Tootsie Pop Logic … January 24, 2012

(1,403) 
 
Live in Philadelphia, PA

A sucker is a sucker is a sucker.

This became the common theme–and lamentation–of all manufacturers in the lollipop industry. As delicious as the first few licks may be, enduring to the end was often difficult for young tykes, leaving behind sticky, half-eaten globs of goo all over the house.

Something needed to be done, so as always, two extremes were pursued. First was the dum dum–a decision to make the lollipop smaller and offer a variety of flavors. It was, and is, very successful, but still suffers from the redundancy of the common lick.

The other extreme was to insist that MORE lapping and sucking was necessary, so the all-day sucker was created, which was a humongous amount of sugar-candy, which was supposed to be consumed over a 24-hour period. Dedication did not exist for such a project, and you ended up with an even larger sticky object to avoid.

Then came the Tootsie pop. Here was the premise: give people a sucker, but reward them at the end by providing a center of chocolate–a Tootsie roll. How ingenious.

You see, I feel this way about the 2012 election. We are offered a myriad of suckers for our perusal. It is wearisome. It is sticky business. But if you want to be successful at picking a leader of anything, find out what is at the CENTER of their sugar-coated presentation. What IS the Tootsie pop logic of the conservatives and the liberals?That demands that we produce a criteria for what is important and what needs to be said.

Honestly, dear folks, there are only two things that are immutable:  People and money. What are the conservatives going to do about people and money? What is the plan of the liberals regarding people and money?

Let’s start with people.  They require three things:

1. Freedom. If you’re going to call yourself a “free country,” it’s a good idea to back it up with freedom for everyone.

2. Opportunity. This means creating an even playing field as much as possible, so that excellence can truly have a chance to win the day.

3. And finally, rules.  You should have just enough rules in a democracy to maintain the integrity of freedom and opportunity.

That brings us to money. The philosophy on money should be equally as simple:  first, we need to motivate business, industry and personal desire enough to comfortably fund our freedoms, promote opportunities and maintain the necessary offices for the rules which guard these ideas. Secondly, we should have enough money that after we’ve taken care of our own personal needs to a satisfactory position, we can give to others who are less fortunate, so we don’t end up being a bunch of greedy gas-bags.

I know people want to worship the conservative approach or bow their knee to liberalism. I do not join them. I don’t care whether it’s a restaurant, a church, a synagogue, a bistro or the federal government. Are you going to give people equal freedom to pursue opportunity and maintain just enough rules to make sure that everyone has freedom and opportunity? AND will you motivate the raising of money to protect those rights and provide a comfortable living for as many people as possible, while initiating a philanthropic thrust with the remaining funds?

Anything short of that is short-sighted. I don’t care what you’re running, I don’t care what you’re promoting and I don’t care what flag you are waving. People require freedom, opportunity and a set of rules to ensure they will honor the same for all their fellow-travelers. And money must be raised to guarantee that these rights are cushioned by financial blessing and that there is enough left over to instill generosity.

So as I listen to the political candidates, I peruse their mentality on these two issues–people and money. It is what I call the Tootsie pop logic. If you’re going to make me spend all of my time licking away at debates and discussions, you’d better provide me with a chocolate center that lets me know you understand what to do with people and money. Otherwise, it just sucks.

Do I have an opinion on the present crop of candidates? I have many opinions–but honestly it’s difficult to assess either party, because neither one of them has come to terms with the intricate nature and balance of these two necessities. Most of them are more concerned about trouble from outsiders or merely conquering the opposing party in the voting booth. But after the election comes governing–and governing anything is about dealing with people and providing money.

So here’s my Tootsie pop logic. After you get done wading through my numerous clumps of letters forming words, I want you to find a sweet treat in the center, and I always want that center of my writing to give you greater insight on people and money.  Because he who understands what to do with his fellow-humans AND when and how to release the purse strings, basically has total understanding of everything.

What a wild statement.

Tootsie pop logic. What’s at the center of the conservative movement? What is at the center of the liberal take on things? What will they do with people and what do they think about money?

