Identity

We arrived too late to visit the museums or see the monuments. But I felt the spirit of Tuskegee. We got sandwiches at Burger King. That Burger King is etched in my mind as I tried to sort through what I was experiencing in Tuskegee, Alabama. That was in the early to middle 70s. I’ve begun a book about Booker T. Washington written by Stephen Mansfield. Three pages in I began to be revisited by that feeling. It is partly an unexpressible appreciation for Booker T. Washington and how Tuskegee was founded and built. The other part is a horror of what he and family and peers suffered.
Washington never knew when he was born or who is father was.

“…he didn’t know because it didn’t matter, and it didn’t matter because he was just property, a small Negro slave valued at a very optimistic $400. Only people permitted an identity need know when they were born. But then what did it matter? He was just another near naked half-white, half-black waif of the kind that scampered about southern farms and plantations by the thousands. When you were born and who your parents are only matter if you are somebody.” (The Darkness Fled, Stephen Mansfield. Highland Books—Nashville, ©1999) Page 44.

I am rewriting Meanderings, a collection of my favorite stories centered on the biography and adventures of Abram whom God renamed Abraham. Three verses into the Abrahamic story (Genesis 12:1-3) and the importance and value of identity is striking. Abram knew his father and ancestors. The fresh revelation was about identity—not to the past, but to the future. And we are members of his family. He is the father of faith to whom God promised as many offspring as grains of sand.

I feel swamped by all this. Our grandchildren have been busy lately winning scholarships and redefining their lives. They have reached passageways to a more explicit identity. I’m wondering what part of their identity coming from us will grow into a heritage. Some of that depends upon their response to God’s call, and diligent faithfulness in fulfillment of that call while living out their uniqueness. That’s true for you and me as well.

You are a somebody.
You matter.
And before us is the potential of becoming.

“You shall be a blessing” (Genesis 12:2).

©2017 D. Dean Benton dean @deanbenton.org
Writer, Wonderer, Meanderer

Does God Award Scholarships?

We are shamelessly making a lot of noise about two of our grandchildren being awarded academic college scholarships. One of our friends is spending his summer in the Middle-East to study, teach and listen. He will calculate from what he observes what his senior years in college should look like to finish this season of preparation for responding to his call.

I would enjoy sitting with those three at a coffee shop and listen to their conversation about music, math and ministry. I can’t completely describe my pride in their accomplishments and my pleasure in them. While all the celebrating is going on, I’ve been stalked by a phrase in Philippians 1:

“…being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it…” (Philippians 1:6).

I wonder what “good work” in me is God working on today? Is there an age we reach when God says, “May as well stick a fork in him, he is as done as he’s ever going to get.” The intent of the “work” begun is to equip for the next season of ministry and to make the relationship more intimate or mutually enriching.

The dog and I made a run to the dump to get rid of yard waste. I decided again: I don’t want to end up being evaluated as waste or a waster of seasons. Knowing we’re not done until we go to Jesus or He comes to us, what does God use to “finish” us? Unique to each of us. Some maybes:

• Events. Because of my work, weddings, counseling, baptisms sometimes imprint a growth opportunity. A wedding reception was filled with interactions with people from across the country. Diverse in so many ways, their observations, experiences and opinions filled me.
• God’s direct message. I like to hear preaching because I assume God is going to say something directly to me through one of his spokespersons. Sometimes a verse or paragraph from the Bible in my daily reading. Queen of Sheba told Solomon what she saw in his home, how he ran his businesses and affirmed his employees. Good for managers and employers. (1 Kings 10:1-13).
• Insights. They may come from a billboard, sports page or a thought triggered in my mind or soul.
• Conversations. A friend evaluated our relationship of 40 years ago. Her words raised my self-evaluation and led me to ask, “If that is true, then why not…?” Mark Lowery said to Tanya Goodman Sykes (who ended their conversation to go onstage to sing): “Stay on pitch, be present, stay in the pocket, express your passion and be persistent.”
• Confrontations and affirmations.
• Open doors and brick walls.

