A-a-r-r-r-g-ue–November 1, 2011


Sometimes it just happens.

Traveling on the road and staying in motels, you will occasionally find yourself audience to a loud argument coming through the walls from the room next door. You can choose to turn on your television very loud to cover up the resounding discussion, but then you realize that your television set is streaming noise into the conflict, which can even make them more irritable.

Yesterday, I just sat quietly and I listened. I guess it’s not called listening–it’s eavesdropping. But I really didn’t receive much personal detail, because these people were just a-a-a-r-r-r-guing.  Yes.  Like two pirate ships in the middle of the Ocean of Despair, they had spotted each other–and because of some sort of frustration, they were spewing their cannonballs of anger back and forth, trying to destroy one another with the hopes of receiving great loot.

There was nothing unique about their premises nor their disagreement. He was mad because she had changed plans and she was infuriated because he didn’t respect her. People often debate why the United States of America is the most violent nation in the world when it comes to bodily damage done among its citizens. Oh, certainly there are nations that have dictators who kill more people–but the United States is the most violent when it comes to citizen-on-citizen crime.

Why is that? Is it because we have too many guns? No.  Actually, guns don’t kill people. It’s true, whether you agree with the National Rifle Association or not. For after all, if you removed all the guns, rocks would do just fine.  (Thus–stoning.)

Is it because we have overpopulation and our society is too pressurized? Actually there are many cities in the world much more crowded than ours who commit much less hurtful actions and words towards one another.  What is it that causes us to a-a-a-r-r-r-gue, like pirates raising our flags to warn other ships that we’re out for no good? 

All of this pre-violent fussiness is based upon two erroneous American principles, untrue and not applicable to human life. The first one is:

1. “Normal is when everything is okay.” If you were raised in this country, you basically believe this to be so. You may have fits of disagreement with yourself and realize that evolution in culture is inevitable, but basically you’ve permitted yourself the grace to be aggravated about anything that disrupts your flow.  I’ve even entered a roadway with plenty of space to spare and had a car honk at me because I dared to interrupt his or her speed by a few miles per hour. Happiness has been defined in our society as finding a place where we are not challenged, never questioned and not put under the gun–and then we are allowed to settle there. And “please, do nothing to change these circumstances.”

In moments of sanity, we know this can’t be the truth. Every creature on this planet is involved in the struggle for survival. Ants wake up every morning knowing that this could be the last one if they don’t make all the right moves at all the right moments. Yet in our arrogance we insist that finding a safe place–a haven of rest–is the ideal and that anything that comes along to hassle that contentment is born of evil. Actually, hassle is the only thing that God can use in life to produce blessing. Without it, we settle into mediocrity which eventually deteriorates into a crumbling, meaningless existence, absent growth.

So this is the first mistake we make that causes us to a-a-a-r-r-rgue. The truth is, “normal” is when things ARE changing–and if we would cease to be pirates and instead become excellent sea captains, we could steer our ship in the direction of the change and discover betterment for ourselves in the process. When you see that change is on the horizon, instead of resisting it or finding some obscure passage to contradict it, try to find the parts of it that have good application for yourself–and get on board. Much of what we refer to in our society as “flip-flopping” is really the natural evolution of thinking demanded in human beings to stay afloat on the raging sea of change.

Two things are certain:  (1) life is going to continually transform itself, because (2) free will can never be removed from human experience.

Since there is free will, there will always be saints and sinners.  Since there is free will, there will always be those who allow you to go ahead in the grocery line and also those who bump your cart to get in front of you. Normal is when things are changing–and the only way to survive is to prepare for the change while still maintaining the core integrity of your belief.

2. The second problem that causes Americans grief and promotes ongoing conflict among its people is the contention that we deserve respect.  Matter of fact, we think it’s one of the inalienable rights listed in the Declaration of Independence by Mr. Thomas Jefferson.  It is not. All of the inalienable rights listed in that document are about us being granted the privilege of PURSUING our personal space.

No one deserves respect. No one is better than anyone else, which means no one deserves respect. Instead, what we deserve is an opportunity to earn respect. When your opportunities are denied you, you should make a stand and let a little bit of your fury fly. But when you have squandered an opportunity and you dig your heels in, still demanding to be respected, you are going against everything in the order of Mother Nature and therefore will find yourself at odds with God.

It’s difficult, with all the reality shows on television, to counteract this philosophy. People think that because they have skin, blood, veins and bones that they should have the same amount of respect as the person who takes all of those vital organs and creates vitality. Not so, Joe. It doesn’t work that way. And truthfully, the more respect you demand, the less you will get. It is in the genetics of the human being to resist the proud–because that’s exactly what the Creator has taught them to do.

Yes, we give grace to the humble. We honor those who seek opportunity to earn respect and disdain–and even destroy–those who demand respect without using their opportunities.

The United States is a violent nation because we contend that “normal” is when things are okay and we insist that we deserve respect.

Can you see? If everyone accepts these two tenets, then that “realm of okay” is actually never achieved and respect is never given–because no one actually earns it.

I listened to these two people argue through a wall–and the longer they discussed, the more nasty it became and eventually the more personal, with voices raised higher and higher, until one person left the room, slamming the door.

What did I think? I was glad there was no gun in the room. I think we’ll be able to trust our nation with guns again when we stop believing that normal is when everything is okay and that we all deserve respect. Until then, we will be a nation of potential murderers, awaiting the conflict that will trigger our insanity.

So here it is:

  • First, normal is when everything is changing,
  • And secondly, I deserve an opportunity to earn respect.

Therein lies the power of the gospel of Jesus, because he places responsibility on the individual–to multiply his or her talents and adjust to the world around them instead of demanding that society acquiesce to them.

I asked God to forgive me for listening in on the argument, but I also told Him how grateful I was to hear bits and pieces of myself coming through the wall, reminding me once again that “the times, they are a’changing.”


Here comes Christmas! For your listening pleasure, below is Manger Medley, Jonathan’s arrangement of Away in the Manger, which closes with him singing his gorgeous song, Messiah.  Looking forward to the holidays with you!

Jonathan sings “Let”

Jonathan Sings “Spent This Time”

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

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