Just some thoughts on this day–and to return to a common phrase in the world of confections:

Try it. You’ll like it.

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

Jonathan wrote the gospel/blues anthem, Spent This Time, in 1985, in Guaymas, Mexico. Take a listen:

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

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 Year of the Draggin’ … January 23, 2012

(1,402) 
 
Live in Philadelphia, PA

     

Happy Chinese New Year! And in honor of the occasion—and also to make a little coin off of a phrase—what DO a billion Chinamen care about? Actually, the same thing as three hundred million Americans:

Themselves.  It’s not a bad thing. It is fascinating to me that we think the best way to teach people to be more expansive is to enter them into some crucible of self-denial. We’re just not very good at it.  What we can do is question what parts of us are working and what units have closed down shop and ceased production.

Yes, it is the year of finding out what is draggin’ us down.

It is my joy as I travel to meet the most delightful people God could ever have hatched from a mere fanciful notion of “let there be …”  I have no complaints about them whatsoever, but I do have one lamentation. Many of them are burdened by the amount of baggage they carry when what they want to do is fly off to pursue their dreams. Each one of us has three compartments to our thinking:

1. What we were taught. This is a mixture of conversations with our parents, Sunday School classes in our small towns and dialogue we had with our friends growing up in our close-knit environments. Much of what we were taught was good, and even universal. But there are portions of what each one of us was instructed in that are prejudiced, errant and even destructive. Identifying the dangerous chemicals in our cupboards can keep us from ingesting the poison.

2. What we believe. Our beliefs are those thing that we’ve taken from what we were taught, the prayers and sermons that dented the armor of our resistance and the general consensus of our feelings about what has happened to us and those we love. Belief is a good thing—unless you believe in something that is harmful, restrictive, selfish or foolish.

3. What we’ve personally experienced. This is the living we have done on this orb we call earth, free of parental interference—flying solo, away from merely believing. Many young people lose all of their training and spirituality the first time they walk into a college classroom and someone begins to recite different experiences which contradict their own earlier training. That’s too bad—not because I think we should hold fast to our “village precepts,” but rather, because I contend that experience should enhance our belief and reinforce the portions of our upbringing that were truly grounded in common sense.

But as we begin this Chinese New Year (understanding that most of us aren’t Chinese) how can you take this moment and make sure it’s a year where you’re not “draggin’ yourself down?”

A. Trust your experience. The Bible says “that which we have seen and heard we declare unto you.” Honestly, my friends, I was not there when the Red Sea parted nor when Jonah was belched out of the mouth of the big fish. It’s not that I’m denying that these things happened, nor am I feverishly defending them. My faith has to be MINE—a collaboration of my own personal discoveries, as God and I together reinvent Christianity just for me. If your experiences are not primal in your life, you will fall back on beliefs that you end up defending, and training that is more parroting than lionizing. You’ve got to trust your experience. The reason most people don’t change is because they do not allow experience to reform their patterns of behavior, but instead, deny their own encounters in favor of belief and local, small-town thinking. If your experience is primal, you will find that your beliefs will be fewer, but more realistic and strong, and your respect for the parts of your childhood memories that were rich—with good tradition—will not only be upheld, but glorified.

B. Don’t try so hard to believe. There’s no magic number on the things that we hold close to our hearts and insist are true. There are a lot of things in the Bible that I don’t understand. I don’t deny them. I don’t discuss them. They are not part of my experience; they are not relevant to my life and therefore, I choose to ignore them. If people want to argue about them, I will listen in for a few minutes, but will not participate in the debate because the irrelevance the material has to my experience would make me hypocritical if I were to voice a concern in the matter.

For instance, I don’t know why the New Testament talks so much about hell. To make coin off of another phrase, I honestly don’t give a hell about hell. It doesn’t make me doubt the New Testament; it doesn’t make me believe less in Jesus. I just don’t need a hell to get to heaven. Heavenly things attract me, joy seduces me and the act of loving people entices my soul towards excellence. I don’t know—maybe some folks need the bottom to get to the top. It is not part of my experience.

