Monday, January 19, 2015

The Benson Influence

As I set up to begin crafting another post, the ice cream truck in front of our house has been playing Turkey in the Straw for nearly 20 minutes, and I am about to crawl out of my skin. Even shutting the front door could not drown out the unwelcome tune. The lovely weather in southern California promotes daily rounds in my neighborhood from this “year-round-music-box-on-wheels-full-of-cold treats” playing its repertoire of songs including a Christmas song and Happy Birthday. Where I grew up the ice cream truck was seasonal and not out and about in the icy, cold winter.

I know I am getting older because I say, “when I was growing up” more often. Just this past week I had a wonderful “when I was growing up” come full circle. When I was in junior high (called middle school now) my mom discovered a little church she was determined our broken family would attend. While attending this little church I first heard a soft-spoken man by the name of Bob Benson; he captured my attention with his beautiful word pictures, sensitive heart and holistic faith. He shared a faith walk without compartments; a spirituality wrapped up in everyday living. I read his books and I learned to sit on the front pew and listen hard to his whispered messages whenever I had an opportunity to hear him speak.

Bob Benson died of cancer in his 50s so it has been at least a quarter of a century since he wrote a book or spoke at a retreat. But not too long ago I came across a book by Robert Benson entitled, Dancing on the Head of a Pen. The subtitle is The Practice of a Writing Life. An inspiring and practical book by the way, including well crafted word pictures to draw one in, to tease out a few laughs; it is written like a straight forward chat over coffee about what it is like for one writer to bear up under the insecurities and delicacies of being a writer. Only a few pages into the book and I suspected this Robert Benson just might be related to Bob Benson. I text my brother to share with him, and of course he wants to read Robert Benson's book; I imagine he wants to borrow mine.

After doing a little research I discovered Robert Benson is Bob Benson's son. This morning I decided to take a photo of Robert's book with one of his dad's books. I pulled out He Speaks Softly: Learning toHear God's Voice. If you read my post about my one word for the year, you may recall it is listen. I felt a tug on my heart to reread this book. I opened the book for old times sake and hit a speed bump at the dedication page. “To my two eldest sons, Robert . . . and Michael . . .” the words of Bob Benson confirmed Robert to be his son. Now this all sounds kind of weird as if I am looking for some lost relative, but I am a bit sentimental about those who helped mold me spiritually when I was young in the faith. My home life was chaotic so creative Christians like Bob Benson poured crystal clear water, re-hydrating a parched place in me craving hope and encouragement.

I wish I had the words to describe how moved I am to be mentored by another Benson. At this crossroad on my journey I am delighted Robert Benson came along side to challenge me as a creative person and to speak to my soul. I plan to read as many of his books as I can get my hands on. I would love to hear about the people who stirred you to be a better and truer you – the one or two people who left a significant mark on your spiritual formation. There have been several in my life and a larger number of them I only met through print on a page. Thank you wherever you may be!

My husband, my editor, challenged me to bring something more to the ice cream truck opening. I had to laugh at my response because I told him I grew up in the country so my only ice cream truck experiences as a child happened when visiting my cousins in Cincinnati. It is as Bob Benson writes, "A person's montage of memories and impressions are peculiarly and particularly his own." I imagine it is more the memories of raising my children in the mid west influencing my thinking about ice cream trucks. No matter, the Pied Piper-like draw of its music for the neighborhood children overwhelms me still.

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