Tuesday, December 26, 2006

New Article

I doubt too many of you have been avoiding cracks in the sidewalk in order to prevent your mother's back from breaking. I know some of you, in fact, probably walk UNDER the ladder on purpose, and may even open your umbrella indoors just for spite.

Often, however, we can get seduced into thinking that some little thing we're doing is buying us some favor, or extra protection, or a spiritual benefits package from God.

My latest article, Fishy Business, concerns the issue of subtle superstition. You can access the article here: Fishy Business. Take a read and let me know what you think.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Christmas Blob

There's a new look to Christmas this year, at least all around my city. Here's a sampling of the unique decorations on my very block, in front of the homes of my own neighbors:

These decorative touches were captured in the middle of the day, of course. Occasionally at eventide these characters get full of themselves and enjoy life for a short while, but it doesn't last long. I came by one house the other night just as someone pulled the plug. The magic of Christmas ebbed and hissed out of the Holiday Snow Globe Carousel Featuring Real-Looking Snow, Authentic North Pole Figures and a Musical Merry-Go-Round with Actual Revolving Motion. It sputtered and sagged away until there was nothing left but a Christmas Blob.

It's a dramatic visual for a common problem: Christmas deflation. Christmas takes a lot of work. It's not easy staying bouyant and jolly for days, especially with the guilt-producing demands of family and friends and culture and tradition. It's all great - but it takes a good deal of oxygen.

I've seen people in the malls and in the Walmarts and on the streets who share the same posture and bearing as the Christmas blobs in front yards. Christmas demons have come and taken the wind right out of them, and they've decided there's nothing left for it except to fold into themselves and surrender. So they lay swaddled with good intentions and overwrought conditional love.

There's only one solution to keep from becoming another saggy Santa or pooped penguin: stay plugged into the Power.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Old Quote

Maturity is a bitter disappointment for which no remedy exists, unless laughter can be said to remedy anything.

Kurt Vonnegut

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Coming Out


I've been putting this off too long. I've been in the closet and looking out on the rest of the room through a crack in the door, but I'm getting claustrophobic in here, and my feet are numb, and I can't sit down because it hurts. When I stay in the same position too long, it's really hard to get moving.

Coming out is not easy. I have to admit that my desires and needs are much different than I've let on. I have to come clean with the cold truth. I think it's for the best, and I hope my friends and family will stay by me, support me, and help me. I hope they will forgive me for waiting to reveal the awful reality. I hope that the following will not be a disgraceful, embarrassing revelation, but I don't know how to ensure that it won't.

I've known the truth for a long time, but as life goes on it gets harder and harder to keep up with the lies. Things are happening now, circumstances beyond my control, and keeping this dark secret is getting near impossible. People have become aware of the truth, and I'd rather just come marching out of the closet on my own than be "outed" by some activist organization (we all know who they are).

I am sorry - more sorry than you can ever know - and I wish there was something I could do to change. But I am now convinced it's just not possible. I believe what is true about me is built in, a part of who I really am, sewn into the DNA string that makes Ron Benson. There is really nothing I can do about it. This is the truth about me:

I am getting old.

Linda gave me a haircut recently. I loathe going to a mirror afterwards, not because she does a bad cut - she's a great barber - but because every time my hair is cut I can see patches of bare skin up there. My follicles are mounting a good fight, but they are losing the war, and each skirmish in the battle leaves patches of scrabbly, war-zone scalp, evidence of a complete failure of diplomacy and reason.

Hair lost from my head appears other places. Like my eyebrows. The two strips of untamed agriculture above my eyes seem to have taken on a life of their own. There are weeds growing in there. They are prolific, unmanageable, undisciplined, and LONG. I have to trim them. I thank God they have yet to decide to join in the middle, but I fear, because of the sheer volume, it will happen, and that it won't stop until my forehead is forested, an ugly mass of random, rebellious, wiry hair.

Ah, but it gets worse. There is hair popping out my ears. And my nose. Where will it end!? Will I one day look in the mirror as I'm brushing my teeth and discover a new sprout there along the gum line, or find a fresh GRAY hair growing between taste buds on my tongue? What new place will this curse choose to erupt? My imagination goes wild, and I refuse to put it to print.

(Please skip this paragraph if you are at all squeamish).

I have purchased, and now am forced to use, a "personal hair trimming device." At one point in my life, not that many years ago, I actually had to ask someone what this particular appliance was used for. Now I stick that thing up my nose once a week. It buzzes away, tickling my nostril to the point of sneezing, which is not pretty when you have a razor stuck up in there.

