What I Need from You Right Now: An Appeal to America by a White Father of Black Sons

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This is not as much a political post as a personal piece.

Today is a sad and confusing day for me. I sit stunned by the surprising news that Trump won the Presidential election last night. This news has stirred in me both sadness and anger. I am in protective parent mode. As a white father of black sons, I fear the racist influence that may increase in this country, infecting and emboldening others with hateful, hurtful lies.

Initially, I felt repelled from my friends who voted for a racist President. I was torn by the fact that many who voted for Trump love Christ like I do. As a white father of black sons, I am indignant. Yet, I am also aware of the destructive potential of the emotional cocktail brewing in my heart. If I’m not careful, I will lash out with the same attitudes I renounce. Not attacking violently, but verbally. In spite of this internal battle, I refrain from reacting in revenge, knowing that such responses never build up the kingdom God wants to create through me.

I have some requests though. As a father of black sons, I need a few things from you.

What I need from you right now is….

Understanding, not defensiveness.

Empathy, not fact checking.

Compassion, not condemnation.

What I need from you right now is this: That you would mourn with those who mourn. That you would take a moment to imagine how this political news affects those oppressed by prejudice. That you would step inside the mind of a parent who fears the future maltreatment of their children. My wife and I face such fears, now more than ever. We are not alone in this.

Most of all, what I need from you right now is that, regardless of your political views, you don’t give hatred a foothold in your heart. If our new President incites injustice, stand for what is right. If his rhetoric reinforces racism, resist with love. Regardless of the leanings of our new leader, don’t align with attitudes that demean and divide.

I will work hard not to retaliate against racism in the ways I denounce. I will not let my anger disunite me from others. I will work hard to love all people, even those whose votes may cause my family undeserved suffering. In the words of Martin Luther King, “I have decided to stick with love…Hate is too great a burden to bear.”

-By Forest Benedict, LMFT, SATP-C

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New Group for Adult Daughters of Sex Addicts (Starting June 9)

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A unique and much-needed group for adult daughters of sexual addicts is beginning June 9 at Northpoint Church in Fresno called “Ready to Heal”. This group is created and led by Julie, who is a daughter of a sexual addicts herself. She explains:

“”Ready To Heal” is a 7 week class/support group specifically for women who have been hurt by their father’s sexual addiction. My passion for this group started in my heart and mind about two years ago and I feel such an urgency to make it available to others that are hurting. As girls, our relationships with our fathers are hugely influential in so many aspects of our lives – especially in how it affects our self-esteem and future relationships. At the age of 18 I was devastated to learn of my own father’s long and deeply rooted addiction – I felt as though I’d never trust again. But the Lord took me and also my family through a journey of healing and restored our relationships. I am passionate about bringing together others in similar situations so that we can support each other and learn to heal in a way that brings hope and ultimately glory to God – our Great Healer!”

This group is Christian-based but all are welcome. It will be offered on Thursday evenings and is only available to women who are 18 and older. For information contact Julie at julesdoobiedoo@gmail.com.

Please join me in supporting Julie with prayer as she embarks on this courageous journey! I am certain many lives will be impacted as a result, especially her own.

Please share this with anyone who would benefit.

What We Can Do in Periods of Pain

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If you are human, you are either in a period of pain or in between those periods. Suffering and living walk the same road. Whether we’re in it, preparing for it, or rising out of it, may we take comfort in knowing that the the Comforter is with us. Also, recommend the following video, which is brimming with practical wisdom. May we all find courage, even as we walk through the darkest valley.

“Even though I walk
    through the darkest valley,
I will fear no evil

Psalm 23:4a

 

Not About Guns, But Grief

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I love a good gun debate. When reports of violence ripple across this world, I am often eager to announce my opinions to my Facebook friends. And I thrive on the ensuing, escalating arguments, though nobody concedes or converts.

Yet, as I sit in the stillness with my Savior, he gently guides me to different response. I see that dashing into debate has the strong stench of sin. These were human lives lost. Knowing my Father’s heart, I imagine many tears spilling down his divine cheeks, as he quietly sits with the families and friends torn by this tragedy.

For the first time, I consider the countless children, wives, husbands, fathers, mothers, and others whose safety was shattered on that dark day. I wonder how I, as a recipient of this ravaging news, can return comfort to this community. I will prayerfully ponder this.

I imagine that traumatized town receiving truck loads of letters offering messages of condolence. Or the college Facebook page flooded with endless notes of encouragement. I could seek out the victims in their pain or reach out the shooter’s family in their shame. Almost effortlessly, I could trade time in wasteful debate for any effort that responds with respect and reverence.

