Category Archives: Uncategorized

Mole People

Living in abandoned subway, railroad, flood, sewage tunnels, and heating shafts, several stories below large cities are communities of homeless called “Mole People.” Questions come to mind. Do the communities send foragers to the surface for food? Do they work? Bathrooms? Baths? Are these peaceful places where families live? What about light and heat? Do these Mole People get any natural light or suntans and if not, how do they stay alive, let alone healthy?

John Quincy Adams initiated an excavation project to dig to the center of the earth where he believed mole people lived. John Quincy was not a crazoid, so I wonder what tools he proposed to do the digging.

About the time I learned about Mole People, I ran across reports that there is an increasing demand for Catholic exorcists to fulfill the increasing requests for exorcisms.

Jordan Peterson writes in 12 Rules for Life (Chapter 6—“Set your house in order before you criticize the world”), what he has concluded about teen mass shootings. To understand more clearly that these young men have a problem with reality, I listened to the Jordan Peterson Podcast of November 1, 1987 recorded in Cambridge, UK. Peterson uses all the words we use in describing a demonized person. When we name the places: Columbine, Sandy Hook, (and seemingly dozens of other killing zones) we conclude that the killers appointed themselves adjudicators after deciding humans do not deserve to live.

Peterson talks about ideas that are hundreds and thousands of years old, but “are alive” and take on the form of personalities that can and do take dwelling places in people—the indwelt become possessed and then empowered and motivated by those ideas. Those ideas take on flesh which inhabit humans like sub-personalities. You mean like Mole People living six stories below the surface of our souls—mind, will, emotions?

Look at the words Peterson uses: possessed, dwelling places, inhabit, sub-personalities, possession. The very words we use to describe humans influenced or controlled by dark spirits. It helps me to think of personified dark spirits and dark territories and geographical zones. I think dark spirits attack us or become part of lives through:

  1. toxic ideas that capture people,
  2. spirit entities: singular demons on assignment and groups
  3. institutionalized hatred, malice and behavior toward marginalized groups.

Activities, behaviors, feelings, worldviews where the dark spirit world manifests:

  1. Hatred, (violence as a subset of hatred, racism),
  2. Confusion about reality, not knowing who to trust-who is telling the truth,
  3. Nihilism-death mindset
  4. The Jezebellian spirit may be the controlling spirit of our age, at least influential.

My family has been questioning how to pray against what we discern attacks or attempt to take control of people, cultures, nations and institutions in Western Civilization. Jesus said and still says,

“I am the way, the truth and the life…John 14:6.

When hatred is pervasive, we know hatred is not God’s way, so we pray, “Jesus is the way and I speak His way into the hatred to dispel and replace. Jesus is Lord, therefore hatred is commanded to leave. Jesus “way” is not limited to a roadmap to heaven. It is instructive for a way of life that enriches persons and communities.

Who is telling the truth? Who can we trust? This Truth may be about correct doctrine/belief, but it is also about discerning the source of debated reality and where it will lead. “I speak/project Jesus’ Truth into the spirit world and into cultural business. (7 Mountains of influence)

Many historians, futurists and students of “now” say we are living in a death culture. Abortion, suicide, hopelessness, murder and killing what God intended and intends. “I speak Jesus’ life into the places where demons, spirits, principalities and powers are designing death missions.”

Ephesians 6:12 12For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.

2 Corinthians 10:4-5 KJV (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;) Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ

What are the weapons we are to use? Picture praying an arrow of Jesus love projected into specific clusters of hatred. Pray an agent carrying Jesus way into a culture fragmented by chaos. Think about a syringe administering Truth into a glob of confusion—no foundation of Truth. That is done through speaking God’s Word and your command: “I pray into this (place) a perception of Jesus’ Truth.”

©2019 D. Dean Benton—Writer, Wonderer

I welcome questions and clarifying comments

Helpful resources on this topic:

Peterson and Eldredge are very helpful in explaining.

The Jordan B Peterson podcast—iTunes—“Set Your House in Order” Nov 3, 2019

John Eldredge–Ransomed Heart http://feeds.feedburner.com/ransomedheartaudiopodcast Prayer sessions 3 &4.

 

Emotional Support Resource

Friends traveled to the West Coast on concert tour. Upon arrival, they were notified the lady’s mother had died. Plans were made to fly the singer’s wife and teenage son home and he would finish the tour alone. He says it was his first tour alone. That tore open  memories.