When I was a teenager, I probably believed two hundred different things but now that I have become a man, it has really boiled down to one factor: “NoOne is better than anyone else.” So relax and love everybody who will let you do it, and move on from the ones who won’t.

C. And finally, honor your father and mother by doing them a big favor and ignoring all the stupid things they said because they didn’t have the information we now possess. I’m not mad at my parents because they weren’t God. I am grateful to them for so many things and I choose to focus on those instead of clinging to misconceptions and accidental bigotry that they passed along my way simply because they lacked one trip to the library or were one decade short of revelation.

So in conclusion, the Chinese say it’s the Year of the Dragon. But may I suggest that we make this the Year of the Draggin’? Identify those parts of our upbringing and belief system that are repressing us and dragging us down and instead, push to the forefront the personal experience that grants us an amendment to our constitution—that we are loved, and therefore are capable of the same.

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

Jonathan wrote the gospel/blues anthem, Spent This Time, in 1985, in Guaymas, Mexico. Take a listen:

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

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

Watch the Dancing Monkeys… January 22, 2012

(1,401) 
 
Live in Philadelphia, PA

Nine years old is arguably the champagne of aging. You are young enough that you still believe in Santa Claus, your parents and the good intentions of Wylie Coyote wanting to catch up with the Road Runner to make friends. But you are old enough to pick up pieces of adult conversation and understand them, receive a swig of hard cider from a nefarious uncle and discover in the back of your mathematics book a section entitled “Pre-Algebra.” Yes, you’re old enough that you don’t have to deal with round-tipped scissors anymore, but blessedly young enough that no one asks you to mow the lawn. Cool.

It was springtime–the season for our annual trip to the Columbus Zoo. It had been postponed once because it was mating season and the school officials thought it best to delay the trip, finding it somewhat uncomfortable to explain to the children why the lions and bears were “wrestling.” But finally, we grabbed our brown-bag lunches, mounted the school bus and headed off for the big city. This particular year, I got to sit next to one of the “pretty girls,” who was not particularly pleased to be near me, but I still enjoyed the experience, perspiring a little bit on the hot bus, sniffing her essence–the aroma of sweaty flowers.
 
The zoo was fun. The highlight was seeing a python who had swallowed a guinea pig and was in mid-digestion. We ate our lunches and only one activity remained. Our teacher, Mrs. Arnold, had signed our class up to attend a cultural event at the Pavillion which featured the Magical Musical Monkeys of Montreal. She was excited about it because it was so rare in our small town for anything of ilk or style to be available–and Mrs. Arnold was a woman who viewed herself to be a well-traveled soul, constrained in the mouse-trap of our local elementary school. She was the kind of woman who knew that pronouncing the word “Mozart” required inserting the sound of the letter “t.” So she was quite thrilled with the possibility of exposing her young upstarts to a bit of universality–entertainment from Canada featuring well-trained monkeys wearing cowboy hats, striped vests and dancing inexplicably to some sort of twanging Chinese music.  (You know the kind I mean–pwangs and pings played on what can only be described as the Chinese banjo…)
 
Needless to say, the classroom, which had endured the entire trip around the zoo and was now on a sugar high from our Twinkies and Kool-Aid, was not in any mood to watch a bunch of miserable monkeys performing antics for treats. We soon became distracted. Mrs. Arnold gently told us to hush. We didn’t. Mrs. Arnold pointed at us, and then up to the monkeys–in rapid succession. We understood her gestures, but ignored them. Finally, completely frustrated, Mrs. Arnold stepped forward and screamed at the class in a hushed, rasping, hissing tone: “Watch the dancing monkeys!!”
 
Nobody wanted to–I mean, watch the monkeys. But we were more afraid of the gorilla yelling at us, so we stared straight ahead as some of the girls teared up and began to cry and the monkeys finished their show. Leaving the auditorium, we climbed onto our bus as Mrs. Arnold sat in the front, quietly dejected. During the next few days some nasty notes from parents arrived, who were upset that their children were having dreams about talking monkeys threatening them. Mrs. Arnold received a quiet reprimand, and to my knowledge, no other cultural trips from Sunbury Elementary School were ever planned again.
 