Now I know what "olfactory" is: it's a hair-producing factory for old people.

I thought I was old when the nose hair showed up. But when I trimmed the hair, and it decided to revolt and go ingrown, that's when I started pricing nursing home packages and shopping the web for hot deals on cremations. It's bad enough I've got hair growing out my nose, but now it grows back into my nose, making my proboscis more prominent, red, and bulbous. That's probably why people open doors for me all of a sudden, and offer to get me a motorized shopping cart at Walmart. The "greeter" sees me coming and says, "Look. He's got ingrown nose hair. He's old. Let's everybody be nice to the old guy."

I'm not sure where to go to complain. While I am confident that everything in life has a purpose and that God doesn't make mistakes, I'm at a loss to know what He was thinking when He invented nose hair like this. I know, nose hair helps filter out bad stuff - I'm good with that. But the filtering materials stay in the nostril. The growth now coming out is not filter material, it's twine, rope, braid-able. The last time I used my personal hair trimming device, it strained, smoked, and chortled at the task of slicing down one of these sturdy strands.

They say that if you stay alert and keep learning, you will age more gracefully. I am learning new things everyday. For instance:
  • You can go to the Senior Adult Center in my city and play billiards or cribbage when you're fifty years old. I qualify, and by golly, I'm gonna go. I think they have canasta down there, too.
  • AARP is a recruiting powerhouse.
  • I now know where the term "old fart" originated, but I don't think it's appropriate to talk about it here.
  • You know those little fungi people you see in those commercials? I've got a family of them knocking on the door of one of my toenails.
  • Asking for a "senior discount" is not all that embarrassing once you get used to it.

So, I'm out of the closet. Hope you can still love me. If you see me, be kind. Offer me a chair. Look past the little hair eruptions and find the curmudgeon within. And please clip out the senior-saver coupons for me.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

The Longing

Donald Miller writes about meeting Makoto Fujimura in his blog here. Here's a bit:

"After Mako became a Christian, he realized there was a reason for beauty, and beauty was not to be feared but to be admired. His paintings, now, are designed to create in the viewer a sense of ache, a sense of longing for the eternal, for the metaphysical.

This interpretation of the artists actions causes me to wonder about the nature of God as an artist. I am wondering if sunsets, faces, mountains and rivers were not designed to give us this same emotion. I am wondering if they are not invitations to know God more fully, more completely. This seems the nature of a love letter, in ways. That is, a love letter adores and praises, but also invites a greater intimacy."

Here is Fujimura's website, where some of his work is displayed: Artsy’s Makoto Fujimura Page

Monday, October 30, 2006

Hilarious Site

Check out this irreverent website, especially the link to "Wally the Worship Leader" here: Wally. The site also has some funny video.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Shacking Up

My latest article is available online here: Seniors Shacking Up. The article is a discussion about marriage and its procedures. The issue is simple, really, but the ramifications and permutations are complicated and personal.

When I was writing the article I tried to get feedback from pastors and others concerning real-life situations of seniors who cohabit. I only got a smattering of responses at the time. Now that the article is out, I'm hearing from people who are very close to some family member or parishioner who has had to make hard decisions about the law, the system, matrimony, companionship, the church, and God.

At the crux of the issue, I believe, is whether marriage should be an issue of the state or the church. Jesus, when pressed to give an answer about church and state, said, "Give unto Caesar what is Caesar's, and to God what is God's." So is marriage a God-thing or a Caesar-thing? Do we really want the state to determine who should marry and who shouldn't? Do you trust the state to grant a "license" for two people to become married?

My purpose in writing the article was to make people think by bringing up the questions. So what do you think? Let's talk about it.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Give Me an Oar

Todd Jones, closer for the greatest come-back team in baseball - the Detroit Tigers - was asked by Fox Sports about playing on the team for the second time in his career, this time under the leadership of Jim Leyland:

"I'm just so lucky to be on a ship that's headed to the postseason and on a ship that's going to the World Series. So when Jim Leyland hands me an oar, I'm going to row like there's no tomorrow."

The closer we come to understanding that Jesus wins, the more we are motivated to row like there's no tomorrow. If we think that winning - i.e. finding favor with God and going to heaven - is up to us, the more discouraged we get and the more tired we become.

"I have overcome the world," Jesus says. He always means what he says, and what he says always comes true.

"Go," he says, and he hands me an oar.

