Monday, January 16, 2017

Twelve Thoughts on Twelve Years of Marriage

Charity and I have been married for 12 years!
We’ve been married for 144 months.
Another way to say it is 4380 days.
It equals out to 105120 hours of marriage.

A lot can happen in 12 years. We’ve lived in four houses, two cities and worked at five different jobs (combined). We’ve had three children, two dogs, numerous fish, one bird, one mouse, one turtle and a hermit crab. We’ve had eight different cars. I’ve had two different dirt bikes.

I’ve never talked with someone about marriage and heard them say, “Well I hope this one works out.” or “If this marriage doesn’t work out, I’ll try again.” When we went into marriage we knew this was a “to death do us part commitment.”

In our time of marriage we’ve had the privilege of helping other couples prepare for marriage. When I look back on the last twelve years here are twelve thoughts on marriage that I want to pass on to others:

1. Communicate well
I remember one time while Charity and I were doing premarital counseling with a couple. During our conversation one of the people said: "you must fight well."  In a healthy marriage you need to know how to communicate well. Think about timing, tone and what you're going to say.

2. Celebrate often
Charity and I celebrate often. Celebrate your anniversary every year. Celebrate birthdays and be joyful together.

3. Travel with each other
We love to adventure together! Traveling can be stressful but it’s a great way to make memories with your spouse!


4. Go on a regular date
This has been huge for us. When we were first married it was date day; we would take Monday as a whole day with each other. When we had Sophie we moved to date night. Now, we do date morning. It doesn’t matter when you go on a date, the goal is to keep dating your spouse.


5. Serve your spouse
Think of things that would make your spouse excited! Serve them and help him/her out in a special way.

6. Don’t hide your love
Write notes, send text messages and say “I love you” often!


7. Buy your wife flowers
More than just on special occasions. Charity loves flowers! I enjoy getting her flowers, as a surprise, and seeing her face.


8. Let your spouse go on trips that fill them up
Plan ahead, say yes and help them out. Let him/her go on trips that with friends or just a trip that you know will encourage them.


9. Eat dinner together (preferably at the kitchen table)
We do our best to never eat on the couch. And make sure the TV is off.

10. Do life with others
Have other married couples in your life who speak truth to you. Think about how much fun it is when others help you become the best spouse you can be!

11. Have a recreation you enjoy 
This is a place we lack. We keep trying to find something to do together and lately it’s been hiking.


12. Surprise your spouse every now and then 
Surprise him/her in a good way. Bring them treat home, write a cute note or plan a fun date.

What would you add to this list?

Monday, January 09, 2017

A Message of Hope

It only happens once every six years... it's when Christmas falls on a Sunday.

This year was a special Christmas for me because I had the opportunity to share the hope of Jesus on the day we celebrate His birthday. Take thirty-two minutes and watch this Message of Hope!

12/25/2016 - Neal Benson | A Message of Hope from Central Peninsula Church on Vimeo.

Sunday, January 08, 2017

Isaiah's First Time Snowboarding

Last week we took a family trip to Lake Tahoe. As this trip was approaching I felt like it was the right time to get Isaiah on a snowboard for the first time. I looked all over to find a board that would be his size and found nothing.

I figured that I would just hold him and let him ride down a little with me. When we arrived at Heavenly Valley our girls wanted to take some laps on the magic carpet. At this time is when Charity had the idea to let him try.

See the whole time his sisters were riding he would say "skateboard" (he calls any board a skateboard). It was obvious he wanted to ride it. As you can see in the picture he did great standing on the board! His first ride he actually rode down on his own, but later wanted me to hold his hands.

I am so stoked for my son and how he rode!

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

THE BEST OF CHRISTMAS 2016

Wow!!! Another Christmas has come and gone.

I remember when I was 5 years old it seemed like Christmas would never get here. I guess when you've only experienced so few Christmas celebrations it seems like it takes forever for the day to arrive. As I look back on life (as a 37 year old now) I've experienced more Christmas celebrations.

