Three Ways to Blaze a Trail … October 16, 2014

Jonathots Daily Blog

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Davy Crockett

1. Find a forest that needs a path.

There are many bramble bushes of confusion in society today. It often seems that the only way they’re being addressed is by pundits who further confuse the issues. So you can become a force of nature simply by problem solving instead of problem debating.

The three largest difficulties facing us at this point are gender inequality, racial prejudice and pernicious apathy. There is plenty of room for trail-blazers.

Find a forest. Build a path.

2. Don’t be afraid of the bears and the wolves.

There are bears in our society who want to scare you away with their growl and claws, and wolves who would like to take a bite of you in order to establish their dominance. But just like the bears and wolves in the actual woods, they are more afraid of you than you are of them.

Walk confidently, let them see you coming, and stay faithful without apprehension.

3. Cut down some trees so people can see the forest.

You remember the old saying: “can’t see the forest for the trees.”

Sometimes nature gets in the way of our progress. There are institutions, organizations and even religious conclaves which must be trimmed down to make room for human beings to enjoy the forest.

We can no longer merely throw our hands up in the air and sigh, “What am I going to do?” and think that we’re going to have the life we presently enjoy, or anything resembling it, to pass onto our children.

You will need to blaze a trail, but like all the pioneers and explorers before you, you will have to escape your seat of comfort and learn how to take dominion in unknown territory. 

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The Sermon on the Mount in music and story. Click the mountain!

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

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Untotaled: Stepping 9 — Goodnight, Sweet Prince (November 12th, 1965) … April 5, 2014

Jonathots Daily Blog  

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(Transcript)

I was scared.

Normally, I was ecstatic to visit my grandpa’s house, because after a brief series of greetings and obligatory, slobbery kisses, I was allowed to go into the nearby living room where there was a large, brown horsehair couch–my favorite perch. I loved to rub my legs against the scratchy surface. It was a delicious brown–caramel, chocolate and orange soda, all “splurged” together.

But on November 12th, 1965, arriving at Grandpa’s home, it was a much different scene.

As always, I was greeted at the door by Queenie, his collie, who was overly zealous and friendly, and always smelled–well, pardon the cliché–like wet dog.

This time there was no greeting from Gramps. Instead, we found him in the living room, kneeling over Irma, whose breathing was laborious, was white as a sheet and had creamy drool dribbling out of the corners of her mouth.

Grandpa was crying.

My mother moved to his side to comfort him, and I stared at the suffering lady. I didn’t know much about Irma–she never talked. I mean literally, I had never heard her speak.

She was passed off by my Grandpa as his houseguest/friend/maid/cook. I heard relatives refer to her as “retarded, evil, a slut and a foreigner.” Absent understanding of what many of these words meant, my interpretation was to just stay away.

Irma seemed to have no problem with our distant relationship, so on this horrible day, when my beautiful, brown horsehair couch was turned into the deathbed of this strange woman, I heard my mother utter these words: “Jonathan, come over and say good-bye to Irma.”

Yes, this was a day and age when people actually died in their homes without heroic measures.

I thought to myself, “Say goodbye? I’ve never said hello.”

I eased over to her side and touched her forehead. It was clammy and cold. I jerked back and then was embarrassed by my revulsion.

“Goodbye, Irma,” I managed, and then shuffled out of the room.

Two weeks after Irma died, my mother went out to console Grandpa and spend the night, and they placed me on the brown couch to sleep. They turned off the light and I was left in the room with the memories of Irma and her demise.

I was so frightened.

Lying there on the couch, I thought I could smell her. It was horrible. Squeezing my pillow tightly, I prayed.

“God, I’m scared. Please take the scare away.”

I don’t remember anything after that. I went to sleep and woke in the morning without any signs of the previous night’s terror.

I was transformed–not just for that occasion. I can mark that night as the time when much of the childish apprehension, insecurity and trepidation departed from me, like a vapor, leaving a boiling pan of water.

I was stronger.

I would never, ever be that afraid again.

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

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

Never Right… November 2, 2012

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A knock on the door.

It frightens you. It normally wouldn’t, but this is a different night. The wind is howling, the rain is pelting against your house and it sounds like all of hell is trying to seep through the walls of your home to capture your soul and drag you into the deep, dark pit of death. The lights flash, threatening to go out. Who would be knocking on the door at such a moment? It can’t be good, that’s for sure.

You open the door. There’s a woman there with two little children standing in the background, all of them completely drenched. She is frightened out of her mind and begs for entrance. But you see, you’re scared, too. Every apprehension that you’ve ever had about life, death, people, danger and the presence of your own inadequacy comes to the forefront. Mingle that with walking around in a society that demands you be suspicious of everyone around you, and even every piece of fruit you buy from the produce section, and before you have a chance to think, you refuse her entrance, shut your door–and feel grateful that hell is on the outside and you are on the inside.

