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,

Courage,

Perseverance

Dependability

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.”

Sometimes, when on the road I go to a coffee shop or sit in the car 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.

©2019 D. Dean Benton     Wonderer, Writer

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America–The then that must be today’d

One of a Series

The American and French revolutions occurred in the approximate same era. The French revolution was a bloodbath that kept the guillotine working overtime. The American Revolution led to freedom and an idea that birthed a nation. Why the difference? What was the fork in the road?

Gouverneur Morris was the United States’ Ambassador to France following Jefferson. He said the French wanted a nation and constitution like America, but did not have a citizenry like Americans. What kind of people were the Americans? What made an American?

Words that shaped the Constitution, Declaration of Independence, Bill of Rights are pertinent today. Exceptionalism is one. Equality is another. There are several others like, “Self-governing” No word or concept is more important than “self-governing.” I want to talk about those words in the days ahead. Ben Franklin is the source of the words, “If You Can Keep It.”

Not just words and ideas, but people. I thought I knew about George Whitefield, but I do not ever remember reading this: He came to America in 1730’s. He was 25. He became America and England’s first celebrity, a rock star. I wondered a few weeks ago why the negative interest in Whitefield with articles and books. It is now clear. Since the 1960s there has been an on-going destruction of heroes and venerated leaders. A person doesn’t have to be a raving paranoid to see this happening. Stephen Mansfield calls Whitefield—a friend and colleague of the Wesleys—The Forgotten Founding Father.”

“His preaching signaled the first rays of the dawning of a new order in the world.”

He preached 18,000 sermons in 33 years in addition to 12,000 talks and exhortations. He preached in all of the 13 Colonies. Eighty-percent of all residents of the colonies had heard him preach in person at least once. Without amplification, he preached to crowds of 20,000 to 30,000. Ben Franklin was a friend, and a newspaper man who printed the sermons on his newspaper’s front pages The University of Pennsylvania was founded by Whitefield and Franklin. They built an orphanage in Georgia and an academy in Pennsylvania for the education of Negroes.

“…George Whitefield, without whom the United States simply could not have come into being.”

He preached that “all are created equal.” His message was about the Kingdom of God and the necessity of being born again to enter. He preached to the miners as they walked home from the mines. The men were so moved by message of God’s love for them that tears cut white gutters through the black coal dust on their faces.

“It was the man preaching at the top of the courthouse steps who more than anyone would change that. It would take three decades of his tireless preaching….”

“To truly understand the story of how the United States came into existence, we must acquaint ourselves with the human weather pattern known as the Reverend George Whitefield.” (He was called a sanctified tornado.)

Upon the preaching of the Gospel and born again citizens whose behavior was modified and restructure, The Founding Fathers Declared Independence and wrote the Constitution which the Americans ratified.

I usually bristle a bit when someone says the answer to the craziness in present USA is revival or “Jesus”. After reading the history predating 1776 I’m changing my mind. There were no unifying persons, ideas, beliefs until Whitefield. All the ideas that built the American character came from the Gospel of Jesus through Whitefield. Faith in Jesus Christ was crucial as was religion as many sects and denominations agreed on certain critical principles that were bedrock for the experiment. Whitefield dug fallow ground in which the Great Awakening sprung forth.

Questions that have grown out of my study:

  1. What were Whitefield’s audiences looking for? Expecting from him?
  2. What made an American an American?
  3. What in his sermons were foundational to the new nation?
  4. Why is this important today?
  5. What response does God want from me?

I’m reading the history of Whitefield in American from:

   If You Can Keep It, Eric Metaxis, 2018 Viking

   The Forgotten Founding Father, 2001, Stephan Mansfield,

   The Printer and the Preacher, Jerry Peterson, 2015 Thomas Nelson

A Free People’s Suicide, Os Guinness, 2012, InterVarsity Press

Guinness says freedom and liberty depends upon the “Golden Triangle of Freedom.” Religion depends on virtue to be valid and grow freedom. Freedom builds individual and community virtue which is inseparable from religion “of some sort” as Guinness says.