Here are some of the highlights for me this year

TIME WITH MY FAMILY
This year both of my parents have had some medical scares.
When I look on this Christmas I am thankful they are both alive and healthy. My mom and Jerry came up for their annual Christmas trip. We celebrated Christmas at CPC where I was preaching for the morning. Each year we take our family picture in front of the tree in the lobby. We've been doing it since our kids are young. One day I'd like to look back and see all the pictures.

Today, I'm just thankful to have my family in the picture. It was great having my mom with us. Our kids love spending time with Oma and Opa. Isaiah kept saying: "Opa" when they would come over.

CHRISTMAS SCRIPTURE READING
This year Sophie was asked to do a Scripture reading at church. Now, I'm sure you're thinking: "Of course she was asked... you're the pastor!" I actually chose not to volunteer Sophie for the reading. As our Foster City Team was thinking up names for the service someone asked if I thought she would be willing to do a reading.

Now if you know Sophie, she isn't about to turn down an opportunity to have a mic in front of a room full of people! She read from the book of Matthew and shared with us about the birth of Christ on Christmas morning!

Christmas day only falls on Sunday once every six years. This was a treat for us because we have never served at a church that held a Christmas Day service. Having Sophie do a Scripture reading the morning I was preaching made the treat even better!

OPENING GIFTS 
Each year it's a joy to see our kids open their gifts. Early on I was very honest with them when they would ask about Santa. I didn't want to lie to my kids and looking back I might have done things differently (can't change it now). They loved opening their presents! They also made sure Isaiah had ample help with opening his gifts.

As I think back on this Christmas I feel like it was less stressful, encouraging and filling. I loved the time with my family, had a good balance at work and appreciate my wife so much!

Thank you Charity for all you do for our family.
Thank you Jesus for coming to this world to save us!

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

37 THOUGHTS FROM MY 37TH YEAR

This year I turned 37 years old. I had a great birthday with my family and really enjoyed all we did. As I thought about my birthday this year I wanted to share 37 thoughts from being 37 years old.

1. Skydiving is awesome

2. Family is extremely important

3. Flipping a car is scary

4. Seminary was the best discipleship process I ever went through

5. Getting married is the second best thing I ever did

6. Growing up in a small town was rad

7. One time I pet a rhino on my birthday, I'll never forget that

8. Traveling the world has opened my eyes

9. The distinguishing factor in Christianity is the grace that is found in Jesus Christ

10. Enter into messy situations. It may not be comfortable but it will be worth it

11. Life is short, I can't believe I'm 37 already

12. I've failed a ton in life but I keep trying; don't quit! 

13. I'm thankful I get to share the love of Jesus with others

14. Take lots of pictures! You can always delete some later

15. There's something special about holding hands with my children

16. Fire is powerful, especially when it's a fire in your heart for God

17. Don't listen to everything everybody says, find some people you trust and listen to them

18. Taking a risk is worth it

19. Snowboarding always has been exhilarating to me. I'm so stoked to get a snowboard with my daughters now

20. One of the most enjoyable things is seeing my wife smile

21. I wish I was better at time management

22. Invest in someone younger than you. I'm so thankful for all the people who have invested in me

23. I love going cliff jumping

24. I'm thankful that when I was young my dad encouraged me to use "please" and "thank you"

25. A little encouragement goes along way

26. Life change happens best in relationship

27. Reading the Bible on a daily basis helps to center my life 

28. People don't care what you know until they know that you care

29. Bungee jumping is scarier than skydiving

30. Charity and I try to be intentional to have a date every week

31. The first time I did a backflip on a snowboard I was amped 

32. Serving others brings joy to my life 

33. If you own a truck people are going to ask you to help them move

34. I wish I could say the taking my daughters to donuts every Saturday started as a strategic move, didn't but I'm so thankful we have it

35. I love taking my mom out for dinner when she's in town

36. Make sure to tell people you love them and how important they are in your life

37. Life is done best and community

Thursday, December 08, 2016

VALIDATING YOUR SON

The following is an excerpt of my teaching to 100 men at my church at Men's Fraternity. We are currently using the 33 series: A Man and His Father. This book has been huge in my life!

