Ask Jonathots … September 3rd, 2015

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I like animals more than people. I own four dogs and volunteer at the animal shelter once a month, and regularly canvas my co-workers to donate to the shelter and also to other animal charities. I dress my doggies for the weather and buy them special cakes for holidays and their birthdays. Two of my co-workers referred to me as “unbalanced” because I treat my dogs like they’re my children. I told them that I think animals are more trustworthy than humans. What do you think?

I am curious about the way you have framed your paragraph and question. In other words, if you had begun your statement by telling me about your delightful four dogs, your work with charities and the fact that you treat these animals as your children, I would have said,”Absolutely fabulous.”

But the fact that you chose to begin your feelings by saying that you like animals more than people does warn me that you are dealing with a neurosis.

I would feel the same about someone who led off by saying they liked people more than animals. My question would be why?

If you truly contend that animals are part of God’s creation and therefore deserve our respect, tenderness and appreciation, that is one thing. But to isolate them off as superior to people–another part of God’s creation–is no different from someone telling me they like gay better than straight, white better than black and female better than male.

The unbalanced part of your personality lies in your need to prefer instead of just honoring.

Honestly, animals are not more trustworthy than humans. I have very few friends–or even enemies–who would eat my dead body if they were locked in a room with me for three days without food.

But animals not only have a purpose, they are symbolistic of what Jesus called “the least of these, my brethren.” They need our care, they need our attention, they deserve our respect, and they also anticipate that we will have the insight to place them in the correct position in our lives.

It’s not that people are better than animals or animals are better than people. It’s just that when you set apart some segment of creation as superior to another segment, you are on the slippery slope of bigotry which lends itself to tyranny.

  • I love animals. I love animals to let them be animals.
  • I love people. I love people enough to let them be people.
  • And I love God. I love God enough to let Him be God.

Because in your hour of need, you can certainly believe that God cares about your situation and will help. There is also the potential that people will come along and assist, based upon their compassion.

But if you’re broken down along the side of the road, your dog will just sit there and bark, waiting for a treat.

 

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Populie: Deny and Defend… July 9, 2014

 

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nixon thumbs upReligion, politics and entertainment often get together and find what is popular, mingle it with a lie, and then set out promoting the fad for the masses. After all it’s the easiest way to get along in the short-term.

Unfortunately, it wreaks havoc on the emotions and soul of the human race while declaring a truce with an existing deception.

It is a populie.

Even though we tout that we are a Christian nation, we tend to receive our marching orders from other nations and their philosophies.

  • From the Jews and Arabs, we cling to “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.”
  • From Buddhism, we believe that we have the power to enlighten ourselves.
  • And from the Hindu we have an inordinate worship of animals.

ClintonCase in point: we tend to prefer to deny having problems and defend our actions in covering them up.

Religion likes this because it makes human beings appear weak, and therefore God seems stronger.

Politics favors the idea because if you can survive a 72-hour news cycle about one of your failings, maybe it will go away.

And entertainment builds whole storylines around characters who either cheat or fudge on the truth, or defend themselves from dealing with difficulty.

Here’s the populie:

1. Deny. “I do not allow myself to make mistakes.”

2. Defend. “Therefore I will not tolerate critique from you or anyone else.”Obama

This populie creates a climate of lies, leading to an ongoing sense of mutual mistrust.

Since we don’t admit our fallacies, insist there’s no problem and refuse to be inputted by others, a complicated web of deceit is constructed and maintained by our spider sense.

It would be comical if it weren’t so dangerous.

And you can certainly judge your spirituality not on whether you attend church, but by whether you’re willing to deal with your problems without shame or falsehoods.

swaggartHonestly, this is what works in the human family:

A. Confess. “I will tell you myself where I’ve made mistakes.”

Confessing your faults one to another is the only way to set inner healing in motion. It is also the only way to prevent people from piling on.

B. Expand. “After I confess, I will tell you what I have learned through my mistakes and how I plan on improving my situation.”

