More not Fewer

This is what I know. I may not have it exact. Some of my love for the old south is based on fiction and a longing for a genteel civility. The view of reality is different through the writing of Margaret Mitchell than Rick Bragg. I don’t know where to place Harper Lee. The stories told by each of us depend upon the atmosphere we lived in and customs we breathed. I am not ignorant nor naïve. I have heard and read the stories by Vernon Jordan of his own lawyering experiences on behalf of Blacks as late as the 50s and 60s. His stories are sobering! They can shut me down.

Of the military people I have read and heard about, I think I would like most of all to have Robert E. Lee and his wife to sit on my porch.

Headlines are that Governor of Virginia is going to “pursue removing the Lee statue from Monument Avenue in Richmond.” Excuse me? Monument Avenue? A street lined with statues of people who influenced the state of Virginia or factored in her history? I thought the Lee statue was going to be removed from the entrance to the state capital building or similar place. I thought it would serve all of the local folks to place it in an appropriate park. Monument Avenue seems the exact appropriate place it should stand. Monument Ave which has a statue of Tiger Woods. Does the statue of Woods endorse his immorality, drug use and life-choices? Of course not.

Lincoln had asked Lee to head up the Union Armies, but his home state needed him. Robert E. Lee was superintendent of West Point. Virginia—his home—needed him. He was against secession and identified himself as the commander of the Army of Northern Virginia.

President Lincoln’s words, attitude and actions toward Lee and the soldiers of the Confederacy at the war’s end were forgiveness, pardon, redemption and reconciliation. Perhaps we should take our cue from President Lincoln.

After the war Robert E. Lee committed himself to providing educational opportunities for young Blacks, He was president of Washington & Lee College. Washington being President George and Lee being Robert E..

I read an article that asked why the Lees had/have a home on government property named Arlington. The grounds of Arlington National Cemetery. The author apparently didn’t know that Arlington was the name of land owned by the family of Mrs. Lee (great-granddaughter of Martha Washington) The Arlington House is where the Lee family lived before the war and then deeded it to the USA for use.

The missing rational factor of the past couple of years is redemption. Is there redemption? Can lives be changed? Can people change? Ask Jesus. I want to know what the generals did after the war. It is called grace on purpose.

There is a current line of thinking that we need more statues, not less. I’ve been reading (slowly) a biography of Booker T. Washington who was born with a mother praying over him asking God to help Mr. Lincoln to bring freedom for her son as she cooked meals for her “owner.” Booker T. Washington’s view of his race drew the anger of many contemporaries. He saw his people being and doing what God chose Israel to do. They would be a “chosen people, a royal priesthood….” He went to Tuskegee to teach the “mechanics of living,” and how to be the people God could use. And! How they whom he called Negroes, could prosper.

I wonder if this is where the Seven Mountain Mandate and the spirit of Tuskegee intersect. That is what Oral Roberts had in mind when he built the university. To develop people who will touch the country and the world and their image will find its place onto Monument Avenue.
Thank you for listening. I’m just trying to figure this out.

More statues to celebrate lives well lived and invested.

©2017 D. Dean Benton——–Just wondering


Statues. A Series-1

Burlington, Iowa has several statues, canons and an old military jet scattered around in parks. We even have statues of Mary in front of Catholic Churches. I’m sure there are shrines and museums I know nothing about. One of the attractions is a statue of Black Hawk the Indian chief whose name dominates our region.

John C. Corse served under several generals. His bravery was well-known. He was wounded at Missionary Ridge and then fulfilled General Sherman’s order to hold Allatoona pass where he lost one-third of his men and one-third of an ear. Coarse said,

I am short a cheek-bone and an ear, but am able to whip all hell yet.

John M. Corse made this peculiar boast after sustaining a head wound at the Battle of Allatoona in 1864. While bleeding, he received a message from General Sherman saying, “Hold on, I am coming.” That statement was amended by newspaper writers to “Hold the fort, for I am coming” which became a classic folk song and then a hymn. It was in some of the church song books I sang from.

