Good News and Better News … May 2nd, 2016

 Jonathots Daily Blog

(2922)

Konnoak Hills UMC Good News

Our clothes get dirty.

When this happens, we check our GPS and head off toward a local laundromat.

It is always an adventure–we certainly encounter some intriguing human beings.

Jan met a woman who was frail, lying on a bench, who told her that she had spent the night in a hospital ward, taking chemotherapy. She explained that she needed to eat something but was not really hungry.

Jan pressed the point and offered to buy her a meal. The lady described in detail a certain entrée just down the road at Bojangles that she might be able to choke down–mentioning that she would want the selection with extra hot sauce.

So Jan and I trekked to Bojangles to procure the treat.

Why? Did we do it because we thought the woman was in need of nourishment? Were we convinced that this little action of mercy was a way to convey love and affection to this frail child of God?

Absolutely not. We did it for us. For after all, to do anything else makes you feel like crap.

Let’s understand something–people who are lost are horrible.

That’s why they’re lost. They’re not “partly good and partly bad.” They aren’t following five of the Ten Commandments. They are often selfish, liars and wiling to do almost anything to get their way.

The truth is, you have a choice in life: you can work or you can con. If you don’t want to work, you’ll probably end up conning.

Anyway, back to the story: we brought the chicken, gave it to the lady and left her alone to enjoy her delicacy. A few minutes later she was gone. (I asked Jan to do a sketch of her just so we would have the memory. See below.)

We have to remember what the purpose is for hope, faith and love.

We’re not hoping the world becomes a better place, that our faith will produce miracles, or love will change the planet.

Hope, faith and love abide. That’s what the Good Book says. They abide because they really don’t solve problems–they just prevent us from becoming part of the mess.

Hope gives me the confidence to get up every morning thinking I can actually accomplish my mission.

Faith embraces me with the belief that I am not alone–what I do and say matters.

And love is my doorway to escape hate because hate sucks.

When I went to the church on Sunday morning–Konnoak Hills United Methodist in Winston-Salem, North Carolina–this was fresh on my mind.

Such beautiful people with wonderful stories, who are constantly being bombarded with the concept that the world is changing at a breakneck pace, so they’d better grab onto the caboose or be left at the station.

Hogwash.

Right now in our country, “crazy” thinks it is the boss. It’s time for us to rise up and share the good news:

  • Shouting is loud, not smart.
  • Popular is advertised, not quality.
  • Anger is mean, not strong.
  • Cynical is frustrated, not clever.
  • And atheism is the absence of hope, not evidence of intellect.

I gave my faith, hope and love to the folks yesterday morning at Konnoak Hills. That’s the good news.

The better news is that I hope they’re smart enough to realize that the lost we are trying to reach can never be virtuous enough to please us.

It’s up to us to bring the heart, soul and patience to the matter.

 

Good News Winston Salem

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G-Poppers … April 15th, 2016

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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Jon close up

G-Pop’s grandson was a bit spooked by the notion of evil coming from the hearts of humans, so G-Pop continued his discussion with a little more sensitivity toward a little boy’s tender consciousness.

“Let’s put it this way,” said G-Pop. “If evil is out of our control, then who’s to say that goodness is available for us to choose?

The power in life is in having power in your life.

If the devil can defeat you and the angels have to rescue you, you kind of become the classic damsel, constantly in distress. So here’s where evil comes in:

  • Our appetites. We’re just too hungry.

We keep looking for adventure. And the more advertised forms usually involve risk or deceit.

Our true adventure is life. And when we screw it up the first time, fortunately for us, we usually have another chance to revisit the location with a better travel plan.

Our appetites drive us to do stupid things. It’s good to be hungry, but just as we adjust our physical diet to include nourishing portions, we should do the same with our emotional, spiritual and mental buffet.

  • Our second problem is ego. It’s when we are too selfish.

There is certainly nothing wrong with loving yourself if you make sure to leave enough time to grant your neighbor the same courtesy. But if you believe you must destroy, out-flank, cheat or curse your brothers and sisters to get your portion, you will eventually hatch some form of evil.

  • And finally, there’s delusion.I’m too important.’

Finding our true worth is our greatest achievement. Otherwise we start thinking we’re more valuable than we really are, making us pompous, or less valuable, which causes us to become defensive over our deteriorating worth.

This allows delusion to come to the forefront. We convince ourselves that we have a greater capacity than we can prove, and become quite infuriated when anyone challenges our assessment.

When our appetites make us too hungry and our egos cause us to become selfish, then our delusion makes us insist that we are primarily important.

There you have the formula for evil.

Goodness is when we let our appetites lure us to righteousness, our egos make us generous to the needs of others and our delusion is eliminated because we know exactly who we are and who we aren’t.”