  1. Virtue (Character)
  2. Religion (Faith of some sort.) Not specific doctrines or beliefs. But the revealed principles built in Hebrew-Christian faith. Freedom
  3. Freedom

America is built upon people and communities functioning with those three expressions of infrastructure. That was true in the late 1700s and absolutely in 2019. Where will this be taught?

Church growth principles begin with—“This is who we are, what we believe, what we are working to accomplish. If you agree with our vision, please join us. If you do not, we’ll help you find a place where you will feel comfortable. The leaders must continue to declare the vision continually and protect the vision.

Immigration that benefits the immigrant and the USA is exactly the same. “This is who we are and our vision. You are welcome if can fit it and live toward our vision.”

My concern is that illegal immigrants know few, if any, of our vision or purpose. They come because it is a great route to “the dream.” And why not? I’m also concerned that some politicians, immigrants, news people and citizens not only do not agree with the Founding Documents and what it means to be an American, but seek to change our country “fundamentally” to quote a president and current members of Congress.

Where will our core values be taught?  Who will teach? How to handle the dissidents?

I plan to answer some of those questions and cast a vision.

©2019 D. Dean Benton

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Check your Calling-Purpose

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    dean@deanbenton.org

Writer-Wonderer

 

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Where My Head & Heart Are

We’ve been spending a lot of time in West Texas. First in the TV series “Friday Night Lights,” then reading the book upon which it was based and sorting through the memories of the time we spent on the Texas and Oklahoma panhandles. I would like to use the TV episodes as conversation provokers for families and kids in middle-school, junior high and high school. No series has stimulated my thinking about marriage, family and what high school—especially the sports environment—as “Lights.”

The reasons I haven’t up to now: I’m reluctant to fail. I do not know what facility I could use. It would cost too much to “rent” the episodes. I do not know of one church that would partner with me that would not have a negative draw impact on those I was trying to reach. I’m reluctant to fail.

The book Friday Night Lights by H. G. Bissinger (De Capo Press, 1990) created in me an emotional crisis bordering on depression and dread. Sports Illustrated calls it the best football book ever written. I was totally unprepared. The writer sets the background for Texas football as few sports fans can imagine. High school stadiums that seat 20,000 and a devotion that conservative theologians would say exceeds commitment to Jesus. Texas football is god! What I’m deciding is that the stories are not about football at all.

I am learning much about national politics, small town (not villages) customs and churches. I have often been embarrassed by memories of our attempted ministry in communities outside our “nation.” We must have looked like carpet baggers and stupid outsiders. I was very aware of the Nine Nations of Americas, but I didn’t even begin to grasp how places like Garden City, Kansas, Spearman, Texas, Odessa and Midland were like settlements on a different planet. Had I viewed the TV series, read the book or talked to people who would have been bluntly honest rather than hospitable, I would never have booked a date outside of Iowa.

The above statement is inadequate. After a conversation with a black pastor in Louisiana, he invited us to his church anytime we were in the area. As different as our culture and color, he connected to The Kingdom. His people, he assumed, would hear past the regional accent to hear the Kingdom. That was true in many places where we were out of our place.

I loved the people we met in Texas and Oklahoma. But I knew they came from a different tribe than I had met before. That was also true of places in the Deep South and Minnesota. I just didn’t grasp their uniqueness and how localism impacts institutions and individuals. One crass South Carolina pastor invited us to spend the night. He said during the after-concert conversation, “I never dreamed I would ever have a Yankee sleeping in my house.” Without a hint of humor or jest, he suggested we might want to make sure our bedroom doors were locked. For him, the war was still on and there was only one war—the one that began at Ft. Sumter. We checked the locks. We were never sure what he was suggesting, but we knew there was unsettled business in him.

Most people are more (…?) than that preacher. But I came to appreciate what—a Canadian border guard said it best: “You cannot ever forget that you are a guest of her majesty The Queen.” We were outsiders and our opinions were not worth much and our behavior could easily be misinterpreted. I love those places and many of the people. I just understand a lot more.

Friday Night Lights—the book—was written about the 1988 football season. The 80s oil business was something I’m still having a hard time getting my head around.