1. Ho, my comrades, see the signal, waving in the sky!
Reinforcements now appearing, victory is nigh.
o Refrain:
“Hold the fort, for I am coming,” Jesus signals still;
Wave the answer back to Heaven, “By Thy grace we will.”
2. See the mighty host advancing, Satan leading on;
Mighty ones around us falling, courage almost gone!
3. See the glorious banner waving! Hear the trumpet blow!
In our Leader’s Name we triumph over every foe.
4. Fierce and long the battle rages, but our help is near;
Onward comes our great Commander, cheer, my comrades, cheer!
(1870) Phillip P. Bliss,

Not only does the John M Corse statue stand proudly in Crapo (long “A) Park, but there is a street named after him about three blocks from our house. There is a bridge in Iowa City named for him and a grade school here in Burlington.

Allatoona is north of Atlanta in the vicinity of Cartersville, Georgia. We have driven past Cartersville on I-75 and stayed a night or two there. You ever wonder if the battle of Altoona in which Corse was a major figure, touched the families of Confederate soldiers? Did a daddy or brother come home alive but minus a leg? Any ancestors not come home?

John Corse became a lawyer, was selected as Lieutenant Governor of Iowa after the war. He moved east and died at age 58 when his body was shipped back to Burlington. The people who lost loved ones on that battle ground don’t know about his life after the war, all they know is that he was one of the commanders who ordered gunfire that killed their loved one.

I have no hard numbers, but I’m guessing at least 70% of our population doesn’t know the story of John Corse, and probably 20% more don’t know there is a statue or who the statue is as they drive through Crapo Park.

I have considered my response if those folks from South Georgia should come to our town to take Mr. Corse’s statue down. I have wondered if Corse school will be unscathed by the current purge of treacherous statues.

I wonder if Ernie Banks’ statue in front of Wrigley Field will survive.

Am I no longer thinking straight? Do people fear that some dark night those statues are going to organize and mobilize and start driving trucks on sidewalks?

Everyone sing. Verse 4.

©2017 D. Dean Benton

Bee-Jeebers or worse

John Eldredge’s book Walking with God (Thomas Nelson 2008) is my current devotional reading. The format is similar to entries in a journal. Let me share:

“A few years ago a woman with a sensitive spirit and a keen eye for what God is up to pulled me aside to offer this warning: ‘The battle in your life is against your joy.’

“It hit me like a Mack truck.

“But of course. Suddenly life made sense. The hassles. The battles. The disappointments. The losses. The resignation. I began to see how the enemy was first trying to take away all the joy from my life. Wear me down. Then, weary and thirsty, I would be quite vulnerable to some counterfeit joy.” P 37

Listen to what Jesus says about your joy:

“I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete” (John 15:11),
“Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete” (John 16:24).
“…so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them” (John 17:13).

Wow! Jesus is using extravagant words to describe the joy He wants us to have.

I’m glad I wore a button-up shirt today. We’ve been having a problem with hornets and wasps. Our neighbor chased off a herd of hornets and they moved into our yard. Carole and her sisters were chased out the garage by a hornet. They estimated its size as somewhere between a sparrow and pigeon.

We came in from working in the yard. I was pouring an iced coffee when I felt something moving the back of my shirt. I looked in the mirror—nothing there. The fluttering continued. I concluded the pigeon-sized bee was inside my shirt. As I shed the shirt, I was glad for buttons and that I didn’t have to pull the shirt over my head. Inside my shirt was a green cicada. I have never looked full into the face of a cicada. Those critters are ugly and look menacing. Inside my shirt, creeping on my body! It stared at me. It didn’t make a sound, but my vocal shuddering set off the smoke alarm. I can feel an attack of PTSD coming on!
Okay, so I exaggerate.

Having the bee-jeebers scared out of you won’t steal your joy, but a chronic ache can. We met a family who returned from vacation to find their house had been invaded by raccoons or squirrels. An extended family of squirrels can not only extensively mess up a house, but implant a spirit of hopelessness deep in one’s mind.

Feeling trapped leads to hopelessness and the impossibility of life ever being better. That can lead to an abiding habit of seeing self as unworthy which will shut down confidence that God will ever speak to you. That will eat at faith, hope, love, and joy as if it were unsolidified grape Jell-O.
An infestation of fleas may be caused by someone’s neglect or carelessness, but satan has a plan. Satan will try to use such torment to steal your joy, confidence, vision and hijack God’s plan for you. Recognize it and go to spirit war.