If you want to be the victor instead of the victim, you have to be prepared to admit what is becoming obvious to all. If you get ahead of it, you’re leading the way instead of being drug with a rope by the mob.

Yet I will admit, this is probably one of the more difficult things for people to overcome. But if you don’t confess, be prepared to be confronted.

In the long run (which is often a shorter sprint than you might think) people do find out–and when they do, and they sense that you have tried to escape reality–the punishment will be more cruel.Newt

Deny and defend–a national pastime. But it is time to put it in the past.

In closing let me give you one idea on how to welcome this into your life: start very small.

If you left something on a table and someone had to move it, step over, apologize, and move it yourself. It’s only by practicing this kind of candor that you will gain the muscle to lift your own weights instead of having them dropped on your head.

“Deny and defend” may be one of the most popular of the populie–and may I add … one of the more devastating.

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G-14: Jungle or Garden?… March 7, 2014

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jungleI think most people have found themselves in the embarrassing situation of arriving late to an appointment, being held up by traffic, and requiring an ice-breaker to share when entering the room of awaiting friends.

One of the favorites quips is the gasping exclamation, “It’s a jungle out there!”

It usually evokes some laughter–partly due to its corniness–but mostly because we have all become a bit convinced by society, entertainment and even religion that human beings are depraved animals.

So rather than looking at life and our potentials with optimism, we find ourselves desperately trying to avoid the human representations of silly monkeys, ravenous lions and venomous snakes.

Somewhere along the line we have forgotten the beautiful explanation that man and woman were spawned in a garden. Maybe it’s too idealistic. Perhaps the world around us will not permit us to believe that such beauty is attainable and such blessing within our grasp.

I just don’t know what we ever gain by allowing the underbrush of weeds and human mediocrity to surround us, causing us to retreat to our caves in fear. Yes, I think there’s a choice. Am I going to continue to live in a jungle or am I going to do my best, before I leave here, to turn the earth–or at least my portion of it–into a garden?

cultivated gardenTwo things are necessary to transform a jungle into a garden:

1. You’ve got to cool things down.

Jungles are steamy and hot, breeding all sorts of creeping, crawling vermin which welcome such a searing climate. Sometimes the greatest thing we can do in any situation is to refuse to participate in frenetic energy and heated debate, find a quiet place, sit down and wait for things to cool off. I do think it’s what Jesus meant when he suggested that the “meek inherit the earth.” As long as you’re struggling, punching and fighting with everyone for the dead carcass in the middle of the Serengeti, you are exhausting yourself–not to mention casting your lot with the more unseemly actions of the beasts.

Cool things down.

Occasionally I find myself in an argument and realize that the flame is rising and the intelligence is leaving. The situation requires that somebody shut up. When I actually am wise enough to do so, things cool down.

2. Clear things out.

I have been focusing this year on eliminating the scrub brush that suffocates my life, making me feel paranoid and claustrophobic. There are things I just don’t need, require or even desire anymore. Maybe they were once status symbols or security blankets, but now they’ve just become all-encompassing. If you’re going to grow something, you often have to remove what is occupying space but is useless.

Clear things out.

When you cool things down, all the hot-headed animals and the plant life that is tropical disappear. When you clear things out, you find soil underneath the tangled mess of weeds. Then you’re prepared to plant a garden.

And what is a garden? A glorious three-step process. A garden give me the chance to:

A. Seed what I need.

Yes, to actually get specific instead of hoping for the best or praying for miracles because I failed to do my job.

B.  Grow what I know.

I realized last week that I don’t lack wisdom. I lack frequent flyer miles using it. There is so much I can do, say, share, perform and be that I squander in pursuit of things unknown or beyond my capability.

C. And finally, receive what I believe.

Having come to peace with myself and my own gifts in the garden I have cleared off, and knowing that things have cooled down, I can be a good farmer. Yes:

  • Seed what you need.
  • Grow what you know.
  • Receive what you believe.

You can think whatever you want–I believe we were born in a garden … and have settled for a jungle.

