brenton-hallBenton Hall:  Serving 43 years with Cru’s High School division, this fifth generation Ft. Worthian, Benton Hall spins encouraging tales of God’s presence in the everyday from a life of service, surrender and golf.
Stumbling through years of higher education in Texas, attending Episcopal church camp on the Brazos and fathering a family of three exceptionally bright, talented, and trying kids prepared him for high school ministry. Benton and wife Susie reside on the peopled plains of North Texas, managing to patch together 38 years of marriage and home repair

 This quick read of humorous, heart breaking, and encouraging short stories from 40+ years of working with teenagers hopes to empower a resume’ of “Yes” with God. These stories of joyful and often partial surrender reveal the possibilities of faith in the adventure of walking with the Creator. And in this all too often partial obedience, stories of good works hand crafted around our strengths and gifts, purposed to glorify the Son. Good works designed to accomplish His purposes as he frees us from ourselves to love and serve one another.

This is a book that hopes to stir up faith to conquer fears and faith to climb out of comfortable ruts of routine in hopes of something better. It’s a faith that releases the power of God’s Spirit for service in our families, churches, and cities. This book doesn’t promise glowing newspaper write ups or ‘Keys to the City’, but explores the personal satisfaction that comes of partnering with the God of the Universe to accomplish his purposes in a life of love and grace.

brenton-tales-from-the-bike-pathDonna: Tell us a little bit about the book.

Benton: The book, Tales from the Bike Path; the title comes from the fact that we live on a bike path in Plano and can watch people walk, ride, jog, and skate by.  I have played soccer and baseball with my children on the path. Some of the stories happen there and most of the book was written from my back patio overlooking the bike path. That’s where the title comes from.

I’ve been editing people’s stuff forever and I kept sensing the Lord telling me to write. I’m a storyteller, that’s what works with high school kids. If you want to communicate a biblical precept and principle, it`s best packaged in a story and that’s the sugar that makes the medicine go down. So, this book is 70 to 80 short stories; each one a page to two. Each one stands alone and is also tied to an aspect of God’s character or the way he works with us. Each one is similar to a devotional, very biographical, and semi chronological.  The stories are 44 years of work with high school kids, playing golf with my friends, my dad’s world war II experiences, chasing my dog in the neighborhood, and raising kids; just life stories.

Benton: Having been with CRU all these years, a lot of them are witnessing stories. People want to talk and I just get in conversations which soon turn to spiritual things.  They stories that are designed to encourage people to say yes to the Lord, as He asks them to step into the adventure he created for them. Whether praying for a friend, step ping up to work within their church, coaching little league, or speaking up in planning zoning committee. You just start saying yes to him and you`ll build a resume of saying yes. Pretty soon, you find yourself walking with Jesus in an intimate way that you’ve never experienced before. The more you say yes, the more you experience His love and His joy.

Donna: Do you see the book being targeted toward Christians or non-Christians or both? 

Benton: Well, I hope both.  I’ve sold hundreds in the Dallas area to people that I know who I’ve got really good feedback from. I’m anxious to hear from somebody who doesn’t know me who’s read the book.  I laugh and I tell my friends, you`ll know all about Susie and me by the time you finish this book.

Donna: Tell us a little bit about your work with the teens and then what have you seen change or not change with them and the years you were with CRU. 

Benton: I worked with kids back in 1971 and then joined Crew in ‘72. I would say the big difference is the sophisticated and worldly situation they find themselves in because the breakdown of the American family. There’s an emotional deficit that’s there and I feel like that’s why they are so quick to have sex, drink, smoke; those are symptomatic of people looking for significance and meaning in life. We shoved them into an adult world pretty quick. However emotionally deficit and how technologically advanced they become, it makes Christ stand out so much more.  I engage in question asking. I talk to the kids because I really care about them and ask questions about their life tha no one’s asking; their friends are just teasing them and nobody’s listening to them so you can engage with the student and within a matter of minutes, you can go fairly deep as deep as they will let you.

Not to be intrusive or manipulative but because the love of Christ you just care about them and that shows Christ’s love.  I’ve been around and I never planned to work in Plano for 36 years.  I dove hunted Plano when I was growing up in Ft Worth.  Now I’m hunting for souls in the same fields I used to hunt doves in and literally the same exact neighborhoods. Having lived there that long, we’ve got all these friends in the adult community and with principals, administrators, coaches, teachers and parents and that breadth lets me focus on these individual campuses and gives me the credibility. My kids all went to the schools and were coached by some of those same people and so it’s given that tremendous ability for us to work with students in that city. We work real close with youth pastors in churches and pastors and that breadth’s helped us reach the kids and then the kids know, “Oh, you’re friends with my coach, your friends my principal. I saw you talking to so and so.” They let their guard down, they see that I’m okay and I’m fun, I have fun with it. If it’s not fun, kids are not gonna be involved. If there is not food, boys will not come. So there has to be those two elements which make me think Jesus has a lot of fun. I think he has a better sense of humor, though obviously His heart is broken too at times. I don’t know how He handles all the dissonance there- the joy and the heartbreak at same time, but He does and we do. That’s just life; no matter who you serve and in what capacity or where you serve. That’s just the way of life is. I saw a kid laughing in lunchroom the other day and his mother was dying of cancer and we were all taking over meals and he was laughing out loud and he looked up and he saw me and he just stopped laughing. He is a middle linebacker and I walked over and whispered in his ear, “Hey this is life, you can’t be sad every day. We know your mom’s dying but when it’s time to laugh, son you laugh out loud”.  That’s just the way life is.

And with high school kids, that’s what we go through constantly. We’re having fun with them, we’re teasing them and then we cry with them over the death of mom or divorce or all the struggles they have to weather in their transitional life between children and adults.

Donna: So, are you seeing much difference in the issues that the teens are dealing with whether they’re city kids or middle class kids?

Benton: No, because of TV and media and Twitter and Instagram and Snapchat all those things. The problems are spread clear across.  Kids in the country can get whatever they want and they’re doing the same thing as kids in the city .

Donna: But I think sometimes those parents are not prepared because they think it won’t happen to their kids. 

Benton: Oh, no! There’s a lot of that going on.

Donna: Back to your book, what should people expect from your book when they pick it up to read it? 

Benton: Well hopefully it will be a fun, quick, encouraging, read and every chapter stands alone so you can read a chapter and put it down, there’s no guilt.

There is no, Oh! I didn’t finish”. No, you finished, you read two pages. And I’ve had friends tell me, “Hey my wife and I are reading a chapter in the morning, reading a chapter at night” Well, I never even thought that would be a possibility. Other guys are reading right through it. Guys were saying, “Yea, I got halfway through.” And I kept saying, “Why did you stop?” And then I realized because every chapter stands alone. You can just stop it and come back, pick it up or flip to another. It’s got pictures in it. Unashamedly it should be about 150 pages long but because of the way we started a new chapter on a separate page halfway down, it turned out to be 200 pages. It’s just a quick read. I wanted to steal the ideas from some of these short Christian books that have come out.  I wanted to have that kind of a short quick read for men really.

Benton: Even though women would enjoy the book also because the stories appeal to women as well.