In all honesty, the Bible gives us a whole bunch of examples of inadequate fathers; fathers who didn’t validate their sons. Noah got so drunk he passed out and his sons had to cover up his naked body. Jacob exhibited such immense favoritism to one son that his brothers threw Joseph in a pit and sold him into slavery. David failed to discipline his oldest son, creating a rebellious child who attempted to take the kingdom from his father and eventually died.

Realistically, there is no example of a perfect father here on earth. To find a perfect father, we need to turn our eyes to God the Father. Move to the New Testament and we find it was a big day for Jesus as He walked down to the Jordan River to be baptized. As he came out of the water, Scripture records what happened next:
As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” Matthew 3:16-17
Speaking from heaven, God the Father makes a bold declaration to the world saying, “This is my Son!” In other words, He’s saying, “No one make a mistake about it, He belongs to me. I am his Father and He is my Son!” God the Father makes no ambiguity surrounding His relationship to Jesus Christ. God was affirming Christ during a monumental time in the life of His son.

The affirmation doesn’t stop with God boldly declaring Jesus is His Son. God goes on, “This is my Son, whom I love; with Him I am well pleased.” Affirmation is powerful and we all desperately need it to feel validated! Right here God tells the world that He loves Jesus and is well pleased with Him. Think about this. At this point in His life Jesus has not yet, preached a sermon, healed the sick, raised the dead, cast out any demons, called any disciples, or done any miracles. However God the Father validates Jesus not for what He has done or for the future works he will do. The Father affirms Jesus solely because of who He is—His beloved Son! What an encouragement!

If you’ve experienced a lack of validation from your father growing up, please don’t hold back encouragement in your son’s life. The power of our words can bring life to our sons, name them and draw them out. This is what God to Jesus that day on the bank of the Jordan river. We need to see our sons, Fathers with older children, keep in mind the age of Jesus at His baptism. God remained engaged in Jesus’ life through every step and every stage of His life.

You son needs to be validated by you. Your son needs to be seen by you and encouraged by you. There is a huge power that comes in validating a son.

To learn more about the 33 Series watch the following video

Tuesday, December 06, 2016

THREE BOOKS EVERY MARRIED COUPLE WOULD BENEFIT FROM READING

How's your marriage doing?

Really, how is your marriage doing?

There are times that my marriage has been awesome and times that I needed to invest more into my marriage. There are times that I feel like a super-husband and times I feel like a selfish man. Next month Charity and I will celebrate 12 years of marriage (crazy huh!). We're super excited to celebrate our anniversary.

As I think about our marriage I want to share three books that have been a blessing to us along the way. Here are three books that have helped my marriage and I encourage you to not just read them. In fact, don't read them but apply them.


1) Love & Respect
This book has ben so helpful in my marriage. Charity and I went through this book at the end of 2011. We actually lead a small group through the book. It gave us some new language to help us understand each other. It gave me new ideas I never knew about. It also help me understand my wife in a deeper way.

The book is based off Ephesians 5:21-33. It goes into depth and shares about how women desire to be loved and men need to be respected. I don't want to give too much away but hopefully it's enough to encourage you to read it!

2) The Meaning of Marriage
In all honesty, I haven't read this book. But Charity read it and said it was awesome! She really enjoyed the content. If Charity recommends it, you probably want to check it out!

3) Sacred Marriage
This is the first book on marriage I ever read. I think I even read it before we got marriage. In addition, I'm pretty sure it was John Fairfield (Charity's dad) who gave me the book. This book rocked my world and has shaped my marriage. Gary Thomas is a fantastic author. He shares openly from his own personal experience.

A few quotes that I love from this book go a little something like this:

- A good marriage is not something you find, it's something you work for

- Marriage is like looking into a mirror and seeing all your faults

This book has helped me see how important it is to work on myself to help my marriage.

These books could impact you! As Christmas approaches maybe you could get one to help your marriage, a friend or an engaged person you know.

What other book would you add to this list?



Wednesday, November 30, 2016

WHERE CAN I RUN?

This Fall my church is going through the book of Joshua. It's been a fantastic series to see God's faithfulness to His people, His provision and His leading. On Sunday I preached on Joshua 20 and 21. I talked about how God is a refuge to those in need.