We were a several days out on an extended tour of Fla., Ga., S.C. with two multiple-day meetings, and several one-niters. We got word that Carole’s mother needed open heart surgery. I put Carole on a plane in Nashville and began my own first solo tour. I had done solo concerts when the women were sick but this time I was ALONE.

Most of the accompaniment tracks were in my keys –or with scrunched eyebrows could be—and I was the preacher/teacher. The truth is that Carole brings a dimension to a seminar or concert larger than her voice. A pastor evaluated us: “Dean does a good job, but when Carole is in the meeting—it’s dynamite.”

All I had with me was separation anxiety. The meetings went well. I got into a groove blending an eclectic sound of country to southern gospel to inspiration and big band. We recorded some songs with background singers and some we sang back-up. I certainly had a full sound. Some dynamics surfaced that I had not experienced before. My own emotions and spiritual sensitivity gave an edge to the words in messages and tears will sell a song.

We made plans to meet up in a close city as soon as Carole’s mother got home. Those plans changed because Carole had severe bronchitis before her flight home which would not yield to meds or prayer. As I recall, my wife saw 8 doctors prior to and on the trip from Iowa to Nashville. Stressed! Carole’s mother did well. Our daughter had pregnancy-related complications which sounded terrible. I wondered if I would ever see loved ones again.

On that tour, people told me stories. I was involved in conversations that still astonish me. People spurred my faith. After a concert in Waycross, I was changing into travel clothes in the men’s room. Hanging my dress clothes over the stall walls. A man in the next stall said encouraging things to me about the evening: “… for sure God has you where He wants you….” I laughed and thought “Yeah, in a toilet?”

Two or three weeks into the tour, I was drained and very scared. I went to the Macon Mall to visit a large book store. I read a medical book about Debi’s affliction and the possibilities put me close to the edge. I couldn’t do anything to fix anyone or anything and it was as if I were on a different planet. I have cried in bookstores, but I sure didn’t want to lay on the floor clutching a medical book in the fetal position. I had to do something with the adrenalin; I walked the halls of the mall.

In my journey, I found a pet store. There was a fluffy puppy. The clerk said it would be okay if I held the dog so I did. He cuddled into my neck, sloppy kisses and expressed delight. For a few minutes, that pup was an angel aware. Far more than an emotional support companion. I do not know why I didn’t buy the pup. Window sticker probably.

I pray God will release resources and His best people to minister to my friends in this tough time. And to you. (I have no dog resources, but I know someone who can supply up to six kittens per client.)

Ten days later I picked Carole up in the Columbia, S.C. airport. “Lord, we do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you” (2 Chronicles 20:12).

©2019 D. Dean Benton—Writer, Wonderer, best with my wife.

More travel stories and emotional support animals are in my books listed on website: dean@deanbenton.org.

Possible cause of generation-wide anxiety

I’m taking Brad Lomenick’s observation seriously. Lomenick is one of America’s most influential among young evangelical pastors. He was asked, based upon what he was hearing from his interaction with pastors across the country, the needs and opportunities for the local church. He answered:

  1. Anxiety, depression, suicide, mental health,
  2. Retail religion
  3. Loneliness

Those are multi-generational needs. As with all ministries we must be tuned in to the next generation. The Millennials and GenZ are called the most anxious, depressed and lonely in history. If we are to connect with them, we will have to understand their bruised emotional health and the loneliness. The above list makes me a bit nervous. Given my own experiences and life-journey and interaction with the two younger generations, I do not want to trivialize pain or simplify solutions. There are several reasons we are anxious or depressed. Anxiety is our go-to when there is something missing in us.

The day after hearing Lomenick I contemplated making a down payment on a mall and I read the next chapter in Self-Renewal by John W. Gardner (1963).  Gardner’s “next chapter” spoke to what I had been mulling over. It seemed like a God-word about generations living in a culture where religious liberty is at stake and two generations have grown up watching faith, institutions, belief systems and religion moved out of the public square and is denigrated from several quarters. What is the collateral damage? Consider…

“Man(kind) is in his very nature a seeker of meaning. He cannot help being so any more than he can help breathing or maintaining a certain body temperature. It is the way his central nervous systems works.

“In most societies and most ages, however primitive they may have been technologically, man’s hunger for meaning was amply served. Though the religions, mythologies, and tribal superstitions with which the hunger for meaning was fed were crude and impoverished, they did purport to describe a larger framework in terms of which events might be interpreted.