©2017 D. Dean Benton

Cutting the Cable

Cutting the cable was a great idea. We were paying for 7000 TV channels and watching about 3. We would follow the example of those who lived on their phone. So the deed was done. After we bought and tried four different antennas, we found that we were 15 miles beyond over the air TV channels. But we could get 4 channels! Channels airing programs we didn’t watch in the 70s nor would we watch today lest they corrode our brains with unfunny silliness.

We upgraded a laptop to equip us to stream our favorite channels. The news networks broadcast news a day old. For reasons beyond my tech ability, we could never connect with most of the news that promised we could watch 24/7 free. Our favorite preachers faced a different problem. The buffering was so frequent it took 1:45 hours to broadcast a 30-minute sermon.

And then there is the phone. We live in what was many years ago called “the bottoms.” That means we live at the bottom of the surrounding hills. The cell towers in our area are all owned by US Cell. Our provider buys space from Verizon. The price is great. The service at our house is virtually non-existent. US Cell uses the best parts of the tower for their customers and then sells what is left over to Verizon and other carriers. When we found we could not call each other from across the coffee table, I purchased a Verizon amplifier which was to strengthen the signal. $200 carried no guarantees and no returns. It did help for a while, but then as if someone turned a switch we were without phone service. When I asked for suggestions, our tech asked if we could go to the top of the hill to make our calls.

I was bothered by a question: what will we do if there is an emergency? How do we call 911? I’ll drive up the hill in my boxers in the middle of the night? Didn’t sound like a workable solution. So we reconnected the cable.

I figure we would be $300 ahead had we not decided to save money.

Getting our old number of 30 years back and imported to the company that had used it for 20 years became an international job. We exhumed the body of Ma Bell. Mrs. Bell or one of her successors had retired our number—like they do baseball jerseys—deactivated it and sent it the burial grounds in some warehouse in Guam. So we were back to hanging out the upstairs window to fully utilize the one tower on our cell phones. The phones worked well everywhere, except receiving calls or sending calls at our house—which removed us from communication with the outside world.

For five weeks I talked to techs on five continents and languages I could not understand—all of whom were gracious and wanted to help—but in spite of being assigned the number and receiving bills for the service, the old number would not ring into our house. The temp number would.

We now have reduced the number of TV channels to about 800 and can get the 3-4 channels we watch plus subscriptions to Hulu, Roku and Amazon. I’m sure I’ve missed others with at least one that we cannot get rid of.

It is with exhausted pleasure I announce that our landline is fully operational as of this morning. The number is….


Call me. I’m lonely.

Today’s Underlinings

“In our world, women took care of everything, especially each other, and the art of making each other look good was something that gave us great joy and satisfaction. Lesson one of adulthood was putting the needs or even just the wishes of others before you own and then taking pleasure in making them come to pass.”

Lowcountry Summer, Dorothea Benton Frank, (Wm Morrow, 2010)

That is a pretty good definition of love.


This Just Might Help

After I quoted Frank Viola or commented on one of his books in a blog, he sent me a message saying “Glad you like it.” As result, I’ve been paying real close attention to what he writes. A chapter in Jesus Speaks, which he co-authored with Leonard Sweet, Viola describes what “hearing the Lord” means and what that voice sounds like. I quote:

“The voice of the Lord is like a voice, but it’s not really a voice. It is more of an impulse, instinct, or guided intuition.”

In the New Covenant, God writes His law on our hearts (2 Corinthians 3:3). That shifts God’s presence from external to internal. That shifts His voice to, “inward promptings.”

“…when the voice of the Lord comes to us, it most often comes in the form of…

• Inward promptings
• Our own conscious thoughts
• Inclinations
• Impressions
• A consciousness that either prompts us or forbids us to take action.
• Our own thoughts and judgments.
• Our thoughts, feelings and desires. (quotes from pages 131-135)

“When Jesus feels, He feels through our emotions.”
“When Jesus wills, He wills through our volition (will). Philippians 2:13
When Jesus loves, He loves through our souls—will, emotions, thoughts.

“The trick, therefore, is to discern when your thoughts, your feelings, and your will are reflecting the Lord’s mind, feelings, and will rather than your own.”

I’m not sure whether that helps or not. It dumps us onto the responsibility of discerning whether the voice that is prompting us is God’s, our own, or an intruder with a different agenda. All “promptings” and “spiritual inclinations” must be pushed through the filters of The Scripture, Tradition, Community, Holy Spirit common sense, character and habits of Jesus.

Happy hearing.
D. Dean Benton —

Desperate for Dialogue

Stephen King says a story needs several essentials: Narrative, description and dialogue. Dialogue reveals the persona of each character. I love South Carolina language except when a Yankee is trying to mimic it. Dorothy Benton Frank writes novels about the Lowcountry of South Carolina. Female Southern writers use words that smell of azaleas. A couple of paragraphs that paint a picture of the Miss Livina, Grand Dame of the plantation:

“Miss Millie” was polishing my mother’s Strasbourg silver flatware which had been given to her mother before her by a dear family friend descended from Robert E. Lee himself on the occasion of her marriage. Well, alright, I got it through Neiman Marcus online, but who needs to know that?”

“I just adored escaping to my bedroom. It faced a
long stretch of the Edisto River. From my windows I watched the sunrise and in the evening I would go out onto my terrace as it slipped into Mother Nature’s pocket for the night. My dear Nevil had restored the suite of rooms for me years ago.
He always understood my little indulgence for shoes and had built a special sliding storage area that held all two hundred pairs in their original boxes and acid-free paper.”

“The room was exactly as it had been before my darling Nevil left the earth. When he was in the room my heartbeat picked up and I became giddy with sheer delight of just sharing the same space with him.”

If that last paragraph doesn’t make you want a mint julep, you’re not paying attention. It’s not just the South, it shows up in literature from the Southwest. Leon Hale, a writer from Texas, told the story in Southern Living magazine of a man who lost his pocket watch. The story teller told us about his ancestry and third cousins and how they all fit into his life and losing of his watch, which was found in the belly of a fish. He was fishing off the old steel bridge that got knocked down by that barge. The watch fell out of his pocket when he reached for a can of beer. His wife had told him not to drink and fish. And he told her….

I started to say I don’t talk that way, but I think I might. Not as beautifully, but as detailed. If I’m quoting someone to you, I will tell you about the person quoted and why his/her credibility should impress you and demand your attention. But I can’t write Southern dialogue or description.

“I will admit that the girls and I had been out on the courses killing clay birds, and perhaps we had imbibed a bit of something to ease the glare of the sun.” (Plantation, Penguin Group, ©2001)

I am also reading Jesus Speaks by Leonard Sweet & Frank Viola and studying the biblical patriarch Abraham with the questions: How did God speak to him, how did he understand and discern it was really God? God spoke differently to Hagar and Ishmael than to Abram. To each of us, He speaks in our vernacular.
Jesus says, “Let him who has ears, hear….” And “My sheep know my voice.” Frank Viola encourages us to take the example of Jesus.

“Each day that He lived on this earth, Jesus lived in constant desperation and neediness for His Father. He indicated this when He said, ‘I can do nothing on my own” (John 5:30 NLT).

Desperate for dialogue
©2017 D. Dean Benton

A father’s guideline

In the night, Hagar sneaks out of camp to allegedly escape Sarai’s harassment and perhaps abuse. I have learned that Hagar may have been the daughter of Pharoah and was given to Sarai when they left Egypt.

After conflict with Sarai, Hagar was headed home in what looks like a suicidal trip. She was alone in a dangerous and deadly desert without maps or protection.

Genesis 16 tells a fascinating story. Most interpreters say that the angel who shows up is God in angel garb. He tells her about her future, Ishmael’s destiny and that the boy would have favor with God. God, who Hagar names, “The One who sees me (El Roi)” sends Hagar back to Sarai and Abram’s camp. That couldn’t have sounded like good news.

Why was Hagar sent back to “the authority” of Sarai? With the help of Charlotte Gordon’s writing in The Woman who Named God:

“God may have wanted Hagar’s baby to bear Abram’s stamp. It was important that the nations acknowledge her child was indeed Abram’s. It was also crucial for this child to know his father, so he could learn the customs and rules of an extraordinary leader. Finally, God may have wanted Hagar to have Abram’s protection while she raised her son.” (Little, Brown & Company, ©2009)

1. Be like his father
2. Nations would know Ishmael’s heritage
3. His father could teach the boy because boys become men and God had plans for Ishmael
4. Abram would protect Hagar and Ishmael physically, spiritually and mentally.

