Overshadowed… December 24, 2011

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Jonathan in Miami

You probably have heard the traditional, well-traveled joke:

Question: “Why couldn’t Jesus be born in Alabama?”

Answer: “Because they couldn’t find three wise men and a virgin.” (My apologies to the good folks of Alabama. Actually, you can insert the name of any region you’d like to poke in the nose.)

As humorous as that may seem, finding a virgin–and even wise men–is always plausible. It is not the impossible quest nor even the pearl of great price. The part of the Christmas story that is most astounding and nearly beyond our present human comprehension, given our society’s climate, is the conception itself.

A girl being about thirteen years old and a virgin is not a rarity. A young lady possessing a fervor for God is even within the realm of possibility. But a thirteen-year-old girl who was able to understand the importance of a mission, while relegating herself to a lesser function for a greater good, while simultaneously ignoring her own personal reputation and needs? That is truly remarkable. Where would such a lass be found today? The preoccupation we have with American adolescence, allowing our offspring to not only be self-indulgent in their teens, but now also deep into their twenties and thirties, inhibits the foundation for pursuing the common good.

A young girl named Mary from Nazareth, was told she was going to have a baby. At least half of the American damsels would split out of there just with THAT revelation. She was told she would be a virgin–but become pregnant. You’re going to lose another 25% with that one. And then she was informed of an astounding fact: the Holy Spirit would overshadow her to bring it into being.

Overshadowed: being willing to set aside ego, cause, agenda and dreams for a season, to allow something of significance happen, benefitting others. How would you ever talk a thirteen-year-old girl into such a magnanimous choice? Where would you find a person willing to be overshadowed by the spirit–to allow God to birth something of eternal quality through her life?

This is the amazing part of the story. Yes–the truly marvelous proportion of the Christmas tale lies in the fact that God chose a woman as the implementation of salvation–and that woman had to counteract the rebellion of Eve by being willing to be overshadowed by spirit instead of overcome by her own desires. It is amazing.

It gets me thinking–am I willing, at any point in my life, to be overshadowed by the greater spiritual requirements of my time, to temporarily set aside my own wishes, to see something of significance transpire? And how would I do it without becoming self-righteous or appearing to be the martyr for the cause? Could I achieve any level of joy? Could I even become excited with the notion that something was going to happen and my hands and body were going to be the conduit? Do I possess the ability to abandon my own self-awareness long enough to let the Spirit of God overshadow me with a greater vision?

Most of the time the answer would be no. Not because I’m particularly resistant, but mostly due to the fact that I’m dull–especially if you caught me by surprise in the middle of the night, awakening me from sleep with some apparition from heaven trying to impress me with an idea. I would just attribute it to bad bologna or tainted lasagna.

Not Mary. Now, I don’t think Mary is worthy of worship–but I do think Mary demonstrates God’s resolute belief that Eden does not need to be lost just because Eve was trapped in a weaker moment. No. Along Comes Mary–a woman who allowed herself to be overshadowed by the spirit, to birth the hope of the world. She didn’t know what “Christ” meant in all of its intricacies. She just knew the world needed something more–and therefore, someone who would make herself available.

Overshadowedallowing ourselves to sit back and let God show us the greater capabilities of all of our faculties.

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To see books written by Jonathan, click the link below! You can peruse and order if you like!

http://www.janethan.com/tour_store.htm

Twenty-four Miles… December 23, 2011

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Jonathan in Miami

It was three days until Christmas.

I was so young, so inexperienced and so poor. I had two children–one four and one two-and-a-half years of age. In the previous week I had developed a severe toothache which became infected and caused my jaw to swell. I didn’t go to the dentist for three reasons: (1) no money, (2) no insurance, and (3) no real assurance.

I had hated the dentist since I was a tiny kid and my parents took me to see a chap who didn’t believe in Novocaine. (I was unaware that pain relievers were a spiritual issue, but apparently, to this fellow, they were.) Needless to say, I was not anxious to have someone pry into my mouth. But it finally hurt so much and I was getting so physically sick that I broke down and went to a dentist, explaining that I was without funds but would “gladly pay him on Tuesday for a hamburger today…”

He was reluctant–not so much over the money, but because I really required oral surgery and he didn’t have the time to do a good job. But sensing my desperation, he decided to just slit my jaw open on the inside and squeeze out all the infection and then give me antibiotics to take and hope for the best. I had never taken antibiotics before, so they immediately made me feel loopy, a little sick to my stomach and gave me a strange vacant sensation.

