Good News and Better News… July 31st, 2017

 Jonathots Daily Blog

(3385)

I was sitting in the nursery of the Nativity Lutheran Church in Weeki Wachee, Florida, between services, snacking on some fruit which had graciously been provided by Pastor Giuseppe and glorious souls who have a knack for putting together such compotes, when I was struck–or perhaps just “pwanged”–by a simple revelation.

The world is always moving. It is our job to note the direction.

Just because the pace seems harried, leaving us all in the flurry of busyness, does not mean that we’re trudging forward. Sometimes we go backwards, often it’s just side-stepping right or left. We even become distracted by hitting a wall and continuing to push instead of stopping long enough to find a way around it.

Church is still a beautiful thing–it’s just that in the present march of humanity it seems irrelevant.

For we classify information that comes our way into three categories:

1. Philosophical.

This ranges from our educational system, to reading books, to listening to someone explain the value of a gluten-free diet.

2. Religious.

Once again, this could be anything from a Bible conference to a yoga class to hearing a testimony about someone’s ordeal or joining with others in prayer over some nasty bit of business that’s come along.

3. Necessary.

Every single day of our lives, we alter the gauge on what we feel is necessary for our existence. This explains the tremendous success of Amazon and Wal-mart. These companies have made it friendly to come and buy things we want at reasonable rates, and in the case of Amazon, have them delivered to our door without even needing to leave the comforts of the breakfast nook.

Candidly, if a piece of information is not necessary, we deem it useless. Once something becomes useless, it only receives attention if it can prove–even temporarily–that it has the value of Wal-mart or Amazon.

So something beautiful, like church, which at one time was considered necessary because it initiated relationships, faith, music, cooperation and a sense of community, has now been completely shoved to the rear by the collision of social media and the rising tide of agnosticism.

When I went into the second service I took the realization with me. I discovered that being philosophical or religious bored even those individuals who still remained in the holy sanctuary.

Give them what’s necessary.

When Jesus came to Earth, the common people were slaves to the Romans and subjected to criticism from the religious system.

Jesus told the people they were “the salt of the Earth, the light of the world,” but that they needed to take responsibility for their lives and not wait for either the Romans or Judaism to save them.

He made the message of God necessary. He referred to it as “daily bread.” He told people to “hunger and thirst for righteousness” and to “take no thought for tomorrow” but to live for today.

You will never meet a more promising group of people than I encountered at Nativity. But I will tell them that until the message they share is necessary in people’s lives, a philosophical or religious content will leave folks cold–staying at home and watching television.

The good news is that Christianity can still be about Jesus.

The better news is that he came to give us life–necessary life–and it more abundantly.

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The Story Goes On… July 14, 2014

 Jonathots Daily Blog

(2291) 

Daniel in the lion's denI was having trouble dealing with the stories: Jonah and the whale, Daniel in the lion’s den–even Jesus walking on the water.Three little pigs

So when I was fifteen years old, for a season I embraced agnosticism.

It was pretty easy. For after all, I never believed in religion. Church was tolerable. I had a curiosity about God.

But overall, the religious system asked me to swallow things without question, never realizing how they might affect me.

It was just too much.

Now I know there are those who would like to believe that departing from the church leads to all sorts of depravity. But I did not become a drug addict. I did not start mistreating my dog. I didn’t develop a pornography addiction.

Moses and the Red SeaActually, I rather enjoyed sleeping in on Sunday mornings, and took the extra time to audition for a play, and won the lead role.Little Red Riding Hood

I was happy.

I made new friends, since my Christian ones turned their backs on me. I joined with these acquaintances to discuss intellectual matters and expound on the problems in our society. I felt like a budding genius. It was like I was on a Mt. Olympus of knowledge, looking down on the world around me, trying to find a way I could assist the mere mortals below.

It was intoxicating.

In a strange sense of speaking, it was a religious experience. Yes, there is a religiosity to atheism. It was the comforting sense that I was self-contained. I needed nothing else.