It is a very valuable lesson. It doesn’t do you any good to scream at people to “watch the dancing monkeys” if the little chimps are as boring as hell. Just like bringing up words such as spirituality, politics, responsibility, duty, faithfulness, generosity, prayer, Bible study, intellectual and other such terms are meaningless to people. Oh, I will go further than that.  Aggravating–if you also don’t offer things like fun, enjoyment, entertainment and relaxation.
 
For after all, God had the sense, when he made people, to tell them to be fruitful and multiply, and often suggested that they “rejoice–and again I say, rejoice.”
 
You may think it’s important, but yelling at people to “watch the dancing monkeys” only makes them cry and tell on you. So even though Mrs. Arnold had all the good intentions in the world, like all good intentions, they generally speaking end up being … the pavement to hell.
 
**************

Jonathan wrote the gospel/blues anthem, Spent This Time, in 1985, in Guaymas, Mexico. Take a listen:

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

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

Pulled… January 21, 2012

(1,400) 

Live in Philadelphia, PA

Last night I had a dream.

I was traveling with two companions on a hot, Sunday afternoon, on what seemed to be an unending roadway, a dusty thoroughfare, attempting to arrive at a church to set up our equipment and share our vision. The humidity was so high it was difficult to breathe and sweat poured down our faces, leaving us with headaches and nearly devoid of energy. When we finally arrived at our destination, it was a large, rustic, barn-like tabernacle with too many steps, wooden seats and no air conditioning.

We unloaded our equipment, set up and began with our sound check. I played Let It Be, by the Beatles, and sang about a verse and a half, when a young man appeared from a back room of the barn structure and stopped me, telling me we would not be allowed to perform that evening. When I asked him why, he explained that the leader of this particular church or organization was in his office and had heard me sing the worldly song and knew in his spirit that we were not fit to preach to his congregation. The young man before me was resolute, angry and with just a hint of glee over sharing the news with me.

I asked to see the leader and excused myself from my companions, who informed me they were very hungry and needed some nourishment. I told them that I would be back, and was escorted into an office, where an old man with a tattered suit sat behind a desk, leering at me. He looked similar to that white-haired cult leader in the Poltergeist series–the one who had led his followers to destruction. I made a case to him. I explained that I only sang the Beatles song to warm up my voice and that it wasn’t in our program. He didn’t care. He insisted that my choice of songs told him that I had no real heart for his people and that therefore it was his duty to protect them from my errant ways.

I spent what seemed to be the next many hours reasoning with this fellow about my dreams, aspirations and asking him to give us a chance. He walked around from room to room, not really trying to escape my pleas, but more or less seeing if I would follow him to continue my groveling. Finally, he agreed to let me sing two songs and then, if everything was all right, he might let me share a word or two.

On the way back to the barn structure, somebody walked up to him and gave him some news, and he began to pound his fist into his hand and then rolled around in the dusty ground until his coat was covered with dirt. He ran into his “tabernacle” and began to weep bitterly. The small audience that had gathered in the wooden seats joined in the crying, hovering around him to comfort him.

Suddenly, in my dream, I was transported back to the dusty roads and saw young people–including the one who had so gleefully given the report of the disappointing news–climbing a hill. They were all dressed in tattered robes, but marching in step with one another, towards a destination which somehow or another I knew to be a rally of anger, bigotry and destruction.

All at once I was transported back to the tabernacle and the beleaguered leader with the unkempt clothing waved his hand, giving me permission to share my song. I went to the piano and began to sing, but my comrades were unable to join me because they were weakened by a lack of food, so I tossed each one of them an apple, and as I sang, they munched, gaining strength.

I sang my song, but no one was listening. The audience, which had been very small to begin with, had now shriveled to a mere dozen, huddling around the weeping leader to give him comfort, and they had no interest in anything I had to share. I finished my song and the white-haired lamenter lifted his head, with red eyes and tears streaming down his face. He said sternly, “You should have left.”

In my dream, I remember thinking that not only was it bad English, but also that it was cold, deliberate and stubborn. I quickly packed up my belongings and climbed into the car.

