Good News and Better News … March 14th, 2016

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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St. James Composite 2

Saint James Lutheran Church in Fayetteville, North Carolina.

Realizing that you may never include this sanctuary as a stop off in your pilgrimage of American churches, I will attempt to relate my experience of enjoying the fine folk I met there.

The pastor is John Locke, who has the noble name of a great English philosopher, the inspiration to such American forefathers as James Madison, Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson. (Thomas, by the way, used much of Locke’s language in penning the Declaration of Independence.)

That said, I will tell you that I enjoyed the present incarnation of John Locke of Fayetteville equally.

The congregation was inspiring, and therefore capable of being inspired. Although there were certainly individuals who were curious about my pedigree and what my theological background was, most of them just relaxed and allowed me the chance to share my talents and my heart.

They arrived having survived a week of bitter political struggles and angry candidates, generating a climate threatening mayhem. Let’s be honest–most of us feel rather insignificant when we are viewing the 24-hour news cycle and realize how meager our simple efforts may seem.

But that’s the purpose of the church. It is supposed to be a safe zone–a place where you come to escape social pressure, politics and even religion, and spend an hour or so finding reasons to still believe.

It is a sanctuary where we can proclaim:

1. We’re human.

And then we can ask God, “Is that what you expected?”

We’re not perfect, because in striving for such a position, we would look both prideful and foolish.

2. We’re more “child” than “angel.”

So heavenly Father, enchant us.

Any God we serve who expects us to become more than we are is a charlatan. We are God’s children, and therefore definitely require a certain amount of entertainment with our enlightenment.

3. We need a safe place to come.

The world is full of tribulation, and even though we understand that Jesus has overcome the world, we require a reason to be of good cheer.

It is up to the good folks at Saint James–from leadership all the way through nursery–to provide such an atmosphere.

If they do, they will become viable and powerful in the community, offering an option to the raging storms of those who follow the present wind-blowing.

If they insist on being religious and trap themselves in the drapings of their faith, they will not only be an anachronism to a former time, but will find themselves gnawing on each other out of frustration.

So there’s the good news.

We’re human, we are more like children and we need a safe zone.

But here is the better news: on top of all that, we have this quality–just a bit of sweet, creative divinity placed within us by the breath of God, hinting that we also can surprise you.

We are capable of being gentle and powerful.

So watch us.

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PoHymn: A Rustling in the Stagnant … February 17th, 2016

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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Pohymn the rose

Eureka

I am not afraid to doubt

Doubting purifies my belief

Belief links my spirit with willingness

Willingness is the giddy notion that there might be more

More is what God offers to my labored thinking

Thinking is cleansed by honoring feeling

Feeling lets me know I am human

Human is the merger of the monkey and the angel

Angels wish they were me

Me is the space I have been granted to experiment

I experiment because I am not afraid.

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Good News and Better News … January 25th, 2016

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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Good News Messiah Lutheran

I arrived early.

Nothing had started popping at Messiah Lutheran.

I was sitting at my book table checking out a few details when I looked across the vestibule and saw the bulletin board pictured above.

My first instinct was to chuckle since I was peering at a snowman while abiding in Panama City, Florida. But I guess because it was Sunday morning and my thoughts had become a bit introspective, I considered the snowman.

It isn’t, you know–a man, I mean.

If you came across a snowman and decided to melt it and free the human being inside, after extensive warming, all you would end up with is a puddle.

There’s nothing within.

It’s an imitation of life–using lumps of coal, a broom, a button, a scarf, a carrot and a top hat.

But it got me wondering if there are frozen people crusted over by the iciness of our culture, who really are more than just snowmen. Is it possible to become so chilled by indifference that you live beneath inches of ice?

Well, I certainly see it in politics.

Freezing out your competition and appearing above the fray, free of fault, seems to be the “call of the wild” in Washington. But I fear if the real heat of pressure and responsibility fell upon any one of them, they would sink into a drippy mess.

How about entertainment?

What could be more hypocritical than a bunch of snowmen in Hollywood who think they are so open-minded and liberal, who make a stand against guns–even as they use pistils, automatic rifles and any number of instruments of mayhem to kill thousands of human beings in their plotlines.

Then there’s religion.

Seems to me that we have sunk to the position of the Pharisees of Jesus’ day, who spent their time counting cups, cleaning plates and decorating their robes.

Snowmen.

Nothing really left inside–just a cold form of what they once might have looked like.

So as I prepared to share with the folks at Messiah, I was reminded of the sarcastic statement of the angel, speaking to the women who came to the tomb to embalm Jesus: “Why seek ye the living among the dead?”

I had to ask myself a two-part question:

  • Is my life the pursuit of melting snowmen, only to find there’s nothing really there?
  • Or, under this arctic exterior, are there still living human beings who would like to have joy and abundant life?

