Good News and Better News… August 14th, 2017

 Jonathots Daily Blog

(3399)

 

For some ridiculous reason, I occasionally get embarrassed by being happy. I give in to the pressure to act adult, disgruntled, and get tempted to complain about my problems. This is not my nature–I normally have a bubble in my soul which releases a fresh batch of ooey-gooey jubilation.

Yet this seems to bother those who wonder if I have any sensibility about the pain in the world or the suffering in some country they are barely able to pronounce.

I have been called to “brighten the corner where I am.” I am not in Afghanistan. I am not even in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Yesterday I found myself in Haines City, Florida, at the Lamb of God Lutheran Church with Pastor Joe, sitting and sharing with some of God’s wonderful flock.

I was not sheepish. I shepherded these dear souls through a journey laced with the human essential of good cheer. Say what you will about church but it has one function and one alone: find other human beings on the journey and fellowship with them.

Therefore, the byproduct of every experience taking you into into the House of God should be good cheer. For in the world, you only have tribulation, so we need some place to go where we can be of good cheer. It must be the church.

We must stop thinking that the arrival of Cring & Clazzy was a “breath of fresh air,” but instead, understand that stale air is not acceptable.

We cannot go from sucking in oxygen to inhaling fumes. As a congregation, as people, as children of God, as sane humans, we must stand up and demand good cheer:

  • Good cheer in the singing
  • Good cheer in the liturgy (if you have it)
  • Good cheer in communion
  • Certainly good cheer in the sermon
  • Good cheer in the benediction

And even good cheer when you reach the vestibule and discover that your favorite donut has already been eaten by the kids, who were released too early from children’s church.

I talked to some of the most intelligent, caring people you’d ever want to find. I just wonder whether they have the gumption to demand that the church be what it was meant to be–a safe place where we encourage one another, even so much more as we see the world going crazy around us.

The good news is that the world is full of tribulation, and therefore offers no harbor.

The better news is, we can be of good cheer if we start demanding purpose instead of settling for anemic programming.

 

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G-Poppers … October 30th, 2015

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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Jon close up

G-Pop wants his children to be aware:

“Don’t be overwhelmed with the underwhelming.”

There’s so much in our society that is loud and proud that sometimes it’s difficult to discern the portions of behavior that are valuable, and the truths that are worthy of being upheld.

There are two great dangers in this journey we call human life:

  1. Being convinced that what you’re hearing the most is real.
  2. Being jaded because what you’re hearing the most is insane.

In both cases you put yourself out of the game, becoming either a pawn of the craziness or too cynical to believe in better things.

So what’s the answer?

G-Pop suggests to his children that they stop listening to the noise, and instead, listen for the harmony.

There are ideas that have lasted for thousands of years and have endured the ridiculous to bring the sublime.

G-Pop has a simple test he places on every notion that tries to crowd into his mind:

A. Does it make us laugh?

It’s possible to have laughter that’s based on prejudice and sarcasm, but eventually when we laugh we do learn to chuckle at ourselves and our own inconsistencies. People change more quickly through a giggle than they ever do through a sermon.

B. Does it make us feel?

For you see, the danger is not being inundated with information and painful reports which cause us to close off our hearts so as not to feel the pain anymore, but rather, to limit what comes inside and make sure that we can feel for those around us.

Don’t listen to a report on CNN telling you that 328 people died in an earthquake in Afghanistan. Put yourself under the rubble and you’ll feel the impact.

C. Does it make us better?

Simply watching a movie about depravity is not the pathway to understanding reality. Reality is useless if it doesn’t challenge us to go the second mile and supersede our jungle instinct to find our Garden of Eden.

If you’re listening for the noise, you can’t hear the harmony–and that harmony is a three-part anthem:

  • History sings its truth
  • Present life adds its part
  • And our story chimes in to create a chorus of joy.

 

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G-Poppers … July 24th, 2015

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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Jon close up

A whole lot of killing going on.

Or maybe it’s the same. But it just seems like the new killings are more evil.

I guess killing won’t stop until we address what causes killing: people aren’t going away.

G-Pop was thinking about this yesterday. He was trying to form an insight just in case his sons or grandkids asked him about the stuff.

He tries to stay away from too many opinions. An opinion is an insight that draws a conclusion. And the trouble with a drawn conclusion is that it never shows the whole picture.

Fortunately, the problem is simple. Since people aren’t going to go away, we should stop doing things to make them think that we want them to.

Here’s a simple rule:

I only matter if you matter. If you don’t, I don’t.

We have this idea that we can seek out evil, stand against it, defeat it and that’s the end. But slavery and segregation didn’t disappear with the passing of laws. Hatred of the Jews didn’t crawl back into the walls with the death of Hitler and the Gestapo.

People are not going to go away. No matter how much we wish it or hope it, they will remain, claiming their right to be.

We need to take a good hard look at our record as a nation over the past seventy years.

  • We fought North Korea. We lost (for after all, there is still a North Korea.)
  • We fought to preserve Vietnam. And now there is one Vietnam–but not the one we envisioned.
  • Do I need to discuss Iraq and Afghanistan?

It is not un-American to ask the question, “Is what we’re doing really effective?”

Somewhere along the line we have to realize that the world is not going to go away and we have to find a procedure by which we can prosper and be successful, and let that be our best revenge.

You can’t kill off all the bad guys without losing too many good guys. And when we lose enough good guys, the country goes through a lull until we can birth more people with dreams.

I only matter if you matter. If you don’t, then I don’t.

It’s a simple principle.

Can we learn it? If we can’t, we’ll be chasing every noise that goes bump in the night.

Jesus told us not to resist evil. We think that’s idealistic.

G-Pop wonders if idealism actually is the notion that we can kill all the cockroaches.

 

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Populie: People Want to be Free … October 1, 2014

Jonathots Daily Blog

(2368)

Freedom's

Freedom is great. A very popular battle cry.

People want to be free. Hold on a second. We just stepped into a populie.

Even though entertainment, politics and religion love to tout the power of a struggle in which someone or some people who are oppressed gain independence from an oppressor, the truth of the matter is, most of the world is not free nor does it desire to be.

Even though since our inception, we evangelistically have preached the gospel of 1776 all over the world, we’ve had few takers.

Cuba, the Philippines, Germany, Japan, Korea, Vietnam, Panama, Afghanistan and Iraq have all felt a push from us to accept our form of government, only, in varying degrees, to opt for their own choice.

I think it’s important to understand what people do want:

1. People want to be free of responsibility.

It’s a garden-variety human error–and when I say “garden,” I mean Eden. Adam blamed Eve and Eve blamed the devil. We’re just repelled by the notion of being held accountable for deeds.

Even though many countries do grumble about the King, the Parliament, the Magistrate or even the Dictator, the structure grants them a scapegoat between reality and their need to change.

2. People want to be rich.

I did not say that people want to work. People want to satisfy the passing whim, which in their minds means having obtuse amounts of cash to throw at the latest fancy. Even if the craving is just their daily bread, they would rather believe that they don’t have to bake it.

3. People want to be free of people.

We have come to the conclusion that the greatest interference in our lives is the competition from other human beings, which tends to split a pot, prohibiting us from becoming rich and independent.

So you can see, the American rendition pontificated by Jefferson by proclaiming, “all men are created equal,” immediately runs into a wall of resistance by those who are running from responsibility, seeking riches and always somewhat angry at their neighbors.

We must be honest, in 1861, we couldn’t get the North and South in America to agree that “people want to be free.”

So is there an answer?

First of all, let me say that I believe the true definition of imperialism is thinking that the joy, peace, contentment and direction you have found in your life can be transferred to other people by forcing them, or even by teaching them.

Frankly, I’m not so sure that we all evolved directly from the monkey–but we do like to ape the success we see, rather than having it legislated for us.

America will eventually have to let the countries of the  world find their own way instead of treating them like errant children who need to be punished.

I don’t mean to burst anyone’s balloon, but people don’t want to be free. So the best thing we can do to help our fellow-men is to:

A. Make things simpler

B. Make things more reasonable

C. And make sure our country, churches and entertainment are less judgmental.

 

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Ascension Attention… September 27, 2013

Jonathots Daily Blog

(2019)

Peter PanSome things certainly “captain my hook” while others never “tinker my bell.”

Thus is life in these United States.

So this morning when I looked at my calendar and realized I would be performing tonight at Ascension Lutheran Church in Columbus, Ohio, I got to thinking about the word “ascension.”

Obviously, it means “to ascend.” But in reference to the Good Book, it specifically puts a spotlight on a day when Jesus “lifted off” from the earth and headed back to heaven–right in front of the peepers of his best friends.

Now you see, the ascension doesn’t turn me on nearly as much as the resurrection–not because I believe giving new life to a broken, crucified body is more POSSIBLE than levitating into the ethos. It’s more that … I don’t really care.

At the risk of incurring the wrath of those who maintain their spirituality without question, I will tell you there are stories in the Good Book I really like and others I kind of ignore.

I am not alone here.

After all, the folks who get upset about abortion and gay people have certainly failed to peruse the rest of the texts that tell us “not to judge” and to “do unto others.”

But there is one part of that ascension story that I do find inspiring and entertaining. Shall I refer to it as “an angel with an attitude?”

Generally, when angels appear on earth to do the beckoning of the Father in heaven, they often show up with a bit of chip on the shoulder and some sardonic wit. These angelic visitors have been known to strike people blind and deaf due to human disbelief, satirically ask women who have come to a grave to add their spice to the burial “why they seek the living among the dead,” and at the ascension of Jesus into heaven, it is recorded that an angel, a bit peeved, asked the gawking disciples, “Men of Galilee, why are you staring at the heavens?”

The logical answer was that this was their first time to see somebody float skyward. Rather impressive. A guarantee of first place on America’s Got Talent (unless there was a country singer who lost his leg in Afghanistan and saved his dog’s life from a burning shack while supporting his mother by digging out horse crap from a stable…)

But it is a good question–one I suspect I will pose to the audience at Ascension tonight.

“Why are we staring at the heavens?”

After all, the other alternative–which most people select–is to stare at the ground.

But there is a lifestyle somewhere between the ethereal and depression. It’s the ability to live an honest and truthful existence, enabling you to look straight ahead, preferably right in the eyes of your brothers and sisters.

I have no intention of being downcast. But I also do not want to be upcast when there are people who need help, love, encouragement and challenge.

So why are we staring at the heavens? It’s because, deep in our hearts, we’ve given up on Earth and we think the solution must come from divine intervention.

Too bad.

So call me Peter Pan–but I still believe that we can do better…and fly higher.

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An Eye for a Tooth… July 17, 2013

Jonathots Daily Blog

(1946)

eyeballGenerally speaking, I make a practice of avoiding anything that Hitler liked. Matter of fact, sometimes I’m a little uncomfortable about sporting a mustache.

Adolf despised gypsies, spirituality, homosexuals and let us not forget … Jews.

But ironically, considering his disdain for Abraham’s seed, he was a faithful follower of the Law of Moses–at least in the sense that he fervently applied the discipline of “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.” If a German soldier was killed in occupied lands, it was the edict in the Nazi Party to have ten locals murdered in retribution.

So even though the concept of “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth” is included in what we refer to as “holy writ,” I know that it never came from the mind of any God who created human beings and understands our chemistry.

As a race, we are completely and totally devoid of the ability to be even. So what we always end up doing is plucking out an eye … for a tooth.

For instance, if we had actually gone in to Afghanistan after 9/11 and used specially trained troops to hunt down Osama bin Laden and twenty-eight hundred of his cult members and punished them for what they did in New York, Pennsylvania and Washington, D.C., and then departed, we would have demonstrated the literal application of “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.”

But that’s not what we did.

Infuriated, bruised, energized and over-wrought, we launched ourselves into twelve years of war, costing hundreds of thousands of lives.

Why? Because human beings can’t measure. Even though Jesus warned us that the “meter we measure out” to other people will come right back to us, we become enraged and inflict too much punishment for what has happened to us.

So are you telling me that God didn’t KNOW this about the emotional human beings He created?

  • Are you telling me He would have told Moses to unleash vengeful people on their enemies, hoping for some restraint?
  • How about this–did we really need to drop two atomic bombs on Japan, killing hundreds of thousands of people, to end the war–pay back for Pearl Harbor?

What might seem to be an unpatriotic questioning of our country’s dealings is actually just a microscope placed on human character, explaining WHY retribution never works.

If you punch me in the face, I am much too explosive to immediately respond to you because I am completely capable of losing control and taking more from you than you gave to me–even to the point of destroying your life.

The purpose of turning the other cheek is not to be a loser. It is to give yourself a chance to keep from losing control and doing something that you truly should regret, but end up rationalizing.

It is astounding to me that our heartland citizens always espouse that we are “a Christian nation,” when we continue to follow the principles of Judaism, Islam and even Adolf Hitler. Someone has to grow up.

If we really could be even and take “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth,” then who knows? Maybe the system would be a deterrent to evil. But historically, dastardly acts have always stirred formerly reasonable people to flirt with darkness.

So what IS the answer?

We need to admit that an “eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth,” and any attempt to initiate punishment on our own is not only going to perpetuate the problem, but will actually accelerate it.

I turn the other cheek because I don’t want my temper to control my future.

There you go.

After all, if you don’t do it that way, you find yourself defeated–with the world turned against you, stuck in a bunker, too frightened to swallow the pill and too much of a coward to put the gun to your head.

 

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Little Red Marble… May 20, 2013

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blood marbleShe gently slipped it into my hand.

It was a little red marble. She whispered in my ear, telling me it represented one single drop of the blood of Jesus.

Honestly, those kinds of representations of religious artifacts usually leave me cold, or even occasionally” creeped out.” But the combination of her sincerity and a sweet revelation in my soul moved me.

It is an abomination that in our society, blood has become so frivolous. We now have shows about vampires, doctor and police escapades where blood flows freely, and gore and violence represented repetitively in front of our eyes on a daily basis.

But it really isn’t true and there is no reality to it. The Bible tells us that blood is life. That’s true. If you’ve ever been at the scene of an accident and witnessed blood pouring out of a human being, you immediately realize that their life is draining away. Just because that same sensation does not communicate quite as vividly on the silver screen, DVD, blue ray or photographs does not take away the reality of blood loss.

One drop of the blood of Jesus means that there were many, many pints that flowed from him that day when he gave his life. Having once needed a blood transfusion myself, and having four pints pumped into my veins, I can tell you that the absence of that gift rendered me dizzy, with blurred vision, thirsty and nearly out of my head. Why? Because I didn’t have enough blood.

I do not know what it will take for us to realize that the pictures that come to us from Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and points all over the world–where we see blood draining from human bodies–are warnings to us of the temporal nature of human life and the commonality of us all.

Two thousand years ago, a just and righteous man hung on a cross because other men forgot how valuable human life and blood truly was. Even though I may not focus on his death very often (because Jesus, himself, requested that we honor his words) I was moved yesterday in that moment, when the lady handed me a symbolic drop of his life force.

We will never become civilized again until we honor life by refusing to portray the shedding of blood as entertainment.

And we will never become spiritual if we fail to recognize the redemption, salvation and healing that comes through one drop of the blood of Jesus . . . even when it is shown to us in a little red marble.

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