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Untotaled: Stepping 3 (February 9th, 1964) … February 22, 2014

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“She loves you, yeah, yeah, yeah …”

God, I desperately needed that.

At twelve years of age, going through puberty, it would have been wonderful to have a “she” that loved me. Yeah.

But when the Beatles appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show February 9th, 1964,  my parents refused to let me watch. They didn’t know anything about the Beatles, they had just seen a picture, and from that had determined that the young gentlemen from Liverpool were freaks, queers, girls, Communists and immoral.

So instead, they sent me to church, where I got to listen to our preacher expound upon Peter and the lame man at the Gate Beautiful.

Lame.

I returned home, realizing that the Ed Sullivan Show was not over yet, hoping that I could still negotiate permission to watch the last part and hear the Beatles’ final selections. My father, even more irritated, refused. He turned the channel to Bonanza–an episode called The Cheating Game.

Yes, I felt cheated.

Even though I liked the Ponderosa, I did not want the Cartwrights on this night. I needed the Beatles.

Yet the next day, when I went to school, out of some sense of fierce loyalty, I explained to my friends, who were ablaze with excitement over the performance by Paul, John, Ringo and George, that these guys were freaks, queers, girls, Communists and immoral. (Honestly, I didn’t even know what most of the words meant.)

What happened next was chilling to my bone. Rather than arguing with me, my friends looked at me with a combination of horror and pity. They couldn’t even imagine how miserable I must be … Beatle-less.

So over the next few months I broke out of my shell, slipped over to my friend’s house and listened to the Beatles. This eventually led me to Herman’s Hermits, the Monkees, and even a little taste of the Animals and Jimi Hendrix. To that revolving play list I added the Oak Ridge Boys, Beethoven, Strauss and Sousa.

As the diversity of my musical taste increased, so did my openness and willingness to accept others and absorb new ideas.

Music saved my young soul from turning into a lame man, which certainly would not have been the gate to anything beautiful.

I never got to hear the Beatles on the Ed Sullivan Show. But on the long and winding road … they rocked my world.

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Too Many Gods and Not Enough… September 26, 2013

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ZeusA god: someone or something worshipped as supreme.

Yesterday as I drove in downtown Columbus, Ohio, there was a flashing arrow directing us that the lane was closing.

And then it began.

A few people got over immediately to serve the common need. But most people stayed in the lane which was closing as long as they possibly could–to get a little bit ahead of everyone else. I realized that these folks had no idea that they were screaming loud and proud their god choice.

The reason I have difficulty with religion is because it doesn’t make things better.

I do not understand why we extol the value of a worship system which allows human beings to act on their own whim.

Even if you’re an atheist, you have a god. Maybe it’s nature. Perhaps animals. Could it be morality? But each deity we consider to be supernal sets a style of behavior in motion which is often contrary to earth life.

That’s why, in the Christian faith, we pursue the presence of Christ while ignoring the essence of Jesus. After all, dangling a cross from the ceiling, drinking wine from a magic cup, baptizing and reciting prayers do not replace the Golden Rule. If you allow a convert to follow ritual without learning the “rights” of humanity, you do nothing to improve our planet, but instead, merely unleash another selfish person who is desperately trying to get to the front of the line.

So please allow me to complete the title of this essay: too many gods and not enough human beings.

For I will tell you–some of the most selfish, arrogant, uncaring, unfeeling and disconnected people I have ever met in my life have just emerged from the hallowed halls of a church house. Why? Because we give them a godhead to worship without teaching them how to get into the head of God.

There are only three standards that work. You can refer to them as spiritual, or if you seek no divinity whatsoever, you can acknowledge them as essential:

1. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. No law, edict, philosophy or set of rules work if we don’t have an understanding and an empathy for the common traveler.

2. NoOne is better than anyone else. Whether you totally believe this statement to be true or not, to contend anything else is to set in motion the prejudice which leads to bigotry, which ultimately concludes with murder and war.