So returning to my story, it started to snow.  I was in Westerville, Ohio, which was twenty-four miles from my little apartment above a drugstore in Centerburg. I use the word “apartment” here for the reader’s understanding; actually it was just a large room that was formerly used for storage, and the industrious pharmacist had placed a refrigerator, a toilet and bath and had rigged up some sort of heating and cooling system that generously cooled in the winter and heated in the summer.

We were poor. (Oh, I remember. I already told you that. We were macaroni-and-cheese-with-chicken-hot-dog poor–only having a two-burner hot plate and an electric skillet, which had a cord that only worked directly on alternating days. We had to be quite ingenious in our meal planning. So we would have sweet-and-sour macaroni and cheese with chicken hot dogs and jump the next night to barbecue macaroni and cheese with chicken hot dogs. On Sundays we would have a special surprise: macaroni and cheese and chicken hot dog meat loaf.)

Anyway, back to my story with my tooth and adventures with antibiotics. Three days before Christmas it started to snow like it normally doesn’t snow in Central Ohio. What I mean is, it actually snowed like they forecast when it usually doesn’t. It was the closest thing to a blizzard I had ever experienced in the Buckeye state. I needed to get home but I had an old car with no heater and tires that had lost their hair months before, leaving them quite bald.

Also, quite bluntly, I waited too long. By the time I made the decision to drive the twenty-four miles to be with my family, the streets were completely blanketed. But I was young and stupid (which may be redundant). It was pitch black with nobody on the road when I turned on the old 3-C Highway and journeyed northward towards Centerburg. Within just a few miles, the road disappeared and my only landmarks to know where to drive and not end up in a ditch were the telephone poles on both sides of the highway, which I tried to stay precisely between.

About five miles down the road, I started to get a headache, my neck cramped and my heart started to palpitate. I thought I was dying. Part of me believed I was having a heart attack or stroke and another part thought I was reacting to the antibiotics mingled with my apprehension about the storm and my insufficient tank, rolling along in the inclement weather. I crept like a turtle at twenty miles per hour, believing I was going to pass out at any moment.

Fortunately, there were no cars on the road, only a snow truck that had slid off into the ditch, but still maintained the integrity of its blinking yellow light. I realized that if I couldn’t keep my tires rolling forward, that I, too, would end up buried somewhere in the snow, slumped over my steering wheel, gasping for air from my sudden infestation of illness.

I was scared.

Scared is a bad thing–but it does afford one quality contribution–it makes us think about what’s important. On that stretch of road, with snow falling all around me and ice-cold air blowing into my face from my alleged heater, I realized that I had much to do and had tackled very little of it. I was living in a space that was insufficient to my needs, trying to duck out early in the morning so my landlord would not ask me for overdue rent. I was getting fatter by eating low-quality food and failing to provide basic needs. But as important as all of that was to the betterment of my life, the main thing that troubled me was that I had stagnated my dreams while insisting I was pursuing them. I was a musician, a writer and an artist but I spent more time explaining what I wanted to do than actually performing my vision. I was about to die in the middle of a blizzard in a beat-up Chevy from an overdose of antibiotics due to botched surgery on my jaw and would never be able to celebrate this Christmas with my little family.

I just cried.

It’s not good to cry when you’re driving through a snow storm. My windshield was already smeared with all sorts of slush and sludge, and the tears only served to further diminish my vision–but I didn’t care. I cried. Part of it was feeling sorry for myself, part of it was that my mouth still hurt from the surgery and some of it was that I was lost. I said one word.

“Help.”

That’s it. Actually, even to this day, it is the most effective prayer I have ever uttered. As I came out of my little plea, the snow stopped pelting my car and turned into a mere flurry. The road became clearer. My neck stopped hurting and I was able to drive the remaining miles without fear, to arrive at my home and grab my two little boys, throwing them together into one bed with my wife and myself, covering us with all the blankets in the house and giggling ourselves to sleep.