“With the arrival of the modern age many misguided souls conceived the notion that man(kind) could do without such nourishment. Under the beneficial of a benevolent modernity, the individual was to have security, money, power, sensual gratification and status…. He would be a solvent and eupeptic Walter Mitty in a rich and meaningless world.

“But even (or especially) those who came close to achieving the dream never got over the nagging hunger for meaning.

“(We) have throughout history shown a compelling need to arrive at conceptions of the universe in terms of which (we can) regard our own lives as meaningful. (He and she) want to know where they fit in the scheme of things…how to understand how the great facts of the objective world relate to him/her and what they imply for his/her behavior. A number of philosophers and scientists have told him/her sternly they must not expect answers to that sort of questions, but he/she pay no heed. He/she want, in the words of Kierkegaard, ‘a truth which is true for me.’ (Man and women, boys and girls) seek conceptions of the universe that give dignity, purpose and sense to their existence.

“When he/she fails in this effort, they exhibit what Tillich describes as the anxiety of meaninglessness—‘anxiety about the loss of an ultimate concern, of a meaning which gives meaning to all meanings.’ As Erickson has pointed out, the young person’s search for identity is in some respects this sort of search for meaning.

John W. Gardner was a teacher, social scientist, a member of the President’s Cabinet as Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare, and other posts. He concludes the fruit of the search is Meaning, Purpose and Commitment. To fail to have the personal and social tools to grasp personal meaning and purpose to have found nothing worthy of commitment alerts the mind “to anxiety, to depress,” to quake in the fear the core of our being is missing an essential moving part.

The Founding Fathers as a group and in individual statements say that a free society depends upon religion, virtue and morality. When they speak of the necessity of religion, even the atheists and secularists were talking about finding meaning, purpose and making steadfast commitments.

Ethan Allen told the story of his friend meeting President Thomas Jefferson on his way to church.

“Which way are you walking, Mr. Jefferson?”

“To church, Sir, “the president replied.”

“You going to church, Mr. J. You do not believe a word in it.”

“Sir,” said Mr. Jefferson, “no nation has ever yet existed or been governed without religion. Nor can be. The Christian religion is the best religion that has ever been given to man and I as Chief Magistrate of this nation am bound to give it the sanction of my example. Good morning, Sir.”

For Jefferson it may have been a utilitarian activity, while for others they were acts of worship, penance and spiritual practices of hearts occupied by God.

Could it be the denuding our culture of religion has produced inevitable anxiety, depression, and a sense of cosmic loneliness? True for all, but most pronounced among the young. Is the nihilism and emotional upheaval of our age the result of having tools of discerning purpose and life meaning carved away?

If we talk about one person’s anxiety or depression we can consider individual personal assault. But talking about an entire generations’ malady calls for different causes and considerations.

And if you have one conspiratorial nerve in your body, you can see the godless enemies have done a good job. That is why the current battles about religious liberty are so heated and why they matter.

Anxious about meaninglessness and lack of adequate tools? Tillich is onto something.

©2019 D. Dean Benton—a wonderer: Want to buy a mall? Start something? Ask questions?

I listen to several podcasts that may benefit you. I have no agenda—these interest me and feed my soul. Go to my website: https://deanbenton.org/ and link to “Ricochet” on the home page.

Upgrading the Mall

We were invited to do a multi-day meeting at a football field. Concerts, testimonies, preaching. When word spread that a shopping mall was doing its grand opening that same week, we were contracted to work three days in the mall commons area with music and banter. We did 3-4 sets each day before heading for the football field.

We were the only gospel group to ever have a streaker. I heard the slap of bare feet on the concrete floor. She ran past the stage, past the guys buying snow cones and out the main door into the parking lot. (I didn’t look, Ethel.) That broadened my vision for retail ministries.

Brad Lomenick may not be a name you recognize. He is one of the leaders and influencers of young pastors and ministry leaders. He has worked with John Maxwell, started with Andy Stanley and for a decade was head visionary for the para-church resource group Catalyst.

He was asked during an interview what he was hearing pastors and ministry leaders talking about. Where do they see the great needs the Gospel of the Kingdom should be focusing on?

  1. Mental and soul care: Anxiety, depression, suicide, loneliness.
  2. Retail ministries.

Mall-located churches. With the death of mall shopping, there are many empty malls. I’ve been thinking strip-mall ministries (not to be confused with streakers) for a long time. But larger plants are found around the country. Churches are buying entire former mall structures with varied applications. Most use a former anchor store as auditorium and the store fronts for classrooms, health-care facilities/clinics and adult education.

