On-ramp to 2021

Early in 2020 I felt the major word from God for us was…

“If My people  who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land” (2 Chronicles 7:14).

After “turn from their wicked ways” has run like a ticker tape in my soul for ten months, I wonder what wicked ways His People have not yet turned from. I cannot, except as directed to act prophetically, turn from the wicked ways of evil doers or people in rebellion against God.

With the onset of Advent, I emphatically heard…

Those who walked in darkness have seen a radiant light shining upon them. They once lived in the shadows of death, but now a glorious light has dawned! (Isaiah 9:2).

That brought and brings much joy—I am border-lined stoked about an American Awakening. Some of the International prophets are forecasting one. Another verse slipped into focus a few days ago:

And here is the verdict: The Light of God has now come into the world, but the hearts of people love their darkness more than the Light, because they want the darkness to conceal their evil (John 3:16).

How much hope shall we hold out for those people to turn from that which they clutch to their hearts? Whose verdict? God or those who reject the Light?

Family Benton has examined ourselves, confessed and turned. We have listened to the prophets whom we discerned were hearing from God. Now some of them are saying God has spoken a second thing, which to me sounds like a contradiction of the first. Sometimes, I feel as if we are hanging on to Truth by our fingernails, and mine are prone to breaking and cracking.

I have a couple of friends who are “long-haulers” with COVID. They’ve been to ICU, on the ventilator and survived, but each day is a struggle with pain, imbalance and emotional upheaval. I am concerned that the drugs of despair—opioids which have our nation in its grip—will look like a workable option.

Great Britain lost so many men in W.W.I, history says “a whole generation of leaders was lost,” which led them to misread trends building for W.W. II. At times, I think America has lost two generations to Socialism’s lies and the Communist deception. Whenever I say, “What can they be thinking?” I am pushed to examine the fruit of those thoughts and who planted the seeds. The election, the main-stream acceptance and celebration of an ideology that has proved evil and unworkable in a Free Society and the destruction of our institutions causes me to wonder if this Constitutional Republic is salvageable and who will lead.

So! I come to the on-ramp of 2021 and I’m “hearing” God say…

“Be not dismayed…” (Isaiah 41:10).

From Strong‘s Exhaustive Concordance #8691: Dismayed: “to gaze at or about for help or to look away….”

“Dismayed” is image-oriented. Example: Sitting at the kitchen table looking out the window into space. Looking for an answer, solution and seeing nothing. Or sitting cross-legged beside a campfire with a stick in hand drawing lines in the dirt oblivious to everything. Somewhere between trying to figure things out and giving up.

God gives His reasoning that we should not go to a Place Called Dismayed:

“I am with you; I am your God.”

So do not fear, for I am with you

do not be dismayed, for I am your God.

I will strengthen you and help you

I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

I’m hearing, “Don’t go to dismayed. Just don’t go there!” It is not a healthy place to live. To put tent pegs deep there is not a Kingdom act.

Lots of people are hunkering down in Dismayed for whom God has better plans. Those whose businesses have floundered under lockdown, those who lack one idea from taking their dream to market, students who have given up on education, but have vision, desire and ability.

Are there roads out of Dismayed? I can only tell you what I sense I’m hearing from The Father about what I may do with His permission, perhaps with favor and anointing.

  1. Leaning into the provisions of God.

I have seen dismayed—the hanging head, the feeling, the mindset, the curse, approach to life. Psalm 3:3 tells us how the Psalmist dealt with dismayed.

“But You, O Lord, are a shield for me, My glory and the One who lifts up my head.”

  1. Continue to follow the daily regimen of Philippians 4:8.

And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.

  1. Walk in faith—to be a blessing agent. One of Gary & Marilyn Hansen’s grandsons returned from Oxford and is studying New Testament. We received his blog about “the spiritual life.” (https://tylerevancallahan.medium.com/the-myth-of-spiritual-life-8461ea4518be) He says, for the spiritually alive, all of life is spiritual, not just biblical disciplines and stuff related to church. I know that you are anointed to be a blesser, an encourager and equipper—when the challenge is big enough.
  2. One generation from lost. Since we are always one generation from the loss of freedom; since we are always one generation from losing the vitality of the next generation of Jesus Followers, I feel nudged to invest. We have to start somewhere with someone.

