PoHymn: A Rustling in the Stagnant … March 14th, 2018


 Jonathots Daily Blog

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Since Life is a Picnic

A frog doesn’t complain

about its slimy skin

instead, leaps for joy

considering this a win

an elephant refuses to fuss

over its big, fat butt

nor a squirrel ever cuss

just enjoys the nut

a giraffe shall not fret

over a really long neck

just take what you get

oh, what the heck

nor does a dog growl

because it’s not a cat

never on the prowl

barking is where it’s at

this silly verse won’t quit

just because it’s childish

but instead, insists you sit

and relax, feeling mildish

God doesn’t curse

or ever wish to damn

but instead, offers verse

the lion with the lamb

His eye is on the sparrow

I know He watches me

on the strait and narrow

is where I need to be

so be still my soul

and never say “can’t”

since life is a picnic

pretend you’re an ant

 

 

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Good News and Better News … April 4th, 2016


 Jonathots Daily Blog

(2894)

Good News and Better News Woodmont

It’s 9:53 A. M. and time for me to go into the sanctuary at Woodmont United Methodist Church in Reidsville, North Carolina, and share the little bit I know. (Fortunately, it’s only an hour, or I would quickly run out of smart stuff.)

There’s nothing terribly impressive about me, so as I get out of my wheelchair to hobble and creak my way over to the piano bench, the gathered host of God probably feel more pity than enthusiasm.

It doesn’t matter.

They have spent the whole week being overwhelmed by politicians, pundits and individuals of all shapes and forms who believe in establishing their prowess through dominance.

So as I look out at my soon-to-be friends, I feel compassion–because they’re man-handled.

They are continually manipulated, coerced and even criticized into believing that “might makes right,” and “the loudest always gets to be the proudest.”

They are peppered with the message that it is an “I” against an “I”–and teeth are made for biting.

Yet with all the promotion of this philosophy, the world still falters–with terrorists now telling us that God thinks we should be blown up, or at least shot multiple times with bullets.

So in that sacred moment, I realize that the House of Jesus needs to be a safe haven from the stupidity of prideful demolition.

Man-handling. What is it?

1. “You gotta fight. Stand up for yourself! Speak your mind. It’s a free country. If you don’t defend yourself, people will walk on you.”

But even in a room filled with just a hundred voices, if everybody speaks up for him or herself, nobody gets heard.

So my message?

Stop fighting and wait for an ingenious idea from the Holy Spirit, to handle the next situation.

Also, the man-handlers want you to know:

2. “Life is complicated.”

If they don’t convince you of that, how can they sell you the improved product, the new book, the fresh idea or the present political candidate?

So I decided to tell the folks at Woodmont to simplify.

After all, I never saw anybody get anything done in a better way because they complicated it. Even if I were an ant, my job would be to find the shortest distance to get the crumbs to my nest.

And finally, all the man-handlers want to make it clear that:

3. “We’re all different.”

Since nowadays it’s basically considered to be ignorant to be a bigot, we hide behind the disguise of “cultural choices” to promote our prejudice.

In other words, since “blacks like things done a certain way,” that’s why they hang out together, and “Chinese people prefer chopsticks instead of forks.” But rather than this teaching tolerance, we’re just promoting isolation.

My answer to the man-handlers is to find commonality among us all.

The forefathers said there is such a thing as the common good.

Here, here.

So as I got ready to strike my first note and begin the service, what crossed my mind was that these people really need to be “God-handled.”

Since I possess no divine qualities whatsoever, I chose to imitate the heavenly Father’s personality profile.

I brought mercy. Mercy-handling.

That’s the good news.

And the better news is that being merciful gets much easier when you realize that you don’t necessarily know what you’re doing.

Therefore you have a desire … to be generous to others.

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Untotaled: Stepping 18–(January 14th, 1966) On My Sleeve … June 14, 2014


Jonathots Daily Blog

(2263)

(Transcript)

Two doors down from our home were some neighbors who were quite friendly, but we only saw about six times a year and talked to maybe twice.

So imagine our surprise when they showed up at the door the day before Christmas and brought gifts. My mother was frantic, trying to figure out how to reciprocate with some sort of generosity to this surprise burst of holiday cheer.

But the most amazing thing was when I opened my present on Christmas morning from these little-known neighbors and it was a sweater.

It was beautiful for two reasons. First of all, it was a swirl of blue in a cardigan style and had brown leather buttons that looked like chocolate covered cherries.

