Good News and Better News… November 27th, 2017

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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Upon arriving at the Immanuel Lutheran Church in Palm City, Florida, we were greeted by Pastor Roy and John, who graciously agreed to carry in our equipment and assist us in any way possible. It is magnificent to run across human souls who welcome strangers–no matter how strange they may appear to be.

Pastor Roy is a congenial fellow who, like Matthew of old, was called from his trade to come and share the Gospel. Courteous, gentle, kind, inventive and helpful. During the time of our set-up, and also our whole visitation, this dear brother became and remained, our right arm.

I am humbled by such an active service.

I had one mission in Palm City–an attempt to escort beautiful children of God’s kingdom from fear to good cheer.

Fear grips us.

Good cheer greets us: Greets us with the awareness that all is well, God is with us and we have resource.

Being good Lutherans, they were naturally afraid of any show of spontaneous emotion. After all, we’re not positive that God isn’t a solemn and austere figure. (Of course, if He is, we’re in a world of trouble.)

Good cheer is what Jesus suggests we use to survive while he overcomes the world, which is full of tribulation.

I explained to these dear brothers and sisters that there’s a difference between clapping your hands and applause. Applause is often deemed an expression of appreciation or even praise for an artist. Clapping your hands is the most authentic evidence of the presence of joy.

So when we come into God’s house and we sit tight in our seats, afraid to move, waiting for the Eucharist, we miss the point of our gathering.

We should be there for three reasons: to strengthen one another, to care for one another and to confirm that the Gospel continues to be “good news.” All of our other traditions are delightful, but have little to do with what actually constitutes praise and worship.

So I told my new friends that I personally need no applause–but that God loves to hear them clap their hands.

So if you hear something good, see something good, feel tingly and warm in the Spirit or are overcome with joy: “Clap your hands, all ye people. Shout unto God with a voice of triumph.”

The good news is that when these Lutherans did so, the building reverberated with the power of love.

The better news is, if they will continue to release that Spirit through clapping their hands, many prayers for miracles will come their way.

 

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Reverend Meningsbee (Part 49) Troubling the Water … April 9th, 2017

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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Reverend Meningsbee

Professor McIntosh.

Meningsbee always remembered him fondly.

He was one of those college professors who thought it was his job to come up with the most clever way to communicate ideas, gauging his success on how dazzled his students would become or how they would squint at him, perplexed, acting as if they didn’t understand.

He was a character.

One of his primary theories was that everything in the universe was based on physics and chemistry–even people–that even though we advance the idea that loving our neighbor as ourselves is a noble pursuit, that certain chemicals, reactions and even structures of different individuals actually inhibit them from making connection–even though they try. Sometimes they even get married, attempting to work out a relationship, only to discover that they suffer from a perpetual awkwardness whenever they’re together alone.

The reason for the walk down memory lane was that recently Meningsbee had come to the conclusion that his old professor just might have stumbled upon some wisdom. Because try as he might, there was one gentleman in the Garsonville congregation who just could not tolerate the pastor.

Matter of fact, Meningsbee found himself referring to this gent as “Mr. Jackson, from the bank,” because he had never heard his first name. He thought it was “Maynard,” but considering how unusual that seemed, he was hesitant to try it out loud.

So whenever Meningsbee entered the room, Jackson stayed for a few moments, but excused himself pretty quickly. At first he thought it was a coincidence, but then some of the other church members noticed it, and began to check their watches, timing when Jackson made his exodus.

Meningsbee thought about going to talk to Jackson, but reconsidered. Honesty only works when two people agree to the terms. Otherwise, the person who chooses not to share his heart can simply terminate the peace offering by saying, “Problem? What problem?”

But recently Meningsbee had become worried.

Mr. Jackson had begun spending a lot of time with young Carl. He offered to buy the young man a new suit. Whenever Carl was doing something in the church, like a special song or maybe a sermonette, Jackson would specifically invite the other members of his family.