The road became clearer.

But often we have to be willing for it to freeze over and threaten our complete demise before we can actually see where we’re going. Did my life drastically change after that? No–but I did make a great, gradual improvement.

Twenty-four miles took me into the heart of my problem, gave me a frigid view of my condition and then, when I relented to reason and cried for help mercifully set me free.

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Merry Christmas! Listen to Jangled, below — the snazziest mix of Jingle Bells, Carol of the Bells and Silver Bells you’ll ever hear!

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To see books written by Jonathan, click the link below! You can peruse and order if you like!

http://www.janethan.com/tour_store.htm

What You Get Is What You See… December 22, 2011

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Jonathan in Miami

He handed me a pamphlet. He was obviously very proud of it. It was an advertisement for a seminar on leadership–twenty-four weeks. I glanced down and read the first line written on flap one.  “Training leaders is a complex process.” I felt a big “uh-oh” shudder through my soul. I knew the gentleman was well-intentioned but he had committed the cardinal sin of motivating and working with people. He began his spiel by making it clear it was hard–or as he phrased it, “complex.”

I do not know when it became a symbol of intelligence to portray the follow-through on a plan as being difficult. I guess we feel more noble when there’s some pain associated with our ultimate pleasure. I suppose we fear that unless there are some bruises, there’s no evidence that we’ve survived a conflict.

It just doesn’t work.

When Jesus came to earth, he tried to explain to the religious leaders that they had made everything so difficult that no one could possibly achieve it, let alone desire to pursue it. Simultaneously these same religious leaders failed to offer assistance to their flailing congregations on how to survive the processes.

Jesus said his way was easy. He said, “Come and I’ll give you rest.” He told us to stop worrying. He encouraged us to count the cost and if we found out we couldn’t do it, just to discover a way to make peace with ourselves over our present lacking.

Making things complicated does not make them better. Do you hear that? It is a two-fold problem caused by a two-headed monster. The problem is that most people want to control their lives when the best we can hope for is to contribute. I am fully aware every day as I walk into the great arena of humanity that I certainly do not have all the answers and may not have any. What I have is a backpack of talent and a jug of grace. Those are my two great offerings to humankind–a backpack of talent, which hopefully I have tried and tested and can confidently assert as being intact and ready to go–and a jug of grace, which I am ready to pour out to others for their foibles (and to myself when some of my efforts turn comical).

I am a contributor, not a controller. I would dare say that most people are not happy unless they feel they have control over their lives–and the absence of control is not only inevitable, but may actually be necessary for us to maintain emotional balance, spiritual maturity and mental health.

The reason we feel that life is complex is that deep in our inner parts, we think that when push comes to shove, it will be all up to us. We do not anticipate that other contributors will come along and bolster our contribution to a mutual conclusion. Why is that?  It is caused by the two-headed monster which prompts us to believe that we need to control instead of contribute. Here’s why:

1. “I need to be perfect.” Of course, we aren’t. So when we fall short of the glory of our own expectations, we are forced into a profile of lying to make things look better. Even though people will say they are not perfect, they will go ahead and stomp and stump to make themselves look righteous in every endeavor. Freeing oneself of the need to be perfect–or even to come close–is allowing your being to contribute to a potential blessing instead of trying to control the final score.

But the reason we feel the need to be perfect is the second head of the monster:

2. “We believe that God has a plan.” Sounds good, doesn’t it? Almost Biblical. Part of us wants God to be manipulative so we don’t have any responsibility. But how could God have a plan?? He created human beings and gave them free will and then told them that He loved them no matter what, fully aware of their capacity to fall short of the glory of His ideal. If God really had a plan and we kept  turning in “incompletes” in His class, then aren’t we speaking of a salvation endeavor that is doomed to failing grade? God cannot work with human beings and have a plan. Let me reinforce that. I can’t work with human beings and have a plan! Can you? Because if I have a plan and insist on maintaining every iota of its premises, I will end up hating everyone I work with and privately want to kill them.

  • God gives free will.
  • Free will breeds eccentricity.
  • Eccentricity produces evolution.
  • Evolution sparks change towards the more workable.
  • More workable ideas lead to greater understanding and easier labor.
  • Easier labor lends itself to peace of mind
  • And peace of mind takes us right back to God.