3. Don’t judge or you will be judged. Some people call it “karma.” Other people call it “even-steven.” Whatever you call it, how you evaluate other human beings is the way you will eventually be critiqued by others–with a little edge added on. This doesn’t mean I don’t have opinions; it means that my opinions are trumped by my realization that even people who live in stained-glass houses shouldn’t throw stones.

We have too many gods and not enough human beings.

  • Laws will not work without mercy.
  • Rules are broken without understanding.

Where can we start? We can start by honoring the essence instead of just bowing down in adulation to the presence. In so doing, we might be surprised that the presence of God will not need to be conjured, but instead … will dwell within us.

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Voices… January 9, 2012

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Honk-honk. Changing lanes on the freeway, you are suddenly cut off by the car behind you, which ends up in a barrage of honking horns. A flurry of anger–and a voice inside you expressing your will. What is that voice? What jumps to the forefront during the selection process of our reactions? We have two voices–one we were born with and one we learned. They vie for audience in our heart and soul and try to fill the amphitheater of our minds with the preferred profile for every situation.

One is anger; one is fear.

There are probably those who would disagree with me, but I believe we are born with anger. The possessiveness that a tiny child demonstrates when given a toy and merely asked to share it with a playmate certainly demonstrates a bit of rage. It is the jungle juice in us of our more animalistic aspects rising to the forefront to secure our preservation in all situations. Of course, we aren’t in the jungle anymore–but that doesn’t mean that our primal instincts are not present, always jockeying for power.

The other voice in us is fear. Some individuals would considerate it the temperate part of our nature, preventing anger from taking over. But just because the voice of fear is more timid does not mean it lacks ferocity.

The voice of anger within says, “They cheated you! Get them!” The voice of fear says, “They cheated you! Be careful! They could be dangerous, so find a way to cheat them back.”

It is not a pleasant system–and those who promote humans as merely being part of the “jungle of life,” or extol the value of restraint without truly having a redeeming mentality, basically leave us destitute of any virtue, imprisoned by our instincts.

I want to hear the voice of God. It is not some booming baritone speaking from a burning bush. Rather, Jesus tells me that the Kingdom of God is within me and if I have sought out that Kingdom in my life, I can trust that the voice speaking inside me is coming from my Creator. Can we trust it? How do we know that the voices of anger and fear have been dispelled and replaced with the voice of the Kingdom? How can we begin to have faith in ourselves to hear better ideas coming from our inner parts and know that they’re born of the Spirit instead of swinging from trees or filled with trepidation from our insecurities?

There is one way to guarantee the voice of God in your heart–a single path that will allow you the confidence to trust what you hear from within as being God-spawned. Anger and fear leave quickly when one action is taken by the human being: practice telling the truth.

It doesn’t come naturally. Both anger and fear demand a certain amount of lying to sustain their existence. Anger has to blame someone else for everything and fear has to develop a story line to escape notice. Finding true spirituality and a voice of the Kingdom of God within you really is a simple matter–practice telling the truth. And I use the word “practice” because by the time it is needful to tell the truth, if you haven’t been exercising yourself in that direction, the voices of anger and fear will take over and assimilate misinformation. Yes–anger and fear love to lie.

But Jesus said, “The Kingdom of God is within you.”  And the evidence of that is simply applied by trusting yourself and your heavenly Father to handle all situations when the truth is brought forth.

Practice.

Someone asks you how many cans of soup you have in the cupboard, go count them and give an accurate number. If you are questioned on whether you performed a task, speak forth the truth. Don’t say you did and then scurry off to get it done. Because the thing that you and I want above all else is to trust that the voice within us is coming from the Kingdom within us, which is linked to God being within us.

It isn’t a matter of prayer and Bible study. Some of the worst liars who ever lived quoted scripture. It’s about practicing telling the truth. And when the truth is established as a supremacy in your being, it will make you free. Free to do what? Trust your voice. Free to believe that what you hear to do is God instead of pent-up anger and frustrated fear.