I am attracted to a church anchor with commercial retail facilities. Lomenick points out the church facilities are paid for by rentals.

Besides coffee shops and restaurants, boutiques and general retail, counselor’s offices and walk-in ministries for mental and soul care issues would be a draw for the church ministries. Possibilities are limited only calling, imagination and needs. Mall management experience would be a big issue. I read about one church-mall renting to 24 congregations that could not afford their own building.

This excites me. This church model puts Kingdom ministries at a natural gathering center.

If you’ve got some money looking for a place to invest, I’ve got some ideas. For examples of where this is working,  write  “Church in mall” in your computer search engine.

(Streakers need not apply.)

©2019 D. Dean Benton

Trees and Streams

“The water I give will be an artesian well within gushing fountains of endless life.” Jesus

(John 4:14).

“A lot of things that used to fire me up just don’t anymore.”  

If you are paying attention, there is a lot of talk about a stress/anxiety epidemic in our country. Much of the Opioid crisis can be traced to stress/anxiety triggers. In the 1980s we visited and ministered in a lot of rural communities. More than once people told me of driving down country roads where farmers had given up and taken their lives. Stress-anxiety is not a new problem!

We sponsor a 13 year old in Honduras. She doesn’t say anything about the unrest or madness in her country, but she doesn’t live in a cave. She must be affected. This is a brutal time to be a human.

The noise level is high. Tension and threat is high. Adrenalin is high. There are few safe places and we don’t know who to trust; we don’t know who to believe. You don’t have to be a news junkie or a raging politico to notice that due process is under severe attack. The very thing that motivated Pilgrims to seek a new nation is ignored. No due process before the law=no freedom.

This is a hard time in history to be human. I heard that an orangutan has been moved into a Fort Worth zoo and has been given the status of a human. We’ve never had an orangutan for a pet so I don’t know. I do know they should absolutely be treated humanely, but to give it the rights of a human is borderline…something.

Portland, Oregon has banned urinals in public bathrooms as “too masculine for gender neutral toilets.” Wait ‘til the ladies experience the wet seats! A church we pastored built a new fellowship hall. The carpet layers were starting on the bathrooms and asked me if I wanted to have carpet wall to wall. I didn’t even think about it. Of course! Our custodian was a friend—a nice classy lady. She explained to me how seriously deranged I was to allow carpet to be put under the urinals. (Well, now that you ‘splain it to me in those words….) I think there is a vast ocean of derangement that has taken the national mind. All the markers are being torn down or moved.

I didn’t intend to, but I’ve started talking about Psalm 1. A friend said, “It is the Living Water. I want to get close to the stream you talk about.”

It seems our “artesian well” is somewhat dependent upon being close to the streams and those who are “planted there.”

“He is like a tree planted by streams of water…” (Psalm 1:3).

There are counties in Iowa still trying to recover from the spring floods. Only in a few places is being planted by streams of water a safe place. A tree can get taken out by those swirling, rushing, roiling waters, and replanted in another county or vomited onto an island. Turmoil, tempest, raging emotions and atmosphere.

Where are the streams to be planted next to?

I want to get this right—if we are to maintain and sustain “fruit in his season, non-withering leaves, everything he does prospers’ (Ps 1:3) there are flood walls. And those sea walls are usually people and groups of people who shape our thinking and encourage our souls.

  1. Know agendas of those you “walk” with and share their counsel. (Ps 1:1)
  2. Don’t stand (hang) around with “sinners”—those who oppose God and His plans, instructions.
  3. Don’t sit around with mockers. Cynicism has become a second national language especially, it seems to me, in the worlds of social media and TV. Like flood waters lapping at sandbags and levees the vicious chatter and screaming undermines those elements that give us protection and guidance. Guard, therefore,  your sense of reality, realm of peace, wholeheartedness and ability to hear/discern God’s voice.

The streams equate to energy, peace, clarity and direction.

Who in your world is “planted by the stream?” Where are they? How do we access them? Who has God raised up equipped with wisdom, authority and anointing? Who can you ask to help you understand what is going on in your personal world and in Western Civilization? God has a reputation of “doing nothing without telling the prophet(s)” (Amos 7:11).

We need those “streams”—restorative resources—to inform us how to fit into the creative plans God has to “heal your land”?