This is the glorious circle of life.

So even though my friend thought he was being extraordinarily deep by claiming that training leaders was a complex process, unless he simplifies it down by teaching people to become contributors without needing to control, and that perfection is not necessary to participate because God has not locked into a plan, waiting for us to measure up, he will end up laying a foundation and never constructing a house.

Life is not “what you see is what you get.” Rather, life is “what you get is what you see.”

In other words, today’s opportunity shows up and the fruit of that possibility is borne out only through how we see it and decide to contribute to it. I realize this morning that my day will unfold. My reactions are unknown even to the heavens and the best I can do is contribute, surrendering the foolish notion of controlling.

Contribute. Don’t control. Stop trying to be perfect. Settle for using your talent and extending your mercy–and rejoice because God doesn’t have a plan.

Because if He did … He would probably have to snuff us.

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Merry Christmas! Listen to Jangled, below — the snazziest mix of Jingle Bells, Carol of the Bells and Silver Bells you’ll ever hear!

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To see books written by Jonathan, click the link below! You can peruse and order if you like!

http://www.janethan.com/tour_store.htm

The White Album … December 21, 2011

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Jonathan in Miami

It was the Christmas of my seventeenth year and I wanted to buy a special gift for three of my friends. After fourteen minutes of painful deliberation, I opted to purchase the BeatlesWhite Album for all.

This was a bold move–because each one of the three was distinctly different. One of them was into gospel music, convinced that rock and roll was of the devil. The second friend fastidiously held that classical music was the only true artistic form and contended that Beethoven hung the moon (and not just the Moonlight Sonata). The final acquaintance played in the band in our high school,was an ardent trombonist and loved the music during football season. He even had a sticker on his trombone case that read: “I Marched With Sousa.” So as you can see, it was a pretty risky decision to buy one album for all three of these unique personages.

About two weeks after the New Year, I caught up with them again and asked them what they thought about the Beatles’ White Album. The gospel music advocate said that it was interesting, but he found that the more he listened to it, the more confused he became, and on one occasion, even nauseous. He attributed this to the notion that there might be evil spirits pulsating at him from the grooves. My Beethoven buff was convinced that most of it was just crap, but the Beatles did occasionally rip off certain licks from the great masters, thus making them copiers of genius instead of originators. And of course,  my trombonist found the one place, on cut three, where there was a trombone in the background and played that song over and over again to reinforce his personal theory that life begins and ends with a slide.

Move ahead ten years. I gave three New Testaments to three of my friends because someone told me it was a good thing to do. One of them was an atheist because he couldn’t understand how God could allow suffering in the world. The next one was a hippie who enjoyed a little bit of Puff the Magic Dragon, if you know what I mean. And the third one was raised as a Jehovah‘s Witness and claimed to be a searcher.

Over the course of time, I encountered all three. The atheist told me he had to stop reading the book because he was so infuriated by Jesus talking about hell and damnation. (He apparently missed the numerous passages about loving your neighbor as yourself.) My hippie friend was ecstatic because he was convinced that Jesus would not only approve of legalizing marijuana, but since he lived in the Middle East and opium products were everywhere, probably was smoking it the day he told his disciples, “Take no thought for what you shall eat and drink, man…” (He, too probably missed a few pertinent concepts.) And my Jehovah’s Witness was too nervous to read the New Testament because he was taught that God was Jehovah and having a little book that had no Jehovah in it made him frantic, even though he was not sure he believed anything his family said.

Giving is a good thing. But when you believe that art–or Bibles–are going to change the world, all you end up doing is imparting new ammunition to prove their present theory.  For people are like diapers–they will not change until they get tired of the stink. This is why Jesus said “you must be born again.” It is why God set the precedent for that principle by allowing Himself to be born again … in the manger in Bethlehem.

That’s right. Jehovah passed away and rebirthed Himself … as Jesus.

Something to think about while you wrap your presents.

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Merry Christmas! Listen to Jangled, below — the snazziest mix of Jingle Bells, Carol of the Bells and Silver Bells you’ll ever hear!