But the greatest blessing was that it fit. I was a big fat boy, and in that era, no one made provision for such creatures. I don’t know where our neighbors found it, but it was made of Angora–that material that looks like it should be on a goat or a really pretty rabbit.

I loved it. I wore it every day. I pretended it was my winter coat. Maybe because of that, I picked up a cold.

I hate colds.

I guess everybody does, but the main reason I despise getting the common flu bug is that I had no intention in my young teen years of doing anything about it except enduring it with much complaint.

So I was sitting in the study hall while wearing my beautiful blue Angora sweater with the chocolate buttons. It was a very cold day and they had turned up the heat, and the mixture of the other students in the room with the air of the furnace blowing started my nose running.

Now, I was a young man who had little care for anything that looked frilly, so I certainly did not carry Kleenex. (I don’t know what kind of fellow you would have to be in 1966 to have a Kleenex on you.) And I was also too macho to ask a nearby girl if I could use one of her tissues. That was forbidden territory.

So at first I just tried to sniff it back into my nose. Of course, this was loud, sounded gross and caused a cheerleader next to me to crinkle her nose and turn away.

I did not know what to do. I had already used up all my bathroom privileges with the study hall monitor, and was quite sure I would not be allowed to leave the premises. And sure enough, when I raised my hand, he just looked at me and shook his head.

Meanwhile, my nose was reaching avalanche proportions. I don’t know what it looked like, but it felt like Niagara Falls was running down my lip. It had to be gross. I tried to duck my head down, but that made the gravity of the situation worse.

I thought about running my hand under my nose, but then I would have it on my hand.

Suddenly, without thinking, fearing that I was about to embarrass myself in front of the entire class with my river of snot, I reached up with the sleeve of my sweater and ran it across my face two or three times.

Fortunately, at that point my nose loosened up and I was able to have one huge sniff and the running went away.

But my beautiful Angora sweater had been slimed by my drippy nose dropping.

I took off the sweater, folded it up, and when I got home that night tried to wipe the goop out of the fur–but it wouldn’t go away.

I wore the sweater a couple more times, but people kept asking me why the sleeve was matted.

I loved that sweater so much.

But about four days later, I quietly went out into the back yard, dug a hole, and buried it.

I realized there would be no way to ever fix it. My family knew nothing about dry cleaning, and I was in no mood to try to explain why it was rumpled and stiff.

I know it sounds strange, but I cried. Actually, I cried more at the grave of my sweater than I did for a couple of aunts who passed away.

Of course, they never looked nearly as good or kept me nearly as warm.

 

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Arizona morning

After an appearance earlier this year in Surprise, Arizona, Janet and I were blessed to receive a “surprise” ourselves. Click on the beautiful Arizona picture above to share it with us!

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Fallen… February 21, 2013


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helpHe crawled to my door, recently cast to earth by that which he considered to be god-like. He was a discombobulated mutation of the Gingerbread Man, Humpty Dumpty and a misfit toy. After twenty plus years of marriage, three children, late notices on bills, burned meat loaf and too few kisses, he found himself alone–abandoned by the other human soul who had promised to remain forever.

He was suddenly surrounded by ants, worms, dirt and spit-out gum. Like the ant, he was scurrying around to rediscover the picnic. As the worm, he was flat on his belly, sucking up the soil–and he was discarded, flavorless.

He and she were no longer we.

He was alone for the first time in over two decades and had no idea what to do. I am not so sure why he decided to seek me out. But years of handling such visitations have taught me the rules of operation: never bring an opinion–just a cup of coffee “to go” and two ears “to stay.”

He sat on the floor so as not to allow himself any further descent–and uttered the typical words: How could she do that? What did I do wrong? What are people going to think? What am I going to do now?

Even though these might sound like questions, they really aren’t. They are screams into the darkness, pleading for response but never remaining for an answer. It is important to remember that two words are absolutely forbidden during these excursions into the dark night of bewilderment: “God” and “the future.” Both of them seem too mean, too forbidding, too misunderstood and too impotent.

He is hurt. He presently does not possess faith, but is rather possessed by a smothering faithlessness. He doesn’t need quotations and does not require counsel. He doesn’t even really appreciate a flick of my eyebrow or an ill-placed, “I see.”

He is fallen. He will never rise again if he is not allowed to savor the moments of self-pity that generate the revelation of the true value of existing blessing.

We spend too much time criticizing those who have already been criticized. We are too eager to throw stones at those who have already been stoned. We sit in judgment over those who are precariously doomed to execution.