An acquaintance had a national TV platform and is one of my favorite speakers/singers. Things have changed for them due to illness and changing styles. I asked him the other day how he and his wife were doing. He responded, “We are busy living life.” In a murky and destructive cultural tornado,  living life demands preparing our minds for action and paying attention. (1 Peter 1:3)

Who do you know who is planted by streams—restorative resources?

©2019 D. Dean Benton,  Wonderer & Writer

Website: https://deanbenton.org/

Further resources on stress/anxiety—a fresh look:

https://tunein.com/podcasts/Entrepreneurship/Building-a-Story-Brand-p854897/?topicId=133992656

Rebecca Lyons—StoryBrand podcast #159

Hanging Out Stream-side

The August 2019 issue of Christian Standard magazine features cover story and several articles about Robert Coleman. Robert Coleman’s books Master Plan of Evangelism and Master Plan of Discipleship have strongly influenced my ministry. The Evangelism book has now sold 3.1 million copies and translated into 105 languages.

Mr. Coleman lives a block from our friends Gary and Marilyn Hansen in Wilmore, Kentucky. That opened the door for me to accompany Gary and Mr. Coleman to their Saturday morning men’s gathering and then chat with this apostle of evangelism for the rest of the morning. Quite an experience.

Jerry Harris, the publisher of Christian Standard, wrote:

“Robert Coleman (now 91) is a very tall, stately, well-built man, standing maybe six foot five. He has a full head of thick white hair, piercing eyes, and a smile that lights up a room. His stature reminds me of David’s word in Psalm 1: ‘That person is like a tree planted by streams of water which yields it fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither—whatever they do prospers.’”

Now, I have a different view of Psalm 1. It is not the text for a speaker at a retirement event.

Willson Contreras is the All-Star catcher for the Chicago Cubs. A reporter asked him what his #1 goal was. Contreras replied, “To be the best catcher in baseball.” The writer said Contreras pushes himself, places himself in growth situations to fulfill that goal. He is not passive or just waiting for it to happen.

Psalm one is not a paragraph in a biography. Want to be a fruit yielder? Want to produce a flourishing leaf? Want your life to prosper? Hang out next to the water—streams or wells.

©2019 D. Dean Benton     https://deanbenton.org

“The water I give will be an artesian well within gushing fountains of endless life” Jesus (John 4:14).

 

Grandpa Mason’s New Life

Our daughter, Deborah, follows an Internet link to a Canadian kitten rescue facility. The cameras are rolling 24/7. Deb sent us a post of a gnarled up feral tiger cat named Grandpa Mason, that hated humans but deeply loved kittens. He couldn’t be released because of kidney disease. The vet said he had about 3 months, but with daily care he has lived 3 years. The lady honored that he was feral. Cared for by the manager of the rescue house and the gnarly cat’s care for orphaned kittens. He set aside his love for aloneness to be parent for the kittens.

Deb says she appreciates the link and view because it teaches much about TNR—Trap, Neuter, Release. An extended neighborhood in New York practices TNR to release the cats as militant contractors to get rid of rats. With good success.

The ragged and rugged cat’s kidneys failed the other night. They gave him the next day to be with his latest bunch of motherless kittens before the vet made a house call.

Deb says she also appreciates that the streaming contact teaches the importance of managed feral communities. Managed Feral Community. That is an amusing concept and a huge challenge. Our Rachel had a feral kitten—Snowflake—who lived in her room for several years mostly under her bed. As Carole observed, it is difficult to hug a feral cat who doesn’t want to be touched.

“The Blue Zones” is a book and a movement with connections to The Seventh Day Adventist Church. Dan Buettner took a team to several Blue Zones around the world to research why the residents are the longest living people on the planet—living and thriving. The team found and continue to find “9 Lessons for Living Longer.” Two are common to all—in the Far East and your house and mine:

CONNECTION AND PURPOSE

I don’t know what day of the week Grandpa Mason went to church, but I know why he lived three more years than the vets bet on. He found a new normal where he was connected to people who recognized who he was and interacted with him. He found a purpose—litters of kittens who needed him. Blue Zones perpetually find those two assets in the maturing. Take away the infrastructure and the people die.

Neil Enloe is a singer, piano player, songwriter and member of The Couriers—a group out of Pennsylvania whose music is on YouTube. After retirement he posted this:

“Looking back on my 56 years of full time singing, my experience prompts some suggestions:”

You can find the entire list on Neil Enloe’s FaceBook time line. I refer to # 4:

  1. “When you can’t keep up with your road schedule any longer (and it will happen sooner or later) or the phone stops ringing, and you sit at home wondering where your youth went, you will struggle with the word ‘purpose.’”