May those of us who know of and experience Christ’s love separate ourselves from the numbness and noise surrounding those suffering. May we connect with God’s sorrow with those grieving and for a world that has lost its way.

Father, connect us with your care and compassion. Teach us to mourn with those who mourn.

A WOD to Remember

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Exactly one year ago I sat with a small group of friends as we celebrated the 40th year of our dear friend Ericlee. Swapping stories, several shared their unique memories with him. I volunteered a special memory from a shared family vacation in Mendocino where Ericlee and I woke early for a morning Crossfit exercise (WOD). After running down a row of railroad tie stairs to the beach, we beheld our natural gym. In Ericlee’s creative spirit, he directed each of us to find a set of 5 drift-wood logs, in ascending weight. Our workout consisted of carrying those water-weighted logs swiftly up those stairs then several feet away to a massive blowhole-like chasm where we’d heave them crashing down into the sea. The experience was exhilarating and challenging. I cherish that wonderful memory.

Today marks Ericlee’s 41st birthday and we only celebrate with him in spirit. Half a year ago, cancer quickly completed it’s course in Ericlee’s body. Now I hold these precious memories more tightly since no more can be made with him on this side of eternity.

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Recently I returned to that familiar staircase descending to that Mendocino beach. I did not come to that beach to cry. But as I stepped over the carcasses of fallen trees, the tears came. And I welcomed them. Almost immediately, as if God was weeping with me, it started to rain. It was a divinely comforting experience. And I spent some time there, crying and remembering my friend and our adventures together.

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I visited the blowhole before I said my goodbyes and returned to my car. There I grabbed my journal and penned these words:

“It is beyond bewilderment that we watched fireworks parade across the sky together just 2 months before his spirit was decisively divorced from his body. Sideswiped by circumstances, I stand again, this time with a cautious awareness that shipwrecks happen to the noblest of vessels. There is no immunity to mortality, as my childlike faith would have me hope. We all travel a downward staircase.”

I’m grateful for grief on that beach. I’m thankful for moments etched in memories, where Ericlee’s legacy lives on with me. Happy Birthday my friend. Today’s I’ll create and complete a WOD in your honor. No, it won’t be the same as our morning in Mendocino. But your strength inspires me in this season and in the next season we’re sure to do many WODs side by side again.

Maybe Jesus will join us.

I’ll see you in a little while
It won’t be too long now
We’ll see it on the other side
The wait was only the blink of an eye
So I’m not gonna say goodbye
‘Cause I’ll see you in a little while”

-Steven Curtis Chapman

-By Forest Benedict, LMFT

The Transforming Embrace of Jesus

This year is nearing extinction. The last hours of 2014 are departing like visitors that have outstayed their welcome. In these diminishing moments, we often look back, look inward, and look forward. We remember and we expect.

When I ponder the past year, I recall both opportunities and disappointments. I am keenly aware of both imperfect instances and times of triumph. As I imagine ahead, there is an incalculable amount of issues worth improving in 2015. But when I quiet the voices of discontentment and tune into the lone song in my soul, only one change is required and desired. In this New Year, I yearn to experience the transforming embrace of Jesus.

Brennan Manning writes about this intimate experience in his precious book Abba’s Child. He highlights an experience when John, the “disciple Jesus loved”, was “reclining next to Jesus”, leaning back against his chest (John 13:23-25). What a picture of intimacy, security, belonging, and trust.

In light of this account, Manning shares that “until I lay my head on Jesus’ breast, listen to His heartbeat, and personally appropriate the Christ-experience of John’s eyewitness, I have only a derivative spirituality” (p 126). This experience with Jesus changes us. I long for that experience as this old year sets and the new one rises.

Manning chose to be embraced in his desperation. His account was this: “As the alcoholic fog lifted, I knew there was only one place to go. I sank down into the center of my soul, grew still, and listened to the Rabbi’s heartbeat” (p 133). We are invited to do the same; to “remain in His love” (John 15:9).

How beautiful it is that Jesus wants to interact with us in this way. He is not a distant Deity. He wishes to hold us. As the scriptures say, “He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart” (Isaiah 40:11).

This Divine embrace quiets, comforts, and changes us.

Changed in His Embrace

I wonder what would change this next year as I allowed myself to lavish in the Savior’s loving arms? I imagine Christ holding me in this way and the physical warmth of His chest beside my cheek melting into my spirit, dissolving my insecurities. Brennan points out that this disciple who was held by Jesus was the one who later penned the words “In love there can be no fear, but fear is driven out by perfect love” (1 John 4:18). His loving embrace dissolves fear.

