Location, location, and, oh, yes… location … January 31, 2012

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I have had the pleasure of attending a meeting of the Chamber of Commerce where inspiring speeches were given on the glories of capitalism and business, as people dismissed to pass out their cards and inform others of a booming possibility with their rendition of the American Dream.
 
I have sat at the fireside of a gathering of homeless individuals, sharing a platter of beans with two pieces of day-old white bread purchased from the Dolly Madison Store, as all those surrounding the warmth discussed their day’s activities.
 
I have been at a rock concert with screaming fans leaping to their feet, hoping the next tune would be their favorite one.
 
I have attended a family reunion where aunts and uncles barely of my acquaintance have insisted that I knew some old relative who had since passed on, as we conversed about names unfamiliar, while munching on delectable potato salad.
 
Out of curiosity, I have actually gone to political party meetings of both sides and been inundated with pamphlets, propaganda and platforms, encouraging me to make a good American stands against the opposing party’s irrelevant views.
 
Being a father of children, I have also sat through a PTA meeting, often out-numbered, lacking members of my particular gender, as speaker after speaker lamented the lack of something or other in the educational system.
 
Stupidly, I was lured into an investment party because it promised something free and ended up being a ploy to get me to take the little money I had and drop it into a hole, hoping that the crevice would spew back profits.
 
I have been in many a counseling session–mainly as the counselor–listening patiently as each party made his or her case against the other, well-organized, well-rehearsed and well-entrenched.
 
I have done these things and many others in the pursuit of discovering the best of my human family, only to realize that when we herd together, we normally want to make sure that we’re with cattle of our own kind.
 
It limits us. It retards us (if I may use the word in its correct form without being politically incorrect). It inhibits us from using the two greatest possessions we have–a mirror and a brain. Because in all those conclaves I listed, at no time at all was I asked to examine myself, nor was it necessary for me to think–because the mental agenda was provided.
 
Which brings me to last night in Clinton, Louisiana, where forty-six people emerged from the community–from different paths, walks, theologies and political persuasions. They huddled into one building to consider a message and how they measured up to its intensity. It’s called a church. And even though I will rail against a religious system which tries to turn the true church into something that blends the Chamber of Commerce with a political party meeting with overtones of a counseling session, I am a firm believer that the church is the only place where the possibility of looking in the mirror at oneself and actually tapping the brain that God has given you is plausible.
 
Oh, yes–I am not naive.  I realize that the present religious system would love to mimic the Chamber of Commerce.  Poorer congregations would like to react like the homeless, making fun of the rich. There are those “hip” congregations, which think the church is just a rock concert, cheering on Jesus and the Spirit of God. Smaller groups of church folks actually become nothing more than a family reunion, discussing the week’s activities, dead parishioners and the weather. Too many religious institutions have become the harlot for political parties, pushing a social agenda more than salvation.
 
But when it’s done right, there is nothing in our society like the church–because it asks us to look in the mirror and to use our brains.
 
How do you know if you’re in a real church or just a religious system trying to parrot the world around it? The real church has seven important ingredients:
 
1. Be prepared for the unpredictable. For after all, repetition has always been the agenda of hell.
2. Stop complaining. No one ever learns in the midst of a lament.
3. Love somebody new. If we aren’t expanding the family of man around us to include more and more people, we are shrinking the vision of God.
4. Cry until you laugh. There are people in churches still in pain after many years of suffering, who should have had a nighttime of weeping and allowed joy to come in their morning.
5. Think for yourself about yourself to improve yourself. Don’t use God’s house as a way to confirm your inadequacy.
6. Be thankful. Sounds simple, doesn’t it? But thankfulness is missing from our society. It has been bumped out of the way by expectation. We need some place to go where we actually express gratitude.
7. And finally, leave changed. The Chamber of Commerce didn’t ask me to do that; nor did the homeless, the rock singer, Aunt Mabel, the Republicans and Democrats, the teacher’s conference, the investment firm or even those attending the counseling session. We all basically came into those events with one mind-set and left with a little bit more cement added. The true church is a place where we leave changed every time we are there, or we must question  the gospel which is supposed to give us the truth that makes us free.
 
Yes, it’s all about location, location, location. And if you’re looking for a place to go that will renew you and allow you to look in the mirror without fear and think instead of merely react, I recommend a good church which understands the seven things I just stated.
 
I was at one last night. It was a good time … although I did miss my beans and day-old bread.
 
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Jonathan wrote the gospel/blues anthem, Spent This Time, in 1985, in Guaymas, Mexico. Take a listen:

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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

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One CommentLeave a comment

  1. Very interesting, Jon! Food for thought! And I’m glad you were in a ‘good church’ last night — in Clinton, Louisiana.

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