PURPOSE

What is my purpose now?  Once it was quite clear. Maybe Caleb (Joshua 14:10-14) will come by and talk to me and bring clarity how to conquer the mountain and which mountain.  Tough!

Bob Buford was a wealthy broadcaster who decided to live the second half of his life with the gusto and devotion in the first half. He needed a new purpose. I have 3-4 of his books rich with suggestions how he refocused:

Halftime, (Zondervan)

Finishing Well, (Integrity Publishers)

Stuck in Halftime (Zondervan—Harper & Collins)

Managed Feral Community.

Sounds like a great place to stop in for coffee, take naps, sit on the porch and invest in kittens or people.

©2019 D. Dean Benton– writer, wonderer, wonk in training

With help from Deborah Benton Johnston, Thanks to Neil Enloe

Websites—https://DeanBenton.org  

https://bentonministries.com

For more about Grandpa Mason:  Grandpa Mason and his kittens–there are several sites.

The Plan

11 For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. Jeremiah 29:11 New King James Version (NKJV)

That is a tricky verse, especially when we personalize it. It was given to the Hebrew nation when they were taken into captivity. The people as a whole would not return to Jerusalem, many would work as slaves or servants. Some would gain ranking jobs where their talents would be used. Think about Nehemiah, Daniel and Company, Joseph.

The verse makes me nervous—especially the translation: “thoughts to prosper you….” My mind always goes to money and I get my deposit slips ready. Sometimes, that is exactly what a person of faith does/should do, but God is telling the Hebrews the contrast of “peace versus evil,” or “prosper” versus “  do you harm.”

“The plans I have for you…” (NIV).

God is telling us that we, or the Hebrews, are not in the quick sand because He is angry with us. Even after the missteps or sin, He has a plan and it includes “a future and a hope.”

I listened to a couple of sermons/teaching recently that reached into my soul. Kris Vallotten works as Senior Associate at Bethel Church in Reading, California with Pastor Bill Johnson.

https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/kris-vallottons-podcast/id158029989

“Cultural Transformation.”

Vallotten talks about Joseph from Genesis 49-50. Though not his intention, the message speaks to the current secular abhorrence of Christians and their churches. Joseph, as you recall, was sold into slavery by his brothers when he was 17. His career path takes him through the pit, the prison and several other ground floor beginnings before he interprets one of Pharaoh’s dreams which saves many lives and earns Joseph a corner office. With lots of setbacks and bruises, Joseph must have caught on and prayed, “How can I fit into Your plans for me?” He listened until he heard.

I have never paid attention to Joseph’s experience when his father Jacob died. Pharaoh and the Egyptians loved Joseph although he served Yahweh as God. The Egyptians wept and mourned for 70 days when Jacob died. Joseph had served the nation and Pharaoh so well he won a unique spot in their hearts. When Joseph told Pharaoh his father had asked him to take him home to bury him in Canaan where Abraham had purchased a family burial plot, Egypt’s king not only gave permission, he said, “We’ll go with you!” Pharaoh took his whole staff in the funeral possession to Canaan. They wept!

(I want you to listen to that whole message.)

It would be great if we had Joseph’s journal to read his entries how those days affected him. Now I grasp how powerful the words are: “A king rose who knew not Joseph.” (Exodus 1:8).

“My plans for you.”

“A future.”

“A hope.”

There is also the biography of Daniel who spent every day of the 70 year Babylonian exile as a captive—but trusted and loved counselor to the king.

Jeremiah 29:11 is a greater promise than I have allowed. It is not a promise of escape or free ticket back to what used to be. The challenge is to find the plan that will lead to the future and hope if we will fit into the plan.

©2019 D. Dean Benton, writer, wonderer, wonk in training.

I DIDN’T KNOW THAT

It sure sounded like a crazy idea to me.

I didn’t know that Greenland has a land mass the size of the United States. I didn’t know that the entire population of Greenland will fit in Kinnick Stadium (Iowa) on any given football Saturday. I didn’t know its rich natural resources makes it a great investment and can be a buffer against an invasion from the north. I did know it is owned by Denmark. I didn’t know that it is has more connections to Canada than Copenhagen.

When President Donald J. Trump suggested the USA purchase Greenland, I didn’t know that several presidents have been kicking those tires for decades. I didn’t know that the good reasons to buy has been discussed by newspapers, by committees and statesmen for a long time. It has been considered a good purchase for us and for Denmark. (Facts and info from Stephen Mansfield–Stephen Mansfield Podcast.)