This happened to a man on the east coast. The only trouble is, there’s always a morning after–when all of our decisions come to roost and are brought to our doorstep, demanding an explanation.

What are you going to do? Well, you’ve got to lie, right?  Because no one is going to understand how terrified you were by the storm and why your stupidity made a decision before your conscience had a chance to show up.

You are informed that the two children perished in the storm. For a split second, the goodness that remains within you realizes that you are a murderer. But the liar who controls the living room of your thoughts just continues to offer more and more feeble explanations.

Let us realize that for the next 24-hour news cycle, this man will be hated. Each one of us, in our little pious puddle of self-perceived purity, will insist that WE would have let this woman and her two sons into our homes, to escape the storm. We will judge him harshly, so that we don’t have to examine ourselves more closely.

I will tell you–these moments come to all of us and they‘re never “right.”

  • It’s never the “right” time.
  • It’s never the “right” people.
  • And it’s never the “right” mood.

My dear friends, if you catch me on a good day, I’m a saint. If you give me warning and let me know that a unique possibility is going to avail itself my way, I will bake a cake and prepare for the festivities. It just never works that way. And those people who insist they can trust their conscience to protect them against doing foolish things–always end up embarrassed the morning after, trying to justify their actions, as the bodies of two young boys are retrieved from a nearby marsh.

It’s never the right time. True adventure always knocks on our door when we are at our weakest, or when we least expect it.

It is never the right people. My God, if they looked like us, or appeared to be in the same economic category, or we recognized them in any way, we CERTAINLY would fling the door open and welcome them in. But desperation, frustration and destitution always come from another place, with another look–sometimes even speaking another language.They sport difference, and difference equals danger.

And of course, it’s never the right mood. Maybe you, yourself, are pissed off about the storm–wondering if that old oak tree in the back yard is going to fall over and destroy the bonus room you recently added to your property. Your mind is not on altruism or hospitality, but stuck with the pedal to the metal–in survival gear. You hope  that the better part of you will kick in and do the right thing. But the slowest-moving part of the human being is the conscience. It eventually does arrive, but has no desire whatsoever to be quick about it, and when it happens upon our scene, extraordinarily tardy, it only succeeds in reminding us how badly we have done without its help.

If you want to avoid the fate of this man, who found himself trapped in a never-the-right-moment, never-the-right-people and never-the-right-mood hole in the ground, then you must have something MORE than a mere conscience. You must realize, every day of your life, that you are completely capable of stupid, selfish and even evil things.

You don’t have to degrade yourself. You don’t necessarily have to share it with others. Just refuse to grant yourself the ridiculous notion that you’ve “arrived,” and would certainly never be tempted by folly again. Otherwise, you’ll trust your conscience to cover your butt–and that particular virtue will arrive like a turtle, just a little too late.

The reason most people spend excessive time lying is because they are angry that their conscience failed to rescue them from doing iniquity.

It’s never the right moment.

It’s never the right people.

And it’s never the right mood.

When tragic circumstances arrive at your house, you need more than a conscience. You need a heart that freely admits that you’re prone to doing absolutely insane things–unless you put a guard on the outside of your emotions to prevent wickedness from entering.

Don’t judge that man on the east coast too harshly. He is our brother. He is us. His ignorance cost two young boys their lives.

I’m sure we’ll hear more about the story. Or perhaps not. Maybe it will be swept away because all hearers of the tale will realize that they, too, might have turned the strangers away.

It is never the right time … to do good.

It is never the right people … who are brought to our attention.

And it is never the right mood that inhabits our thoughts … when it’s time to be a human angel.

Don’t trust your conscience. Build a second line of defense by admitting to yourself that much selfishness still dwells in the corners of your mind.

Then just maybe you will be ready for that knock on the door.

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Jesus Was a Communist… June 24, 2012

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Jesus was a communist.

I know that’s quite a shocking opening statement. I was equally as surprised as I perused the Gospel accounts and realized that Jesus traveled with his disciples, living off the land and sharing all things in common. Thus, a communist.

Upon additional research, I realized that my first assertion of a Communist Jesus was totally erroneous. As it turns out, Jesus is a capitalist. For he said, “He that has shall more be given, and he that has not, even the little he has shall be taken away from him.” Capitalism.

I also discovered through my readings that Jesus would be very upsetting to the NRA, because he was anti-gun, proclaiming that “they that live by the sword shall die by the sword.”

Yet ironically, he did support the troops, because he praised the Centurion who was in charge of one hundred Roman Legionnaires, by saying, “Never have I seen so great a faith—no, not in Israel.”

A bit befuddled, I pressed on with my project. Turns out that Jesus is in favor of gay rights. He said we should not judge, lest we all be judged, for “the measure that is measured out by us to others will be measured back to us.”

I was about to unveil this revelation to some acquaintances, when, with further perusal, I realized that Jesus was also in favor of the Defense of Marriage Act, and might even be a homophobe, because he explained to the Pharisees quite clearly that God made male and female and that from the beginning that this was called true marriage—“that a man should leave his mother and a woman leave her home, and the two would be one flesh.”