Similarly, his hugs heal our pain. This interaction is illuminated in Brandon Hathaway’s powerful poem called “The Hug Poem”:

Count on countless siren songs this New Year. The competition for comfort outside of Christ is continuous. Where we choose comfort is where we connect. All the more reason to rest in our Source of strength instead the arms of the adulteresses of our day. Remember that “when they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus” (Acts 4:13). In His infusing presence, we transcend our limitations, becoming someone we never were before. In other words, “The recovery of passion starts with reappraising the value of the treasure, continues with letting the Great Rabbi hold us against His heart, and comes to fruition in a personal transformation of which we will not even be aware” (Manning, p 133).

In 2015, may we experience the embrace that dispels despair and pacifies pain. May we rest in our Abba’s assurance. May we hear His heartbeat and may unprecedented transformation result simply because we have been with Jesus.

“In the arms of Jesus, I will find my peace and rest
I hear Him calling, come to me and rest
Carried by my Shepherd, cradled tightly to His chest
There and there alone, my soul finds rest
So I will rest in the shelter of my Savior’s embrace
Hidden safely in the refuge of His mercy and His Grace
And I will sing hallelujah to the One who sets me free
And you will find me in the arms of Jesus”

– Steven Curtis Chapman

Wishing all of you a New Year of transformation! I wholeheartedly appreciate all of you who read my articles and share them with others.

Blessings,

Forest Benedict

Additional articles referring to Brennan Manning: The Incomplete Christian Life, Prayer of a Fatherless Father, and Accepting Abba’s Affection

For future articles and inspiration, please follow my blog and “like” my Facebook page (and share with others). Thanks!

Falling into the Everlasting Embrace

Part of the human experience is the reality that not every day is our best day. Sometimes we “fall apart”. Some days we feel disconnected from ourselves. We don’t always have the courage to move forward with boldness and strength. Some moments, pain pours out of us uncontrollably.

How we respond to ourselves in those moments is paramount. We can lash out against ourselves in self-punishment or criticism. We can run to distractions and temporary pleasures. Or we can fall into God’s empathetic arms, look into his compassionate eyes, and listen to his calming voice.

Maybe you’re having a day like that today, when all you have the strength to do is fall into His embrace. I wonder if his words to you now would be something like this:

“My Child, know that I’m with you today. Know that I care. Know that my heart aches with your heart. I am right here with you. Holding your hand. No need to reach to that which does not satisfy, that leaves you lifeless, hurting, and wanting. Climb into my arms, my warm embrace. Rest here. Know that I cherish such moments with you, when you humble yourself and cry out in your neediness to Me, trusting that I will run to you in your distress. No lectures. No rejection. No condemnation. No shaming. No criticism. Just comfort, connection, and reassurance. Stay here as long as you need to.”

May the music, lyrics, and imagery of this song remind you that “The everlasting God is your place of safety and his arms will hold you up forever” (Deuteronomy 33:27a).

May we call out to Him in our pain, grief, doubt, weakness, and imperfection, knowing that God’s “ears are attentive” to our cry (Psalm 34:15).

Our Lives, His Excerpt

This is a great article about our mutual friend’s battle with cancer. In the midst of suffering that is so difficult to understand, this post provides helpful perspective.

Marcy Pusey

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It is well

with my soul

It is well

with me.

I woke up singing this song. Perhaps it’s my new anthem too.

So let go my soul and trust in Him, the waves and wind still know His name.

I sat on a deck with the ocean in my view.

The ocean that still knows His name.

Images flashed of Ericlee lounging on patios and decks, seeped in the Word. Even with what proved to be a terminal diagnosis, he continued to love God’s Word, to lean into it and grow from it. To teach it to his daughters and wife. To my own family when we were together.10502062_10152975594872571_6266086793850406544_n

It’s a new morning and he’s still not in it. His memory and legacy continue to do its work in hearts. It carries his ministry, God’s ministry. And it gives courage to his wife and daughters.

But this isn’t the story I would…

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Dear Daughters

Dear Daughters,

I know today is a confusing and difficult day for you. Today we said goodbye to your Daddy, celebrating his life as a community. This has been hard for all of us. We loved your Daddy so much. And I know you did too.

I know for months you prayed that God would heal your Daddy. We all asked God for this too. We watched his sickness worsen and just this week his body failed. For reasons we do not know, your Daddy passed on from this world into the next, and that saddens us all. We don’t understand why this happened the way it did. What I know your Daddy would tell you if he was here is that even though God did not heal his body, God comforted him in his pain and has loved him and your family in so many ways through all of this. God’s love remains and will never leave you.