Meningsbee was concerned about being too paranoid. How much was he reading into the circumstances? But it just seemed that Jackson was trying to create a rift between Carl and the senior pastor.

Meningsbee was not an idiot. He knew he could be imagining everything. Yet something was amiss. Carl was not quite as gentle and free-flowing when the two of them were together. He seemed to be making stubborn stands over things that really didn’t matter that much. Meningsbee was stymied. What should he do?

Then came the petition.

It was presented as a lark. Matter of fact, it was printed off on pink paper with yellow flowers. It stated:

“We, the undersigned, demand that Pas Carl get the chance to preach at least once a month on Sunday morning. We do this by the authority granted to us by nobody, in the spirit of true bumbling.”

Even as they presented it to Pastor Meningsbee, they did so with an overstated bow and a giggle.

He took the flamboyant petition into his office, sat down and stared at it. He knew one thing: solving problems was not about having all the answers, but instead, knowing when to use the answers.

Since it was Sunday morning and he had the petition in his hand, he decided to follow up on the frivolity of their offering with some silliness of his own. He reached into a trunk of toys he kept in his office for kids who needed a distraction for when they were waiting for their parents and he pulled out a red plastic fireman’s hat, which was obviously too small for his head. But he placed it on top and fastened it down to the side of his face with scotch tape.

He walked to the door of the sanctuary and then skipped down the aisle to the front of the church, and turned around with his fireman’s hat tipping precariously.

The look on the faces of the congregation: amused, confused, not certain how to react, even though some of them couldn’t help themselves and began to giggle. Borrowing from the energy of a Broadway play, in overstated tones, he began.

“When you come to the Garsonville Community Church, what are you hoping to see? An aging minister wearing a child’s fireman’s hat? Of course not. But look! It’s still provided.”

A big laugh.

“But what do you come here for? What is inspiring you today? I’m not talking about what inspired you when you were sixteen years old and you could barely wait for Halloween so you could go on the hayride and make out with your boyfriend or girlfriend. I’m talking about what inspires you in church today.

“You know what inspires me? You know what rings my bells? You know what keeps my firehat in place?”

He reached up and touched the side of his face. “Certainly not the scotch tape. What gets me moving–what gets me excited–what makes me want to race to work every day is the opportunity to work with that young man over there…”

He pointed to Carl.

“And try to do great things for all of you out there.”

He pointed to the congregation.

“What should I say about Carl? Pas Carl. I wish I had known half of what he knows when I was his age. I would now be twice the man. I wish I was half as good-looking. I wish I could say I rescued a boy out of a well. I wish I’d had my hands in dirt more, growing crops, or milked a cow or two. That is what you do to them, right?”

He leaned forward and the congregation laughed. “Because every time I get to work with him, I know we’re doing something great for you. But the amazing thing is that even though we’re enjoying this blessing, we sometimes forget that it never happens because of one thing. It’s when all things work together to the good.

“Would you say it with me? All things work together to the good.

The congregation repeated it.

“And when you start tearing that combination apart, trying to focus on what’s the better part, or the best part, it stops working together. Now, even though I couldn’t, wouldn’t or shouldn’t do without Carl–he’s a smart fellow. He’ll tell you he’s young. He’ll tell you that he couldn’t do without me.”

Carl hung his head.

“And even though there are people in this congregation that don’t love me–heck, maybe you don’t even like me–you still receive my love and the thrill of my soul to be your shepherd.

“I had a professor in college named McIntosh. He believed that everything in life is based on chemistry. What if he’s right? What if we take one Richard Meningsbee and mingle it with a Sarah, Matreese, Bob, Sally, Darla, Daniel, Mr. Jackson–Maynard, I presume?–and Carl, and stir it up. We know what we’ve got then, don’t we? We have this beautiful eruption called church.

“What if we remove one of the ingredients? Will it be the same? Will the chemical reaction be as intense? I, for one, think not.

“I was offered a petition, requesting that this young man, who I love, be able to preach one Sunday a month in this church. I tell you–no. You’re absolutely wrong. He should preach two Sundays a month in this church. Starting next week.