“By the time you added it up, Aaron Giebel’s losses from boom to bust totaled somewhere around $55 million.” (page 235)

During the boom, people bought multiple Lear jets and private landing strips. They built 13,000 square foot houses. There is a paragraph that captures a part of the madness. (Giebel, a cautious and wise businessman, claimed to have been caught in the madness)

“From 1973 through 1981, when the price of oil went up more than 800 percent, he and thousands of others made the fatal error of forgetting that every ounce of their success was due to the geopolitics of the Arab oil embargo and the Carter energy policy and the Iranian Revolution. They had actually thought that they themselves had something to do with what was happening and were somehow in control of their own destinies. … Instead of understanding that they were the beneficiaries of history, they began to believe they were the creators of it.” (Page 237)

As H. G. Bissinger describes the culture and some of the people, I liked some of those people. I liked almost everyone in the TV series. The money and toys are beyond my capacity to even imagine, but I think I would be comfortable drinking coffee with Mr. Giebel. The people in Odessa and Midland were the neighbors of George W. and the senior Bush families. The Gatlin Brothers grew up in Odessa. There is a picture of Rudy Gatlin in the book. The culture built war heroes and entertainment stars and people of God. But this experience has caused my stomach to sour and my emotions turn dark. Not everyone was welcomed to the big house and not everyone starred on the football teams.

James Robison tells a story about a meeting with oil men who had the kind of wealth just described. The men were invited to a meal to help finance a mission project. Robison is a Texas evangelist whose primary focus now is providing fresh water wells and food in third world countries. When the pledge cards were passed out not one oil man gave a nickel. The only one in that room to make a financial pledge was a waitress. Within a year, the oil men had lost everything and the only one in that gathering to have gained was the waitress.

My stomach hurts when I pick up the book. I come away from these stories wondering if I would have filled out a pledge card. I wonder how I would have measured the risk and responsibility. I have a burden for the debris—the people left behind when the stadium lights go out and those who didn’t even bother. Sitting around seminar table may be a start, but only the released power of God will heal and transform. I’m wondering how that happens.

©2016 D. Dean Benton     Writer, Wonderer

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Prayer strategy # 3 Identity

“Living in the glare of divine rejection.”

We’ve never been on a first-name basis. My reaction was, “Abraham, dear Abraham, God accepts you. Rejection of you has never been a consideration.”

Abraham Lincoln grew into young adulthood as an aggressive agnostic. He wrote at least one book vilifying the Bible and repudiating the Gospel and God. Amazon does not sell that book because one of Lincoln’s friends grabbed the manuscript out of his hands and threw it into the blazing fire.

Stephen Mansfield describes Lincoln’s journey to faith, Lincoln’s Battle With God. ( Thomas Nelson, 2012). Mansfield lays out reasons for his crooked pilgrimage that affects some of us—the way we perceive ourselves. The only explanation for Lincoln’s survival, let alone his emotional and mental ability to run for political office and to become a phenomenal leader is the providence of God.

Lincoln lived most of his childhood and youth into young adulthood feeling he was cursed with no possibility of ever gaining God’s favor or acceptance. Some historians and psychologists say that Lincoln rejected God and everything connected to God because He lived with the fallacy that God had first rejected him. Why? How did he come to that conclusion?

  1. His mother was the “illegitimate” child of Virginia nobleman who either raped or took advantage of Lincoln’s grandmother. We know this because Abraham told his friend Herndon. This thinking about “illegitimacy” was pretty much common during that era. He was “tortured” by the circumstances of his mother’s birth.

“…convinced Lincoln ‘that God had cursed and crushed him especially.’”

  1. Unworthy of God’s acceptance. This came from the extreme Calvinism he had been taught. Joshua Speed said, “Lincoln tried to be a believer, but his reason could not grasp and solve the great problem of redemption as taught.”
  2. His relationship with his father. Thomas Lincoln was critical, vicious, and ridiculed Abraham constantly. The boy was neglected, beaten and using Lincoln’s words, worked like a slave. In recent weeks I have read several stories of fathers of that design. Our image of the Heavenly Father is influenced and often is determined by our relationship with our earthly father. The “god” A. Lincoln rejected was not Yahweh, but the merciless Thomas Lincoln.

