Good News and Better News… May 1st, 2017

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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I spent the weekend with the “Life of Brian”–once again reminded to “always look on the bright side of life.”

Yes, Brian is the pastor of the First United Methodist Church in Frostproof, Florida. Aside from being personable, gentle and caring, he has intelligently chosen to embrace the work that is set before him and enjoy it instead of complaining about the difficulties or lamenting its limitations.
That is remarkable. (So therefore, I did.)

Because of this spirit which radiates from him, the congregation allows itself to believe that they are not boxed in to either a social or a religious format that makes them run around in circles like gerbils looking for a wheel.

I must tell you–any church that advertises that it is presently on the path of righteous pursuits may very well be deluded. We are all intoxicated by an environment which challenges us to be rough and tumble instead of kind and merciful.

Very simply stated, that must change or nothing will happen.

If we truly go into a deeper study of the Word, we will end up as Paul did, proclaiming that the only commandment that’s necessary is “love your neighbor as yourself.”

If we pursue an existence of prayer, we will find, as Jesus taught, that our best supplications are done in the closet, without letting anyone know that we are seeking divine guidance.

It really comes down to a simple back-and-forth:

What should we slow?

What should become quick?

I use the word “slow” because none of us are without silliness and foolish iniquity, so we will occasionally slip up. Right now we are obsessed with the notion to be quick to judgment and slow to love. For some reason, we insist that this is a sign of maturity, caution or caring for our loved ones. Because of this, the people in our society sometimes look like they’re sniffing the room for nasty odors instead of including the inhabitants of the room.

We are quick to judge yet slow to love.

And no matter how much you learn about the Tabernacle of David, the death of Christ or the Apocalypse, you will make no progress in the Kingdom of God until you become quick to love and slow to judge.

Matter of fact, if I were pastoring a church, I would teach on that subject for at least six months–until everybody in the congregation, including the toddlers, was fully aware that the mantra of our mission was “quick to love and slow to judge.”

This does not mean that prayer, worship, fasting, giving and study have no merit–it just means they have no muscle. They do not bust through the cement of the walls we are building between each other. The only thing that will do that is love and a refusal on our part to judge others.

So the good news is this: if we can learn to be quick to love, even if it seems a little awkward at first, at least we will be stumbling in the right direction.

And the better news is, if we are slow to judgment, we can begin to tear down the dark image of the Christian faith, which has turned us into prudes instead of proof.

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Three Ways to be Spirited Without Becoming Religious … August 28, 2014

Jonathots Daily Blog

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I shall refrain from beating the dead horse of religion (even if it’s one of those horses of the Apocalypse).

Religion has historically, and even currently, displayed the by-products of its foolishness and bloody miscalculations. The reason religion has been so unsuccessful is because it works under the faulty premise that we are trying to please a God who has already told us that He’s pleased. Upon finishing His creation, God said, “It is good.”

There you go.

Yet at the same time, to try to run away from the “spirited” side of life in an attempt to avoid the superstition of religion, one can end up creating a vacancy while simultaneously failing to fill one.

So let me tell you the three ways I believe you can be spirited without ever falling under the flea-infested dogma of organized religion:

1. Let people know you’re human.

It was eloquently phrased in the Good Book: “By your fruits you shall be known.” Being human is not an insult nor an excuse for weakness. It is the honor of possessing the greatest soul and intellect on our planet.

But we are also vulnerable–and we become valuable to each other when our honesty allows for revelation.

2. Let people know you have hope.

Once again, well phrased with the passage, “Let your light shine before men, that they’ll see your good works and glorify the Father in heaven.”

There’s no power in being human if you’ve given up on your race. Yes, I’m human, but I’m hoping for so much more. I’m reaching for vistas beyond my carnal senses. I’m believing for better.

3. Let people know you’re learning.

For after all, the kingdom of God is within you. Every new revelation, discovery and spiritual explosion is going to come from the hearts of men and women.

Certainly we can garner comfort and joy from reading the testimonies of the forefathers in the scriptures, but unless we’re writing a living testament through our own learning process, we become worshippers of a book instead of lively stones of faith.

These three things appeal to everybody.

They are completely accessible simply by having a pure heart.

And these three things produce fruit, which lights up the world with the knowledge that God is not dead … but has established a kingdom within your heart.

 

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The Thirty Second Philosophy … September 12, 2013

Jonathots Daily Blog

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fridgeWatching television yesterday, my favored program of the moment was suddenly interrupted by a testing of the Emergency Broadcasting System. It consisted of about thirty seconds of beeps and buzzes, totally destroying the dialogue of the show and making me wonder why such an intrusion was necessary.