We watched the last few minutes of the movie Seabisquit the other night. The book is great as is the movie. Debi told us about an at risk kid. He came to class one day with a book on his head and insisted the teacher tell every student to read it. He was emphatic and persistent. The kid had found a story he identified with and it opened him to possibilities. He had to share it. Having one’s eyes opened to possibilities is how we begin our move toward a better life. That is why we pray for healings for those who dismiss new possibilities. Your story(ies) can confront those in darkness because they feel assigned or consigned by birth, habits, behavior or just because they are who they are.

Second Corinthians 5:17 is a fact we cannot underestimate or neglect.

This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!

I like the Living Bible Translation with its “new life has begun.” Begun and continuing to come forth! Each birth of new life comes with a catalyst that opens “the eyes of our heart” to see what was blurred before. Creativity expands in the new life.

Benton Ministries will announce a 2021 investment in February. You will receive more news.

You and yours have walked with us through 2020. We have prayed for one another and poured love and confidence into each other. We thank you for your companionship in the past and look forward to our 2021 pilgrimage.

©2021 D. Dean Benton

Trending: Hybrid Normalcy

Being a wanna-be-entrepreneur, this research interests me. (From StoryBrand Podcast—Donald Miller.) People don’t want to return to old normal, we (so research shows) want to pick and choose to build a personally crafted life and life style. Change and choice. A business exploding during COVID is the delivery business, and it will expand at every level.

Hunkering in and down is the best place to be safe from increasing crime, so predictors guess.

Delivered. Since the most “toxic” shopping area is grocery stores, the safe thing for seniors and those at risk is to exclusively have groceries delivered. “Online” is where business is growing and projected. That is true for entertainment. One-two out of four worshippers will not return to the church building after the Pandemic lifts. That suggests experience—including experiencing worship—will need to be delivered. Experience on delivery to your doorstep changes the core fiber and us. We don’t even have to walk to the colosseum, or if you prefer, the coliseum.  

Joshua DuBois, whose company interviews 10,000 people a day, says Americans have discovered and use! The mute button. Having been overloaded with political loud battles and constant talk of COVID, we have reached overload. Everything tends to be conspiratorial, therefore “we” will not listen! Period. End of discussion. “Since I can’t do anything about it anyway, why waste my energy?”

Delete is another button that attracts rapid-fire thumbs. I was invited to an online study of Revelation. Delete! Delete! As interested I am, I don’t have the energy or bandwidth to calculate what trumpets, bowls and such could really mean in the 21st Century. People are going to search for certainty, answers and assurance. We have been swimming with crocodiles for months and don’t want any more supposition or maybes. One of the biggest questions in the 60s-70s was, “Why are conservative churches growing?” Research showed it was proclamation of sureness and a Kingdom that could not be shaken. The preachers in those churches proclaimed that Jesus is involved in the affairs of man and has a plan for individuals and nations. There has been enough talk of nuances, ambiguity and gray areas. We’re not denying the presence of slick, slippery and instable, we want to hear prophets who have the assurance and credibility of Daniel and the emotional connections of Jeremiah—transparent, authentic, bold and listening to God the Father and people sharing the pool with crocodiles.

Connect. Many futurists are talking about the beginning of A Great American Awakening. A person doesn’t need to be a revivalist or whacky prophet to predict such things. We only need to read history. The Awakenings under George Whitfield, The Cane Ridge Revival and the huge awakenings that birthed The Jesus People have some of the characteristics of 2020. I suspect that God will raise someone with a message that says, “Come, join the Kingdom. We can change the World.” There will be music, joy, Holy Spirit demonstrations and vast numbers of conversions.

I have one concern. What if the Deplorables are even 50% right? The recent cyber-attack on our government institutions—from whomever—cannot be written off as a Right-Wing Conspiracy. For those who are living with the mute button on 50%-100% of the time, the country can be “fundamentally changed” without a peep. Those who are not listening are usually stunned to hear alternative news—“When did all that happen?” I want to be listening and looking.