I awoke. As you all well know, dreams are nearly as much emotion as they are revelation of images. I immediately understood what had transpired.

The old man was the stubbornness of religion and politics, which believes it can continue the same practices which have proven to be unfulfilling and satisfy the present needs.

The angry souls in the tattered robes were those who were abandoning faith–and government–wandering off to unknown pursuits that will only bear the fruit of their rage.

And the handful that remained are the wounded participants of systems that have failed them, but they have no other place to go so they spend all of their time defending and comforting the stubborn.

I was the outsider. I was not welcome because I had too much of earth for the religious and too much of spirit for the political. I was alone. I had those who desired to travel with me, but the nourishment of encouragement was absent.

Yes, I awoke from my dream feeling a great sense of purpose, as the politicians and religionists of our day try to stubbornly return us to traditions which have long past lost their fervor, and the young people and disenfranchised wander away with a tattered sense of purposelessness, at the mercy of the next burst of frustration. And the wounded remnant, who once believed in great ideals, now merely guard the ruins and stand by, unable to hear any newness for their lives.

It is the duty of those who still have a vision for love and a faith in humanity to persevere with good cheer. 

In my dream I was pulled. Now that I’m awake, I am pulled towards keeping on.

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

Jonathan wrote the gospel/blues anthem, Spent This Time, in 1985, in Guaymas, Mexico. Take a listen:

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

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

Three Generations… January 20, 2012

(1,399) 

Live in Philadelphia, PA

It was a pleasant, quiet dinner last evening, with a party of six. Three generations.  A trio of the half-dozen gathered were children of the sixties. Another was “Back to the Future” with the Reagan years. And the final two young ladies were the offspring of a new century. Our differences make us alike because we share in common … being different.

 
About halfway through my entrée, I thought about how marvelous it is to have the influence of people of different ages, styles and thought processes. I also realized that the two young ladies, who just happen to be my granddaughters, will spend the majority of their lives without my presence on this earth. I don’t bring this up to be maudlin or macabre–just factual. Because even if I sprout a decent amount of longevity, these two wonderful damsels will live at least thirty to forty years beyond my departure. Probably most of their lives.
 
What do I wish they would remember about the individual they call “G-Pop?” I hope they remember three things about me:
 
1. Faith in yourself is best expressed by honoring your Creator through allowing human beings to find themselves without your criticism.
2. Hope is a powerful, but dangerous, elixir, which should only be prescribed when weariness threatens despair.
3. And finally, love is in evidence when your circle of family is expanding rather than shrinking.
 
Yes, I would tell these lovely girls that these three abide, but still greater than these is the Kingdom of God within them.
 
**************

Jonathan wrote the gospel/blues anthem, Spent This Time, in 1985, in Guaymas, Mexico. Take a listen:

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

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 Benjamin Franklin Moment… January 19, 2012

(1,398) 

In Philadelphia

 
If memory serves me correctly, it was January 19th, 2006. I was shopping at the Rivergate Mall in Madison, Tennessee, when I walked to my car–and lying on the ground near my front bumper was a hundred-dollar bill.
 
Yes–Benjamin Franklin, giving me his classic lascivious leer. It took a moment for my brain to register that money was lying at my feet, even though it is the continual, persistent dream of every human traveler. There was no wind blowing, so it was quietly remaining, without stirring. I picked it up, realized it was real, and then looked around in all directions to see if somebody was frantically searching their wallet or purse for the lost revenue. There was no one in sight.
 
The spot where I retrieved the bill was also far from any store, so I didn’t know exactly where to go to locate a potential searcher. I stood for a moment, continuing to peer circumspectly but no one came into view. I thought about taking out want ad in the newspaper, telling of the discovered treasure, but I considered how ridiculous that would be–no one is capable of being that honest, considering the financial benefit.
 
I realized that I had received a blessing.  It was MY blessing–yes, my gift–to do with whatever I wanted.
 