Help me, God, row like there's no tomorrow.
P.S. - While I'm hoping for a mid-western series with St. Louis, it would be irony for Jones to pitch against Carlos Beltran of the Mets: Jones pitched a strike to Beltran for the last out at Tiger Stadium in 1999, earning Jones his 30th save that year.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Wednesday, September 13, 2006


Come, Thou fount of every blessing;
Tune my heart to sing Thy praise.
Streams of mercy never ceasing
Call for song of loudest praise.
Teach me some melodious sonnet,
Sung by flaming tongues above.
Praise the mount! I’m fixed upon it,
Mount of Thy redeeming love.

Here I raise my Ebenezer;
Hither by Thy help I’ve come;
And I hope, by Thy good pleasure,
Safely to arrive at home.
Jesus sought me when a stranger,
Wandering from the fold of God;
He, to rescue me from danger,
Interposed His precious blood.

O to grace how great a debtor
Daily I’m constrained to be!
Let Thy goodness, like a fetter,
Bind my wandering heart to Thee.
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
Prone to leave the God I love;
Here’s my heart, O take and seal it,
Seal it for Thy courts above.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

My Career

The Second String of the JV football team at San Jacinto High School only played in a crisis.

On this particular autumn evening, in a Southern California drizzle, the crisis loomed. The team was falling apart on the field, figuratively and literally. Guys were getting hurt, being whacked and beaten in ways they’d never practiced – who would hit that hard in practice? And the plays weren’t working, plans were falling apart, players out of position, wandering around. Coach Longfellow was miffed. No. That’s not the right term. But I would be amiss to use the kind of language needed to adequately describe his disdain.

He was huffing and puffing up and down the sidelines. The seated members of the Second String avoided his path and his eyes; you didn’t want to be challenging the leader of the pack by looking him in the eye at that particular moment. So we looked down at our four-years-worn football shoes, inherited from the varsity team two years ago.

Coach Longfellow steamed past me, ranting about the offensive line and their obvious ignorance of the play book. “?$*&%” he said, “These guys don’t know how to block! They don’t know the plays! Those *$!$#^ing airheads.”

Maybe because I’d never heard those words actually spoken by a living person out loud, I looked up at him just then, and my eyes met his eyes. Wrong move.

“BENSON!” I looked back down at my shoes, quick. “BENSON! RONNIE BENSON!!!”

“Yes, Coach?” I said, choking, my adolescent voice cracking, head towards him but avoiding eye contact.

“Benson, I need someone to go in there and block. You’re a tackle, do you know the plays?”

Plays? Coach Longfellow obviously hadn’t been paying attention at practice. I didn’t know football from farm implements. I only joined to impress girls – that’s what some of my friends told me would work.

“BENSON!” he yelled, “STAND UP!”

I stood, and he came over and put his face down several inches into mine. “BENSON! DO YOU KNOW THE PLAYS? HAVE YOU STUDIED THE PLAY BOOK?”

Play book? They have them in a book? Did anyone ever give me that book? What exactly did the book look like, sir? I’m sorry, Coach Longfellow, but apparently there’s been some problem with the circulation on this play book thing – I’ve never even seen a play book and don’t have a clue what it would be or how to use it. And I think my dog ate it, anyway.


My head was swimming, and there was this part of me that really did want to step up and be a man and come through and go out and hit someone hard and catch the ball and run it in for a touchdown and have the cheerleaders swarm around me with their pom poms bouncing. That part of me attempted to take control from the other part of me, the weenie part of me, and in the subsequent internal fracas out of my mouth came my BIG STATEMENT OF SELF-CONFIDENCE:

“I think so, Coach.”

My keyboard does not have the proper symbols for what came out of Coach Longfellow’s mouth at that moment. Sure, I could put “&*$@#,” but it just doesn’t reflect the honest truth.

“YOU THINK SO?! YOU THINK SO?!” And he turned and walked away.

I still feel it sometimes – the emotion I felt on the sidelines that Thursday night when he walked away from me. “Self-loathing” does not even come close to describing it.

An assistant put me into the game late in the fourth quarter, when we were down like 65-0. I played three plays and somebody stepped hard on my left foot and broke my little toe. My injury impressed the girls and allowed me to save face. What face I had left, anyway.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

New Article Available

My article for Plain Truth Magazine is now available online. It's called, Caution: Religion Can Hurt Your Marriage, and you can reach it by clicking here:


After you read it, please tell me what you think. I have already heard from several Plain Truth readers who told me their own stories of relational damage at the hands of a legalistic church. If you've got a story, I'd be interested in knowing about it.