Any of that resonate with you?
Not completed.
©2017 D. Dean Benton dean@deanbenton.org

Clarity

“I have never had clarity. I have only ever had trust.” Mother Theresa

Within two hours of reading that somewhat stunning statement from Mother Theresa, I heard spiritual leaders talking about “The Fog of War.” They were not talking about the trenches of WW I, but spiritual fog that sneaks up on us. From my experience and my research on stress, depression and burnout, that “fog” is predictable and nearly always shrouds us the day after, or second day after, a demanding event. It is the body and soul calling for recuperation. Therefore building recovery/restoration time into your schedule pays dividends. “Fog” describes loss of clarity concerning your calling, your business or what you are to do next.

Jeff Goins writes, “When your calling is vague and unclear, you’re on the right track.”

Which is it? Clarity or unclear? If people miss the point of what you do, what business you are in and what you want from them, you lose. And probably go out of business. Clarity is a required field in business and all marketing. The problem with most websites is they lack clarity concerning the product, who the product is for, how to get it and why.

• Bring clarity to how your product works and what it does
• Make customers wonder how they’ve lived without your product this long
• Help customers see why your product outshines the competition
• Help narrow the gap between a prospect feeling interested and actually taking action

Donald Miller interviews Juliet Funt, the daughter of Allen Funt of Candid Camera. The link to the podcast interview is:
http://buildingastorybrand.com/ The title: —“The high cost of overload….”

She has great business and life perception on how to gain and maintain clarity. I have no suggestion why Mother Theresa did not sign up for Ms. Funt’s seminar “White Space at Work.”

The message I keep reading and hearing is, “Be clear on who you are, what you are devoted to doing, selling, service to provide, what you are giving your life to. Clarity is rule one for business, therefore marketing. But more critical: pertaining to life itself. Therefore Ms. Funt’s interview is helpful. Maybe life changing.

©2017 D. Dean Benton dean@deanbenton.org
Writer, wonderer, part time worrier, full time hunter for a better way.

When does “Lookin’ good!” become sexual harassment?

I heard this morning that 20% of college female students are being sexually abused—not harassed—beyond that. The harassment subject needs to be discussed in families and most gatherings.

A charge of harassment has become the current nuclear word to bring down a person or organization. That is a bad trend that divides and destroys.
We showed up for a funeral a week early. The lady responded to my “You mean I got dressed up for nothing?” with, “But you look lovely.” I said in a non-provocative tone, “And so do you.” We were both right in our evaluations. But in another setting those affirming words could be interpreted as sexual harassment.

Carole and I had the discussion about what makes words harassing or affirming. Then this article by Dr. Michael Brown hit my screen. I think it makes sense. Perhaps it will help you sort out the issue. https://askdrbrown.org/library/low-cut-tops-sexual-harassment-and-bill-o%E2%80%99reilly

I would like to hear your opinion, if you care to share it with me or my readers. Thanks.

©2017 D. Dean Benton dean@deanbenton.org

Our Generation

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

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

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

That may be the finest of all epitaphs.

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

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

“Served his/her own generation.”

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

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

“I’m Possible!”

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

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

Feeling at Home

The Speer Family has always been one of favorite singing groups. Their excellence and choice of songs modeled for us a way to do ministry. We were influenced by the sight of Brock praying at a Nazarene camp meeting altar. We saw the depth of the well from which their passion came.

The Speers were immaculate musicians playing on albums I wouldn’t have guessed. Chet Atkins booked Ben and Brock to sing a back-up trio with Gordon Stoker from the Jordanaires on several Elvis Presley early recorded songs.

Legendary Ben Speer was the musical director of the Gaither Homecoming Series. A friend who traveled with the Speers says Ben was a perfectionist at the piano and his sense of rhythm was impeccable. Ben went to be at home with Jesus last week.

That reminded me of an evening when we were on the program with the Speers in eastern Indiana at an outdoor concert. I think we were at a race track. It was a great event for us. Then it started to rain. We grabbed sound equipment and moved into a church in town. The singers, including us, sat in the choir loft slightly soaked to the skin. The Speers warmed our hearts. Brock and Faye Speer, Jeannie Johnson was with them, Diane Mays was in the troupe and Susan Speer was on that trip. And Ben.