Everything seemed really positive except for one factor. As time went on, the conversations I had with my new comrades became more bitter and nasty. After a while, we judged those who were not part of our confluence to be inferior–ignorant, if you will.

So one day it occurred to me that this new “religion” I had taken on had the same viciousness and prejudice as the one I had walked away from. There was still a plan of salvation, in the sense that you had to reject anything that might even hint toward the supernatural. There were sermons, as we disemboweled the character of those individuals who dared to disagree with us.

So finally, one night lying on my bed, I realized that the true story was not confined to the sixty-six books of the holy scripture. The story is actually compacted into the message that we are to love our neighbor as ourselves.

For even though I hated religion, had grown weary of church and felt like I could do without God, I had no idea, in my agnosticism, what to do with people. They seemed cumbersome. They were in the way.

Because as noble as it may sound to give freedom to everyone, when you have eight billion freedom-headers crashing into one another, it’s quite a headache.

My new-found lack of faith caused me to be irritated with the very creatures with whom I shared a species.

We need the story.

Maybe we don’t need all the stories that have been collected and called divine within the volume, but we do need The story:

  • Love your neighbor as yourself.
  • Give and it shall be given unto you.
  • Go the second mile.
  • You are the salt of the earth
  • Love your enemies

Without this narrative, we learn to hate religion, disdain the church, ignore God, and unfortunately, also end up disliking one another.

I went back to church.

I don’t agree with everything that happens there, and when I don’t, I question it. I rail against religion because it is a man-made infestation, formed to cripple the creativity of humankind.

I maintain a curiosity about God, though none of us know what happens a hundred and twenty seconds after we die.

But I believe in people.

I consider it to be the sign of spiritual energy–when the love we have for one another becomes the symbol of our devotion to God.

The story goes on. The story needs to be told.

Because without the story… we become discouraged in our own lack of appreciation for one another.

 

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Keep … April 10, 2014

Jonathots Daily Blog  

(2200)

Delta pic 1Many years ago, packing up and getting ready to leave a small Upper Room venue, where a couple dozen bare-footed and jean-clad souls had gathered to listen to music while sipping tea and eating day-old doughnuts graciously provided by the local baker, I received warm hugs and two abiding sentiments: keep truckin’ and keep the faith.

Tears filled the eyes of the exhorter, only partially clouding the great emotion of hope, belief and abiding knowledge that God isn’t done with any of us yet.

Alas, a new wave of pessimism, cynicism and agnosticism is sweeping our country and is even permeating the pores of the righteous, and makes such declarations–“keep truckin'” and “keep the faith”–seem misplaced, nostalgic and even absurd.

I have no desire to return to former times that were plagued with their own viral stupidities, but there is a thread of gentleness that has to be passed from one generation to another. Otherwise, this experiment of humanity comes unraveled.

So with humility in my heart and an abundance of confidence in my soul, I share with you the five phases necessary to change the world. Please take them on one at a time, and when you feel the nudge and permission from your spirit, move on and allow yourself the joy of embracing the next possibility.

Delta pic 2

PHASE ONE

Change my heart

Awake my soul

Renew my mind

Give me strength

PHASE TWO

(As Boldness Allows)

Anoint my touch

Expand my reach

Let me stand

Enliven my moves

PHASE THREE

(After Spiritual Muscle Has Grown)

Bless my walk

Guide my steps

Give me people

Let me be gentle

Share, don’t preach

Feel, don’t teach

 

PHASE FOUR

(Enlivened, Moving On)

Learn instead of know

Watch myself grow

Establish trust

Relate good news

Avoid the darkness

Light a candle

Do good works

PHASE FIVE

(Glorified, I Continue)

Reject my fear

Welcome new love

Point joyously to progress

Call progress God.

 

Keep truckin’. Keep the faith.

delta pic 3

(pictures of journey from Gallup, New Mexico to Paonia, Colorado)

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Click here to get info on the "Gospel According to Common Sense" Tour

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Please contact Jonathan’s agent, Jackie Barnett, at (615) 481-1474, for information about scheduling SpiriTed in 2014.