Wherever the current discussion was spawned, President Trump was discussing it behind closed doors with advisors and specialists. “For eyes only!” But someone in that room leaked it to the press. The press ran with the crazy angle to embarrass the President and make him look nutso.

I think it was General Eisenhower who found the news people had information about a major invasion. He gathered the press and told them the plans. He then told them what they were hearing was absolutely classified. If it was leaked, they would be tried for treason and he promised that they would be shot. I can imagine General James Mattis saying that.

I don’t know why Mr. Trump cancelled his trip to Denmark. Some pundits say it was like the actions of a four-year-old. I hesitate making that judgment—given my limited amount of inside info and classified data, I think I’ll forego making comments about Denmark or Trump’s behavior.

Perhaps you have heard that NOAA stood beside our President about Alabama being considered an early target of Hurricane Dorian. NOAA also chastised The Weather folks for its handling of the aftermath of what looked like another reason to charge Trump with senility—SHARPIE-GATE. Some said Trump redrew the hurricane map. The Press saw an opportunity.

I delight in the marketing acumen of the Trump 20/20 campaign. The reelection committee is selling Sharpies—made in America with the presidential signature and an election tag line.

I don’t know what led to Denmark being crossed off places to land Air Force # 1. I’m guessing a Sharpie was used to draw the X.

  1. I propose we make a down payment on Greenland.
  2. I nominate General Mattis as White House Chief of Staff—authorized to carry a loaded paint-ball gun.
  3. I wonder about a plan to salvage the USA.

But, then, what do I know?

©2019 D. Dean Benton—–Writer, Wonderer, Wonk in training, Information broker.

People of Virtue

1776 + 1787 ÷ 2019= TBD

Chapter Four

People of Virtue

“Only a virtuous people are capable of freedom.” Benjamin Franklin

“No longer virtuous, no longer free.” Benjamin Franklin

“The only foundation of a free Constitution is pure virtue.” John Adams

“Public virtue cannot exist without private and Virtue is the only foundation of Republics.” John Adams

“…free government, or the blessings of liberty, can be preserved to any people, but by a firm adherence to justice, moderation, temperance, frugality, and virtue.” Virginia Declaration of Rights, 1776

“The public interest depends on private virtue.” James Q. Wilson  

Definitions:

Verities. Something real or True with a capital T. Verities are not dependent upon our believing them or using them. They are! We speak of “eternal verities” like what you sow, you reap, and God so loved, He gave.

Virtues. Bill Bennett says virtues are not a possession as a bead on a bracelet or marbles in a pouch, but a central element of a person’s nature. We are not born with virtues, they must be learned and become a predictable response. They are part of our moral education.

“…the training of heart and mind toward the good….Such training involves rules and precepts—the dos and don’ts of life with others—as well as explicit instruction, exhortation, and training. Moral education must provide training in good habits.” (William J. Bennett, Book of Virtues, ©1993, Simon & Schuster.)

Values. May or may not be real or true. They are totally subjective. Values do not indicate validity hence the proverb, “Even thieves have values.” Values are personal choices or preferences. They may also be a verity or virtue, but not necessarily.

Virtue has a much narrower usage today than described above. To the post-modern, virtue is linked to Victorian days or a prudish age or lifestyles. The phrase, “Defend her virtue” limits the concept and behavior to sexual morality of an earlier age—smiled at as if that naïve mindset existed prior to our sophisticated cosmopolitan worldliness.

It seems to me The Founders used both words—morality and virtue—to describe two separate, but intertwined personal characteristics. They understood virtue in context of their “engagement with the great conversation that runs down the centuries from the Bible and the classical writers of Greece and Rome.” (Guinness)  The Church adds Classic Virtues, Cardinal Virtues, Classical Virtues and Mortal Virtues.

“The Catechism of the Catholic Church defines virtue as “a habitual and firm disposition to do the good.” Traditionally, the seven Christian virtues or heavenly virtues combine the four classical cardinal virtues of prudence, justice, temperance and courage with the three theological virtues of faith, hope and charity. These were adopted by the Church Fathers as the seven virtues.”