“And before I finish here, I need you to seriously take a moment and let me know, by raising your hands, how many people like my hat.”

Hands went into the air, applause rattled the room and everybody left church in joy.

Everybody except Mr. Maynard Jackson.

He never returned again.

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PoHymn: A Rustling in the Stagnant … December 7th, 2016

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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pohymn-next-in-line

Next in Line

Little fella on the stage

Didn’t memorize, read the page

Frightened, nervous of the crowd

Teacher says to speak real loud

There’s a giggle from behind

Someone’s laughing, so unkind

Lost in space, in this place

Grandma praying to save face

Something Christmas, maybe love

Or a description of a dove?

He looks for words, mouth all dry

Honest to God, he wants to cry

Time is frozen, they all await

What will be his tongue-tied fate?

“Great job, kid!” or “At least you tried”

Either way, someone has lied

He glances at his teacher for assistance

She mouths some words, at a distance

He prays to God to kill him dead

Shoot an arrow right through his head

Then all at once he’s nearly done

He recalls the rest–so much fun

Finishing up his little speech

A little bow, quite the reach

Mama and Papa begin the applause

Pretty damn great, with all its flaws

It’s Christmas pageant time of year

Where young’uns are forced to live in fear

Mom and Dad want to Facebook and tell

But when you’re eight, it’s more like hell

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Jesonian: Reverend Meningsbee (Part 15) The Word Went Forth… August 7th, 2016

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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Reverend Meningsbee

There was a pretty good crowd gathered.

Apparently in the midst of a whole lot of shuffling going on in Garsonville, some aces were being dealt in the direction of the church–new people, searching folk and “institutions” who had been around so long that they had streets named after them.

Meningsbee quickly introduced Kitty and Hapsy to one of the dear ladies of the church, who opened up her wing and pulled them close, sitting them on the fourth row next to her. Kitty looked frightened, but sufficiently worn out that she didn’t put up much of a fuss.

Meningsbee stopped worrying about his surprise visitors because he was so excited about today’s service.

He didn’t sing a hymn, figuring there was enough melody in his heart for the whole room, and he skipped the prayer, assuming the Heavenly Father fully knew his intentions.

“Okay, let’s get this rolling!” he said with the vigor of a football coach. “I’d like to invite up Number 1 and Number 2 of the pieces of paper I passed out last week.”

After a brief pause, Carl, one of the long-standing members, and Kimberly, a new mother, eased their way to the front and stood side-by-side.

“Well, since I have two, that must make you one,” said Carl with a wry smile.

Kimberly nodded, and shared, reading from her paper, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

She stopped.

Carl waited momentarily and then looked at the audience with a twinkle in his eye. “Well, I guess that’s all she’s got to say.”

He opened up his paper and read aloud, “My dear friends, we are not spiritual. We are just people, so stop trying to act like you’re angels.”

His delivery was perfect, because everybody burst out laughing. Carl looked over at Meningsbee, who had posted himself nearby at a grease board, magic marker in hand.

The good reverend wrote down, “Number 1.”

He turned to the congregation and said, “True words. So based upon what I’ve heard here, I would sum it up with this.”

He turned back to the grease board and wrote in big letters:

1. WE’RE HUMAN.

From over his shoulder he said, “I’ll take the next two.”

Up walked Dexter, about nineteen years of age, and Brian, maybe fifteen.

Dexter read, “Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted.”

Brian, confident that Dexter was finished, leaped in and added, “It won’t kill us to feel for other people.”

A few more giggles.

Meningsbee wrote down on his board:

2. WE CARE.

Monique, the church secretary and Mr. Jackson, Vice-President of the bank, offered:

“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth,” and, “Don’t be in such a hurry to worry.”

To which Meningsbee responded, compiling his list:

3. WE CAN WAIT HERE TOGETHER.

Things took off.

Martha and Mary, who amazingly actually reversed the roles from the Bible, with Martha being the more studious one, shared, “Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled,” alongside, “We ain’t smart enough to not listen.”