Marriages - in fact, relationships of all kinds - need an environment of grace to flourish. The Body of Christ is supposed to be that environment.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

This is grace: My kids. This is from the U.P. camping trip in July. We're visiting T-Falls. From L to R: Jeremy, April, Jonathan, Garrison. A very good team. Posted by Picasa

Sunday, August 20, 2006

An Extraordinary Event: Nearly Nothing to Do With Grace

Less than a half mile from our home on the third Saturday in August, over a million people gather along a twelve mile stretch of Woodward Ave. along with an estimated 30,000 of the most beautiful automobiles in the world. It's called the Woodward Dream Cruise. Yesterday my wife was gracious enough to drive for a few miles on Woodward while I took pictures. Here are a few:

Friday, June 23, 2006

Dropping Everything

A few years back I wrote the following words. I found them today, searching for something else. They are more true today in regards to my journey than they were when I penned them. I need to ask myself these questions all the time.

When Simon Peter saw [the huge catch of fish], he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” for he and all his companions were astonished at the catch of fish they had taken, and so were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, Simon’s partners. Then Jesus said to Simon, “Don’t be afraid; from now on you will catch men.” So they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed him.
Luke 5:8-11

Curious, this “left everything” phrase. Especially in light of what had just happened. If ever there was a time to stay on the boat, with your nets in the lake and your eyes on the water, this was it. Production was . . . up!

The partnership between Simon Peter and his friends Zebedee had a mission statement: We Catch Fish. This is what the business had been about. Let other people clean the fish, market the fish, sell the fish. What Zebedee-Petros Ltd. was about was fishing.

And they did it well. They had been able to hire on others to help them out, thus the “all his companions.” They knew the Sea of Galilee - could navigate the vast lake with their eyes closed. They had a reputation for going out in the worst of weather and bringing home the bass when everybody else had given up, wet and wiped. James and John had the nickname, “Sons of Thunder” because they didn’t mind fishing right through a kickin’ lightening barrage. Born to fish, these men would never do anything else.

Today had been a windfall day. Thanks to this mysterious stranger they had hauled in more product than all last month’s take combined. Which was a good thing for Simon, since they had given him a major ribbing for allowing the guy to use his boat as a bully pulpit earlier in the day.

Put yourself in their sandals. Let’s say you’re an insurance salesman. You’ve been doing OK for awhile, seen the clientele grow steadily. You have a good reputation in the business. One day, someone tells you to try selling your product door to door in a vast apartment complex. You balk at the idea – nobody sells door to door anymore and lives - but something tells you he knows what he’s saying, so you do it. After two hours, you’ve written 379 policies, earned salesman-of-the-year and commissions out the yazoo. Now, here’s the question: Would this be your last day in the business?

“They left everything and followed him.”

Such an impression was made that they dropped the nets, beached the boats, walked away from the vast, wriggling income on the shore and took to his heels. I can only imagine the conversation at the house that night as Simon Peter let his bride in on the mid-life career change:

Simon: ...So I’ve decided to go with him.
Ms. Simon: (Incredulous look in her eyes) You what?
Simon: I’m going to follow him. For the next couple years. I’m not going to fish anymore.
Ms. Simon: And what about the rent? What about the boats? What about the kids? Oy Veh! Simon! What’s the matter with you? Do you need to go buy a red convertible or something?

What is so big to me that I wouldn’t leave it for Him? What is so exciting to me that I wouldn’t consider His plans more exciting still? What would be so important as to hold me down when He says, “Get up and get moving; we’ve got plans!”

In his excellent book, Dangerous Wonder, Mike Yaconelli says:

The most critical issue facing Christians is not abortion, pornography, the disintegration of the family, moral absolutes, MTV, drugs, racism, sexuality or school prayer. The critical issue today is dullness. We have lost our astonishment. The Good News is no longer good news, it is okay news. Christianity is no longer life changing, it is life enhancing. Jesus doesn’t change people into wild-eyed radicals anymore, He changes them into “nice people.” If Christianity is simply about being nice, I’m not interested.

Look around. Hear a call? Maybe it’s time. You’ve been fishing in the same water too long, friend. Drop those nets. Pick up the pace. Follow Him.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Lilly Pad Faith

It has been God's way of working in our lives - his modus operandi - to point the way ahead of time. Linda and I have rarely been forced to scratch our heads about the future, about God's will, about our next adventure. He's shown us what's next sometimes before we were ready to accept it; sometimes before anyone else knew about it.