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To see books written by Jonathan, click the link below! You can peruse and order if you like!

http://www.janethan.com/tour_store.htm

Fully Empty … December 20, 2011

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Jonathan in Miami

   

A good used car. It might seem to be an oxymoron but if you take care of your vehicle, check the fluids and drive sanely, it can remain faithful  to you beyond the normal miles of expectation.
 
Martin had such an automobile. He loved it–not in a weird way, but just with a deep sense of admiration and compatibility that he had developed with this particular mechanism over the years. Perfect seats, exactly situated for his frame from the steering wheel. Good heater. Nice radio. Started up every time, even on frosty mornings.  All the requirements necessary to create a lasting matrimony between man and machine.
 
Well, there was one thing. About two years into the relationship, the gas gauge on his dear friend stopped working. Well, that’s not exactly true. Better stated, it registered incorrectly. It was odd–because the gauge, rather than falling to the empty position in exhaustion from years of use, had instead propelled itself to a permanently stuck-up position, on full. So every time Martin started his car, the gas gauge touted that it was filled to the brim and ready for the longest trip that its owner could contrive.
 
Of course, it wasn’t true, but Martin found it very difficult to keep up with the actual gas level because of the over-zealous representation of the gauge. So after running out of gas for the second time because his memory had not stirred him to purchase fuel, but had somehow or another started trusting the braggart needle, he decided he had better take it to the shop to get it fixed. The mechanic explained that it was possible, but very expensive, and that the repair would be a bit unreliable and he would not be able to guarantee it.
 
So Martin pushed on, trying to accept the frailty of his ailing friend. But when he ran out of gasoline a third time, failing to remember to purchase the magic elixir because of the gas gauge registering full, he decided he had to do something. He went out and bought a roll of black electrician’s tape and carefully–and stylishly, may I add–taped over the screen of the gas gauge, completely blacking out any visibility. He deemed it better to go without a gauge than to trust one that told him he was always full.
 
The system worked. Oh, at first it was a little aggravating because Martin got tired of keeping track of his gasoline purchases, but eventually it made him realize that the only way to be full was to know you might be empty–because without emptiness, you are tempted to gauge yourself as full and sometimes forget the need to be fueled.
 
Actually, it made Martin a better man across the board. His attention to detail about his gasoline consumption helped him remember his anniversary and his wife’s birthday. He also noticed when the little boy was riding his bicycle across the road without paying attention to traffic and slammed on his brakes in the nick of time. He received a promotion at work because he perceived a need in the company’s planning before anyone else had seen it.
 
Martin never regretted having a bad gas gauge–and to this day, the black tape remains over the screen, forcing Martin to consider the emptiness of the tank every time he entered the vehicle. It was a most intelligent and valuable lesson.
 
If we always believe we’re full, we will never sense our emptiness–and even though religion, politics and pop psychology may want to gauge us as needing nothing, it is the sensation of hungering and thirsting that makes us yearn for righteousness, permitting us to become full.

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Merry Christmas! Listen to Jangled, below — the snazziest mix of Jingle Bells, Carol of the Bells and Silver Bells you’ll ever hear!

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To see books written by Jonathan, click the link below! You can peruse and order if you like!

http://www.janethan.com/tour_store.htm

The Precedent of the United States … December 19, 2011

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It’s happening again.
 
I’m not talking about the Christmas season, with the corncob pipe in Frosty’s mouth and Jesus lying in a hay-strewn manger. No, this is a much different straw poll. Politics is back with all its fury–and by fury, I mean infuriating tendencies. Same two candidates we always get. It just never changes. And they both want to be the Precedent of the United States.
 
Each of them is determined to form the policy for the next four years–or maybe even eight–based upon their particular died-in-the-wool, repetitive diatribe. What we have is Candidate WE ARE  and his opponent, Candidate WE WERE.
 
When you get down to their basic principles, the candidates have so much in common that they might actually be related, or get this, from the same country. Where they differ is that WE ARE insists that the nation is just as powerful, just as strong, just as entitled and just as destined to rule the world as we ever were. Contrarily, WE WERE  believes that life is evolving, the world is changing and the United States must find its place in the global community–not as a patriarch or even matriarch, but rather, a brother in the household.
 