I really wanted to see the Bethlehem Star. I was primed! “…those who walk in darkness see a great light.” I bounded down the back stairs looking into the sky just as the garage motion-sensor-flood light met my eyes. I saw stars alright, but not the right ones. I never did see Bethlehem Star. Cloudy. I saw parking lot lights, convenience store signs. Porch lights. I felt cheated. My anticipation turned into a Charlie Brown Christmas. I missed the great light and there is some doubt that I will not make the next showing.

Those who walked in darkness, have seen a radiant light shining upon them. They once lived in the shadows of death,    but now a glorious light has dawned!

Isaiah 9:2

 Don’t want to miss the great, glorious, radiant light.

©2020 D. Dean Benton  

A Gleam across the way

“The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned” (Isaiah 9:2 NIV).

This is a Messianic prophecy. “Deep darkness” refers to death and its fears.

That verse grabbed me when I read it on the church sign. Not exactly “grabbed” me, it was like it slid off the sign and slipped into my soul. It still is vibrating there.

When Jesus was born in Bethlehem, did God say, “Check. Done!” My response to Isaiah 9:2 yesterday was that our world—today—is floundering in darkness. Even reveling/celebrating in darkness. The workers of darkness are busy. If living in the light means clarity, I’m not there. I need to turn the fog lights on.

Driving the 4-5 blocks on the street where the church sign is, (where my wife always says, “You better slow down!”) I was flooded with, “Jesus, you are the great light. What catalyst during Christmastide 2020 will cause those walking in darkness to see a great light and experience the dawning light?”

I sense we are moving toward a Kingdom mindset. If Isaiah 9:2 is important to our day, the rest of that paragraph is also.

Isaiah 9:2-7–Message  

The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light.

For those who lived in a land of deep shadows—light! sunbursts of light!

You repopulated the nation, you expanded its joy.

Oh, they’re so glad in your presence! Festival joy!

The joy of a great celebration, sharing rich gifts and warm greetings.

The abuse of oppressors and cruelty of tyrants—all their whips and cudgels and curses—

Is gone, done away with, a deliverance as surprising and sudden as Gideon’s old victory over Midian.

The boots of all those invading troops, along with their shirts soaked with innocent blood,

Will be piled in a heap and burned, a fire that will burn for days!

For a child has been born—for us! the gift of a son—for us!  

He’ll take over the running of the world.

His names will be: Amazing Counselor,

Strong God, Eternal Father, Prince of Wholeness.

His ruling authority will grow, and there’ll be no limits to the wholeness he brings.

He’ll rule from the historic David throne over that promised kingdom.

He’ll put that kingdom on a firm footing and keep it going

With fair dealing and right living, beginning now and lasting always.

The zeal of God-of-the-Angel-Armies will do all this.

It’s a ponder: Am I a Lower Light?

© 2020 D. Dean Benton

Fighting For Connection

I took Leonard Sweet’s book, The Gospel According to Starbucks, (WaterBrook, 2007) with me on a business road trip. The subtitle is, “Living with a Grande Passion.” This is my third time through this book. It is that rich. Sweet loves coffee and has lots of stories. He likes Southern Gospel Music and knows the pioneers. He loves Jesus Gospel and is a preaching instructor and theologian. Eclectic! I’ve gone into extra words here, because he is a fine writer. If you are a writer, speaker or any kind of wordsmith, you would like Sweet’s writing. His book, A Cup of Coffee at the Soul Café (Broadman & Holman, 1998) is one of the most beautifully designed books I’ve seen. In the Starbucks book Sweet says,

“Coffee brings people together. That’s why we don’t have an idiom in the English language along the lines of, ‘Let’s stay apart for coffee.’ It’s always, ‘Let’s get together for coffee.’”