The good news is that Messiah lifted my spirits.

Although at first they treated us as strangers, our hearts soon burned within us, taking away the frigid fear.

It was powerful.

It was good.

It was hopeful.

And unlike the snowman on the wall of their bulletin board, what I discovered were human beings suffering from a little hypothermia from being exposed to too much cold. So here’s the better news: We can warm up society and find out where the snowmen are and where the people just need to come in out of the elements.

1. When you see somebody doing a good job and you know they make minimum wage, give them a buck and a word of encouragement for their extra-mile efforts.

2. When you’re in the doctor’s office, instead of pretending to read an out-dated magazine, attempt to strike up a conversation with a nearby human being and see where it takes you.

3. Let “thank you” come off your lips more and more easily.

4. Lead with a smile long before you come face-to-face.

5. Appreciate the small things and be amazed at how the big things begin to take care of themselves.

6. Sit in your quiet, staid church and clap your hands during one of the hymns and see if anyone joins you.

I could go on and on.

Here are two dangers in life: falling under the spell of the deep freeze, or believing that you have no power to thaw it.

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G-Poppers … December 18th, 2015

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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Jon close up

G-Pop was born years ago on a day like this one, repeated annually.

Born, G-Pop decided to seize the opportunity to live, dwelling in a small village until limited talent afforded broader possibilities.

Trying to blend aspiration, inspiration and procreation, he birthed songs and sons, four boys in all, three surviving the process of growing, and yet a trio of others who arrived desiring a homestead, and seemingly have moved on, no worse the wear from his tutelage.

He traveled the country, interfacing with those who crossed his path and turned in his direction.

Pain and pleasure merged to form potential.

Success and failure united to construct a character.

Being neither political or bound by business constraints, G-Pop chased the whim of his heart and the vision he insisted was inspired by Spirit.

  • A man.
  • A human.
  • A salvaged sinner.
  • A saint, requiring props.

He had a belief in a God who believed in people–belief in people who allow room for an expansive God.

G-Pop lives on.

There are those who think he should settle into his place. Yet finding a place is an address, not a way to address our generation’s quandary.

G-Pop does not seek acceptance, just a reasonable doorway.

Mary had a baby and named him…

He became an angel to some, shepherded the souls sent his way, and works on becoming a wiser man … who can follow the stars in the sky.

 

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The Alphabet of Us: S is for Simplify… April 13, 2015

 

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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Building block S

You are not a god.

You are not a devil.

You are not an angel.

You are not an animal.

You are a human.

Your greatest temptation is to complicate.

The reason this temptation comes into your being is that you feel more powerful and intelligent when you’re figuring things out instead of finding the simpler solutions and pursuing them.

There are “complicators” who will try to make you seem idealistic because you do not wish to join their complexity.

But you are not complicated:

  1. You need to feel love.
  2. You need to believe.
  3. You need to be creative.
  4. You need to be active.

When these things are at work, you will simplify your life.

And if you grant yourself the added blessing of wanting these things instead of just needing them, you will have discovered a little piece of heaven on earth.

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Published in: on April 13, 2015 at 1:23 pm  Comments (1)  
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Chris(t)-Cross … August 8, 2013

Jonathots Daily Blog

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crossA manger would have been nice … since he was born to be the Prince of Peace.

A Pyramid would have been in order … exiled in Egypt as a young boy during his FIRST rejection by the religious and political systems of Judea.

Water would certainly have been apropos …  baptism changed his life from being a carpenter to an itinerant messenger.

Even wine would have been a fascinating symbol  … his first miracle in Cana of Galilee was to turn water into wine.

How about loaves of bread and fishes? … an encounter he had with his disciples, when he asked them to bring what they had and then he reciprocated.

I just thought of another one.

A stone … he saved an adulterous woman by using one as an example of judging others and also allowed the Angel of the Lord to roll one away during his resurrection.

Yes, anything about the resurrection would have been absolutely lovely.

But the general consensus was to choose the cross.

I suppose it’s because salvation was garnered through the ordeal and we mortals selfishly focused on that particular image. The day of the cross was certainly not one of Jesus’ better days, but there is an impact to it that cannot be denied. It is so powerful that Jesus informs us that we each have to take up our own cross and bear it daily.

So I see the significance.

To Jesus the cross was not a sign of victory, but rather, of responsibility–a job he did because it was the next thing that needed to be done and he decided not to run away from it.

I travel tonight to the Cross of Christ Lutheran Church in Petoskey, Michigan. I don’t know anything about them. I don’t know whether they’ll show up, and have no assurety that they’ll like me or even listen. I don’t say this to be negative. I share it with you because it is the cross of my responsibility.

In tribute to my friend, I will not run away from it.

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