Watch the sermon here and share your thoughts on how it impacts you.
11/27/2016 - Neal Benson | Ventures in Faith: Where Can I Run? from Central Peninsula Church on Vimeo.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

THE POWER OF A VALIDATING FATHER

A few weeks ago I was invited to speak at Men's Fraternity at our church. It's a great ministry that meets at 6am. Me and 6am are not best friends. Thankfully there is warm coffee and a hot breakfast. Also there are almost a 100 other guys to keep you awake and make sure you're getting connected.

It was a huge privilege to speak at Men's Fraternity. Here is a link to my talk from the morning about the power of a validating father.

11/17/2016 - Neal Benson from CPC Mens on Vimeo.

Friday, November 25, 2016

BIG BEAR LAKE

Last weekend I had a really cool opportunity to speak at the church where I first met Christ. It was epic! Looking back on the weekend I have a handful of takeaways to share.

Traveling with my daughter
Since I've been traveling a lot lately it seemed right to bring one of children with me. Charity and I talked about it and thought Leah needed the time with me. It was so fun to travel with Leah! We rarely get any one on time. This trip gave us a bunch of one on one time.

We flew out of SFO together and traveled to my moms. Over the weekend it was great seeing my daughter enjoy my mom. Growing up in a small town I choose to leave after high school and have never moved back. Now that we have kids I cherish any time they get with my mom.

Seeing friends
As we planned the trip I had to reach out to some close friends to see them. My best friend Conrad came up to see us. It was great seeing him and his wife Karen. We also spent some time with their son Deagon. On Saturday we were able to see them, ride the Alpine Slide and go bowling!

We also had some time to see my good friend Brian. Brian had been a brother in Christ for 15 years. Brian gave his life to Christ while we both were living in San Diego. He has four children now and it was so fun seeing how well our kids got along.

We also had the opportunity to see more friends when I spoke at church on Sunday. At one point in the service I looked back at my friends and said: "It feels like high school!" It was so fun seeing so many friends in such a short time.

Speaking at Community Church 
A highlight of my trip was being invited to speak at the church I first was introduced to Christ at. When I pulled into the parking lot on Sunday morning I had to do a double take. Never in my life did I think I'd be speaking at that church.

Before getting out of my car I just sat there and thanked God for the invitation to speak there.
I'll admit I was nervous. Nervous for a few reasons. The people in my hometown know me. They know my mistakes and many of them saw them first hand. I was nervous they wouldn't see the change. I was wrongly nervous. I was so well received and was able to hug and see so many friends.
I also saw Bob Pool. Bob was a huge impact in my life. Bob invested me in as a young boy and it was great seeing him!

Looking back on the weekend it was a pure joy! It was great spending so much time with Leah, seeing old friends and sharing God's word with so many loving people.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

DO I NEED TO TAKE A DAY OFF?

We live in a culture where it's hard to really take a day off. We are attached to our phones. It's tough to rest with kids. It seems there is always something to complete around the house. How does a person really take a day off and rest?

To answer that question I want to look at the Sabbath from the Bible;


What does the Sabbath mean?
During Bible College was the first time I began to study the Sabbath. Sabbath comes from the Hebrew word Shabbat meaning repose. Repose is a state of calm, peacefulness or rest. The Sabbath means it’s our chance to have a day of calm with no regular work. From what I’ve read about history the Jews would start their day when the sun set. This way the first part of the day would be spent with the family. This is not necessarily a spouse and children; but time with their entire family. Next they would sleep and conclude their day with work. It’s a fantastic way to view the 24-hour day.

In his book The Emotionally Healthy Leader, Peter Scazzero gives a definition that I really like. He says: “Biblical Sabbath is a 24-hour block of time in which we stop work, enjoy rest, practice delight, and contemplate God.” The phrases: “stop work,” “enjoy rest,” “practice delight,” and “contemplate God” give us a perfect road map to help us understand what the Sabbath really means. The Sabbath is more than a day off of work. The Sabbath is more than not working. It involves much more. The Sabbath means we get into a state of peaceful rest with the Lord. We avoid work and truly rest. This is how you can describe Sabbath to others next time someone asks you. (Special thanks to Cathy McIlvoy for her thoughts on this paragraph!)