G-Pop finished explaining this to his grandson. Amazingly, the little fella appeared to understand.

He turned and said, “I think I’ve got it, G-Pop. Don’t eat too much of anything.”

G-Pop smiled.

A pretty good analysis.

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Good News and Better News … September 7th, 2015

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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Sugar river

Many years ago, I sensed a voice within me, encouraging me to go out and share my heart and abilities with the world. Some people would say it was the voice of God, while others would probably insist that it was just me, declaring my own bidding. I don’t care.

I heeded the call, and that decision has taken me on an exotic adventure.

Verona, Wisconsin has a small church called Sugar River. I had the pleasure of being the guest artist for that congregation yesterday morning.

There is much good news to proclaim about Sugar River. First of all, they have the unique distinction of meeting in a former bowling alley, which honestly, unleashed the “demon” of pun and wordplay I felt had been dormant in my soul, culminating with me referring to the gathered as “a bunch of Holy Rollers.”

What was good about Sugar River?

1. They seemed glad to be there.

That in itself is a bit unusual in this day and age, when many people arrive at church with the passion level of a fresh recruit assigned to guard duty.

2. They kind of liked each other.

I know that may seem to be a silly statement, but merely attending the same worship facility does not necessarily stimulate friendship any more than arriving at a political debate causes all the candidates to hug.

3. They are weary of “old church.”

I’m not so sure that “old church” was ever a church. The real old church we often refer to was filled with compassion, energy and social awareness, but the old church that exists today is the back-slidden version of that former gregarious gang. Either way, Sugar River is tired of the back-slidden body of Christ.

4. But they all seemed a little afraid of the change they know must come.

Matter of fact, it’s causing many churches to cement their spirits and become advocates of certain doctrines, so as to protect themselves from the perceived anarchy that just might happen if the religious system was exposed for being a charlatan.

So I was happy to bring them better news. Matter of fact, Jesus often began his discourses with “be not afraid.”

No, Sugar River, there’s nothing to be afraid of.

The church that will emerge from the existing malaise now exists will only require that you bring your heart.

  • Not your soul, so you can pore through the scriptures to find obscure interpretations.
  • Not merely your mind, so you can draw psychological parallels between theology and the latest Hollywood movie.
  • And not just your body, to plop down and go through the formalities of surviving an order of service.

You will be required to be emotionally involved with your heavenly Father and with those humans around you.

You also will be unleashed to “be of good cheer.”

The only true enemy of spirituality is the notion that we seriously can figure out God. Discovering that we can’t and having a good laugh about it is the abundant joy that Jesus promised us in following His path.

The world has tribulation.

Heaven is beyond our grasp.

So be of good cheer.

Relax in your skin, love your life, and don’t get too solemn.

And finally, the last piece of better news for Sugar River is: be prepared to simplify.

Everything is complicated. Matter of fact, we are almost prideful in the pursuit of complicating things further.

In a world of unsolved problems, the genius in the room is the person who walks away from the problems and finds a place to be productive.

Simplify.

Get your faith down to two or three solid ideas, and then chase them down with all your heart.

I enjoyed my time at Sugar River.

And I’m so glad that I went to the former bowling alley with my spare time…and made a strike.

 

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Untotaled: Stepping 41 (July 14th, 1967) Needing Change… November 22, 2014

 Jonathots Daily Blog

(2421)

(Transcript)

It had never happened before.

There was going to be a carnival set up at the Westerville Shopping Center, right across the street from Redman’s Hardware.

Even though that in itself was cool, even cooler was that this cavalcade of amusements was advertising unlimited rides and midway games for five dollars for the whole day.

It was great.

The only trouble was, Randy and I didn’t have five dollars apiece, so I was ready to do my usual small-town plan of giving up and spending my carnival time complaining about missing the parade.

Randy, on the other hand, had an idea.

He went down to our local phone booth, sitting on the north corner of the Town Commons, and stuffed a bunch of Kleenex into the change return, so that when people missed a call or had money coming back their way, it would get caught and would not return to them.

I thought it was the dumbest idea I’d ever heard.

I wasn’t so concerned that it was dishonest as that I didn’t think we would ever get ten dollars out of such an adventure, with the money coming out in increments of ten cents a throw.

But Rand did it anyway, and three days later, when he pulled out the Kleenex, we ended up with a haul of $10.75.

Apparently a very popular phone booth.

We could not have been more giddy. We went to the carnival and had a fabulous time, never once feeling guilty about how we acquired the funds.

No, for me it was four days later.

I was sitting in my mother and father’s loan company, and I peered out the window and saw there was a policeman inspecting the phone booth.

It scared the crap out of me.