Yappy Your Year… January 1, 2014

Jonathots Daily Blog

(2108)

angry duckToo much yapping. At least, I think so.

I like talking, but do you really think we need shows filled with it?

Talk shows. Dozens and dozens of them, which eventually denigrate to prejudicial statements made by people filling time, pretending they aren’t gossiping.

I’m a little tired of pundits, too. (Except I do like the rhyme, “redundant pundit…”)

Yes, the repetition of stolen ideas is not only a thievery of material, but also steals creativity from the heart of the American people.

Would you allow me to point out that another intolerable portion of yappiness is TV preachers? At a time in my life when I am seeking greater and greater humanity, they bestow either the drivel of psycho-babble or the onslaught of unexplained divinity.

And equally as frustrating is the new wave of agnosticism and atheism being promoted as an evolution in intelligence of an emerging “people consciousness.” Listen folks, it takes no energy to be an unbeliever. I suppose that’s why this lazy generation selects it so voraciously.

Oh, my dear God … I am weary beyond words of “Ducks” who seek a “Dynasty” by quacking out Bible verses, while simultaneously I have to listen to all that the gay have to say.

Am I odd? Am I so self-possessed that I must scream aloud that I don’t really care who’s zooming who, but rather, whether we are progressing in our talents while learning to drench them in humility?

I hate polls. The reason I hate polls is because the questions asked by the pollster can be twisted to bring desired results for his or her organization. And honestly, most people don’t have the common sense to listen to a question and admit, “What in the hell do I know?”

That goes for Tweets, too. We used to believe in this country that some forethought, emotion, concern, courtesy and gentleness should precede the next thing spoken. But when you have a I-Phone in front of you and you can pour out your vile reaction immediately, why take time for reflection?

It’s 2014, so it’s the Democrat’s turn to whine about how “things aren’t fair,” and the Republican’s hour to criticize everything that’s going on. Just ten years ago, the circumstances were flipped. The Republicans were the whiners and the Democrats were the attackers.

Is anyone bored yet? To me it’s similar to going to see The Sixth Sense movie for the second go-round. It was interesting the first time, but after you’ve viewed it, you know the guy’s dead from the beginning.

And when we’re talking about our “Yappy Your Year,” may I request that we discourage, ignore and possibly eliminate alarmed folks?

Case in point: would you just tell me that it’s going to rain and there will be thunder, instead of describing all the atrocities that Mother Nature could be perpetrating on my house this evening?

Would you instruct me to eat more vegetables without warning me how my present physical condition flirts with disaster and death?

And could you put a bill through Congress without having to promote that you are the savior of the world for coming up with the idea?

Which brings me to the final piece of yappiness–the only one I can really do anything about:

Me.

Yes, I need to shut up more.

  • Even in my blogs, I’m pursuing brevity, dreaming of achieving wit.
  • On stage, more concise.
  • And unless I’m asked for it, I vow this year to not offer advice to anyone.

I’m too yappy–and words that do not edify eventually find a way to destroy.

So Happy New Year to you, my friends! And remember–talk is never cheap.

It is costly … often leaving our character bankrupt.

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Click for details on the SpirTed 2014 presentation

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Please contact Jonathan’s agent, Jackie Barnett, at (615) 481-1474, for information about scheduling SpiriTed in 2014.

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For Bidding… October 7, 2013

Jonathots Daily Blog

(2029)

jonathotsThe Good Book tain’t good unless it makes good things happen when people are thrown together.

A few days ago, after one of my shows, I was getting ready to pack up my books when a teenage boy inched his way to my side. Apparently he had stood around for a good half-hour while people talked to me, looking for a chance to have a private moment.

He wasted no time.

“There’s a girl I like. How can I ask her out on a date?”

I paused for a moment, trying to make sure I didn’t come across surprised, alarmed OR amused. I guess he chose to ask me the question because he knew I wouldn’t be around tomorrow to tease him about it. Or he thought I might be one of those “cool adults” who would give him a real answer instead of one that’s canned, sealed and labeled “for grown-up consumption.”