I climbed in my car and sat for a moment and made a Biblical decision. I call these Biblical decisions because they are conferences I hold with my spirit, my conscience, my emotions, my will, and everything I’ve learned that truly is important that actually ends up working out when applied. Many things I have tried to put into practice–especially from the Old Testament–have proven to be less than adequate in everyday human interaction. Moses and Nehemiah are not my best contact points in the hour of need. No–it is up to me in my lifespan, to make Biblical decisions based upon a council of myself with the Spirit of God, using as a reference those principles I have found to be irrefutable. Here’s how I decide things:
 
1. If it’s a spiritual matter, I find a way to apply it practically. I do not believe in “abstract” spirituality. I think it’s the duty of every believer to take heavenly things and bring them into earthly use–or else, please just be quiet about it. This is why I do not take part in discussions about the Apocalypse, heaven, hell or even a conversation about who’s going to make it to the pearly gates or not. These are spiritual thoughts that don’t seem to have a landing gear to arrive at the airport of our human reality. Everything spiritual needs to have a practical application–otherwise, hush up.
2. Likewise, everything practical in my life needs to have a spiritual implication. I do not believe it’s an accident when I run across a person in need in the street. I do not think that stopping at a red light is without a measure of spiritual leading by God’s integrity. I look for my practical life to have spiritual meaning and eternal quality. The reason most people cannot grasp the concept of “Christ in me, the hope of glory”  is that they believe their lives are DIVIDED between the earthly and the heavenly. Such a division is not only unnecessary, but may prove to be the definition of careless ungodliness. Everything practical becomes spiritual.
 
 So that is why when I had the one hundred dollars in my possession, I said a quick prayer, tapped the Kingdom of God within me and came up with what I thought was a delicious plan. I decided to keep fifty dollars for my own enjoyment and pleasure–because deprivation does not make me better, just grouchy. Then I went to the bank and took the last fifty dollars and changed it into five ten-dollar bills, and spent the next hour just dropping one ten-dollar bill at five locations, so that someone else could enjoy the miracle of finding unexpected finance.
 
Because, after all, the most spiritual thing you can do in your life is to enjoy the gifts God sends your way, and then find a way to share that sensation with others. I thoroughly enjoyed the notion that someone was finding a ten-dollar bill and they were also being given a chance to turn something spiritual into something practical, and then taking that practical and transforming it back into something spiritual.  It is the essence of what we do as people which sets up apart from not only the apes, but from one another.
 
It was my Benjamin Franklin moment. Fifty dollars for me and five ten-dollar blessings for those who were alert enough to notice. 
 
Yes–alert enough to notice. It may be the true definition of righteousness.
 
**************

Jonathan wrote the gospel/blues anthem, Spent This Time, in 1985, in Guaymas, Mexico. Take a listen:

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

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

Sit Ups or Set Backs… January 18, 2012

(1,397) 

In Philadelphia

 
I woke up a 2:00 A.M.  I went to the bathroom and the jaunt stirred me enough that I decided to turn on the television to unwind a bit. I landed on PBS–a special biography about George Armstrong Custer. I’m kind of a sucker for those types of shows. I’m always curious when we have the advantage of looking back on somebody’s life who has already passed on, and reviewing the twists and turns and what caused them to select the particular path that brought their name and journey to the forefront.
 
I was greatly impressed, as I viewed the show, that George just didn’t seem to have any capability of knowing the functions of a sit-up and a set-back. It really got me musing over whether MOST of us have an inclination to comprehend our experiences as either opportunities to learn something or as chances to cease and desist for a season from a particular practice or idea.
 
George was a soldier. He was a soldier in the sense that he liked to go into battle and kill people. He was not a soldier because he could tolerate hanging around the fort, polishing his boots, filling out paperwork or evaluating the technique on particular marching styles. Actually, he may have been one of our first reality stars. His natural abilities might have not taken him any further than Monroe, Michigan, or a brief stint in the army–but because there were wars everywhere and people to kill, he learned to do so by remaining impetuous, a bit arrogant and certainly bull-headed.
 