But it did get me thinking: what if it ended up not being a test?

What if that broadcasting system leaped into my life to proclaim that a cataclysmic disaster was in the making? Yes–what if I was informed by the announcer that we had thirty seconds to live before an unexpected meteor struck the earth, a series of atomic bombs exploded or a tidal wave from an angry ocean suddenly blew across the mainland?

Just thirty seconds.

I thought to myself, what would I do with that portion? Then I amazed myself with a very quick answer.

Four things:

1. Thanks, God. (No need to get grumpy at that point, right? Atheism lacks promise.)

2. I love you all. (Getting picky over people seems a bit fruitless, too.)

3. I sure hope we’re right about that heaven thing. (Worse than dying in thirty seconds is the prospect of it being really, really permanent.)

4. You can have anything left in my refrigerator. (Honestly, there was some pretty good stuff in there … )

There you go. That’s what I came up with. After all, thirty seconds isn’t much, but it’s certainly sufficient to express gratitude to the Creator, have some appreciation for my fellow travelers, hope for the best and share my bologna.

As the Emergency Broadcasting System test ended, I was emerging from my bizarre musings when I paused and thought over my four selections prior to the Apocalypse. It was a pretty good list. Matter of fact, I’ve decided to adopt it in ALL aspects of my life–even when I’m not threatened by termination.

I shall dub it my “Thirty Second Philosophy,” but use it 24/7.

  • Thanks, God.
  • I love you all.
  • I sure hope we’re right about heaven.
  • And you are welcome to anything left over in my refrigerator.

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Super-ag-nuts … July 22, 2012

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I should never have accepted the invitation. Sometimes I just have trouble saying no.

A very religious friend of mine invited me to come to lunch and meet his self-proclaimed agnostic brother. I know the aspiration of my ardent-zealot-religious comrade was that somehow I would be able to offer some sort of “smart” presentation of the gospel which would win over his brother, who was moving more each and every day towards complete atheism.

The luncheon started off all right, although a bit awkward, until my God-bud felt it was time to move into more supernatural topics and broached the subject of the divine with his less-than-willing family member. What ensued was a battle of wills, which had been in full swing for many years. It also became obvious to me that one of the brothers thought he was saved and the other one thought he was smart.

The one who thought he was smart equally believed that he would lose his entire brain if he was fully exposed to salvation, and the one who was saved was convinced that the introduction of too much knowledge could possibly dissolve any faith in God whatsoever.

I left that day feeling very unfulfilled and not certain where I fit in–because I am not a superstitious religious person. I don’t spend much time thinking about Jonah and the whale nor any one of the particular horsemen of the Apocalypse. I am also by no means an agnostic. There’s just too much flow of the Spirit and needfulness for God in our lives for any one of us to dismiss His creative presence merely to maintain a social strata of intellectual superiority.

The superstition of religion causes people to say, “I am afraid I am not pleasing to God,” which causes the agnostic to retort, “I think pleasing God makes me afraid.”

But a new phenomenon has now come onto the scene. People who formerly were involved in spirituality, which deteriorated into religion and eventually became mere superstition, have now been infected with a bit of agnosticism.

They are everywhere. They have just enough Bible in them to maintain a dangerous dose of superstition and a growing amount of agnosticism, which depresses them with the lack of God in their lives–similar to the temperament of a twelve-year-old kid after the first Christmas without Santa.

So just as a superstitious person believes he doesn’t please God and the agnostic thinks that pleasing God makes one afraid, this new group, which I have dubbed the super-ag-nuts, ends up trying to please everybody because they’re afraid. Do you see what I mean?

Because spirituality failed to maintain the integrity of its message, the superstition of religion took over the sanctuary and encouraged agnosticism, which has produced super-ag-nuts.

For instance, superstition says, “I want to go to heaven–because I don’t want to go to hell.”  The agnostic says, “I hate the idea of hell, so I reject heaven.” So this new super-ag-nuts philosophy blends the two and ends up with the assertion, “I am not sure if there’s a heaven or a hell, so I’m scared to die.”

It is the super-ag-nuts who are so politically motivated in our society. Like the Jews of Jesus’ day, they have lost all hope in their faith and are looking for a political solution here on earth to remedy their disappointment. The super-ag-nuts have a form of godliness but have begun to deny the power of it, creating such a boring relationship with the heavenly Father that they, themselves, yearn for an excuse to be absent from worship services.

The super-ag-nuts are the ones who have found pet Bible verses and use them as a reason to advance a cause rather than using the cause to advance reasonableness. It is the super-ag-nuts who foster prejudices using the scapegoat of Godliness, alienating  certain groups from being included, even though Jesus was intent on establishing that no one is better than anyone else.