My answer was simple. I told the young man to figure out what he liked,  take the things that came to his mind and start doing them for the girl he was interested in.

He thought that was really nifty. (Forgive me. I guess “nifty” is no longer used. Let us just say he was impressed.)

His last words were: “I can do that. Because it’s about me.”

As he raced away, I had to chuckle. You see, all I had given him in the way of advice was a remake on the Golden Rule“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

But you see, it worked, was valuable and was understandable to him because it’s true.

We spend entirely too much time talking about the Good Book as if it’s suspended in mid-air, on gossamer wings, with the supernatural breath of the divine Creator.

Shoot. If it doesn’t work on earth, it sucks.

You see, it’s easy to go from something that is “for bidding” to something that can become “forbidding.”

The gospel that was put together as a means of inviting all of humanity to discover its better side and therefore generate salvation in our souls can just as easily be turned into a message of hatred, prejudice, incrimination and selfishness.

So let me give you a clue:

  • I don’t recommend agnosticism. It turns you into a jaded grouch, critical of human life while devoid of any eternal possibility.
  • I don’t recommend religion. It keeps you panting for heaven while simultaneously missing buckets of opportunity on earth.

Here’s what I’ve discovered: if you find something that works in everyday life, it won’t take you too long to discover that this same idea is in the Good Book.

Don’t try to go to the Good Book to explain everything you see in life. Get rid of your fear of living and in so doing, discover the three or four things that universally work. Then go read your Good Book and be delighted when you find out that God thought it up millions of years ago.

No wonder that book itself tells us that everything written within its pages can be boiled down to “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

It is “for bidding” others, welcoming them to your life, removing the anger of “forbidding” personal contact.

And when all the chickens come to roost, you find out, like this young man will certainly discover, that the Golden Rule even works with dating.

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Godfusion … July 28, 2013

Jonathots Daily Blog

(1957)

People are immediately turned off if you make them feel ignorant or if you make things too complicated. So in our time, religion and atheism have joined forces to turn God into a confusing dilemma—alas, an unnecessary pursuit. A fresh wave of agnosticism in this country portrays those who have a belief in a divine being as being backwoods, unintellectual or just generally speaking, lacking the fetchings to ever place them at the front of the line. 

In retaliation, a very conservative religious surge presents God as a complex Being with stringent demands, unusual tastes and apparently insecure enough to constantly need the confirmation of our love and devotion. 

It seems bizarre to me that these two should unite to create a climate in which spirituality is chilly, to say the least. 

God is dead.  

That’s what some people claim. Even if it’s not true, no one wants to be around a deity who is even on the verge of dying. Is God so old that He’s out of touch with anything our younger generation might consider valuable? 

God is mean. 

Some people would insist that it’s not an inherent rudeness but rather, an unflinching desire for morality at all costs. 

God is Jewish. 

Yes, we have the joining of Jews and Christians—once again to the alienation of the Muslim community—instead of the purity of a Christian faith which keeps itself focused on the lifestyle of Jesus instead of cautiously clinging to the tenets of the Old Testament

God is busy. 

There are those who feel the Supreme Being just has too much going on to be interested in the meager affairs of His human creation. 

God is needy. 

Yes, we are told that He’s a jealous God and will have no other gods before Him (even though I don’t know why that would be an issue, since He insists that He’s the only God…) 

All of these converging contradictions create a Godfusion—a frustrating misrepresentation of our Creator, which leads people to either run away in horror or smirk at the notion of Bible stories

Who is God? Let us start off with three simple insights: 

  1. God is not much use to us if He doesn’t like humans. Any belief that contends that He is miffed, distant, demanding or bewildered by our choices and make-up is a bizarre notion, considering that He was so meticulous in creating us.
  2. God, being a Spirit, needs to find a way to communicate to us, who are in flesh and blood, by devising a persona that is earth-friendly. I don’t know what you call this Being—I know him as Jesus. And even if there wasn’t a carpenter born two thousand years ago, we would need to come up with one to help us relate to a Spirit and help bring that blessing to us in a human way.
  3.  God is of little use to human beings if he isn’t fatherly. Any discussion about the Divine that takes us into a belief that He is irrelevant to human life because He is beyond our comprehension, or we are so beyond the comprehension of religion that we have become irrelevant to faith leaves us alone and fatherless. 

