prop up my forehead with all my fingers. As I pause between these paragraphs I hold two fingers against my face. President Trump said he hadn’t put his hand on his face for a month—“…and I miss it.” A simple directive. Have you tried?

Paying attention for the drooping head is a Kingdom act. Eldredge says given the brutal time in which we live, “Feasting and celebrating are acts of spiritual warfare.” The mean birds—whether human or fowl—are about tearing things down. God’s Kingdom is about empowering, encouraging and building up. All possible when you sit with someone whose life is in shambles or headed that direction.

Kingdom living is the primary focus. I’m reading “The Gospel of Jesus as Simon Peter told to Mark.” I’m also focusing on Psalm One and asking what does it mean for me in a brutal, gnarly world?

“…Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. ‘The time has come, The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news, (Mark 1:14b-15).

©2020 D. Dean Benton—wonderer, writer, witness