The superstition of religion teaches that in theory we should love people, but it’s really okay not to like them. Agnostics, on the other hand, are very suspicious of people individually, but will boldly tell you of their love for humanity. It has caused this new generation of super-ag-nuts to focus on family and friends, hoping that will be enough in the eyes of God.

I’ve always hated superstition. Honestly, agnosticism kind of makes me laugh. But when you blend superstition and agnosticism together, you get a belief system without joy. And what could possibly be the reason for seeking first the kingdom of God and His righteousness if all these things were NOT going to be added unto us? If we weren’t going to end up more content? If we weren’t going to become more loving? If we fail to multiply our talents? If we maintain our dreary outlook on life instead of being free–because the Son has set us free?

I am very concerned that we are becoming a generation of super-ag-nuts, having just enough Holy Book in us to answer questions on Jeopardy! and enough agnosticism and doubt to steal our faith in the moment of need.

Call it out–first in yourself, then in the superstitious agnostics around you, who are too frightened to admit they don’t know and too prideful to be willing to allow knowledge to confirm the power of belief.

My luncheon with the superstitious-religious brother and the agnostic-emerging-towards-atheist sibling was a wash. But it did make me more determined to remove the superstition from my faith and allow the truth to make me free.

And mainly free of disbelieving just because I’m too lazy to experience God for myself.

   

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You’re Kidding… March 30, 2012

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“As it was in the days of Noah, so shall it be …”

So begins Jesus’ description of life on Planet Earth just prior to the end of the world. He lays out a visual example of a culture that has become preoccupied with “being married and given in marriage.” Does he really believe that the sign of the Apocalypse is matrimony?

No. There is nothing immoral, unspiritual or unnatural about falling in love and getting married. But when that experience encompasses your whole being, taking over your will, your sense of discovery and your vision for life, then it becomes a numbing sensation and a killing field.

Yes, along about the age of twenty-five or twenty-six years, the addled essence, who has failed to learn about peaceful co-existence between the sexes, starts getting the itch to couple, settle down and “start kidding”– in other words, having children. Maybe college didn’t turn out the way they had planned. Those first attempts at business didn’t bring in the million dollars. The trip to Hollywood to become famous just ended up becoming expensive. The parents failed to die and leave the life insurance. So as it turns out, these people in their mid-twenties suddenly discover they are going to have to live out this thing called life in full color.

But because they weren’t allowed to be part of a chilled-hood, which taught them to enjoy equality with the opposite sex; and were then ushered into an addled essence, where they became adversarial with the other half of the species, they arrive at this position in life poorly prepared for communication, lacking spiritual depth and too emotionally vulnerable to link up and be a contributor in a relationship.

So they find a mate, they convince themselves they’re hot for them, they get married and soon a child follows. They start “kidding.” And since they know nothing about  a chilled-hood from experiencing it themselves, they become overly protective of their children—worrying about health issues and frightened of finance.

I see them every week in my church programs. The woman carries the baby, hoping everyone will notice how lovely her genetic contribution turned out to be, as the man trails two steps behind, lugging stuffed animals and the diaper bag, with glazed eyes, as if he had been struck by unseen lightning. Where they should be coming out of a worship experience discussing the beauty of living waters, they stand in the vestibule in protracted discussions about baby formula and zwieback.

They feel noble to have continued the tradition of child-rearing, complete with all of its sighs and despair—and unfortunately, also a sense of vacating all original aspirations. It is a lost generation; a missing link of humanity–age twenty-five through thirty-six. They have lost their identity, their belief in what is righteous, and how it affects their daily lives, which has caused them to lose their perspective–and their ability to keep their cool and relax in what they’ve accomplished.

This causes them to lose respect—first for themselves, for abandoning their talent, and then for their mate, for hastening their retreat. Unfortunately, this leads to them losing their love. Because we all know when respect departs, love begins to pack its bags.

As the child gets older and realizes that he or she is able to manipulate the household through tantrums because the parents have lost all will to resist, we continue the dastardly process into addled essence, culminating with parents holding on with prayers and hopes for things being better tomorrow. Teenagers rule the world–a planet that needs more mature insight.

We lose the You’re Kiddings during this season of procreation. We have no contact with them outside of complimenting their children, discussing daycare, or the best places to buy rounded-tip scissors for pre-school. The weightier matters of justice, love, mercy, understanding and compassion are set aside, to spend most of the time festering over work schedules and who’s going to get up in the middle of the night to change diapers.