We parked one Christmas night at midnight in the parking lot across from a tiny country church in agrarian Southern California and prayed. But the prayer was unnecessary to determine what God was up to. We knew we were headed to Nuevo for a new thing. The prayer was more like, "God, are you sure? You want to rethink this? Nuevo? Don't you have some other options?" The church had been ravaged by internal strife, had struggled by with about thirty-five congregants, and had meager resources with which to pay a pastor, save for the offer of the parsonage next door to the church and painted the same color (always a disadvantage for the parson).

But we knew. We were going to live there. It was what God planned.

Seven years and lots of ministry later, God pointed his finger to the northeast. Linda and I were celebrating our anniversary on Mt. San Jacinto. After dinner we took a little hike, sat on a rock overlooking Palm Springs, and I said, "Larry told me he mentioned my name to a church in Michigan that needs a pastor." Linda didn't tell me at the time, but a few weeks later she let it out that when she heard those words on the mountain, her stomach turned and she became nauseated. It wasn't the celebratory dinner, it was the surety God had placed in her heart that Royal Oak, MI was to be our new home.

From that June day we talked about going to Michigan with an almost arrogant presumption. "When we live in Michigan it will snow at Christmas." "When we get to Michigan we'll have a big garden." Meanwhile, the folks in Royal Oak were just barely getting started with the search for a pastor, and they had a pretty good idea of who they wanted that pastor to be, and it wasn't me.

They didn't call me until February. They flew Linda and me out in April for an overnight interview. We were told later that the trip was just a formality; the search team had a candidate in mind but thought they should investigate another one so that they could say they'd done their job. But if Linda and I had any doubts before that visit, they were all gone by the flight home. We were becoming Michiganders.

When the congregation held a meeting to take a vote, and the meeting was going on three hours, I admit I began to think we'd misinterpreted God's signals. But we squeaked by on the vote and went back to CA to pack our bags for the Midwest.

These last four years, however, things haven't been so clear. We're flying by the seat of our pants. It's not that God has left us - abandoned and lost without a map. There have been times when our direction was sure: leaving the church, bringing my parents from CA to live with us, pursuing writing, speaking, and the interim position at Livonia. But the distinctiveness of God's former dealings have changed. Now he leads not by photographs, clear and bright with good contrast, but by impressionistic grace, a Monet with blurred blues and dappled golds which creates the atmosphere of his will, not necessarily the details. He provides a lilly pad at a time, and we carefully tread out on the water.

Here I stand, on this lilly pad, for this summer. I have a deadline of September 1 to finish a book project that began just a few weeks ago. The decision about which lilly pad in this broad pond is the next location for my feet will have to wait until September. Until then, here I stand.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006


This last month's been overwhelming. Or at least, whelming.

God is doing some amazing things, and I need to be ready. I'm on my way to Mobile, Alabama today to begin work on a book I've been contracted to write. Please pray for me in this process. I'll have more info later.

On another front, I'm finishing off a magazine article on an interesting topic: Christian senior adults shacking up. You can read it over again if you want, but it's not going to change. I'll tackle almost anything.

Here's how you can help: I am in desperate need for a real-life Christian senior couple who have decided to live together without the benefit of marriage. I need to interview them and use them in the article. I will respect their privacy and not use names or identifiers. If you know of someone like this, please put your contact info in the comment and I'll get with you.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Three Questions

“I don’t know him,” Peter said. In the squeeze of a moment Peter turned a corner and made a choice.

“Do you love me?” Jesus asked. He asked not because he needed to know, or was curious, or was bothered by doubt. He asked because he cared about Peter.

“I never met the man,” Peter said, perturbed they had asked again. Peter was angry; he felt manipulated, put in a corner. Being decisive was his nature, but he felt sick, torn up inside, in his heart. He didn’t want to get caught, beaten, killed. He attempted to avoid the consequences of being a Jesus-follower. But he knew he would face consequences for his disloyalty. He was afraid. He deliberated about who, and why.

“Do you love me?” Jesus asked. He asked again, not because he hadn’t heard the first answer, but because he knew his friend, Peter; knew what kind of man he was; knew what he needed. Peter’s heart was broken, in need of mending.

“May I be damned if I even recognize him!” Peter shouted. Emotion whelmed up, overtaking his muscles and forcing him to sit at the edge of the fire. The turning was complete. In three swift movements he had betrayed the most important person in his life.