The two sides hate each other. Each believes that every program proposed by the other side is detrimental to the well-being of the common good and will render us destitute, if not bankrupt, and did I mention–naked?
 
Let’s do some comparisons:
 
WE ARE believes in our nation’s ultimate “rightness.” Even though he seems to have a working knowledge of history, he feels guiltless about slavery (just a very temporary misunderstanding in personal relationships), our treatment of the Native Americans (what’s the problem? We gave them land and taught them how to deal Black Jack in casinos) the Civil War (which is normally referred to as the War Between the States and had nothing to do with slavery, but was just an aggressive disagreement over states’ rights) and the ongoing economic issues of our day (easily explained away as the ignorance and false moves of the WE WERE party.)  For WE ARE, everything is simple. “America is right, you should love it or leave it and to suggest anything contrary to that is to be unpatriotic, not supportive of the troops and makes Martha Washington cry.”
 
On the other hand, WE WERE loves to point out all the fallacies in the American capitalistic society while extolling virtues of the other systems of the world (which are equally flawed and much more inhumane and destitute of integrity). WE WERE tries to solve all problems by taxing the wealthiest citizens to provide sustenance for those who have no jobs or money, insisting that this is the only merciful and gracious thing to do, while painting all circumstances of our national treasures in history with the grayest hue and advocating for the weaknesses that exist in people as being the absence of self-esteem and lack of opportunity to succeed. WE WERE bleeds from the heart … and the treasury.
 
WE ARE thinks WE WERE does not love America. WE WERE thinks WE ARE is going to destroy the country by bringing the wrath of the world down on our arrogance.
They share one common miscue–they think there is no alternative but the two of them. WE ARE will become absolutely enraged if you insist that some of his doctrines and precepts have aged and grown yellow with time and might need updating. He still contends there is a common morality that can be adopted by every American citizen, like a little puppy from a pound that you take home,learn to nourish and housebreak. Likewise, WE WERE will sit in a corner and pout if you insinuate that people need to be motivated and require a bit of stimulus from their own souls instead of government interference to make any assistance that would come from the national mindset actually work in the private sector. WE WERE believes in throwing money at problems, as WE ARE believes in throwing problems at money.
 
WE ARE never met a rich person he didn’t coddle. WE WERE never encountered an underprivileged person who wasn’t misunderstood.
 
They have taken our country to the brink of futility simply to maintain traditions which they honor like washing dishes and putting them away carefully in scrubbed cupboards, thinking that’s what a good housekeeper does.
 
Obviously–we need a third choice.  We shall not get it because the power and might of WE ARE and WE WERE will encompass the air waves, and the Precedent of the United States will be purchased–every single time.
 
So its obvious what the Precedent of the United states will be if the WE ARE candidate wins. “We’re fine. We just need to dig, drill, scrape, encourage the rich to produce jobs and wait for the ball to bounce our way.”
 
It is also without question that if WE WERE wins the Precedent, it will be: “Something has to be done. We’re not quite sure what to do so let’s pursue the following ten expenditures, hoping that one of them will miraculously sprout some growth.”
 
We need a WE CAN candidate.
 
WE CAN would acknowledge that we are a people who have a history of innovation, but unfortunately much of that energy has been lost in a sea of self-righteousness and the doldrums of despair. WE CAN would encourage us to find “the better angels of ourselves” as Lincoln suggested, connoting strongly that there are bad angels who produce devilish results. WE CAN dares to admit there is a problem without insisting that it’s all our fault and that we must shoulder all the blame in order to participate. We require a WE CAN candidate. Yet such an innovator will  never emerge from the masses because he will be called unpatriotic by the WE ARE candidate and unsympathetic to the poor by the WE WERE proponent.
 
Yes, it’s that season again. Rudolph has a red nose, but nobody cares–because once again, we’re going to go through the facade of picking between two candidates to select the Precedent of the United States, who will once again, when elected, make us all look a little red-faced.

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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!