I had to do something–not out of guilt over my misstep, but rather, because I didn’t want to go to Juvenile Hall, where I heard they only served partially cooked pot pies.

So when my parents weren’t looking, I snuck into the safe of the loan company and grabbed a roll of dimes. I quietly stepped over to the phone booth, trying to pretend like I was going to make a call, and as calmly as possible, stuffed that whole role of dimes back into the slot, one at a time, to do recompense for my sin.

Once again, it never occurred to me that I stole from my parents to cover my previous thievery.

It was nearly three weeks later, when my uncle gave me five dollars for school supplies, that my conscience finally showed up.

I determined to go to the bank, purchase a roll of dimes and slip them back into the safe, no one the wiser.

Unfortunately, my plan was foiled by the fact that my parents hung around all day long, never giving me the chance to do penance.

I decided to try again the next day, but on the way home I passed by the local five and dime, and they were advertising candy bars–six for 20 cents.

Well, the only 20 cents I had was in the roll of dimes, and I thought, what the hell? What difference would two dimes make?

The next day I forgot to return my dimes to the loan company, but I did stop off at the Dairy Queen to get a hot dog and a coke, which took another seven dimes.

Long story short, within a week I spent all the dimes I had planned to return.

I didn’t feel bad–I felt stupid.

I did make one determination, and that was to never steal from the phone booth again. And when Randy tempted me, I changed the subject and refrained from further iniquity.

From then on, I went on a personal journey in search of my own integrity.

It was ten years later, long after my dad had died.

I was visiting my mother at her home, and I walked up to her and gently placed a roll of dimes into her hand. She looked up at me, quizzically.

I patted her on the shoulder and said, “It’s a really, really long story…”

 

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Populie: Always Be Positive … April 2, 2014

Jonathots Daily Blog  

(2193)

black eye smiley faceTo review: a POPULIE is an idea which is popular but is laced with a lie.

It is something we agree to when we’re around large groups of people, but privately either question or dismiss as irrelevant when applying it to our own lives.

One of these is the contention that it is important in all of our dealings to “always be positive.”

Politics loves it because promises get votes. Reality often scares people away.

Entertainment favors this particular populie of “always be positive” because it gives them an ending to a movie that the audience members can predict, making them feel smart and preferably, happy.

And religion touts this precept because we have this imbalanced notion that faith is about believing that good things will always happen because God is in control. (Of course, on the flip side, spiritually it makes us believe that when bad things happen, we’re being punished.)

I think the most important question we can ask is what kind of people does this create and what kind of society does it evolve?

If you’re going to live a life where you’re always trying to be positive, you will view trials, tribulations and hassles as deterrents to your cause instead of little friends–pesky as they are–who come along to warn you of fallacies in your plans.

So if you’ll allow me to offer an alternative to this populie:

THE CORE OF FOUR

Yes, let me introduce you to the Core of Four.

We need to determine what our outlook should be in any given situation. To get this information, simply ask four quick questions:

1. What do I see?

Faith is not about poking your eyes out until you become blind. Faith is about accepting what you see, but then also being able to see beyond it, to further possibilities. You will never be successful if you’re not able to deal with reality. Matter of fact, one of the signs of mental illness is the insistence that reality should “go away.”

2. What do I believe?

Sometimes the things you want to accomplish are not yet seen, but the need for them is still in existence. Belief is a wonderful combination of what we see, what we desire and what we’re willing to endure.

3. What will I do?

A positive attitude is quickly killed off by an unwillingness to participate. I won’t tell people I think a plan will work if I cannot commit to them how I will be involved. For after all, nice words and encouraging prayers are not very helpful in the heat of the struggle.

4. And finally, what are the prospects?

As I take a look at what I see, what I believe and what I’m willing to do, it pretty quickly becomes obvious what the logical prospects are for the adventure.

After this evaluation, I can choose my profile.

  • Often I can be passionately positive, because my “see, believe, do and conclusions” are very encouraging.
  • On other occasions, it’s important to be realistic. That which I see, believe, and am willing to do show my prospects to be within the realm of possibility–but maybe not quite as fruitful as I once thought.
  • And finally, there are times when it is required for us to be needfully negative. What we see, believe, and are willing to do has brought forth prospects which show that this particular endeavor is doomed.

A fruitful process. It is the absence of the populie which tells us that we should walk around with a smirk on our face, saying that everything will be fine, when secretly we’re dying inside.

Don’t forget your Core of Four. This will help you to choose the right attitude to approach each and every opportunity.

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New Life… January 4, 2014

Jonathots Daily Blog

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New Life

I picked up my calendar and noticed that tonight I’m going to be sharing at New Life Lutheran Church in Pearland, Texas. I couldn’t help but notice the two words: New Life.

