Quatrain of Talent … April 30, 2013

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Ability means “I can”

“Can” requires some practice

Practice makes perfect workers

Workers multiply their abilities.

The producers of jonathots would humbly request a yearly subscription donation of $10 for this wonderful, inspirational opportunity

Beautiful … August 16, 2012

  • Loser — Part 3
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I am not beautiful.

I have known this for some time. Ever since I realized that the mirror before me was a reflecting piece of glass instead of a gateway to find Alice, I have been fairly aware of my status. What astounds me is the evolution that has occurred in the reaction I receive from people when making that simple statement. When I was a kid, if I said, “I am not beautiful,” the response from those around me would be, “Well, who is?” But now there’s a severe emotional handicap that causes people to literally rebuke me if I happen to be candid about my obvious condition. To say “I’m not beautiful” is considered poor self-worth, a blemish on self-esteem.

So nowadays, human beings,rather than finding a way to be truthful about their own feelings in situations, have to hide them behind a mask of verbal propriety, which literally requires that we always put their best foot forward and never become critical of their situations. Now, I might be impressed with this if it actually made better people. But instead, it creates haughtiness, a defensive nature and a whole lot of cover-up about what we know to be true.

I arrived early for my gig last night, so I found a secluded section of the parking lot and sat, enjoying the beauty of the day. Directly in front of my eyes was a patch of weeds which the landscaper had obviously ignored or had not yet put on his daily list of activities. I thought to myself, how do I know these are weeds? They’re perfectly green–just like other plants. They’re growing like …well… like a weed. Some of them even had little flowers on them, to increase the possibility for approval. But I knew they were weeds, and because I had this knowledge, I judged them harshly. It made me laugh. Basically, I am a weed.

Here I was, sitting in the parking lot of this strange church, ready to go in to set up my equipment and do my presentation–and I can tell you of a certainty, after forty years of performing, I am still not confident of my own ability. I am never sure I have enough. Truthfully, I do not know why anyone would want to listen. I am aware of the many distractions that leap before the human eye, to draw people away to other pursuits. Lots of folks would think it’s ridiculous for me to be so insecure about what I do, which they would tell me is done quite well.

But the answer is simple:

  • I have lost
  • I can lose
  • And therefore I am acquainted with being a loser.

That particular three-pronged passage would cause many people to be critical of me, telling me that I need to have more confidence and be more assertive. But it’s just not true. If I wrote in this jonathots that I’m a winner, that I can’t lose and that I have never been a loser, you might nod your head because society tells you that such proclamations have become appropriate.

But honestly, part of you would despise me. None of us like arrogant people, even when their conceit has some basis in reality. We want our geniuses to admit to moments of stupidity. We want our beauty queens to share a story about their battle with pimples. We want our politicians to admit they made a mistake, and therefore they are flip-flopping towards a more enlightened conclusion. I think we’re all grateful for a God who destroyed the world with a flood, but then turned around and admitted He was sorry He did it.

There is no power in being beautiful. There is no warmth in proclaiming your superiority. Anyone who would get in a van and travel across this country meeting strangers every single week, should be a little uncertain of the conclusions. If he or she isn’t, they are just self-deluded and overwrought about their own talents.

I believe I am valuable to God and other people because I know I’m not beautiful. I cannot stand in front of an audience with a straight face and tell them that all of my choices, ideas and ventures have been successful. They haven’t.

But until we understand that weakness, losing and even being a loser is a part of this experience on our cruise of earth, we will be in danger of either becoming obnoxious or just outright liars.

Because I am not beautiful and I am a loser, here’s what I do:

1. I work on my heart–my emotions. I want them pure.  I try the best I can to make sure that what I tell people is the closest thing to the truth as I see it now.

2. I also put my soul on notice that it is not allowed to be pompous or religious. My soul has two jobs–to be grateful to God and free of condemnation of others.

3. Because I know I’m a loser, I renew my mind by keeping it young, contemporary and evolving it towards discovering things that I don’t presently know.

4. And when it comes to my body, what I can do–my best choice–is to perform as well as I can without looking ridiculous. That’s it.

Trying to keep from being a loser is forsaking your humanity and attempting to make yourself a God among your peers. But when you’re able to admit you’re a loser and you work on your heart to keep it pure, your soul to be grateful and free of condemnation, your mind to be young and evolving and your body, to do the best it can without “jumping the shark,” you will have fellowship with many people and be of value to the world around you.