To further help you understand what the Sabbath means let me explain a little more. The Sabbath is intended to be practiced weekly. One day a week is meant to be dedicated to the Lord. It’s a day where no regular work is to be done. Many people practice their Sabbath day on Sunday. This allows you to go shopping on Saturday, get the house chores done, wash the dog, clean your car and do other things that are work but not your regular job. If you don’t have Sunday off from your job you can be creative on what day you take. When I was in college I had Monday and Tuesday off so I would use Monday as my Sabbath day. The goal is not to be legalist on the day.

Now there are some questions about what is really work. When we talk about the meaning of Sabbath it’s a complete stopping of work. I do my best to take my Sabbath from Friday night to Saturday night. It’s a time where I don’t check email, I won’t slot meetings, I don’t do laundry and I won’t write a sermon. What I will do is clean the garage, wash the car or do yard work. Those are things that don’t feel like work to me. I’m a little OCD so having a clean car feels amazing. When my garage gets cluttered it stresses me out. It’s tough to clean it on a week night so I need to wait until the kids are resting on Saturday afternoon so I can clean it. Yard work actually refreshes me and doesn’t feel like work. There is something, for me, about raking the leaves, trimming the bushes and helping my backyard look more presentable. For you, this may sound stressful. The point of the Sabbath is do no regular work and rest. These are not my regular work and refresh me.

Why was it given?
Once we understand what the Sabbath really means is when we can begin to figure out why it was given. The first time the word Sabbath appears in the Bible is in Exodus 16:23. The Nation of Israel had been working their fingers to the bone. They were under the oppression from Pharaoh. They were required to make bricks so Pharaoh could expand his power and build up Egypt. God rescued His people from Egypt and after crossing the Red Sea the Lord commanded the people to take a Sabbath day (read Exodus 16:23).

Although this is the first time the word “Sabbath” appears, the term “rest” is used earlier in the Bible. In Genesis 2:2-3 God saw all He had made, and then He rested. How come an all powerful, all knowing, God stopped to rest? God didn’t have to rest. The Bible doesn’t say that God was tired. The reason that God rested was to set an example for us. God modeled a rest-filled life for each of us. God knew that He created us as human beings and not human doings.

The Sabbath protects people from burnout and being used for all they accomplish. During the aftermath of the French Revolution, the Sabbath was abolished, being substituted with one day’s rest in ten. Each person was expected to work for nine days and then take one day off. Apparently the experiment was a complete disaster. Men and women crumbled under the pressure and strain of the expectations. Animals were literally falling over in the street and dying for being pushed so hard. People need a Sabbath and that is why it was given.

There is a Bible Scholar who I really respect and he wrote a great part of the Sabbath. His name is Eugene Peterson. He started as a church planter and then became a teacher. He is also known for writing the Message version of the Bible. Listen to what Eugene Peterson has to say about this: “Sabbath: uncluttered time and space to distance ourselves from the frenzy of our own activities so we can see what God was and is doing. If we don’t regular quit work one day a week, we take ourselves far too seriously. The moral sweat pouring off our brow blinds us to the primal action of God in and around us.”

There is an old story about two men who went into the woods to chop down trees (axe picture). As the sun began to rise the men walked into the forest together. In a fun spirit one man challenged the other as to who could chop down the most trees. The bet was set and the day began. After a few hours of chopping down trees one of the men sat down for a quick rest. The other kept working. A couple more hours and the man sat down for a quick rest again. The other man kept working. As the day neared the end the man sat down for another rest! Finally it was time to go home and the counted up the trees they fell. To his shock the man who worked all day long had actually fell fewer trees than the man who rested. As they walked home he asked his friend how he worked less and dropped more trees. His response was quite simple, “While you keep chopping, I choose to sit, rest and sharpen my axe.”

Let’s a quick recap from the first two questions.
The first question was what does the Sabbath mean. Who can give me a sentence answer to that question? The Sabbath means to have a day of rest. The second question we grabbed from the fourth commandment is; “Why was it given?” Who can give me a quick answer to that question? The reason the Sabbath was given was so we can rest and not burnout from the load of work.

How do you rest?

Friday, November 11, 2016

CONGRATS LEAH

The other day Leah came home from school and said, "Guess what?! I got JoJo!"