Yes, the time in their lives when they should have the most energy, optimism and generosity of spirit is completely encompassed by the idea of being married, given in marriage and “kidding around.”

What is the process of birthing children supposed to do for us? Well, our forefathers and mothers had children because it was cheaper than hiring farm hands. They expected these little ones to start working immediately—as soon as they finished nursing. Now, we might find this to be uncaring or even mean-spirited, but somehow or another we need to land between being completely overwhelmed by the action of making other human beings, and merely thinking of them as ranch hands. See what I mean?

Here are the four steps I think are necessary for this particular age group—IF they’ve had a chilled-hood, enjoying equality with the opposite sex, and have escaped an addled essence, where their future life partner is viewed as adversarial:

1.  (And I do mean number one) Honor your children by honoring your dreams. You do not do anything for your off-spring by returning to your home exhausted because you’re working a job that has no resemblance whatsoever to what you really want to do. One of the transitions we need to make in this country is to understand that local representations of our culture are much more effective than nationally promoted ones. What I mean by that is, maybe you planned on being a great business tycoon and flying off to New York to work with Donald Trump. But now two babies have arrived and trumped your plans. There is still no reason why you cannot stay in your home town of 75,000 people and entrepreneur an idea that is regionally successful, granting you satisfaction over the yearnings of your heart. You may not end up being everything you thought you were going to be, but you will certainly be a snapshot of what you always wanted. You will turn your children on with your enthusiasm.

2. We should be spontaneous in love, but solid in principle. That means sometimes our little geniuses, who came out of our birthing cycle, need to be disciplined. It doesn’t matter how cute they are. It doesn’t matter how good the excuse is. We express love best in our homes when we have principles by which we live that are followed through with–even in the difficult times. Most members of the You’re Kidding generation think their main function is to make their children happy. Actually, their job is to create a stable sense of ethics and provide a direction that will ultimately bring forth happiness.

3. Stop worrying. And that goes for all the impersonators of the process, including over-discussing, looking at the Internet too much, having conversations with other young parents who are equally as baffled as you are, or listening to experts who are more concerned with selling a book than they are with making your child a dynamic human being. How do you know when you’re worrying? When you have learned all you can on a subject, applied the better parts of it and still continue to think, talk and fret over it, you are worrying. The best you can do as a parent is learn, do–and trust God for the rest.

4. And finally, these youthful birthers of a new generation need to teach their offspring that lying is the only sin. I believe this with all my heart. As long as we make mistakes and own them, grace covers a multitude of sins. Yes, grace covers every sin but lying. Lying is avoiding the grace of God to pretend like no mistakes have happened. If you punish lying and reward truth, the truth will eventually make your children free. It doesn’t mean they won’t go through difficulty, but it does mean they won’t be afraid to come to you and admit their frailty. If we can take this generation of shell-shocked human beings who have stumbled into marriage and child-bearing, and free them to still be wide-eyed with wonder over their own pursuits, as they include their children in their lives instead of making those little ones their only focus, then the energy from these individuals can once again revitalize our country.

Because if we can’t take the You’re Kidding generation and allow them to escape the preoccupation of babies, birthing and bundling, then in no time at all, they reach thirty-seven years of age and enter the next twelve-year phase, when the new enemy becomes …  money.

I shall call this group Re-spend-ability.

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Listen to Jonathan sing his gospel/blues anthem, Spent This Time, accompanied by Janet Clazzy on the WX-5 Wind Machine

 

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Below is the first chapter of Jonathan Richard Cring’s stunning novel entitled Preparing a Place for Myself—the story of a journey after death. It is a delicious blend of theology and science fiction that will inspire and entertain. I thought you might enjoy reading it. After you do, if you would like to read the book in its entirety, please click on the link below and go to our tour store. The book is being offered at the special price of $4.99 plus $3.99 shipping–a total of $8.98. Enjoy.

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Sitting One

 I died today. 

I didn’t expect it to happen.  Then again, I did—well, not really.

No, I certainly didn’t expect it.

I’ve had moments of clarity in my life.  Amazingly enough, many of them were in the midst of a dream. For a brief second I would know the meaning of life or the missing treatment to cure cancer.  And then as quickly as it popped into my mind it was gone. I really don’t recollect dying.  Just this unbelievable sense of clear headedness—like walking into a room newly painted and knowing by the odor and brightness that the color on the wall is so splattering new that you should be careful not to touch it for fear of smearing the design. The greatest revelation of all? 

Twenty-five miles in the sky time ceases to exist.

The planet Pluto takes two hundred and forty-eight years to circle the sun. It doesn’t give a damn. 