I sat at the bass end of the piano. At one point it seemed to me they should sing, “Feelin at Home in the Presence of Jesus.” I enjoyed the piano licks on their arrangement and I knew if we were singing, the mood was just right for that song. I leaned toward Ben and requested they sing that song. When they ended the song they were singing, Ben did the piano run introducing “Feelin”. It just seemed right. A message for the moment–and now.

The legend and excellent musician is home with Jesus. He, no doubt, is feeling at home.

I couldn’t find an online track of the Speers singing the song. Here are the Booth Brothers singing “Feeling at Home” which is one of my favorite songs.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iEI5rqs3V_k

©2017 D. Dean Benton  dean@deanbenton.org

“…putting my feet right under His table….”

Check Your Dream

Bishop Joseph Garlington grew up in a preacher’s home. From a very young age, he wanted to be a preacher. He responded to that call. He has pastored the same church in Pittsburgh for many years, he is a musician—some of his songs are in the Contemporary Christian catalogue.

A TV interviewer asked him: “Did you have dreams when you were a boy?”

The Bishop responded:

“Sometimes, you have to see someone doing what you’ve been called to do to recognize that God has called you to do it—what I am supposed to do.”

The late C. Peter Wagner taught widely about Spiritual gifts. One of his instructions was to “practice—test” I was not comfortable with that until I realized he was counseling us to get around people who are doing what we suspect we are called to do and see how it resonates with our spirit.

Bishop Garlington heard a five-year-old preach and that affirmed what Garlington had wondered. Garlington was fortunate that his father affirmed and encouraged his search and questioned his thinking and decisions.

A four year old was in one of our concert-preaching events. She said, “Let me go up there with them—I can do that…I want to do that.” She will enroll this fall in college with a music major.

Put yourself in the atmosphere and environment where the work you sense you are called to is being done. What do you experience? Love it? Feel as if God has given you a more effective way to do? Repulsed by a shabby approach? How about signing on as support staff?

Questioning your vision? Dream(s)? Test. Practice.

 

©2017 D. Dean Benton

The Royal Spud

Famine was not uncommon in medieval days. The Spanish grew potatoes for cattle. The potato was misshapen and ugly and didn’t have much taste, so Europeans never considered it as a food product for humans. And, they refused to consider Idaho’s pride.

Frederick the Great of Prussia saw a need and potential: food that would stave off hunger and a product to keep down the price of bread. When the population replied that even dogs wouldn’t eat potatoes, and they weren’t going to, Frederick issued an edict in 1774: “Grow and eat potatoes.” Marie Antoinette wore potato flowers, but the marketing was not working. The world view of the general population refused to accept russets as a resource.

Frederick had an epiphany. He began to think empathetically. He chose to view the potato through the world view of his citizens. He instructed his gardeners to plant a field of royal spuds and surround that field with heavily armed guards to protect the royal veggie from thieves—but not too well. The peasants got the idea that anything the king guarded that heavily must be of value. The peasants began to swipe a few potatoes so they could plant them for themselves.

“Economists have estimated that the introduction of the potato was responsible for a quarter of the growth in Old World population between 1700 and 1900.” (Difference, Bernadette Jiwa, ©2014

Ms. Jiwa says it was only when Frederick saw through eyes of empathy that he was able to sell the potato which affected history. A couple of direct quotes from Jiwa from a business view:

“…figuring out what people want and finding ways to delight one person at a time, one person who is thrilled to talk about you to her friends…” makes your product attractive. Empathy—seeing and feeling from the perspective of the person you seek to serve.

Empathy is one of the four primary components of Emotional Intelligence. Empathy is also a primary theme in the New Testament.

“…marketing is…a transfer of emotion. It’s about changing how people feel and in turn, helping them fall in love with something, or maybe just a little bit more in love with themselves.” (Page 13-Difference.)

That is why one statement is key to healthy family relationships: “Help me understand what you are thinking about this and what you are feeling.”

©2017 D. Dean Benton     dean@deanbenton.org

Marks of a Gentleman

I’m glad President Trump chose not to attend the White House Correspondence Dinner. I usually watch it on TV. The jokes and comments are supposed to be caustic, cynical and extremely overstated—akin to trash talk. It has ceased to be funny.