Meningsbee jotted down:

4. WE’RE STILL LEARNING.

Meanwhile, keeping up with the names was a real trick for Meningsbee, who had only been there a little over a month. So the next pair slipped up and said their piece, Meningsbee unable to retrieve their names.

“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy,” and, “Don’t look down on other people because down is readily available.”

Meningsbee listed:

5. WE NEED MERCY

Next up was Mrs. Mason, in her eighties, and Toby, who was, well, just Toby–one of those young men who can lift half a file cabinet but doesn’t say much about anything else.

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God,” and, “If you’re not going to be clean with people, you come across dirty.”

Meningsbee’s translation:

6. WE ARE GROWING TO SHARE.

Then someone named Steve, and Billy, who liked fishing:

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God,” and, “Eventually you’ll start a fight that will finish you.”

7. WE WANT TO GET ALONG.

(Meningsbee’s writing on the grease board)

Next was Hector, from the grocery store, and Sharon, leader of the women’s Bible study, who popped right up and pointed out, “Blessed are they who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven,” along with, “You can’t do enough good to be considered good by everybody.”

Up on the board:

8. WE BETTER NEED CRITICS BECAUSE THEY’RE HERE.

Then came Mr. Tomlinson, whom the Reverend didn’t know much about, and Thomas, who was anything but a doubter. “Blessed are you when men revile you and persecute you and say all manner of evil things against you for my sake.”

Thomas looked down at his note and smiled. He proffered, “Some folks ain’t happy unless they make you unhappy.”

Meningsbee scrawled on his board:

9. BUT CRITICS CAN BE NASTY.

For some reason, everybody really enjoyed that one, and just giggled on for a few seconds.

The next two up were Sandra and Cory, who were engaged to be married in a couple of weeks at the church. After some “oohs and aahs” of admiration for the cleverness of luck putting them together, Cory said, “Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.”

Sandra tagged on, “People like good if they don’t have to change.”

Meningsbee jotted:

10. WE’RE IN GOOD COMPANY.

And finally, up popped Tracy, the photographer, and Russ, who aspired to be a movie-maker. Tracy went first. “These are the ideas that we will use to run this church. We’re going to call them The Ten Dears of the Garsonville Church.

Russ jumped in. “We know it sounds kind of corny, but after all, we do live in Nebraska.”

Great laughter.

Russ held up a finger, letting everyone know that his little speech wasn’t over. “Hold on!” he said. “There’s more. To use movie lingo, I have a sequel. Now, if you’ll look on the board and join me:”

Meningsbee pointed to #1 and everybody read aloud: WE’RE HUMAN.

Then #2: WE CARE.

#3: WE CAN WAIT HERE TOGETHER

#4: WE’RE STILL LEARNING.

#5. WE NEED MERCY

#6. WE ARE GROWING TO SHARE

#7. WE WANT TO GET ALONG

#8. WE BETTER NEED CRITICS BECAUSE THEY’RE HERE

#9. BUT CRITICS CAN BE NASTY

#10. WE’RE IN GOOD COMPANY

The congregation burst into applause. Meningsbee took that moment to look over and see what Kitty and Hapsy were doing. Hapsy was sitting upright, clapping her hands, only pausing to chew on a cracker that had been graciously provided for her.

And there was Kitty–sound asleep.

Meningsbee felt a twinge of disappointment that Kitty had missed the impact of the service. But there would be other days.

Yes…many glorious other days.

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Cracked 5 … December 29th, 2015

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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cracked 5 logo keeper with border

New Year’s Resolutions of Presidential Candidates

A. Remember the things you say that get applause.

 

B. Feel super about your “PACs.”

 

C. Don’t cry unless you are talking to a veteran and a camera is rolling

 

D. Look sharp. Talk tough. Deny rumors. Eat corn in Iowa.

 

E. Don’t lie unless you really have to.

Cracked 5 New Year's Resolutions

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G-Poppers… July 17th, 2015

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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Jon close up

“After all–we’re all different.”