The day of my death was the day I became free of the only burden I really ever had.  TIME.

Useless.

Time is fussy.  Time is worry. 

Time is fear.  Time is the culprit causing human-types to recoil from pending generosity. 

There just was never enough time. 

Time would not allow it.  Remember—“if time permits …”

Why if time permits?  Why not if I permit?  Why not if I dream?  Why not if I want?  Why does time get to dictate to me my passage? 

It was time that robbed me of my soulful nature.    It was time that convinced me that my selfishness was needed. 

I didn’t die. The clock in me died, leaving spirit to tick on.  

So why don’t we see the farce of time?  Why do we allow ourselves to fall under the power of the cruel despot?  Yes, time is a relentless master—very little wage for much demand.

I died today. 

Actually … a piece of time named after me was cast away.

The Benjamin Franklin Moment… January 19, 2012

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In Philadelphia

 
If memory serves me correctly, it was January 19th, 2006. I was shopping at the Rivergate Mall in Madison, Tennessee, when I walked to my car–and lying on the ground near my front bumper was a hundred-dollar bill.
 
Yes–Benjamin Franklin, giving me his classic lascivious leer. It took a moment for my brain to register that money was lying at my feet, even though it is the continual, persistent dream of every human traveler. There was no wind blowing, so it was quietly remaining, without stirring. I picked it up, realized it was real, and then looked around in all directions to see if somebody was frantically searching their wallet or purse for the lost revenue. There was no one in sight.
 
The spot where I retrieved the bill was also far from any store, so I didn’t know exactly where to go to locate a potential searcher. I stood for a moment, continuing to peer circumspectly but no one came into view. I thought about taking out want ad in the newspaper, telling of the discovered treasure, but I considered how ridiculous that would be–no one is capable of being that honest, considering the financial benefit.
 
I realized that I had received a blessing.  It was MY blessing–yes, my gift–to do with whatever I wanted.
 
I climbed in my car and sat for a moment and made a Biblical decision. I call these Biblical decisions because they are conferences I hold with my spirit, my conscience, my emotions, my will, and everything I’ve learned that truly is important that actually ends up working out when applied. Many things I have tried to put into practice–especially from the Old Testament–have proven to be less than adequate in everyday human interaction. Moses and Nehemiah are not my best contact points in the hour of need. No–it is up to me in my lifespan, to make Biblical decisions based upon a council of myself with the Spirit of God, using as a reference those principles I have found to be irrefutable. Here’s how I decide things:
 
1. If it’s a spiritual matter, I find a way to apply it practically. I do not believe in “abstract” spirituality. I think it’s the duty of every believer to take heavenly things and bring them into earthly use–or else, please just be quiet about it. This is why I do not take part in discussions about the Apocalypse, heaven, hell or even a conversation about who’s going to make it to the pearly gates or not. These are spiritual thoughts that don’t seem to have a landing gear to arrive at the airport of our human reality. Everything spiritual needs to have a practical application–otherwise, hush up.
2. Likewise, everything practical in my life needs to have a spiritual implication. I do not believe it’s an accident when I run across a person in need in the street. I do not think that stopping at a red light is without a measure of spiritual leading by God’s integrity. I look for my practical life to have spiritual meaning and eternal quality. The reason most people cannot grasp the concept of “Christ in me, the hope of glory”  is that they believe their lives are DIVIDED between the earthly and the heavenly. Such a division is not only unnecessary, but may prove to be the definition of careless ungodliness. Everything practical becomes spiritual.
 
 So that is why when I had the one hundred dollars in my possession, I said a quick prayer, tapped the Kingdom of God within me and came up with what I thought was a delicious plan. I decided to keep fifty dollars for my own enjoyment and pleasure–because deprivation does not make me better, just grouchy. Then I went to the bank and took the last fifty dollars and changed it into five ten-dollar bills, and spent the next hour just dropping one ten-dollar bill at five locations, so that someone else could enjoy the miracle of finding unexpected finance.
 
Because, after all, the most spiritual thing you can do in your life is to enjoy the gifts God sends your way, and then find a way to share that sensation with others. I thoroughly enjoyed the notion that someone was finding a ten-dollar bill and they were also being given a chance to turn something spiritual into something practical, and then taking that practical and transforming it back into something spiritual.  It is the essence of what we do as people which sets up apart from not only the apes, but from one another.
 
It was my Benjamin Franklin moment. Fifty dollars for me and five ten-dollar blessings for those who were alert enough to notice. 
 
Yes–alert enough to notice. It may be the true definition of righteousness.
 
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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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