We lack the sensibility to remember what it is like to be fallen when we are standing on our own two feet, peering down at the hapless victim.

He will have better days. He may reconcile with his former love or he may not. But this is not a sickness unto death. Recuperation, however, demands that we allow people to crawl before they walk, and stroll before they run.

Sometimes “fallen” is the only way we actually become grounded.

Because dirt is closer to the earth–and the earth is our residence.

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Missouri Misgivings… September 27, 2012


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Henry Clay was quite wrong. Folks from Missouri don’t favor compromise that much. They are a generous lot, but pretty straight-ahead thinkers and often quite convinced of the nobility of their notions.

So as I took my Six Word Tour“NoOne is better than anyone else”–across I-70, from KC to Saint Louie, I immediately had a few folks with crinkled noses, questioning the veracity of my concept.

Misgiving One: “Jonathan, Jesus was a human being but he was also better than everyone else. So what do you say about that, fella?”

I will tell you what I say about that–Christian theology is completely stalled in the paradox of trying to present the humanity of Christ while simultaneously doing nothing to tamper with the divinity unit. It is something that has come to pass in the past four or five hundred years, as the Catholics and the Protestants have done battle over doctrine instead of finding common ground in the message.

The early Christian church had no problem with this situation whatsoever. Matter of fact, the writer of the Book of Hebrews makes it clear: Jesus was completely human. He was “tempted like we are,” he “learned obedience through the things he suffered” and “he was touched by all of our infirmities.” Even the gospel writer tell us that as a boy “he grew in wisdom, in stature and in favor with God and man.”

We do a terrible disservice to believers when we take away the greatest gift God gave to this earth–the human life of Jesus of Nazareth–and replace it with a Christ who was always God, just wearing cool sandals. What Jesus allowed, which set him apart, was for the Spirit to be involved in his life and included in all aspects of his activities. It is why the Bible tells us that the same Spirit that dwelled in Jesus can dwell in us. When I say “NoOne is better than anyone else” I am not concluding that some folks don’t use their human lives more effectively than others. But as Jesus started out on an even playing field as a human being, so do we all. It’s up to us whether we decide to tap all our resources, or just move into one room of our human house and live there.

Misgiving Two: “Jonathan, don’t some species become extinct and others survive, which would make the surviving creatures better–right?”

It’s rather doubtful that God and nature gave function to any part of the creation just so there would be something to destroy. Dinosaurs had their chance. They just didn’t bring anything to the planet. It shortened their stay.

Everyday certain life forms go extinct. It’s because they refuse to evolve, adapt and become fruitful to the earth. It doesn’t make them better or worse. It just teaches us all a very valuable lesson–that being aware of your surroundings and the changes occurring is a very healthy outlook, and can keep you from running into walls and breaking your nose.

As Jesus said beautifully and poetically, “One sparrow does not fall without God, the Father, knowing it.” God has an investment in all His various incarnations and incantations but He does leave it to the free-will choice of even the spider–whether it will use its lifespan productively or squander it by spinning a web too near its enemy.

An extinct species is not inferior in the sight of God, only found wanting in the deliberation of nature. This holds true for all of us.

So in Missouri I found that some of the people thought there were unique humans–Jesus, for instance. I suppose they would also contend that Mozart was born to compose music, Copernicus to stare at the heavens and Guttenberg to get printing ink on his hands. It just ain’t so, Joe. We’re all born and pushed forward towards a possibility, and if we embrace it, we eventually become very good at it because God has given us the talent to be talented. So if Mozart had been born in a carpenter’s shop, we would have Mozart tables in our house instead of symphonies at the local convention hall. And if George Washington Carver had been born in the Midwest on a corn farm, we would have corn butter and jelly sandwiches instead of peanut butter. (I don’t know. It doesn’t sound that bad…)

So the people of Missouri believe there are unique humans, but they also believe there are unique species, blessed with greater capability of survival. Actually, it rains on the just and the unjust–and that goes for ants and turtles. And what creates an unjust turtle? The same thing that creates an unjust human: you spend too much time in your shell, you get replaced.

We are determined to be unique when the real uniqueness of the human creature is our commonality. And until we find that similarity in one another, we will “unique” our way into many wars, conflicts, bigotries and destruction.

From Missouri, I took a turn south–to the great state of Texas, and presented my six word phrase. What will happen in the Lone Star State?

We’ll find out tomorrow.

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