Last year the camera focused on Donald Trump as the “comedian-host” and President Obama ‘roasted” (excoriated) Trump who was in the audience. I watched Mr. Trump—the first few zingers were funny and he smiled. Then the comments got personal and cruel. He stopped smiling and made some decisions. I’m glad Trump will not be there this year to receive the trash comments. I’m also glad he will not be near a mic. His comments, intended to be humorous, sometimes miss and come off as personal attacks. Sometimes they are! It is just best for the civilized world that our POTUS stay home.

I felt many of the comments directed from the podium toward and about President Obama last year were also way out of line. Crude, vicious, stupid and totally disrespectful of anyone, let alone our president. Such talk in some countries would get the speaker taken immediately to the gallows.

In his current leadership podcast (https://www.andystanley.com/podcasts) Andy interviews Horst Schultz. Schultz is seen among the best of hoteliers. He was the trainer at the Ritz Carleton when it became the example of hospitality. Twenty-three years ago, Andy sat in on two orientation meetings as Schultz (in a 3-piece suit) trained bus boys, waiters, dishwashers, bellboys what it meant to work for the Ritz-Carleton. Andy says he watched the man do “magic” and it changed Andy’s life.

Horst Schultz worked with the minimum wage people with a goal he emphasized:

“We are not servants. We are ladies and gentlemen serving ladies and gentlemen.”

Orientation included defining what a gentleman and lady looked like. That standard and behavior worked for the Ritz as it became the standard for service.

Would a gentleman say the things we hear at the Correspondence Dinner? Where would our culture learn how a “gentleman” acts, talks, treats people without being a ultra-Victorian? William Wilberforce said,

“God Almighty has set before me two great objects, the suppression of the Slave Trade and the reformation of manners.”

He was influential and effective in both. Lord, teach our culture manners.

©2017 D. Dean Benton

Time & Marriage

Two of my favorite people celebrated their wedding anniversary yesterday. I’ve been thinking about marriage since seeing their picture.

A few days ago, I got a letter from a friend who told me his wife had died. I couldn’t read the rest of the letter. I put it back in the envelope and put it in the dark hole on my desk. He wrote:

“On New Year’s Eve she said, ‘This is the year when we’ll celebrate our 60th Wedding Anniversary.’ Then without a sound, she fell into my arms unconscious and was gone.’”

I was shaken–I couldn’t cry—could hardly think. I wandered about saying, “Oh, God!”

Carole’s sister thinks we either like old magazines or have a better recycle plan than she does. She handed me a fist full of old Time magazines. Is there a larger contradiction than an out of date Time magazine?

Time, June 13, 2016—“How to Stay Married,” by Bellinda Luscombe. It is one of the articles I’ve read about marriage and staying married successfully. Divorce has generally been declining with one exception: among people 50 and older. Divorce among that age group has doubled in the past two decades. Ms. Luscombe explains why and gives stats. The article is well worth the trouble searching for and reading.

Lisa Grunwald says, “What does a modern marriage promise that historical unions didn’t? The ultimate dream: a partner who sees what you really are and not only accepts, but improves it. ‘The promise you make is not just to be faithful and true and to stay married, but to try and bring out the best in each other.’”

Lifetime monogamy, as Luscombe reminds us, is not a natural state. “But natural and worthwhile are not the same things.”

One of the reasons the article is so helpful and very well written with practical suggestions is the writer quotes some of my favorite marriage counselors and researchers. John Gottman, Gary Chapman and Mark Twain:

“To get the full value of joy, you must have somebody to divide it with.” (Mark Twain.)

But that does not mean marriage is for everyone. We have a friend who gets nauseated at the suggestion she ride along with us to a wedding. She is not sickened by the thought of marriage generally—just the thought of being married. We have many acquaintances who are happily unmarried. So I write this for those who are married and want to make it work.

“Aim to find someone you know you’ll love even during the periods when you don’t like him or her so much. And then, cross your fingers. Just pick out a good one and get lucky.” (Grunwald).

Congratulations to those who celebrate another year. I pray God will walk with the grieving. May God’s peace and full outpouring of all that is needed and desired find its way to those who are living through the darkness of divorce.

The article—read it.

©2017 D. Dean Benton   (dean@deanbenton.org)

My latest book, The Whales are Singing, has chapters and paragraphs about marriage. https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/697597

Thanks for stopping by.