As powerful as the specter of illegitimacy that impacted Henry Clay, Lincoln, John Fremont, the presence of a neglecting, abusive or cruel father could have destroyed Winston Churchill and certainly A. Lincoln.

On Sunday, his father and mother (step-mother) would go to church. The children would stay home. Before playing, Abraham would read from the Bible, teach a lesson and sing a hymn. Apparently, Lincoln was unwilling to reveal himself or his faith in the presence of his father.

“Lincoln’s hesitation to commit himself unreservedly to the Christian gospel…because of nagging certainties about his repugnance to God.” (p 95—Mansfield.)

  1. Depression. His genetic depression came through the families of both father and mother. Add to this the role of death in Lincoln’s early life. In Doris Kearns Goodwin’s book Team of Rivals, she makes the point the men Lincoln surrounded himself with in his cabinet all shared either orphanhood or abandonment and frequent encounter with death. With all their dissimilarities, they shared common pain.
  2. Culture of conflict and puniness in the local church and his rejection of the worst of revivalist preachers. All of this dislike or disregard for preachers changed when he visited his father-in-law’s library and was guided to a book written by a preacher in Springfield, Illinois. After reading in the book, he later met Preacher Smith and began a friendship and conversation.

Lincoln’s identity includes a sense of being called to something great. He could not view himself or God or faith without looking through these filters that shaped his life.

“Oh, Abraham! He loves you.”  I wanted to reassure the man who became our most beloved President.

What makes me think that God accepts me? Does redemption work in my world—in my soul?

Building an effective prayer strategy includes being self-aware and fully aware of satan’s plan to destroy or neutralize our identity as a unique person and an empowered Child of God.

“Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved” (Eph. 1:5, 6).

Priscilla Shirer teaches us to build a prayer strategy that acknowledges and protects our identity.  That is where we will be attacked first and where we are vulnerable.

 

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Guest blog: Douglas Benton

I’m working on class prep for my commercial photography business class. I’ve asked the students to answer two questions and decide which of those two things is more important to them.

1. What do you want to shoot?
2. Where do you want to live?

In the commercial field, often, one is driven by the other. If you want to specialize (make a living) in a specific type of commercial work, you have to be where that type of work is being consumed. It’s very hard to make a living shooting fashion in iowa because there are very few companies buying fashion photography here. There’s always the exception to the rule, but I’m pretty comfortable saying that if you are going to have a successful fashion photography career, you’re not going to be doing it in Iowa.

It’s hard when 1 and 2 don’t line up or conflict. Ever since I became cognizant of commercial photography and everything that went into making that imagery I thought how cool it would be to work in a studio doing the high end work. The stuff you see in workbook and showcase. What I didn’t know at the time was how much I didn’t like living in the big city. Omaha is not a big city, but it didn’t take long for me to realize how much I hated sitting in traffic on the way to and from work. As silly at it might seem, rush hour played a formative role in the direction of my career and what I have photographed over the years.

Last night a friend asked me if I always knew what I wanted to do when I grew up. The short answer is from 14, yes I knew I wanted to be a photographer. Or a bird of prey trainer (my real first choice). The long answer is yes, but I had no idea what that being a professional photographer was like.

As I was thinking about all of that this morning, I wondered how the path of my career might have been different if someone had made me ask and answer those two questions before I applied for my first job out of school. If I would’ve laid that rubric over top of the options and opportunities at the time, would I have chosen differently? Would I have waited?

I have a vivid childhood memory of my family putting on our coats after spending the evening with people my parents knew. As we were getting ready to leave the woman asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I remember what I said and the response it got. I’m not sure why that particular time that question was asked of me, was such that I would remember it to this day, but I do. That’s not a question you ask a little kid because you want to know what company is going to be making a direct deposit in their account every two weeks sometime in the future, it’s about who the kid is dreaming about being. Not what do you want to do, as much as who do you want to be?