I am not beautiful–and by the way … I am so glad.

The producers of jonathots would humbly request a yearly subscription donation of $10 for this wonderful, inspirational opportunity

Redlands… May 21, 2012

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I keep searching.

Every week I climb into my big, black van and go from town to town across this expansive country, trying to find a spark of revival. (I do take the precaution of bringing along my own “matches”…)

And when I speak of revival, I’m don’t mean merely a spiritual awakening, but rather, a complete human awakening, fueled by spirit. I will not bore you by telling you about the disappointments along the way. I have never been one to belabor the darker edges of the quilt of my experience. What I would rather do is tell you how encouraged I was yesterday.

I arrived in a church that had rejected complexity in preference to simplicity. They relished communication over the repetition of mere religious practice and liturgy, and they had enough vulnerability that even a stranger such as myself could come in, and as long as I was willing to be equally as transparent, they were of a mind to listen.

It’s not really very complicated. It’s all about ingredients. If you talk to four or five chefs about spaghetti sauce, each one will tell you what elements he prefers prefer to make the ideal concoction. Some want more oregano. Others insist on large doses of basil. Of course, there’s a strong contingency that will tell you it’s all about the garlic. These are all issues of flavor. The truth of the matter is, you can’t make spaghetti sauce without tomatoes. And in our society, emotionally, spiritually and mentally we lead so strongly with taste that we forfeit the tomatoes. Yesterday in Redlands, I discovered a lovely group of souls who were still focusing on the main act.

  • For instance, I talked to a trombone player from the band, who lamented that there was not printed music in the bass clef for his particular instrument–BUT he was still playing. Unlike so many other folks, who have given up playing in the band due to the lack of perfect conditions, he still remained–tootin’ away.
  • I met a women who had recently lost her husband, but rather than making that the focal point of her communication, she uses the experience to spring off with greater concern and love for others.
  • I met a fine fellow with a great interest in independent films, who transfers that passion for the movie industry into his own interpretation of how his life in the spirited realm should be revealed.
  • I saw young humans sitting in the front of the church instead of texting in the back, allowing themselves to be affected by a good thing instead of resisting it simply because it came out of an older vessel or sounded like God-talk.
  • And I met a pastor, excellent at golf, and successful in taking the same energy and intelligence he uses in perfecting his back swing, bringing it into the church service as he claps his hands during the songs and rejoices over being with his congregation–a “holy in one.”

Last night, as I mused over these comrades, I realized that they had discovered a simple procedure that makes spirituality work. It is the blending of three words: need, ability and power.

Although many churches are persistent in expressing how much we need God, it rarely gives us the impetus to tap our abilities and grant us the power of our own conviction. Then there are the more out-of-the-box religions that focus on the power without insisting that we perfect our abilities or ever express need in any way, shape or form. Both approaches leave us void of what is necessary to use our humanity effectively.

No, it’s getting things linked in the right order that gives you the kind of results that allows you to remain human without being obnoxious, while still touching the heart and mind of God. Here’s how I see it–the way I think it should work, confirmed yesterday with my visitation to Redlands:

1. A need to do better. Human beings become ugly when they cover up their inadequacy with false bravado–self-sufficient. They become equally as grotesque when they insist that they’re constantly needy, devoid of any goodness whatsoever. It’s just the admission that we have achieved something, but upon closer examination, we have a heart’s desire to do it better. it makes us sexy. It makes us happy; it makes us powerful. And mostly, it makes us tolerable to those of our own species.

2. An ability to pursue a goal. Sounds silly, doesn’t it? But there are many folks who can not remain faithful to a plan simply because they feel more intelligent when they are critiquing it, ignoring it or trying to prove why it won’t work.  Just having the willingness to learn how things work, shutting your mouth and pursuing to the best of your ability may be the definition of godliness. I know this–what we call faith is really when need and ability sign a peace treaty. Faith is the magnificent emergence of a new energy created by the convergence of admitting our need while still pursuing our abilities. And as the Bible says, “without faith, it’s impossible to please God.” Some religions are too needy. Therefore, their adherents are always repenting–reluctantly. Some theologies are too arrogant about personal domination. The result is that those who follow that philosophy end up making claims to everyone else around them, who are privately hoping they fail.