My favorite coffee shop is in that city where I took Carole and the book. It is an independent shop that is also an eatery. I take my laptop and briefcase and hunker in. I gather energy from the customers and staff. The rafters are open beams one of which is broken—split—which is repaired by a steel plate and large bolts. I look forward to the good coffee, comfort and atmosphere. This would be only the second or third time since March to sit in a coffee shop. I had to go back to the car to retrieve my mask which reminded me we live in a different world than we were in the last time I drank their brew.

The coffee shop was no longer welcoming. People sitting around tables slipped their masks off to sip on their coffee as if it was illegitimate or forbidden—don’t get caught. I ordered my drink to go and sat in the car warmed by solar energy to read and think—and feel very sad and lonely—in spite of the luscious flavored coffee.

Ray Oldenburg coined the phrase and concept of “Your third place.” Home, work, and a third place. For some the third place is a bar, pub, tavern, bowling alley. I think ballparks can fill that slot. The church used to be the major third place for many people. Coffee shops took over that place for our kids and grandkids. Starbucks led the way.

The most accurate 2020 Christmas Song is, “I’ll Be Home for Christmas.” Third places are almost outlawed—certainly a target. The first two places: home and work are under scrutiny and depending on your level of conspiracy hunting, home and work parameters are being dictated by Big Brother. It is not conspiratorial to believe that connections are essential to health.

The loudest word I heard in the past 24 hours is that we must fight for personal connections. I’m not calling for civil disobedience or suggesting we open churches, although when I slouch into conspiracy thinking, I see how keeping churches closed is damaging to the individual and the community.

My cousin left a note for her husband. He read it, “Going to Dairy Queen for a bite.” When she hadn’t arrived for supper, he assumed the worst. She called him—the note she wrote said, “Going to Bowling Green for the nite.” (Bowling Green is where her daughter lived.)

Connections in 2020 require clear communication and plenty of it. “…fight for personal connections” may not have come from God, but it sounds like something He would say.  Now, Holy Spirit shall give us instructions and strategies how to do that. I don’t know what number law it is: “All things in motion tend toward entropy.” That is true for relationships—even marriage. The New Testament relationship motion is always energized toward.

Mental health and Kingdom life-flow is affected as isolation moves from community interaction to lockdown and then individual isolation and shutting down. Connection is worth fight for—essential.

“Forget Cheers (“where everybody knows your name”) Remember Starbucks (“Where everybody wants to know your soul”). (Leonard Sweet)

That is not my coffee shop experience, but we need someplace where some tribe offers that level of connection.

©2020 D. Dean Benton

Living the EPIC adventure: Experience, Participation, Image-rich and Connecting.

God of Green Hope

It may be the Monday Kingdom verse:

“…may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Romans 15:13).

John Eldredge, in Wild at Heart podcast today, says that hope is being assaulted. I have no final word if that is conspiratorial. It is the natural outcome of what we are living in and through. My Message Bible was open to Romans 15 which seemed like a “in the mouth of 2-3 witnesses.”  The times call for spiritual/supernatural hope.

“Oh! May the God of green hope fill you up with joy, fill you up with peace, so that your believing lives, filled with the life-giving energy of the Holy Spirit, will brim over with hope!”

So that your believing lives. Is the “I” in lives long or short? Hopelessness is more pervasive than the virus. It has grasped the hand of helplessness and is producing not only locked-down cities, but locked-down people. So, how to keep a believing life alive?

I was sorting through boxes of books I stored in our garage some years ago. I found notebooks of sermons. The best part of my sermons are stories and quotations. I glanced through a couple and found two quotes from kids I talked to in concerts. I asked a child if the girl sitting next to her was her sister. She looked at the girl, looked thoughtfully at me and replied, “No. I’m the sister.” Another child asked me, “What is the name of your best friend?”

There you have it—at least part of it. 1. Keep your relationships straight—not pecking order, but how you are related and how you relate. 2. Know who your friends are and how you benefit and are beneficial to those people. One of my friends posted this morning,

“…we are walking each other home.”

The Message Bible is a translation, not a paraphrase. Peterson found something “growing” in God-hope that he named it green hope. It is on the grow. Romans 15:13 turns hope on its head. The saying is, “As long as you have hope….” This verse says when God fills us with joy and peace, hope will be the outcome. Hope becomes systemic when we open ourselves to joy and peace—gifts from the Father.