For some students the answer to either 1 or 2 comes easily. They know exactly what they want to do or where they want to live. For others though, it’s a tough question, even in the hypothetical. I think one of the main contributors is not really knowing the options or not feeling confident in the criteria for deciding what you want to do and/or where you want to do it. Not surprising, when it seems like so many people find little pleasure or satisfaction in their jobs.

As I was walking the dog this morning, it occurred to me that there is another question that is equally, if not more important than what do you want to be when you grow up? It’s a lot harder too. The question is Why do you want to be when you grow up? What is the real purpose of you being here? Regardless of title, position or status gained, as you are standing at the end of your career, or life, what do you want to be able to point to and say, that’s why it was worth investing my life where I did. What a loss when you spend a career “climbing the ladder, just to find out you’ve leaned it against the wrong building”.

Not speaking of profession, but in general, Why do you want to be? What is the reason you want to be ______? What drives you? What motivates you? What brings satisfaction and reward? What moves you to action? What makes your heart ache? What makes it leap for joy? For what purpose are you?

To the degree you can line up the why’s with the what’s and the where’s, the happier you will be in your career, regardless what that career is.

If you were to start to make a list of the why’s you want to be, what would be on it?
(Not a rhetorical question, I’m actually making a list : )

What resources have you found helpful when making career/life decisions?

 Douglas Benton
Thanks Doug for a terrific blog. Absolutely, the questions not limited to photographers.
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Forgotten Punch Line

I dreamed that I was speaking to a large group of people. I was not pacing the platform, I was sitting on a ledge and suddenly left my message to tell a canned story. I got to the end and forgot the punch line. Forgot the punch line!  I was wide awake instantly. Getting off message to tell a story that has no point. Horrified!

A few weeks ago, I had vision. In response to an motivational sermon, I heard an instruction as an image came instantly into my soul with emotion. I was directed to scope out  a specific spot and build there. I drove to that designated spot and found nothing but swamp, and a flood plain. I was disgusted with myself and ticked at God.

“You sent me to a swamp?” I was devastated. It seemed as if God was toying with me. There is no way anyone would allow me to build there. It is a flood plain and restricted because the area regularly floods. I drove home super upset and defeated. My words to the visioning spot of my soul were, “Just leave me alone. I don’t need this.” I put a muzzle on the beast and put it in a cage.

“Go back out there.” I resisted the persistent voice. I hurt. A couple of days later while muttering words you don’t use in worship time, I parked close to the swamp. It was unique to my experience–God gently said, “I would never send you to do such a thing. I would never trivialize you in that way.”

I don’t remember when I heard Jesus’ words whether while sitting near that flood plain or on my way back to my office or as I sat at my desk.

“Everyone who hears…and puts into practice is like a wise person who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the wind blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish person who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash (Matthew.7:14-27).

The instruction is to build ministry to those whose lives are on the sand with no foundation, and vulnerable to their turmoil. I saw faceless people of several ages who end up on the sand through their own choices, being tossed there and abandoned or because they concluded it was where they belonged.

I didn’t have to think very hard when one of my preachers asked what breaks my heart. It is that group of people living in the swamp and stranded on the sand. The abandoned, assaulted, rejected and unequipped to make the right decisions and gain the skills to live in those places built on the rock.

I think about people who are gifted and can be world changers, community leaders and agents of accomplishment with healing, encouragement, mentoring and skill building, but lack one or two components in the mix. What if their story is missed?

When I thought about what breaks my heart, I spiritually felt–not saw–I felt a distance, an unfilled space. I could hold my hands a few inches apart. They are just that far from the fast track to take them to God’s plan.  I saw a structure built on concrete pilasters with a dock and treated wood stairs. I saw a carved sign on a piece of drift wood attached to the building with an engraved word. The building was secondary to those knocked down on the sand. It was a place where healing, teaching and experiencing God will happen that will extract them from sand and establish them on a trajectory to God’s idea. The person will emerge with the word—thriving .

I had forgotten the punch line.  The link to an article in the Washington Post reinforced what I’m writing in “Tail Lights”

http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/what-doesnt-kill-you-doesnt-necessarily-make-you-stronger/2015/01/02/939f250e-8f7e-11e4-ba53-a477d66580ed_story.html

©D. Dean Benton

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