I like that idea. I think everybody wants a new life to some degree, even if they’re enjoying the essence of their present journey. “New” is fun and fresh, and “life” is beautiful, if for no other reason than it’s the absence of death.

But I have never been a soul satisfied with the offerings of organized religion. I want new life, but Heaven and the promise of eternal existence is not enough to get me through Earth.

I need some heaven done here.

This is what Jesus promised in the Good Book–that it was possible for God’s will to be done on Earth as it is in Heaven. I’ve always wondered why we thought Heaven was going to be so special if we weren’t impressed with the adventure God offers us on Earth. It’s like owning a Toyota Camry and being dissatisfied, and having the company offer you a Tercel. Still made by Toyota. No reason to believe the different name will make things better.

So I go to Jesus to find out what he thinks life is. Two things jump out immediately. He contended that life should be “abundant” and life should be “joyful.” Actually–full joy.

So what is abundance? I suppose it could be interpreted as “wealth” or accumulation. But I think in this case it means variety.

Yes, I will know that I have new life when I’m not afraid of what’s coming. If God was with me yesterday, why would I believe that overnight He’s abandoned me simply because today offers a different dilemma?

Yet, it is what plagues us. We really gain new life when we’re not afraid of what’s coming and we welcome the abundance because we know it grants us the wisdom to use our talents to gain our security.

And I need joy. Joy is the decision to be happy while you’re pursuing contentment.

If you do it the other way around, you’ll end up quite disappointed, trying to find contentment as a means of determining your happiness. This means that every disruption of your experience, actually bringing abundance, will distress you instead of bless you.

Yes, “new life” is the ingenious blending of abundance and joy.

So as I talk to these folks tonight I will share with them that Jesus did not come to try to make things comfortable. Instead, he came to comfort us as we grow able to handle our circumstance while maintaining our good cheer, eager for a chance to prove that what is in us … is up to the challenge.. 

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The Third Story… August 30, 2013

Jonathots Daily Blog

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Story One

constructionI was driving along in Grand Rapids in my 1997 Toyota Tercel, late to pick up my wife from her shift at the Meijer Grocery Store. As often happens when one is running late, I looked ahead and they had closed off one lane, the road diminishing to one passageway, with traffic backing up. The last thing I needed was to be late again. Last week I had arrived tardy to pick up my lady, and she told me how frustrating it was to sit at the picnic table outside the store waiting for my arrival after a long shift, with her friends asking her if everything was okay. I did not want to be a jerk again.

As I neared the closing of the lane, I looked up and suddenly a big, black van pulled out in front of me, causing me to slow up my progress. I even had to brake. The person in the van needed to realize that his vehicle required more clearance, so I pulled into the next lane, even though I had only 100 feet before it closed. He speeded up so I was side by side with him, and I had to cut him off because he wouldn’t let me take my place.

When the road widened about two lights later, the driver in the big, black van–a  fat, bald guy–wouldn’t even look over at me, apologize or acknowledge his mistake. It really pissed me off.

I arrived five minutes late and explained to my wife that I had been delayed by a stupid dude with Florida tags who thought he owned the road.

Story Two

Stopping in to pick up some groceries at Aldi, Janet and I were heading out of the parking lot towards our headquarters and home when I noticed there was a sufficient space to pull onto the road in front of a Toyota Tercel. I realized that he might have to slow up a bit for my entrance, considering how large the van is, but thought he might not mind since the second lane was closing, and all traffic was having to adjust accordingly.

I acquired my place in the flow of traffic and was surprised to notice that the Toyota had come up beside me, even though there was no remaining lane. I didn’t know whether to slow down to let him in, or speed up to try to get him to go behind me. Because I delayed my decision, when the lane closed he swerved in front of me, barely missing my front bumper. I slid off the berm to miss him.

When I arrived, two lights later, past the construction, and was about to turn, I saw that he had pulled up next to me. Not wanting any confrontation with a local, I looked straight ahead and turned right.

I didn’t give it much more thought–but it did seem a little bizarre.

Story Three

When a big, black van is about to enter a flow of traffic that is closing down to one lane, the driver needs to know that like it or not, he probably should make eye contact with the next car to see if it will let him in. Whether he sees a space is  immaterial. And local people driving Toyota Tercels should realize they represent their community and offer a little graciousness, even if it means they might be forty-two seconds later to pick up their wife at work.

Evaluating your own character by choosing one minute of convenience over mercy is not necessarily a very good trade-off. And pulling a very large van out in front of a Toyota Tercel whose driver had not motioned to give permission for such an adventure is certainly failing to recognize the right of passage.

You see, this is life. As long as we have our own story and those who confront us have their story, and no one discovers the third story, we are constantly at each other’s throats, believing the worst.

May I learn and know … we just can’t afford the unnecessary conflict.

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