For all of us must understand, even in the midst of a successful adventure, there are little warnings that come along to tell us that some of our selections should be reviewed and changed. It’s one of the problems I have with the doctrine of self-esteem. If I always have to think of myself as “excellent,” or even “good,” when do I ever stop and reason, “Could this be better?” If I am always supposed to maintain a staunch appearance of “all is well,” what happens when the factors around me begin to suggest that maybe something needs a bit of revision?
 
This is why I love spirituality. Spirituality invites a friend, called “Spirit,” to come into our lives to remind us of three important things:
 
1. We are mortal.
2. We make mistakes.
3. Mistakes can be corrected.
 
I just feel, sometimes, that if you’re not tapping that spirit which emotionally prods you to seek out new horizons, you’ll be stuck looking at the same old sunset every day. That was George. Many mornings came into his life. He was court-martialed for disobeying orders and taken out of the army for a whole year without pay. He left behind a part of his troop at one of his battles, causing them to be slaughtered by Indians. He was constantly under attack by those around him for his belligerent attitude and conceited mannerisms. He actually went to live among the Indians for a season and enjoyed the lifestyle so much that he adapted large portions of their thinking–wore buckskin and hunted buffalo–but still ended up despising them as individuals.
 
So you see, several times life came along and gave him a sit-up–gentle nudges by circumstance to inform him that repentance was necessary for him to continue to be successful and valuable at the rate he desired. I call it a sit up. “Sit up and take notice.”
 
And if you tune your spirit to hear the sit-ups in life, you can avoid an awful lot of set-backs. Because those who stubbornly refuse to acknowledge the need for revision and do not respond well to the sit-ups get a second warning–called a set-back. That is when your mistake is so obvious that other people begin to point it out to you. Then you will have to spend your time in the corner, like a scolded child.
 
But God is so good that even in the midst of set-backs we can once again find ourselves, do some reconstruction and start over. Not so with George. There were plenty of sit-ups, telling him that he was too self-involved. Ignoring them, he was then introduced to a series of set-backs, which very well could have been the basis for some character growth and discovery, but instead, he maintained his self-esteem, which “steamed” him towards his failure at the Little Big Horn, where for some reason he thought two hundred of his soldiers could fight off two thousand very angry Indians.
 
As I watched the program, I found myself becoming melancholy. I wondered if I was having empathy for George Armstrong Custer, or whether the impact of his stupidity was rattling my own soul to acknowledge the sit-ups that are coming my way, and to take the set-backs I’ve encountered and use them more wisely.
 
For instance, my traveling partner, Janet Clazzy, had to go to the post office yesterday, and discovered that the closest one was located in a perfume store.  (Yes, a perfume store.)  She walked in. It was crowded. But rather than complaining about the situation or finding it bizarre, she took the opportunity to buy some perfume for herself–because she suddenly realized that she was nearly out, and in just a few short days would require the stuff. So rather than complaining about buying stamps in a perfume store, she took a moment to discover how it might just be the love of God prompting her to take care of something she already needed.
 
I know that buying perfume in a store is not the equivalent to dodging arrows from the Sioux, but my insight here is this: if we tune up our ears spiritually, we can tune down our difficulty in the world.
 
If Custer had noticed his sit-ups–those warnings that come along, telling us to “sit up and become aware of our inadequacies”–or even responded positively to his set-backs–those times when people around us punish us for our obtuse behavior–he certainly could have avoided being dead in the black hills.
 
Can I learn from this? Can I take a moment to be aware of when my personality isn’t jiving with the present flow, and sit up and do a little bit of new mechanics on myself? Or will I wait until other people intervene and I’m set back–and from my position in the paltry, I am able to reconnoiter a better way?
 
I guess the message is, if you find yourself buying stamps at a perfume store, take a moment and wonder if you need perfume. To do that, you have to stop complaining about being in a perfume store buying stamps–because God can’t give you what you want if you insist on doing everything the way you are.
 
After all, if you could get it with your present plan, wouldn’t you already have it?
 
**************

Jonathan wrote the gospel/blues anthem, Spent This Time, in 1985, in Guaymas, Mexico. Take a listen:

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

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

%d bloggers like this: