An Agenda… November 13, 2012

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Everybody has an agenda. That particular statement is considered to be truthful, but also negative.

Yet–don’t we all need an agenda? Is it possible to live an entirely spontaneous existence without having some foundational goals and purposes?

The problem may not be the agenda. The difficulty is often the premise on which the agenda is built. For instance, if you’re trying to communicate to the world that God is love, you must have some sort of explanation for the scriptures in the Bible that darned tootin’ seem to be hateful. If your precept is that God is wrathful, you’d better be prepared to explain away the mercy, gentleness and inclusive spirit of Jesus.

People seemed determined in this day and age to divide into two camps–conservatives and liberals. Would you allow me to sum up the agenda of a conservative? This is what they believe:

“I am trying to remember the very best things of my childhood and then return to them as an adult by making sure that progress does not eliminate the quality of my remembrance.”

How about a liberal?

“I am trying to get what I desire and I feel the best way to do that is by giving everything to everybody so as not to shut out anyone. But to do this, I have to make sure that I don’t scrutinize the end result.”

So you can see, of the two philosophies, it is obvious that the liberal agenda will always win out. It doesn’t make it better or more righteous, it’s just a wider tent which will hold more people. After all, with the conservative agenda, what you and I may have thought were the better parts of our childhood may have been the worst recollections of others. White Americans certainly enjoyed the 1950’s, but if you were black, you might not remember the Eisenhower years quite so favorably.

Likewise, even though the liberals tout the stupidity of Prohibition, they fail to mention the free love, drug culture and excesses of the 1960’s and ’70’s, which left many of our creative artists and young aspiring Americans dead from overdose.

So what is an agenda? Should we have one? Should we join one of these two camps, so we’re not out of the flow?

I guess I have to go back and find God’s agenda. It’s not so difficult to acquire.Here’s what I think: It is not His will that any should perish.

Almost sounds like He’s a liberal, doesn’t it? Matter of fact, if you’re a liberal you might raise a cheer at this point because you’re imagining this expansive force in nature which is all-accepting, all-loving, all-kind and all-receiving.

But there is a closing phrase to that this agenda of God’s: Truly it’s not God’s will that any should perish, but He also wants everyone to come to repentance. Repentance? That almost sounds conservative, doesn’t it?

So let’s put it together: It’s not God’s will that anyone should perish, but He wants everybody to come to repentance.

If I step into a room of conservatives, they want me to be against abortion, against drugs, against gay marriage, against immigration, but for war, for focusing on the family, for traditional values, and completely for capitalism.

If I walk into a meeting of liberals, they want me to be for abortion choice, for the legalization of marijuana, for gay marriage, for animal rights, and against creationism, against religion in the marketplace and against any questioning of scientific research whatsoever.

Can I be truthful? I would be uncomfortable in both settings. I don’t want to see people perish. I love people. But I do not believe that human beings are capable of redemptive thinking without repentance and transformation. I don’t think we plop out of the womb with an understanding of what is best for ourselves, let alone the world. There has to be some sort of salvaging of our souls–otherwise, our more basic animal nature will make us bungle in the jungle.

Here’s the truth–neither the conservatives or the liberals are able to create an agenda that is satisfying, fulfilling and sensitive to humanity. The conservatives close too many doors and the liberals open too many.

So what can we do? There are three things necessary to make sure that the philosophy you select in life does not cause you to run into walls or contradict yourself.

1. Does what I believe generate salvation or perishing? Anything that shuts people out, failing to leave the possibility for rebirth can therefore not be God. Conservatives fail because they see men, women, black, white, moral and immoral instead of giving God the right to judge His own children and simply focusing on their own pursuit of happiness.

2. Anything that kills is anti-human. Drugs kill. Legalizing them will not bring down the death toll. The assumption that human beings have the capability of using anything in temperance is utterly ridiculous. Part of our appeal is our passion–and certainly an attribute of our passion is the danger of excess. By the same token, to be against abortion and allow guns to flow freely into our society is a contradiction in spirit.

3. Change makes us happy. As long as you have the mindset that change is the enemy, and the more we keep things the same, trying to make everybody comfortable in their present skin, the less effective you will actually end up being in helping others. Everybody has a need to repent. I will grant you that it is their journey and their requirement to find that problem, but to act as if we’re all fine the way we are is to rob human beings of the capacity to get better.

If you enact these three principles, you can come up with an agenda that is close to the heart of God.

But you will NOT find yourself being either a conservative or a liberal.

Each group will believe, from time to time, that you are part of them–because one of their ideas falls into agreement with one of the three statements above. But each group, from time to time, will consider you an enemy, because you have to disagree with something cherished by  them.

Agenda–it can be a good thing if it is based on the facts of human beings instead of the nostalgia of our youth and the wishy washiness of our own desires.

Now, I understand that this essay may not be one of your favorites as far as having humor, stories and clever twists and turns. But every once in a while, you have to buy tires for your car or it becomes very insignificant that you have an engine. And every once in a while, it is essential in jonathots that we find a way to roll in our live so what we mobilize will actually find God’s favor … instead of His opposition.

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

Ah-choo … September 10, 2012

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I like to sneeze. I didn’t used to like to do it. At one time in my life, I thought every sneeze was a precursor of the common cold, lending itself to bronchitis or even pneumonia. I now realize that a sneeze can be quite a pleasant experience–the body’s way of expelling something unnecessary in the nasal passages so the little troupers can work better. If you think about it, a sneeze feels good–clears the head and lends itself to an invigorating nose blowing. It’s not only healthy to sneeze, it’s also quite beneficial to accept the fact that sneezinghappens (although I don’t think you’ll ever see that on a bumper sticker).

Original caption: Not faked. I was trying to t...

Original caption: Not faked. I was trying to take a hankie photo cos I have a cold and sneezed! (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Here’s the question: what else happens? What other factors are so common to us as human beings–and needful–that they pepper our existence every day?I can immediately think of two: failure and fear.

Let me play prophet. I predict that you, sometime during this twenty-four-hour period, will experience a failure, and will need to deal first-hand with a fear cropping up in your life. You see? That’s a guarantee.

After all, chances are you won’t win the lottery. It’s unlikely someone will walk up on the street and tell you how beautiful you are. You probably won’t get that promotion. And rainbows are saved for special occasions–or we wouldn’t pull the car over to stop and look at them. What IS going to happen to every human being every single day is failure and fear.

Now, nobody wants to talk about this because it sounds negative. But believing that failure and fear are negatives is similar to thinking that every sneeze is going to lead to death. Just as the common sneeze is available to us to expel unnecessary invaders in our sinuses, failure and fear come into our lives to excavate and evict emotional, spiritual and mental intruders. It’s just hard to understand that. It’s difficult when anticipation paints such a beautiful picture of what could be–to end up, in its place, with a smeared finger-painting done by a five-year-old.

Failure hurts. Then fear comes along to try to relieve the pain by replacing it with an ache of its own. And then, of course, we have the compounding situation that we begin to experience failure because we’re afraid. So on top of the natural conclusions that happen via time and chance, we add unnecessary decisions brought about by weakness and anxiety.

So how can we learn to be the kind of people who approach failure and fear like we do sneezing? After all, spirituality is not expressed through the amount of study we pursue, but through the confidence that is left behind through the graduation.

If you believe in God, your face should look more hopeful than the face of someone who doesn’t believe. It can’t be faked; it has to be real.

Since I am going to fail, what is my best reaction to the inevitable shortcoming that invites my long-suffering? Jesus said it was good cheer. Of course, good cheer sounds like something we wish people at Christmas time, as we are surrounded by bows, presents, pine trees and holly. But good cheer is the awareness that filure is our friend. Good cheer knows that most failure is the way to get rid of bad ideas, and if we stop resisting the natural conclusion to pursuing an inadequate path, we don’t have to waste time having our feelings hurt or wondering where we made a bad turn.

The only real certainty in life is uncertainty. So how can I co-exist with an uncertain life plan and still be of good cheer? It’s really quite plain: prepare to adjust.

For instance, when they repair your car, they tell you to come in later on to have it adjusted. We don’t question that–it makes sense. Driving down the road can shake things up, make things different and loosen up parts. We gladly comply. Yet when we make repairs on our lives, we think they should be air-tight and never need a good screw-down. Ridiculous.

Good cheer is the willingness to watch out for signs that tell us we need to adjust, and then to go ahead and do it without feeling loss or frustration over the revision. That is what keeps us from fear.

Fear is what comes into our lives when we lose love. What is love? Love is a committed affection. So fear enters our thoughts when we lose our commitment. And what should we be committed to do? Pursuing our plan and preparing to adjust. It’s not merely pursuing our plan. We must be willing to commit to the evolution that is inevitable in all things earth-bound.

And then we have to maintain the affection. You see, there are people who make corrections to their previous plans, but they do it in such a nasty, angry way that they abandon the joy and fun in the process. Is there anything uglier than feeling compelled to do good? Affection for life is what gives us passion for each other, ending up with yearning to have a closeness with God.

When we lose our commitment, the fear of what is going to happen next overwhelms us. When we walk away from our affection, the fear that we’ve placed our faith in the wrong project taunts us.

Ssince failure and fear are as common as sneezing, and we intelligently follow the action of sneezing with, “God bless you,” we should follow all failure with good cheer and all hints of fear with love–a committed affection.

In conclusion, I will tell you that in touring on the road, my plans are dashed dialy without apology or the courtesy of a phone call. I am often frightened by the mortality of aging and the limitations of my skill and finance.

What I do is maintain my sense of good cheer by fully being aware that God has nothing to gain by making me look like a fool. I overcome my fear by recommiting to quality ideas that are evolving and finding new reasons to give a big hug to why I do what I do in the first place.

Failure and fear are much like sneezing. They help us expel foreign objects from our being that intend us no good. If you can learn to at least understand them, if not enjoy them, you gain the control of your next move and brighten the countenance of your future.

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

Hey, Buddy — September 28, 2011

12 23 OBOE THEME

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I like to sit out in parking lots, roll down my windows, open my sun roof and work on ideas, writings, scripts or whatever is on my present platter, while enjoying the surrounding sunshine and people passing by. I don’t like offices; they sniff of officious. Desks and computers are sterile. or me, just a pad, a pen and surrounding life is a nice atmosphere for creativity.

I was doing so yesterday in Richmond, Virginia, when I was approached by a gentleman who had both a need and an agenda. “Hey, buddy!  Nice car! Is it a Mercedes? How ya’ doin’?”

I don’t know exactly what to do with a flurry of questions.  What do you address first? But I did immediately know two things: this was a guy who was trying to be very friendly because he was going through a hard trial. He wanted something from me.

Now, people in need don’t bother me. Honestly, individuals who have an agenda are pretty obvious, so they don’t particularly trouble me either. But I am not fond of people who have both a need and an agenda. I told him my car was a Korean knockoff of a Mercedes called an Amante.  

He didn’t even hear me; he was in full need and agenda.  Here was his speech:

“Listen, man. I’m a Vietnam veteran and I’m on my way to work and my truck broke down. I left my wallet at my house. I believe in God and I know God’s going to take care of me, so I was wondering if you could give me a lift back to my house so I could get my wallet, so I could get some gas for my truck, which is a big truck, so it takes a lot of gasoline, so that I could get to work, so I can take care of my family, which I love very much.”

Amazingly, he said it in one breath–yet with no real emotional inflection.

Let’s look at the story. 

  • First, he said he was a Vietnam veteran. The Vietnam war ended forty years ago–which means the youngest people who would have fought in that war would be sixty.  He wasn’t a day over forty-two.
  • Secondly, it was 10:15 in the morning, so he probably wasn’t on his way to work. 
  • And there was no truck in sight, so the story about needing gasoline for his vehicle may have been a little bit contrived.
  • “He left his wallet at his house” is pretty unlikely–although I was unsure why he wanted me to put him into my car to take him to another location. (A pretty good rule: don’t follow a potentially homeless person to his alleged home.)
  • For some reason, these individuals with the combo of “need” and “agenda” always demand that you understand that they believe in God, they’re God-fearing, or God is with them, or God is their savior, or God … whatever.  I’ve never met a person who is homeless who doesn’t have a deep, abiding, verbal faith in the Almighty.  It isn’t really a great testimony for religious participation, even though David says in the Psalms, “I’ve never seen the righteous forsaken nor his seed begging for bread.”  Sorry, David.  I have.  Actually, most of the people I have encountered who are without sustenance will tell you that God is King of the Universe–as they beg you for a dollar or two to pick up some of that good stuff for themselves.
  • And adding the final feather in the cap of his spiel, he mentions “family.”  “Family” seems to be the great elixir in our country, intoxicating us into believing that we are loving and caring people. We must realize, though, that to create a family only requires that you make children, which demands a bodily function between two consenting adults. It’s not making a family that’s special. It’s whether you can make the process meaningful to not only yourselves, but to the world around you.

I am not offended by people who are poor.  As Jesus said, “the poor you have with you always.  Do what you can for them.” I am just fed up with the politics of ANYTHING. I certainly don’t like the politics of politics–where destroying your opposition is more important than opposing what destroys us.  I certainly despise the politics of religion, where placing a candle in its sacred place is more meaningful than teaching the congregation to be the light of the world. I hate the politics of corporations, which possess no sense for the common good, but only view a line that runs at the bottom of the barrel. And I don’t like the politics of poverty. I don’t like it that a man has to lie to me about his situation just to coerce a little money out of me to make it through his day. I don’t like the fact that he has to cajole me into listening to him by using buzz words instead of admitting that for whatever reason, right now his life sucks, and he needs me to squeeze off a few singles his way.

I understand the politics of poverty. I realize that most folks think that homeless people are lazy, trifling and have chosen to be impoverished. So if the unfortunate don’t come up with a good story line, they will not only go without and be disregarded, but also will be looked upon as common, meaningless and trashy.

I just think it is our responsibility to attack politics wherever we see it. I am tired of the phrase, “Well, that’s just the way the world works.” No, my friend, that’s the way someone decided the world works a long time ago, and because nobody argued with him in that moment, and many cowards have followed since, we have ended up with a system that is insufficient to our needs and irreverent to the requirements of others.

My friend closed his little spiel yesterday by saying, “If you’re going to be here for an hour, I’ll come back and give you double repayment for what you give me.”

It was at this point that I stopped him.

“Stop it,” I said. “Let’s not do the dance. You and I both know you don’t have a job, there is no truck, if you have a wallet it has the addresses of local food banks in it, and whatever family you have needs just as much help as you do. Let me tell you, friend, I’m going to give you some money, but not because you came up with a great story or because in your mind you shot Viet Cong. I’m going to give you some money because you crossed my path, and if I don’t I would never be able to explain to myself or God why I chose this moment to be so damned stingy.”

He tried to object but I just held up my hand and he realized there was no need.  He nodded his head and I pulled out some money from my pocket, which I carry at all times for just such occasions. If you don’t carry a few singles around for the lost individuals who happen your way, then you might just be tempted to pretend that there’s nothing you can do. I gave him the money and he was on his way.

As he was leaving, I proffered one final thought.

“You see, brother,” I said, “Now we can actually talk about God and it’ll mean something.”  He smiled and disppeared into the surrounding day.

Here’s the truth: politics creates the need that makes people feel they must have an agenda to get what they want.

I, for one, am tired of it. I refuse to participate. And I am not ashamed when I run across those in need–as long as they don’t try to pretend they’re somebody they really aren’t.

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