The words were spoken and the crowd gradually joined in with applause. G-Pop sat and listened carefully.

Something didn’t ring true.

The way to overcome intolerance is not to accentuate our differences. To think that human beings are capable of acknowledging differences among us without secretly holding prejudice against the person who dares to be different is absolutely ridiculous.

We are not divine. We are human. As humans, we are looking for reasons to find commonality.

This holds true in every relationship:

  • If two people are dating and discover they have nothing in common, they don’t continue dating, hoping to build up toleration for one another
  • If two kids are on the playground and one likes to play baseball and the other likes to climb the monkey bars, they quietly separate from one another, seeking out individuals whose taste in play is similar to theirs.

The path to peaceful coexistence is commonality.

How much do I have in common with you in comparison to our differences? Candidly, the word “difference” begins with “differ.”

If we do differ from one another, the process is simple: if we’re civilized, we walk away to avoid an argument. If we aren’t quite so civilized, we stand there and argue.

I do not know when the definition of “toleration” became biting one’s lip and pretending to accept things that don’t make sense. Toleration is finding places of common ground and celebrating them.

The “pendulum do swing.”

In a short period of time, we’ve gone from being a nation that was abusive to the gay community to a nation which now has a plurality which is willing to include gay marriage. But we will never have true openness with one another until we find the linking parts. We can’t fake receptivity.

For I have no intention of taking the social standing of old religion, ISIS and Vladimir Putin and joining with them against the homosexual community. But I came to this conclusion not because I looked at my brothers and sisters as obtuse and unusual, but because they use words that are common to me: freedom, brotherhood, love, relationship and tenderness.

We are not going to become better people by pretending we are tolerant. We become better people when we find common ways that we share in common, accentuating our common values.

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The Faith We Earn … June 9, 2014

Jonathots Daily Blog

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ant“Now, faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”

A statement from the Good Book.

Many times, people fail to understand that it’s a two-part presentation–a faith which is the substance of things hoped for, and a faith that’s the evidence of things not seen.

It is true for each of us. There is a faith we are given.

Even if you weren’t raised in a religious home, morals, principles, ideals, precepts and conduct were infused into you and have become alloys in the steel of your soul. It is an inherited conscience, steering you, influencing you and on occasion, deterring you.

Unfortunately, most people’s faith stops right there. They cling to traditions planted into them in early years, or they reject them in some fit of rebellion, feeling that it makes them appear autonomous.

But faith doesn’t stop with what you’re given. We gain our individuality by how we earn our own faith. Somewhere along the line, we become responsible for our own dealings, our own decisions and our own soul.

It is the evidence of things not seen.

  • We don’t see them because they are not part of our past.
  • We don’t see them because they are fresh opportunities, or trials in our lives, demanding that we make personal selections.
  • And we don’t see them because often a loneliness settles into us because of the pressure of needing to make a decision.

Earned faith breaks down into three categories:

1. Here is less. What will you do?

Some human beings lose their way simply because they are frightened by the prospect of poverty and diminished by lack. We earn a faith by deciding to remain industrious and optimistic during hours when it seems that our personal needs are in jeopardy.

2. Here is more. Who will you be?

Yes, whether we’re willing to admit it or not, there are times when a bit of bounty comes our way and we have to decide whether we believe in generosity or if we’re just going to open an extra bank account which will eventually be eaten away by need.

3. Here is silence. Where will you go?

It is part of life–to find ourselves absent friends, devoid of human contact and appreciation, and even feel orphaned by a Heavenly Father, our Creator.

It’s not that we should relish the vacuum. It is a test, to see whether we continue to pursue our dreams without the applause and affirmation of the surrounding earth.

There is a faith we are given–the substance of things hoped for.

And a faith we earn–the evidence of things not seen.

And the latter is when we know what to do when we have less, we choose who to be when given more and we can still continue to go forward in the chill of silence.

 

 

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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!

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

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

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

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