Moments before he had been ready, had lifted the weapon to strike, to defend and protect. He had aimed for a head – missed - but managed to lob off an ear. He'd have taken another slice, but Jesus stopped him. “I need to do this, Peter.”

The fire danced in his face, and a sound caught in his brain. Could it be morning? The sound went unnoticed and unimportant to the others waiting in the courtyard, but to Peter, the simple crowing of a rooster mocked his bravery, his integrity, his allegiance. It penetrated down to his heart and stabbed in hard. His head fell into his hands, and his fingers moistened with tears.

“Peter, do you love me?” At this point in his journey, Peter needed an exact number of questions – exactly three. One or two would have been insufficient. Restoration and healing, the kind Peter would understand, called for Jesus to ask, and ask again, and again. The look in Peter’s eyes indicated to Jesus that the burly, stubborn fisherman now understood.

Peter was crushed by the weight, had endured it many days. He did not know what to do with the burden, a stone around his neck. Eating fish by another fire, he measured his reaction to Jesus’ questions. Three questions for three rejections. Peter was forced to admit the heaviness of his guilt.

Jesus held his gaze, looking directly into the eyes of a hero-in-training. Peter’s eyes did not waver. Big tears rolled down his sun-worn cheeks. They spoke what his lips could not. I was so wrong, so weak. I thought I could follow you anywhere, but I’ve let you down. I am sorry. I don’t know if I can keep going your way. I don't qualify. Can you ever forgive me?

Peter said, “Lord, you know that I love you.” Jesus’ smile answered with forgiveness and restoration and healing. “Feed my lambs.”


How many times will Jesus ask me the question: “Ron, do you love me?” How many times will I need to hear it? How many times will it take to restore?

“Lord, you know that I love you.”

“Feed my lambs.”

Thursday, March 30, 2006

A dusty beer bottle sitting on the bar wobbles around for a moment, grabbing my attention, but before I can swing that direction, the wobble stops.

A bunny appears just outside the window to the right of the bar. It sticks its head up, and the ears wave. My arms lift to center on it, but then the bunny disappears behind some bushes.

Back inside the establishment sits a man at the piano with a tall, funny hat. He's playing "The Yellow Rose of Texas" on the tiny instrument. It is loud, honky-tonky, punctuated by the popping sounds of the people shooting on either side of me. I lift my rifle and take quick aim at the hat. I know what's going to happen. It jerks on his head. I shoot, and a bright red flash lights up in the middle of his ten-gallon head piece. Direct hit.

I shoot at a couple more moving objects from various sources: a viper coiling around a tree branch, a goofy-looking deer poking its head from behind a plastic tree, a vase of flowers on a table. I don't get any more points, and the game is over. Again.

I grew up with strict regulations on money, and plunking quarters into machines that ate them like candy was not considered good stewardship. Arcades were not allowed.
"That's just a waste of my cash."
"You should save your money for something important."
"Do you think this stuff grows on trees?"
I was arcade-deprived. They have therapy for this.
Any arcade I have ever played, I played as an adult, except for the times I rebelled and, looking over my shoulder, shoved a quick coin into a slot, played a game completely distracted with fear and guilt, and felt great remorse for my wastefulness when "Game Over" pointed a finger at me, identifying me to all around as a loser.
But I still love arcade games. One of my favorite birthdays, my wife planned a family outing which featured me and my kids "wasting" a load of lucre on an afternoon of fun at Dave and Busters. The Rifle Range is one of my guilty pleasures at a good arcade.
Arm me with an electronic gun, point me in the direction of a faux-western, cardboard cut-out saloon in the woods, and it'll feel pretty much like life. Mine; maybe not yours.
This is multitasking: shooting at all kinds of targets in one try, on one quarter. When the time runs out, the gun drops, it's time for another coin to power up the works. I feel guilty, because I know all this is costing somebody. But I keep shooting, missing way more than I attempt with an aim.
When my pocket is empty I go to my DAD. A twitch in my open palm says, "I'm sorry I wasted all those quarters and didn't hit much." I look at him with guilt, expecting that DAD will say, "This is just a waste of my quarters! You should spend coins on something important! Do you think this stuff grows on trees?"
But He doesn't. He holds my outstretched hand in His, and he reaches into His pocket, and He unloads so many quarters that they fall around on the floor, and He laughs, and He says, "Go try again. There's more where that came from. This is what My quarters are for."
So I plunk another quarter in, and my gun starts to hum, and I'm feeling confident and cocky, and I fire one off at the beer mug on the round table to the left of the piano, and the red light flashes, and I feel like I can keep on firing away forever.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

He Speaks!