 But when you combine need and ability, you get faith. And then faith gives you the third element:

3. A power to change YOUR world. You need to stop trying to change MY world. Also, you need to relieve your mind of any Pollyanna notion that you’re going to change THE world. Faith gives you the power to change YOUR world. As Jesus said to all the people who came to him, “Your faith has made YOU whole.” My faith can’t make anyone else whole. But it does give me the power to be a light to those who desire to escape the darkness.

When you get those three things placed in the correct order, human beings are really delightful, God seems like a wonderful next-door-neighbor, and the universe is absent a devilish vendetta against you.

Redlands, I hope you continue to understand how wonderful you are in your innocence. And if you do forget, perhaps you can refer back to these words I have shared this morning.  Because when you take a need to do better and mingle it with an ability to pursue a goal, you get the power to change YOUR world.

And the fact of the matter is, if we singularly change enough worlds … who knows? Maybe someday we can surprise the planet and change the whole blessed thing.

 

  

The producers of jonathots would humbly request a yearly subscription donation of $10 for this wonderful, inspirational opportunity

The Faith Count… November 27, 2011

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Charlotte, North Carolina

I woke up with a sore throat.

I haven’t had a cold in two years so let me be the first one to say that I’m grateful for the reprieve from such escapades and appreciative of the ability to use all my faculties to communicate my message. For 181 shows this year, I’ve been able to dip into my talent, ability and confidence to propel the notions and inspiration that have been granted to me to share with my fellow-travelers.

Today my throat is sore. Before me are two programs for St. John’s United Methodist Church in Chattanooga, Tennessee. So what should my profile be? I still have a voice–that’s good. I just don’t have a sense of my talent, ability and confidence. That leaves me with my faith.

It is amazing what we discover about the true nature of our faith when our talent, ability and confidence have been shaken–because there are a lot of scriptures that tell us that God’s grace is sufficient for us. But I am staring down at a line-up of songs and stories that require more than my particular belief in God’s grace. I could piously tell you that I am completely reassured that the presence of God will be enough for me in my morning’s activities, and even though that statement would not be a lie, it also would not be completely forthcoming.

I find that a good portion of my faith in God is wrapped up in my ability, talent and confidence. I guess there are theologians that would object to such an assertion as being faithless–or even anti-God. I don’t know. I’ve just never been a “let go, let God” person. And allow me be so presumptuous as to say that most of us aren’t. Unlike the typical student of the Bible, when I run across something that most humans are NOT comfortable in performing, rather than assuming we are depraved and indifferent, I choose to consider the fact that maybe some of the ideas we have about God and life are ill-informed.

I think it’s an issue of the faith count. For instance, in today’s programs, I believe I truly will have to have faith that God will be with me as I share. But I also need to count the cost and take a good assessment of my talent, ability and the confidence I possess. False spirituality is the belief that how we are created and how we act is an abomination to God.

Would I rather not have a sore throat? Absolutely. Would I rather have my ability, talent and confidence at 100%? Darned tootin’. I am not thrilled to be less. But what I CAN be is overjoyed that wisdom trumps it all–and all wisdom is given by God to those who will ask.

So even though my talent, ability and confidence may be shaken a bit, if I will use a little wisdom to count the cost and truly decide what I can and cannot do, I therefore am able to present God with a possibility which He is able to bless. For after all, God has no intention of doing it all, nor does He particularly favor being left out. He rather likes our partnership.

So even though my throat is sore, I can still speak and I still have some talent and ability–and if I choose the right things to do instead of over-extending myself, my confidence should reappear.  This gives God the chance of surprising me with the ability to do more than I thought I could, yet without dumping the entire gig on Him.

It is the faith count. I will count factually what I think I can do, reestablishing my talent, ability and confidence, and then place it in God’s hands for His brilliant distribution. It’s the five loaves and two fishes brought my me to feed the five thousand. It’s the woman touching the hem of Jesus’ garment for healing. It is the decision that Jesus made not to tempt the Lord his God, but rather, use what he had instead of trying to jump off the pinnacle of the temple. Yes, I shall not jump off the steeple of St. John’s United Methodist Church. Instead, I will take what God has given me on this Sunday morning and use it as efficiently and wisely as possible. But I will do so by taking an accurate count of my talent, ability and confidence.

It is the faith count--and like everything else that is truly spiritual, it is the intelligent blending of the human with the Divine.

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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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