Many evangelicals believe that God speaks to us through the Bible, but words of truth cannot live in a vessel of lies. Many more liberal theologians think that God speaking to humans is a bit ridiculous. But the power of spirituality is that it’s within us, not located in a book or a building. To achieve that, truth must be trusted.

Do you want to hear the voice of God? Practice telling the truth–and the Kingdom of God is within you.

You may think it’s implausible for any mortal to be so forthcoming, but it’s like everything else in life. Start with the small things and when the big things come, there will be a history of doing it right. Do I always tell the truth? No. But when I don’t, it’s difficult for me to trust the voice within. But when I know I have a clean heart within myself and those around me, I have secured a home for righteousness–and my voice inside is much clearer and more expansive.

Voices. There are three: anger, fear and the Kingdom.

And to gain the Kingdom voice, all you have to do is practice telling the truth–and it will make you free.

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Jonathan wrote the gospel/blues anthem, Spent This Time, in 1985, in Guaymas, Mexico. Take a listen:

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The Proverbial Fork… December 26, 2011

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Jonathan in Miami

Yes, stick a fork in it. It’s done.

It is normally a proclamation delivered with a bit of dismay and resignation. But this day after Christmas, I present it to you as an affirmation of accomplishment. Well … we may want to change a few details but sometimes the best thing to do is realize that the fat lady has sung, the opera is over and we’ve completed our portion.

I spent the week with my family and friends in Miami, Florida, for Christmas. My son and daughter-in-law have a home down there and are very successful, having acclimated themselves and nearly doing an adequate impersonation of native Floridians. We decided to land there for the holiday, with people coming from all over the US to enjoy fellowship, present-giving and a jittery jaunt down memory lane.

Now understand, I was there when this little entourage was first conceived. Many of the people in the room with me this week learned through my tutelage to speak and even acquaint themselves with the greater glories of bathroom usage. But they are no longer my children. They are grown, mature people with goals and lives of their own, who still, in their magnanimous generosity, decide to include me in their earth passage.

Somewhere along the line you have to stick a fork in it, folks. If I were to spend ten minutes trying to figure out if I agree with everything my friends and family do, or if I feel that their accomplishments are worthy of my retelling to those souls I meet as I journey, as confirmation of my excellent parenting, or if I even think that my opinion carries the weight of importance instead of the burden of intrusion, I am just basically a tottering, old fool, taking too long on my detour to the graveyard.

I made two things clear to my gathered host: I have a life … and they do, too.

Their emotional lives do not completely parallel mine. Each one of them has come into the storehouse of my personality to pick and choose little treasures that they particularly relish, like careful shoppers working their way down a bargain table at Goodwill. Spiritually, they are all in transitions of revelation, no different from billions of human beings who preceded them and, I assume, will follow them. Mentally, they have selected to progress at whatever level they deem necessary, ranging from a deep interest in animals, politics and artistry to movies, books, zombies and vampires.

They are normal.

I did not raise a supernatural lineage, infilled with the anointing of a batch of Holy Spirit parlor tricks. They are people. I only ask one thing from them–do they like people and do they cut people the same slack they give themselves? (Well, I guess that’s two things…) If they do, I will leave them to their journey. After all, I will not stand at the Judgment Day and answer for any one of them, nor they for me.

I enjoyed it thoroughly. As I travel across this country, though, I find aging parents who are trying to still wean their grown children, feeling some sense of worry and responsibility for these fully aged individuals, whom they are still trying to tutor to success. How ridiculous.

They started leaving one-by-one last night and more will leave today, others later on in the week. They will peel off into their lives, probably becoming just as reflective about the experience. For me, I want them to remember three things about spending time in my presence:

1. I love them dearly but no more or less than I love all my brothers and sisters on planet earth.

2. I’m going to give the greatest gift at Christmas that I can–I will stay out of their personal business.

3. If their personal business gets nasty, they can call me any time, night or day, without fear of condemnation or critique.

Merry Christmas, family. And I’m happy that I can stick a fork in it … because it looks like it’s ready to be served.

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Published in: on December 26, 2011 at 12:25 pm  Comments (1)  
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