How's this for amazing? You can hear me speak. Right now. On your computer. Follow the link to Crossroads Community Church and glance down the page to find my talk: The Fig Leaf Dilemma. And please let me know what you think. Here's the link: Crossroads

Pre-Order For Frivolity

Another book you need to buy. Be the first on your block to own A Field Guide to Evangelicals and Their Habitat by Joel Kilpatrick. You can pre-order now. You can pre-order by clicking on the picture. Support your fellow satirist.

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Intelligence, Jesus, Art

A writing friend, Mary DeMuth, shares healthy comments on arts, smarts, and Jesus here: The Master's Artist.

Mary has written a great non-fiction book for parents who were not raised as Christians. Reality being what it is, however, all of us need adjustments in our parenting protocol, whether we are GUBA's (Grown Up Born Again) or not. I benefitted from Mary's insights. I'm a PK.

(We need our own book, by the way. Maybe - PK Recovery: Learning to Love the Church after Growing to Hate It).

Mary's book is called Building the Christian Family You Never Had. You can learn about Mary and more about the book at Mary's website: Relevant Prose. Or click on the picture to order it.

Who Speaks for God?

Editorialist Leonard Pitts Jr. makes me think, which is often painful and never finished. Here is a piece that appeared in the Detroit Free Press. Pitts throws his light on another fine mess created by someone who poses as God's official representative. Here's the link: Pitts

What is scary to me is that I presume to speak for God every Sunday. How can I possibly be arrogant enough to do that? What makes my words any more "godly" than Pitts or Phelps, Robertson, or Nagin? Jim Wallis and Charles Colson both wrote books with the title, "Who Speaks for God?" Do they arrive at similar conclusions?

Wouldn't it be easier if those who spoke for God were marked out in some way - wore sackcloth and ate locusts, for instance? And wouldn't it be much better if those who claim to speak for God but are just pretending were struck by lightening?

No, wait. Maybe not.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

When The Marbles Fall Into Place

Several decades ago I was young and played games. One that I enjoyed was called Stadium Checkers. The object was to move your colored marbles from the outside ring into the center by adjusting the concentric rings and letting gravity do its work. The marbles would roll around the ring and then, at just the right place, would click down to the next inner ring.

I have thought of this game many times since I was a kid. It always jumps to mind when I think about the plans and purposes of God: his will, my life, grace, and serendipity.

My wife and I have prayed that God would always go ahead of us. We don't like to push our way into his will. We try to keep ourselves from telling God what to do. We want to be followers of Jesus, which means he's out in front calling the shots. We try, sometimes failing, to take the trail he gives us. We pray that he will pick the trail before we get there, that we will not ask his blessing on trails we've already taken. The issue is trust.

Sometimes it's been frustrating. Sometimes exhilarating. Sometimes we haven't done so well, sneaking up and running ahead. It shows the weakness of our faith to say we have been surprised when God shows up in front of us on the trail and we look back and discover that he had been leading us all along, even when we thought we were on our own. The last three years have been like that.

We keep moving to the pull of gravity, marbles in concentric wheels, waiting for a divine turn to bring the planets of our circumstances into alignment.


Last weekend I was asked to speak at a retreat for pastors and their spouses. I was nervous. My heart has been burning for this opportunity - a pilot light inside me waiting to ignite for men and women with a mantle like mine. I knew what God had given me to say, born out of my circumstance, and I was frightened about delivering the message. I expected some resistance, because years ago I would have been the Chief of Resistors.

Instead, the marbles clicked. What God had provided in my heart sparked discussion, introspection, perhaps healing. As at other times when this has happened, he told my heart that it was his business to move the rings; I just needed to wait on him and let divine gravity take its course.

I'm writing this listening to Ashley Cleveland belt out "Precious Lord, Take My Hand." I am writing this in the unsteady place - I feel the rings are moving, the marble is about to drop, gravity will have its way. Scary, but thrilling.

You move the rings. I will rest here. When and if it is time, help me not to resist the pull of your purpose. I entrust my marble-self to your skillful hand, your strategic mind, your grace-filled turning of the years.

Monday, February 13, 2006

What Is God Thinking?

Here's an interesting piece from the LA Times that appeared in the Detroit News on Sunday re: Katrina, 9/11, etc: Does God Get Mad?

