Exceed — October 13, 2011

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Sometimes I really miss elements of kindergarten.  That’s why I enjoy my granddaughter, Lily–so I can sit down and color with her, appearing to be a caring grandfather–when really I am vicariously returning to being a little kid.

Likewise, I used to love “Connect the Dots.” It had two aspects that pleased me. First was using my intelligence to trace a line from number one to number two and on to number three–and then to do it as fast as I could, to compete against my friends and  be the first one to reveal the hidden dinosaur from amongst the numbers. 

Candidly, I think we would be better off as adults if we did a lot more “connecting the dots.” For instance, instead of reading the Bible as a duty or as great literature, as if it were spawned from the pen of Shakespeare (even though we don’t have a Stratford-on-Avon-idea of what it means), we choose to understand that one thought follows another and therefore might be trying to show us a picture.

Case in point: the Sermon on the Mount begins with the Beatitudes, which I have shown you is really a challenge to reveal our own hearts and get simple. Once we’ve arrived at simplicity, we have unlocked the key–more or less split the atom–of what causes us to be powerful. So what do we do with the power? Do we flaunt it? Do we use it to subjugate other human beings? Do we walk around with our noses in the air, acting self-righteous? These are options that the religious community has used over the years to turn their salvation experience into a club for beating others instead of a gentle rope, cast to save the lost and dying. What should I do with the fact that I am the salt of the earth and the light of the world?

Honor reality. There is a reality going on in the world that can not be ignored, prayed away or simply negotiated from being bothersome. I remember the first thing I did after the 9/11 tragedy was to grab a Koran. If these people–or at least, the more militant among them–wanted to be my enemy, then my best defense was to learn as much as possible about their belief system.

Jesus phrased it well in the Sermon on the Mount when he said he didn’t come to destroy the law and the prophets, but to fulfill them. It reminds me of writing a play. Words on paper are quite interesting and even have potential, but you really don’t know how good the writing is or how fulfilling the story can be until the actors put it in context by performing the material.  That’s what Jesus meant. While the theologians of his day were debating the finer points of doctrine, Jesus brought a visual aid and lived it out in front of the people. He fulfilled it.

This is missing in spirituality today.  In an attempt to package God into a more palatable form for the masses, who do not want to consider difficulty or to be challenged to change, we have removed all sense of responsibility for living out truth as a visual example in front of mankind and thus fulfilling righteousness. Honestly? I just don’t learn until I see it in motion.

I often sit in churches and listen to the readings from the Bible and it seems to me that even those who speak the words from the lectern get lost in the middle of the sentence, failing to garner any true meaning. We have a responsibility to fulfill the law and prophets. And then, Jesus goes on to say that we also have a great opportunity to exceed the righteousness of those who already think they know God, but have offered very little comfort to our suffering world.

Yes.  Jesus said “except your righteousness exceed that of the scribes and pharisees, you will not enter the Kingdom of God.”  Because … where IS the kingdom of God? Jesus said it was within us. So if what is within us is not becoming obvious in the real world, then we have done nothing more than those who have already failed to practice what they preach.

So how do we exceed--to succeed? I am so happy to report that this is one of the easiest concepts I will ever share with you. Here goes:  whenever you are given a task, ask two quick questions: (1)  now, what is it exactly that you want me to do? and (2) when do you need it?

If you want to fulfill truth and exceed the righteousness you see around you, just do a little more than Number 1 and do it a little sooner than Number 2.  You’ve already been told what the expectation is–and if you decide to do just a little bit more and do it a little sooner, you will stand out in this mediocre world as salt and light.

For example, a friend of mine has asked me to edit a play he has written. So I posed the two questions. What exactly is it you want me to do and when do you need it? His reply was, “Well, I’d just like you to make it better and I need it one week from now.”  You see? So all I have to do to come across like an absolute genius is to put in a few more improvements than he expects and deliver it at least one day early. He will not only be astounded, but he will give me the greatest gift that any human being can give to another–trust.

See how it works? So we’ve connected the dots. If you’re willing to get simple about yourself–not being so pompous and fearful of losing your place–you will be powerful and begin to usher in a new world in your soul, projecting salt and light to others around you. If you use that power to exceed the expectations of the world around you by the philosophy of “Do a little more,” you will end up being a friend of sinners, a companion of God and a trusted human being.

So there they are–all three. Get simple.  Be powerful.  Do a little more.

If you follow those three things in order, you will gain the prominence and place you desire in any business, organization or family situation.  And it all comes from connecting the dots from the thoughts and teachings of Jesus.

  • Get simple.  “I’m not even as good as you think I am.”
  • Be powerful.  “I don’t want to hurt me; I don’t want to hurt you. Therefore, I can’t hurt God.”
  • Do a little more.  Ask the two questions. “What is it exactly you want?” and “when do you need it?” Then, simply go a little further.

Try it.  See if it works. Create a visual to the gospel that you believe in your heart–or be prepared to be evaluated on the results of what you do … anyway.

***************

Jonathan sings “Let”

Jonathan Sings “Spent This Time”

Jonathan and his partner, Janet Clazzy, play “The Call”

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