JoJo is the huge jaguar you see in the picture. If you look at the write up on Leah you can read about why she got JoJo. I'm so proud of Leah for getting JoJo. I'm proud of her for listening and for her teaching seeing her notice.
I love how big she is smiling at winning JoJo (this is a big deal at our school).

Congrats Leah!

Friday, November 04, 2016

HALF-SLEEVE TREE TATTOO

For the last five(ish) years I've been wanting to get a tattoo on my left arm. When I say "a tattoo" I mean a half-sleeve.  I am not one to simply rush into a tattoo. I know its something on my body forever and it matters. I have tried to find an artist near me but each time I think about calling I just think: "I want Jonny to do the tat."

Jonny Five is my buddy in Vegas who has done basically all my ink in the last decade. I've spent many hours with Jonny and more importantly I trust him. He's a fantastic artist. He's well respected. He knows what he's doing.

So all that said, let me explain the tattoo to you and the reason behind it. When I was in seminary I had a pastor I respect very much pray over me. During that time he prophesied and prayed that I would be a tree for my generation.
He prayed I would be a father to the fatherless and a leader for leaders.
He prayed that God would use me to fight for the fatherless.
He also prayed that I would put down the gloves I've used to fight in the past and that I would fight for the Gospel to move ahead.
It was a moving time.

About six months after that I began thinking of getting a tattoo to remind me of that time. Each time I looked at trees I couldn't find the right one. After thinking about it for almost four years Charity and I were talking and it all clicked. I don't remember how the conversation went, but it was finally clear that I needed to get a pine tree (or some kind of mountain tree). It would remind me of my roots and the time in seminary.

The tattoo also makes me think of Psalm 1 where it says this:
Psalm 1:1-3
1 Blessed is the one
    who does not walk in step with the wicked
or stand in the way that sinners take
    or sit in the company of mockers,
2 but whose delight is in the law of the Lord,
    and who meditates on his law day and night.
3 That person is like a tree planted by streams of water,
    which yields its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not wither—
    whatever they do prospers.


I love the dimension in the tattoo and the variety of trees. The main tree is dark black and then the trees vary from there. If you're familiar with Redwood trees you might know that they don't have deep roots but they have connected roots. The tree relies on its root connection to other trees in strong winds. This tattoo also reminds me of the need to stay connected with others. The Christian life is not meant to be experienced alone!

There are the four reasons this tattoo is so meaningful to me. Thank you Jonny for a great piece! If you're ever in Vegas go hang out with Jonny and get the tattoo you've been thinking about for years.

Wednesday, November 02, 2016

FINDING CREATIVE WAYS TO SERVE WITH YOUR KIDS

The longer I pastor and the most I parent the more I look for ways to empower parents to be spiritual leaders in their homes. I often find myself having conversations with dads about how they can connect with their kids. I talk with moms about how they can shape the hearts of their sons. I talk with grandparents who are filling a role and looking for creative ways to serve with their kids.

(Sophie praying with me)
Throughout these conversations I am constantly thinking about ways I can serve with my kids. At my church we do something called Family Worship. It's a service where we invite elementary aged kids into our main worship service. Our team is constantly trying to find creative ways to make the service more engaging, more practical and helpful to families. We want the kids to leave the service thinking:
"I know God better because of that." We want parents leaving the service thinking: "I can talk with my child about things of God because of that service."



About two years I had an idea (this is normal occurrence in my life). Not all my ideas are good, but this one seemed to catch traction. The idea was to have my six year old daughter co-host with me in the service. To make this happen well I knew it would take lots of practice and preparation. I didn't just show up on Sunday morning with my daughter. We talked about it at home, we practiced on Thursday on the stage with lights and microphones, and then we did the real thing on Sunday.

When it was all said and done it was a great time! We had a fantastic response from our body and my daughter loved it!

(Sophie stood on a stool to get us the same height)
I know many churches are thinking of creative ways to get kids and parents in the service together. If that is you, you might want to try something like we did!
(Full Room shot)
I want to say a special thanks to our Foster City team for dreaming always!
Thank you to Mike Sly for the pictures of this special time with my daughter.