Aristotle had a set of virtues as did some of the French thinkers. Ben Franklin, at age 20, set down thirteen “virtues” that he would use as templates to build his character and guide his life. When the Founding Fathers spoke of virtue all of these fit into the mix, but one personal characteristic rose as the word to describe them all: Self-management or self-governing. What made Thomas Jefferson think that the Colonials could fulfill the Constitution and govern without iron-fisted overlords, kings or masters? Answer: He had seen self-government in individuals who knew how to govern themselves, therefore were equipped to govern a nation.

Virtues were not about petticoats, chastity belts and Twelve-step meetings. The Colonies had jails, switches and prisons. Those who met in Philadelphia were conscious of and took seriously that humans were fallen—capable of sin toward God, humans and themselves. The early Americans believed in redemption in response to repentance and a changed life.

A heavy underlined theme in the Founder’s thinking was the inadequacy of laws. For whole people and nation, encoded virtues are the mental referees and drivers of behavior. Tocqueville called the soulful element of virtues, “habits of the heart.” (We will later talk about Os Guinness’ “Golden Triangle of Freedom.”) More laws, tighter laws, harder punishment do not empower. A changed heart and learned Kingdom humanity does motivate and empower. The need, therefore, for religion.

I suggest that Dr. Daniel Goleman captures for our era the heart habits in Emotional Intelligence. (Bantam, ©1995) Self-Awareness, Self-Control, Self-Motivation, Empathy, Self-Restraint, Self-Management among others. These are street-level virtues that I think translate the Founder’s idea of virtues. Empathy is huge in that list and cannot be diminished.

“We humans act politically, inspired not only by faith, virtue, courage, honor, excellence, justice, prudence, generosity and compassion, but also by self-interest, self-preservation, power, greed, vanity, revenge and convenience—and wise governance  must take both sides into account.” (Guinness A Free People’s Suicide, p102)

Virtues are fundamental traits of character. It seems to me the basic virtues assumed in that sweaty Philadelphia meeting room were and remain:

Integrity

Honesty

Compassion

Justice

Courage

Perseverance

Dependability

Equality–the way we see all people. This things are self-evident: created in God’s image.

In George Washington’s Farewell Address he said…

“Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, Religion and morality are indispensable supports.”

Nearly every morning when on the road, I go to a coffee shop or sit in our vehicle to read and take notes for a couple of hours. I “mutter” to God about the hard stuff and question Him. If I then travel while listening to talk radio, my stomach hurts and I get surly. Ben Franklin’s words envelop me throughout the reading, questioning and listening: “If You Can Keep It.” Despair takes over—“Not a snowball’s chance….” It feels like it is too late. We’ve already lost it.

The other morning, I was sitting in a parking lot when I read…

“The foundation of national morality must be laid in private families.” John Adams

It’s hard to describe what I experienced—as if my soul fell to the ground. More accurately, it was as if the core of the Republic—virtues—drained into the ground beneath my feet with the dread that that energy cannot be recovered. I discerned. I experienced a physical feeling of that energy flowing from the environment and atmosphere produced by what has been “laid in private families.” That energy inevitably flows either into oblivion or into the culture and individuals. And it is TBD. To be determined.

Goleman (Chapter 12 of Emotional Intelligence called The Crucible of Family) defines the emotions and elements of the teaching environment of families. Moral education is about the content.

The chaos, riots, violence, disregard for elementary sexual propriety and things like justice, respect, lawfulness are absent. All those things that keep a culture from turning to bat-shit crazy and demonstrations of insanity on the public stage have been set loose from hell. Fatherlessness and fractured families dominate Western culture. Absent from the scene is a time and place to teach. Virtues that build a United States of America and sustain it depend upon being taught and caught. They are the moorings and anchor.

Bill Bennett quotes a paragraph from Plato’s Republic:

“…Shall we just carelessly allow children to hear any casual tales which may be devised by casual persons, and to receive into their minds ideas for the most part the very opposite of those which we should wish them to have when they are grown up!

That may be the cause of my stomach’s and soul’s reaction to John Adam’s words. Given the morning news and the current habits of education and entertainment, I question whether Plato or Jefferson or Adams could change our nation’s downward spiral. Generations (it seems) have been neglected. They have no data base that lessons and reminders can refer to.

“It is not the enemy at door, it’s the termites in the floor.”

In my hopelessness, Malachi 4:5-6 speaks to me.

“I will send you the prophet Elijah…. He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers….”

Let it be so! Lord, send a company of Elijah to be builders of data base.  The big question is where will these things be taught?  The listed virtues are biblical themes.  Let’s take a run at that next time. Thanks for your input.

©2019 D. Dean Benton     Wonderer, Writer