This morning at the grave-site was the last time I asked God to heal your Daddy. Just as I prayed that God would raise your Daddy to life, I suddenly realized that maybe your Daddy was praying the same prayer for us. As he rejoiced in God’s presence, I wondered if his one wish for us was that we too would be “raised to life”.

You may wonder, “how can we be raised to life when we are still living?” Your Daddy was a man who lived life to the fullest. He died at age 40 but he lived with more passion, courage, and faith than many people experience who live much longer lives. He set an example for all of us, showing us that trusting God is a marvelous adventure. I am reminded that all of us die and what matters most is not how or when we die but instead how we live in the time we all have here. Driven by God and his values, your Daddy inspired all of us. We too are “raised to life” when we live out the timeless values that fueled your Daddy’s life. It is my hope that remembering these values will inspire you to live more fully the lives you were created to live.

Daddy’s Values

I urge you to remember the qualities that you loved about your Daddy. I remember him as courageous, faithful, humble, disciplined, loyal, loving, generous, encouraging, healthy, joyful, and compassionate. In a very real sense, when we live out your Daddy’s values, it is like he continues to live among us. This is one way you can keep him alive in your hearts.

The Bible says that “Three things will last forever–faith, hope, and love–and the greatest of these is love” (1 Cor 13:13). Your Daddy’s life brightly reflected all of these essential values.

Faith

Your Daddy was a man of bold faith, trust, and conviction. He knew who God was and who he was in God’s eyes. For these reasons, he lived a courageous life, following God wherever he was meant to go. That’s one reason your family experienced so many adventures, because your Daddy trusted God wholeheartedly. In this life, all of us are tempted to stay comfortable and seek personal pleasure above God’s will. Your Daddy found his pleasure in God’s purpose.

As you live your lives, may you discover God’s glorious purpose for creating you. Each of you have unique gifts, personalities, and purposes. Your Daddy faithfully followed the path God had for him. You too will come alive when you find what you were created to do and do it wholeheartedly, like your Daddy did.

Hope

Out of your Daddy’s faith, came a steadfast hope. He had hope for himself and hope for others. It seems so often he believed in others more than we believed in ourselves. Your Daddy did great things for God in this life because he trusted and hoped that something beautiful was to come. Whether serving in Haiti, training for challenging events, maintaining his health, or doing “devotions”, your Daddy continued to hope for something better to come.

Your Daddy’s greatest hope was in God’s presence. Sweet girls, God is always with you. Even though the events of this week may feel hopeless, God is not done with the story. May the memories of your Daddy remain with you and guide you as you watch how God gloriously unfolds the rest of your years on earth. Despite the pain in the present, there is great hope for the future.

Love

Your Daddy’s was a passionate lover of both God and people.

One reason why losing your Daddy hurts so badly is because he loved you so deeply. As we remember your time with your Daddy and look at the pictures of him with you, it is obvious that he adored you and your mother.

He also loved God and others. When I think about your Daddy, I’m inspired to serve selflessly, to pray passionately, to lead with love, and to persevere through pain. His example showed us all how to act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with our God (Micah 6:8).

I know I am not your Daddy. Still, I commit to being one of many godly men in your life who will love you, encourage you, cheer for you, carry you, play with you, read to you, and tell you great stories about the Mighty Man who loved you so dearly. As we remember your Daddy together, his love will live on in us.

The Future Finish

As time passes, all of us will continue to remember your Daddy. It is normal to cry and mourn and there is no time in the future when you will be expected to stop missing him. I hope that in those moments of sadness you will reach out to those who love you and find comfort for your hurting hearts.

All of us, including your Daddy, wait in anticipation for the day when you will finish your race of life and your Daddy will be waiting to embrace you, his dear daughters, as you cross the line into his arms.

Until that day, I look forward to seeing all that God does in and through you. As these lyrics say, we will all “watch and see and we will be amazed” what God does with your lives as you run forward trusting in Him, just like your Daddy did.

“The Glorious Unfolding”

*Watch the video through to see the special message at the end

Lay your head down tonight
Take a rest from the fight
Don’t try to figure it out
Just listen to what I’m whispering to your heart
‘Cause I know this is not
Anything like you thought
The story of your life was gonna be
And it feels like the end has started closing in on you
But it’s just not true
There’s so much of the story that’s still yet to unfold

And this is going to be a glorious unfolding
Just you wait and see and you will be amazed
You’ve just got to believe the story is so far from over
So hold on to every promise God has made to us
And watch this glorious unfolding

God’s plan from the start
For this world and your heart
Has been to show His glory and His grace
Forever revealing the depth and the beauty of
His unfailing Love
And the story has only begun

We were made to run through fields of forever
Singing songs to our Savior and King
So let us remember this life we’re living
Is just the beginning of the beginning

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