Chaos and darkness. Hell has loosed highly skilled demons, principalities and powers. The fresh appearance of The Christ is needed and our opening to His joy and peace. America has social-distanced itself from Christ too long.

Carole and I decided not to decorate for Christmas. Maybe hang a picture of a Christmas tree next to a crackling fireplace on TV. Several days into the pledge, Carole has hung lights on railings, trees and windows. There is a large vase in the bay window filled with strings of white lights. And a tree in the kitchen. She is fighting back against the darkness. Joy and peace can be weaponized.

Eggnog and holly—no mistletoe this year. We need a fresh awakening to His presence.

“We Need a Little Christmas”– https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8k7S77x5QOQ

If you have not read my ebook, HopePushers-intent on delivery, you can download it from https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/572059 

©2020 D. Dean Benton

Nominated for Nobility

“Whatever is noble…think on these things…” (Philippians 4:8).

I’ve been searching for noble things and noble people. Can a potato peeler be noble? Maybe. I’m tentative venturing that only people can be noble and we are to look for nobility in normal workday activities. Paul probably was saying, “Take a look at what is stressing you into eating an entire pumpkin pie at one sitting—alone—can you find anything noble in the stressor? Who are the nobility in your world today?

The first English settlement on the continent that I know about was Jamestown in Virginia. We are introduced to Pocahontas in Jamestown. The chaplain of that company was The Rev. Robert Hunt. Upon landing in 1607, he consecrated the new land to the glory of God and declared the purpose for the journey and the purpose of the colony being established:

“Raising his hands to heaven, Rev. Robert Hunt claimed the land for country and king and consecrated the continent to the glory of God. In covenantal language he declared, ‘…from these very shores the Gospel shall go forth to not only this New World, but the entire world.’”

Noble!

As I remember, The Tallest Poppy was a phrase I first heard during the Vietnam era. Marxism/Socialism utilized that practice by killing all those whose achievements and status pushed them into leadership positions. There is another application in the media and digital world:

Tall Poppy Syndrome, a term that was popularized in Australia, occurs when people are attacked, resented, disliked, criticized or cut down because of their achievements and/or success.

Using Bill O’Reilly’s literature device—Killing Nobility—is seen in statue destruction and rewriting history and in the Jezebel spirit seeks to destroy leadership that opposes the acceptable think and speak.

In my search for nobility, I have decided the prize goes to school teachers, parents who are trying to be teachers during the lockdowns and the students. Those who will thrive from this time and challenge are the self-starters and students who push themselves to be self-reliant. “Self-governed.” Seems to me there are several kinds of self-reliant students. Those who are born with that trait, those whose parents and teachers ignited them and those like John Adams who had no preconditions for nobility,  became self-motivated. Our nation has several Rebar in our foundation, none more essential than self-governing. I propose closing schools is not helpful in building self-governing strengths. I doubt that Netflix is a strong teacher of self-reliance or governing. (Maybe, sometimes.)

You hear about the father who said to his kids, “What are you doing? I didn’t spend big bucks on Netflix so you could sit there and read!”

John Eldredge—Wild at Heart podcast—“School During Pandemic” is helpful to grasp why teachers, parents attempting to teach and self-reliant students get my vote for nobility.

https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/school-during-quarantine/id260843816?i=1000500770572

Think on these things

Sorry, teachers. There no medals or plaques with this prize except those wrapped in skin with names and stories.

©2020 D. Dean Benton

Left-overs

We had Thanksgiving left-overs for supper last evening. Mashed potatoes with turkey gravy, stuffing (interpret as a verb), sweet potatoes, turkey, everything except cranberries. It was as good as Thanksgiving dinner. After 3-4 bites, I slid my fork for a bite of potatoes, stuffing and gravy, when loneliness, nostalgia or something poured over me like a heavy breeze.