It is time to understand two very important things about moving our faith, our beliefs and our ideas forward: 

  • We need God. Without Him, it is virtually impossible for us to grasp the brotherhood of mankind. If we’re not related to a common Father, then we’re just warring tribes, looking for reasons to get enraged so we can set our war machine in motion.
  • If we don’t have a God, we begin to believe that this life is all that matters, and any time we’re only given one choice, we not only lose our motivation, but we also begin to lose the desire for excellence.

Be careful of the Godfusion in our country today, instigated by both atheists and religion, to chase our Father from us and coronate either a clown or a dictator. We need a Father who is in heaven. Earth cannot be a jungle—it was created to be a garden.

And until we get back to the Garden, we will be in danger … of flirting with extinction.

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First Night … June 6, 2013

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Primrose UMCWe spend entirely too much time debating the flavor, freshness and texture of our bread instead of being energized by the fact that it is shipped daily, as a gift.

When I arrived last night at Primrose United Methodist Church, there were not a lot of people there. Perhaps to the outside cynical viewer, it might even have appeared that there were SO few individuals present that NO possibilities existed.

That’s because we live in a society that bounces between religious fervor and “live in the moment” agnosticism. Sometimes people get all worked up about their journey, their need or their family, and for a brief season “praise God from whom all blessings flow.” Then some trial or tribulation comes in from an unexpected angle which attacks the house of cards of that belief system, and they tumble down in bewilderment, not sure why God has forsaken them.

The confusing, back and forth representation of spirituality makes people overly dependent when they need to be energized, and vibrate with worry when they should be relaxing in their accomplishments.

If you want to find out how things work, you need to go back to how it began instead of looking at all the patches on the well-worn tires over the history of religious practice.

That’s where we tried to go last night. A handful of us got together and decided to talk about returning to Eden with our faith instead of hanging around the cross, discussing the blood and salvation, the tomb, shouting and hollering about the resurrection or staring into the Eastern skies, pleading for the second coming.

Eden was where God came up with the idea for human beings to be created in His image. Once you place yourself firmly within the Garden philosophy, you realize that God walked in and said:

“Look. I made all the trees. They bear fruit. There’s food everywhere. The ground is fertile. I’ve given you gorgeous bodies–not because they’re physically attractive, but because they work so well. You see the little parts that give you pleasure and also make other human beings. You’ve got work to keep you busy. You’ve got fruitfulness IN that work to make you overjoyed–AND you’ve got each other. Have a great day. I’ll see you tonight.”

That’s right–God didn’t show up for breakfast meetings. God didn’t have lunch with Adam and Eve. God didn’t come in the late afternoon to save the day because they couldn’t figure out how to pick the grapefruit.

God showed up in the cool of the evening–to talk, fellowship and celebrate the victories of the day. God was confident in what He had provided. God believed in His own daily bread.

Somewhere along the line, we have to teach people who believe in God that God believes in them.

We aren’t the screw-ups that religion insists we have become. We aren’t without potential. We aren’t rotten to the core. We are just lazy, always looking for a shortcut by eating the “fruit of the knowledge of good and evil” so that we don’t have to actually work anymore. Once we get over that we become excited about our lives again, living within the twenty-four hour period, and we become powerful instead of weak.

So I’m going to tell them tonight, as I close out my time at Primrose, that your faith can be hanging around a cross all day, lamenting the death of Jesus or you can look for the signs of the times that point towards the end of the world.Primrose sign

But I would recommend that you come to Eden. Get your daily bread. Work with it. And meet God at closing time–to laugh about your follies and rejoice over your advances.

First night is done. Now it’s time for a new day–an exciting day.

This is a day that the Lord has made.

 

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