Monday, February 06, 2006

Spanking the World = Whipping the Dead

I gave a sermon yesterday on "church discipline." (I'm an interim pastor, so I can get away with it).

The term itself does not appear in scripture. I hate it. An image comes to my mind of an initiation ritual performed in school that involved spanking. Boys form two lines making a tunnel through which the victim is forced to run while the perps slap his butt as hard as they can as he passes by.

My text was Matthew 18, and I used I Corinthians 5 as the practical example of how it all works.

The whole of I Co. 5 is an unpleasant pill for evangelicals, so we don't talk about it much. Delivering each other over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh is not a topic on which I've heard Joel Osteen speak recently, although to be honest, I've never listened to him speak. It's just that we're not that into rebuke.

But the last part of Chapter 5 is one that we avoid like hard liquor:

I have written to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people- not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters. In that case you would have to leave this world...What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside.
I Corinthians 5:9-10, 12-13a
The church in America loves to invert the discipline direction. Instead of focusing discipline on the church, creating a place of honesty, spiritual integrity, and grace; instead of providing a relationally healthy example for the world outside, we love to fantasize about spanking, about the pagans-out-there getting their due. We define our morality by comparison so we come off looking pretty good. We chastise the culture for not living up to our expectations of being Christ-like. It's easier that way.
We say, "Shame on you, Hollywood, for your perversity! We're going to make our own quality movies, like 'Left Behind!'"
We say, "Naughty rappers! We will create our own good music, like "Gaithers' Homecoming" and never listen to your vile African beat!"
We say, "BAD! BAD! Public school system! We will boycott your demonic influence over our children and send them to a Christian School!"
Paul said, "In that case you would have to leave this world."
Too late.
Instead of taking care of ourselves, we enjoy being the tough-loving parents of the universe. We are like the vice-principal in Junior High who makes threats on the morning welcome broadcast in Homeroom: "You better shape up, people, or you'll be in trouble!" Our self-appointed disciplinarian, a.k.a. Pat Robertson, lets the world know that God is angry with New Orleans, and Katrina is the paddle.
(Is it just me, or did anyone else have an overwhelming desire to rush down to Mardi Gras and party?)
Paul made it a point to let the Corinthians know this important truth: The people to remove from relationship in our lives are not people who are outside the church, but inside! Don't apply the principle of shunning to friends and neighbors, family and foes, greedy sexually immoral swindling idolaters though they be! If you're going to avoid someone, avoid the faith-brother or sister who is in rebellion against Jesus. They are the ones who need to experience the natural and logical consequences of their behavior.
What Paul implies is that we must be making relationships with those outside, not ending them. We should pal around with sexually immoral folk. We should seek out time with the greedy. We should surround ourselves with swindlers. We should befriend our neighborhood idolater. Slip on your cardigan and sing like Mr. Rogers: "Hey, pagan idol worshipper! Won't you be my neighbor?"
That's what Jesus did.
We are too often shocked by what comes naturally to those outside of faith. It is silly for the church to attempt to discipline the world for being sinful, which situation cannot be helped apart from Jesus. The church needs to mind her own business and discipline herself.
So form two lines, last person runs through the middle, spank hard.

Friday, February 03, 2006



(And shame on you).

I got this link from Lark News today. Looks like March 14 is going to be a good day - when we can all rush to our bookstore and buy "A Field Guide to Evangelicals." Here's the link. Be sure and read the excerpt. http://larknews.com/guide/

Here's the Lark News regular site for a bite of satire: http://www.larknews.com/

Enjoy, and let me know what you think.

Friday, January 27, 2006


The Benson Kids
Jono, Garrison, April, Jeremy
(A couple years ago at the foot of Mt. Rushmore)

I was asked recently to reflect on my parenting. I don't like to think about it.

When I think about my kids, I see evidence of greatness. Each one (of four) have a weak spot or two, but they are good people. With qualities and gifts that have huge potential.

I do not pat myself on the back for this. In fact, I think it's just short of miraculous.

Because when I look back, I see so many times I did not do a good job representing faith, or the church, or Jesus. I am selfish, too often concerned for my own comfort and business. There were years when the Church was my master, and I offered leftovers to my wife and kids. It is amazing to me that all of my kids love Jesus, considering.

I am thankful to my wife; the good in them is from the good in her. I am grateful that God granted me good kids. I am grateful for the time of separation from Church. Not being a "full-time-pastor" for this season has offered a great reorientation to the real world.