Two or three years ago, Carole was trying to figure out how we could expand our table to accommodate the crowd. We discussed adding on a room or moving the table into the living room. Last time I did remodeling just before a holiday with guests didn’t work out so well, so we abandoned tearing out a wall. Just as well. In 2020 the three of us would have felt like being a party of six in a sanctuary built for 2500. But probably no jail time.

I do not know what that “breeze” was about, but it was strong. I remember I was dragging the fork to the left to load it. Vivid! As much as I like the food, it is secondary to the table talk and interaction.

  1. “What are you doing? Building? Writing? Work? Dreaming?”
  2. “What are you thinking?”
  3. “What are you reading?”
  4. “Who are you listening to?”
  5. “What music is on your playlist?”
  6. “Met anyone interesting, lately?”
  7. “What is Jesus saying to you?”
  8. “Funny things you’ve heard?”

(Example:  Friends in Nashville stopped at McDonalds and ordered two decaf coffees with cream in one. The lady taking the order asked, “Cream?…in which one?”)

Stories need a group. The three of us talked, shared good conversation and some laughter and praise. But no one interrupted and it was not raucous. Blue Zones headline—

“Even if You’re Arguing, Eating Together Can Help Your Family Eat Healthier”

We three couldn’t even start a good argument. We might have gotten by with a Cornish hen.

One of my favorite counselors talked about the importance of traditions and the loss extent when there are none or they are neglected. Like, who carves the bird? I missed brewing flavored coffee after dinner.

Coffee. Maybe I missed Grandpa Benton who on holidays sat in the chair with arms. Grandma sat in the chair with no arms to slow her on the way to the kitchen. After Uncle loosened his belt, Grandma would bring the coffee pot. Grandpa Harry would pore his coffee from the cup into the saucer and blow cool it which always strained the sensitivities of Grandma Edith. Anyway that was the traditional exchange between them.

I was blessed by being at table with two tribe members. But, it was different and some room in my soul reacted to the loss. I pray this is not our new normal. I’m not in the mood to test drive any new minimalist traditions.

Advent starts tomorrow. Someone said, “Advent is not something we celebrate, it something we keep.”

I’m still picking the meat off the bones of Thanksgiving.

©2020 D. Dean Benton

Sounds Like a Plan

It is easy to find a conspiracy even in a cotton ball. I’m wondering if  shutting Thanksgiving down has global implication. Probably not. If someone could pull it off, it would have spiritual and mental health negative impact. Gratitude is an essential expression.

Thanksgiving has not been “shut down.” Turkey Day has been limited.

Listening to a singer telling a story of God’s provision for his growing up family, I realized what I want Thanksgiving to be: a testimony meeting as people share God’s provision that stimulates us to sing thanks, lift praise, worship and express joy. Thanksgiving 20/20—repeating 2 Chronicles 20:20—singing in the high-priced section.

Encourage one another with these words (1 Thessalonians 4).

Thanksgiving 2020 needs to be a mental-health, self-care day by hearing the exploits of God in lives of people who have a place at our inner table. Zoom, Face-time, Skype, Facebook, Parlor. No masks required on email. Yet.

“When the days are dreary and the long nights weary, I know that Jesus cares.”

Happy Thanks Giving

Benton—Dean & Carole

©2020 D. Dean Benton

Know what’s going on in your body this moment?

“Cells are amazing things: there are about one hundred trillion of them in our bodies, each so small that several thousand would fit on the period at the end of this sentence.”

Those words from an incredible story of a woman who influences medical knowledge and research. I continue to quote:

“Under a microscope, a cell looks like a fried egg: It has a white (the cytoplasm) that’s full of water and proteins to keep it fed, and a yolk (the nucleus) that holds all the genetic information that makes you you. The cytoplasm buzzes like a New York City street. It’s crammed full of molecules and vessels endlessly shuttling enzymes and sugars from one part of the cell to another, pumping water, nutrients and oxygen in and out of the cell. All the while, little cytoplasmic factories work 24/7, cranking out sugars, fats, proteins and energy to keep the whole thing running and feed the nucleus—the brains of the operation. Inside every nucleus within each cell in your body, there’s an identical copy of your entire genome. That genome tells cells when to grow and divide and makes sure they do their jobs, whether that’s controlling your heartbeat or helping your brain understand the words on this page.