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To see books written by Jonathan, click the link below! You can peruse and order if you like!

http://www.janethan.com/tour_store.htm

A Bookmark … December 18, 2011

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I am a child of God
The heavens reverberate with a shudder of grief when I am in tears
The angels from a million pinnacles give a shout when I find joy
For I am part of a universal plan
A determining factor in His Almighty decision
Whether I fly by night or drive by day
All of heaven is hushed and brought to action
When I am in need …
 
This is a poem I wrote on a Greyhound bus when I was twenty years old, on my way to meet up with a friend who was in need. I had a can of Vienna sausages stuck in my pocket, two containers of Zesta crackers and a can of Diet coke–with exactly $1.25 in my wallet for other incidental expenses. I didn’t care. After all, I liked Vienna sausages. I also didn’t care that I had $1.25 in my pocket.  And truthfully, I still don’t.
 
I wake up this morning sixty years of age–my birthday.
 
Sixty is significant. First of all, you’re no longer fifty, which is that in-between number, where you’re not quite an “old codger,” even though you’ve passed any possibility for male model or stud. Sixty is the gateway drug to Medicare, or perhaps that would be better phrased, the gateway Medicare to free drugs. There are sixty seconds in a minute, sixty minutes in an hour. Sixty is three twenties, six tens, four fifteens, twelve fives … and now I’m just getting ridiculous.
 
The reason I shared the verse with you at the beginning of this essay is that I could have written it today and it would have been just as fresh and true. I still believe it. I still believe that I am a son of God–not in the sense that I must be careful handling my water glass, lest it gain alcoholic proportions, but a son of God because I am included in the mind of my Creator and Father.
 
Everybody in our generation is concerned about “liberal” and “conservative,” right and left–but honestly, my friends, I’ve always prayed for a straight, plain path and avoided the drastic turns based on society’s pressure to conform.
 
In the 1960’s, when I was  teenager, it was posh to cast a jaundiced eye towards civil rights and social reform while rallying around the American flag about Vietnam. It just never made sense to me to go halfway around the world to kill off the people in a small country in the name of democracy when we hadn’t yet given full rights to all of our citizens.
 
In the 1970’s, it was all about partying and lavishing oneself with platitudes of perfection and dancing the night away. Since I knew I wasn’t perfect and wasn’t a very good dancer, I chose to work on my personality, principles and trying to practice what I preached.
 
In the 1980’s, while the religious community was becoming obsessed with social issues, I continued to expound upon the notion that since God does not look on the outward appearance buts looks on the heart, we should spend more time working on our own internals and not so much about our own morality falling into the majority.
 
Likewise, in the 90’s and even coming into the 2000’s, I just could never become a “signer on the dotted line” of the Contract with America–to be self-obsessed.
 
You see, it’s because I know how limited my faculties are, how fragile my talents and how weak my resolve that I find the will and determination to avoid movements that extol the great panorama of potential in the individual. What I mean is, the problem with self-esteem is that it easily loses its steam and always has to be boiled up again, leaving us totally self-involved, with no awareness of our true self or the needs of others.
 
Today I am sixty years old.
  • Starting at my feet, they feel about seventy-five.
  • My ankles are hangin’ in there at about fifty-two.
  • My knees are about ninety-one.
  • My hips maintain a really cool forty.
  • My waist … well, let’s not go there.
  • My heart is a mystery, but certainly has more creaks than it used to.
  • My face has a myriad of ages, depending on how much sleep I get.
  • My eyes are a split vote–the right one an octogenarian, and the left one, still floating around thirty-five.
 My emotions are daily cleansed so they’re like a newborn.
My soul is always attempting to be as old as God but as young as a child.
And my brain … well, my brain is still twenty years old, riding on that bus, believing that God cares …  about me.
 
Don’t be so concerned about the right and the left. Look at where you want to go–and steer your life straight ahead. Because after we’re gone, no one is going to discuss our faults, only our good points. If we don’t leave behind much of a record of righteousness, we probably won’t be mentioned at all. What I want people to remember is that I started out doing something and on the morning I passed, I was still doing it.
 
So let me call sixty a bookmark. I have fewer chapters to write than those that have already been edited. But that means I have the complete capability of going for a great twist in the end.

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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!

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To see books written by Jonathan, click the link below! You can peruse and order if you like!

http://www.janethan.com/tour_store.htm

Published in: on December 18, 2011 at 1:22 pm  Comments (1)  
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