Later, Abram and God would have a discussion about the fate of Sodom. God wanted His prophet to know how He (God) made decisions and came to conclusions that led to action. Perhaps, God wanted Ishmael to have the visuals and words of the method his father used to make decisions and encounter life. Abram made a ton of mistakes especially with Sarai and Hagar. God probably wanted Ishmael to see how his dad handled them, made them right and restored his relationships.

Those four reasons give me a short guideline of a father’s purpose. Loving the child’s mother is one that Abram may not have gotten right.

©2017 D. Dean Benton
Being challenged by the Abrahamic epoch and covenant. Genesis 12ff

Hard to Imagine

In my prep to rewrite Meanderings, I am focusing on how God speaks and how to hear Him and conclude that He is speaking to you. The center of the book is the Abraham and family story which is central to three religions: Judaism, Islam, Christianity.
Genesis 15 finds Abram after he has rescued Lot. Lot leaves his uncle and Abram’s fighting party of 318 go home to their tents in Hebron leaving Abram alone. God has not told Abram his own name. He shows up at Abram’s tent to reassure His follower. It is an extraordinary story. Abram asks God questions. God responds:

“God took Abram outside and said, ‘Look toward heaven and count the stars, if you able…” (Genesis 15:5).

Can you imagine being in conversation (prayer) with God and he takes you by the elbow or puts his hand on your shoulder and says, “Let’s go outside. I have something to show you.” You had asked for an answer or guidance and God says, “I’ll explain and I’ll show you.”

“When God told Abram that his descendants would be as infinite as the stars, He had to be sure that His prophet could truly comprehend infinitude without being paralyzed and that he could retain his sense of self without indulging in grandiosity.” (Charlotte Gordon)

Okay, my artist friends. Draw a picture from the open tent flap of God with his right hand on Abram’s shoulder and pointing to the stars with an open left hand sweeping the sky from right to left.
God never interacted with Adam or Noah with such intimacy. And it had taken the relationship of Himself with Abram to grow to this level. Charlotte Gordon in a gripping book called, “The Woman Who Named God” (Little, Brown, ©2009) explains why He decides to be so open with Abram.

“…possible that God had learned something from His experience with these two earlier partners in creation. He had not allowed them to be invested enough in the future. He had not shown them enough of His plan for the world. Now He chose to give Abram an inkling of what He Himself saw.”

That is breathtaking. Does it not also help you to be more open to His voice if you believe He is inviting you to participate with Him?

Want to guess how many Father’s Day cards Abraham would receive?

Invested in the future.

©2017 D. Dean Benton

Being a father when things break

One of our young friends broke his arm/wrist last night. He is with his family “on the road” on tour. His father expressed a father’s feeling when a child is hurt and 14 other things happen at the same time—like the bus running out of fuel just as they pulled into the hospital parking lot.

Doug was in second grade when he fell out of a tree on a Saturday morning and broke his arm/wrist. His mother was Sat morning shopping. The neighbors heard Doug and came running and took us to ER. I sat in the back seat with Doug. He asked me, “Am I going to die?” I assured him he was not, but it must feel like it.

Seemed to me, and I’m sure to Doug, he was in a holding pattern in the hospital hallway for hours. He had eaten all of the Friday nite left-over snacks for Sat morning breakfast, so what they would use for anesthetic was a discussion.

Carole arrived before they took him to OR. While standing over Doug, the doctor said, “We’ll have to put him to sleep.” We have always had pets and putting an animal to sleep was serious. And that is how Doug heard it. He thought I had lied to him—he really was going to die! Broken arm or not, that boy was leaving the ER. He was fighting off the assassin and running for his life.

Later we told the doctor what “putting him to sleep” meant to our son. The doctor was horrified. He apologized with many words.

The anesthetic they used was a hallucinogenic drug. The boy was on a trip for three days. He saw rabbits in my office and accused his sister of causing his pain.

The helplessness of parents to ward off all threats and the inability to relieve all pain is heavy.

Then, add grandchildren. Carole and I said to our married children—“No more kids! We can’t stand the pressure.”

I missed the course on fatherhood. I must have been absent the day the announcement was issued. I at no time felt prepared. I feel I should have more wisdom to offer or solutions. I don’t think I worry about two offspring and three grandchildren, but they take center stage in my prayers.

I am honored this Father’s Day season to be married to the mother of my children and to be a grandfather to the specific three.

Happy Father’s Day.

©2017 D. Dean Benton
Books, Blogs, Blurbs, recognizer of privilege.