“…mitosis—the process of cell division—makes it possible for embryos to grow into babies, and for our bodies to create new cells for healing wounds or replenishing blood we’ve lost. …like a perfectly choreographed dance”

From The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, Rebecca Skloot, (©2010 Broadway Books.)

“I am fearfully and wonderfully made…” (Psalm 139:14).

Cells—thousands of them at this moment active in your body—can sit on this period .

©2020 D. Dean Benton—amazed and praising God. WOW!

Lovely is Essential

If you haven’t yet decided that Apostle Paul was/is a fine psychologist you might want to consider it. He said if you want God’s presence and God’s peace, then think on—whatever things are lovely.

If the words from Philippians came from God to build a place for His presence and peace to dwell, I want to have confidence that I can take Him at His word, and He said it to Paul and He means it for you and me.

From Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance:

Lovely (Strong’s 4375) (prosphile is a relationship word derived from pros= towards + philes = friend) refers to that conduct which is dear to someone. Lovable, endearing, amiable, gracious, charming, pleasing, winsome.

“It is conduct which is pleasing in its motive and actions towards others. Lovely has the idea of that which is admirable or agreeable to behold or consider.”

“Whatever is lovely and loveable, think on these things…” (Amplified Bible).

After reading that today was the “lovely” day, I was surrounded by gray and bleak. When was the last time some  thing appeared lovely to me? Ugly dominates airwaves, many secular songs and news reports. I really did not want to go into the market place today. Our governor didn’t call an absolute lockdown, so I had to go. What is lovely out there?

An encounter with a challenged acquaintance pushed me to ask myself, what do I parrot? What influence fine-tunes my brain?

A few days ago, I decided I will not give access to my brain, or my attempt at civility, to anyone who uses the F-word or MFer word, makes fun of, puts down, or ridicules people. Gone! How can I think on lovely things when ugliness, vulgarity and stupidity—things that make no sense—sit at the door like a cat waiting to rush in? A boundary says I can’t, nor I desire to, tell you what to think or say or do. I will say you (generic term) can’t say or do those things in my presence. The boundary has been established.

There is a stretch of Interstate—I think it is between Emporia and Kansas City or Wichita and Emporia. Inexplicably it has shown up in my mind often in recent weeks. We have driven that stretch at sunrise, sunset, midnight. Best going north late afternoon. It is lovely. Rolling hills with vast colors and crops. The very thought makes me smile and mutter a pleasant word.

Another video runs in my head. It is a customized vehicle with the hood open. Chrome bonnet and clean engine. Some of my friends, more educated about cars than I, see beauty in that vehicle. It is more than the grease is gone, it is about the work and expertise that went into making that car or pickup awesome. Lovely. Some buildings, some living rooms, porches are lovely. Some peach cobblers and pumpkin scones are lovely and delicious.

I didn’t find much lovely out there, today. Obviously, it could have been there. Given my mindset I missed it. Everything is a threat. Covid hides behind every breath and on every surface. People are afraid and defensive—protecting themselves against every possibility. I don’t know if I can trust newscasters or opinionators that seemed “safe” in September. We are in an information war—winner takes all, changes the world. My world! The Constitution and our way of government may be at stake.

Lovely is an essential.

My day was rescued by a conversation between Donald Miller and Seth Godin about creativity. It was lovely—why? It motivated me, gave me substance to act on and brought light to the dark prospects. My soul took on a brighter hue. Tools. It gave reasons to recalibrate my thinking. The interaction revealed optimistic, hope-trending hearts.

https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/seth-godin-how-to-become-more-creative-even-if-you/id1092751338?i=1000497742349

Those are some things to think about that may present loveliness. Again, loveliness is about relationships and people we interpret as lovely and loveable. I’ve got a list.

Lovely is essential to keep the barbarians and beasts outside the fence. It cleanses the ugly and offers evidence that sewage has not flooded our world. Lovely–Like an essential oil in a diffuser.

©2020 D. Dean Benton