By this point, I was fully intrigued, yet a bit shocked when I uncovered that Jesus was an Anti-Semite. Speaking to the women of Jerusalem on the day of his crucifixion, he told them that their “house was left to them desolate.”

So imagine how perplexed I was when I also read that he was a Zionist. Giving a partial rebuke to a Syro-phoenician foreigner, he told her it was not good to “give the children’s bread to the dogs.” That’s right—he called her a “Gentile dog.”

Now my curiosity was really piqued, so I started reading indiscriminately, trying to keep an open mind.

Jesus was a party animal. People referred to him as a “wine-bibber, a glutton and a friend of sinners.” Yet, bewildering, he was also a “refrainer.” For after all, he went into the wilderness and fasted for forty days and forty nights, and was hungry.

I then ascertained that Jesus HAD to be a Republican, because he bluntly said that “every good tree brings forth good fruit and every evil tree brings forth evil fruit.” So I was about to make my proclamation on the political nature of his message, when I determined that he was a Democrat, because he strongly believed in the separation of church and state.Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and unto God the things that are God’s.”

I then realized that some women might find him to be a chauvinist, because arriving at a well in Samaria, he ordered a woman to bring him something to drink. But this was quickly dispelled by viewing the narrative about the day of his resurrection, when he turned to Mary Magdalene and told her to go and tell the other disciples that he was risen from the dead. Yes. He made a woman his first apostle.

Did you know he was pro-life? He told the surrounding audience that if they “offended one of these little ones, it would be better that a millstone be hung around their neck and that they be cast into the sea.”

Of course, a case could be made that he was pro-choice. He said, “If your right eye offend you, pluck it out.” And we certainly know that some women would find an unwanted pregnancy much more disturbing than bad vision.

Was he a saint? Pontius Pilate, a completely neutral bystander, claimed that he found no fault in him.

Was he evil? The religious leaders claimed that he was “a sinner, a Galilean.”

I pressed on. With my additional readings, I discovered that he was a religionist. He advocated that we fast, that we pray, that we give alms, and even mentioned that we should continue our tithing. So you can imagine how I was a little bit astonished to comprehend that he was a revolutionary, standing toe-to-toe with the religious system. He told them that “he was the Lord of the Sabbath.”

A strong case could be made that Jesus was a humanist, for he told his followers that the”Kingdom of God was within them.” Yet, he did not leave out the presence and power of the Almighty, because he spoke clearly and said that “you should love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength.”

Did he favor men? Well, he did have twelve disciples, all circumcised. Yet you might have the inkling that his heart went out to women, because Mary Magdalene, Joanna and Susanna, members of his troupe, gave “of their substance” to make sure the work went on. (You’ve got to love contributors.)

Are you tired yet? Because honestly, I found out he was a liberal. Defending a woman caught in adultery, he turned to a gathered audience of those who assumed they were righteous and said, “Let he that hath no sin cast the first stone.”

Yet I have to tell you, he could just as easily have been a conservative. Because in his Sermon on the Mount, he warned his followers that “he had not come to destroy the Law, but to fulfill it—and not one jot or tittle of the Law would be cast aside until all was completed.”

Well, you can see—I’ve had quite a journey. But there were still a couple more that jumped out at me.

I had always believed that Jesus was forgiving, because even hanging from the cross, he insisted, “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.” But also, he was a bit vindictive—because he warned that the individuals who did not stand with him were against him.

An environmentalist? Well, certainly a case can be made, because he said that “not one sparrow falls from the sky without God being fully aware of the loss.” But also a pragmatist, because he claimed that nature is fickle and unpredictable, with “the rain falling on the just and the unjust.”

So finally I asked myself the supreme question. Was he a savior? He made it clear that he laid down his life and it wasn’t taken from him. But you have to ask yourself whether he was perhaps a victim, because in the Garden of Gethsemane, he prayed in great anguish, “Father, let this cup pass from me.”

I finished my pursuit of finding the true nature of who Jesus was. And I ended up, as you see, with so many representations that it is no wonder why we have denominations aplenty, and nearly incomprehensible that we don’t have more.

Jesus can be just about whoever you want him to be. That is why over the years he has become the champion for many causes, some noble and others destructive. So my dear friends, how do we know who he really is? How do we know the best way to represent him? It didn’t take much more investigative reporting on my part to come up with a very simple outline—a prism, if you will—which we shine the light of Jesus through to determine his true colors. Because he makes it clear on three occasions why he came to this earth:

1.”I have come give you life and it more abundantly.”

2.”I have come that your joy might be full.”

3.”I have come to show you the Father.”

So as I looked over my thirty-two insights on the life of Jesus based upon fragments of his filibustering, I passed them through the acid test of these three obvious callings.

I decided not to teach anything that did not bring life to people in abundance.

No matter how many times it is shouted, I will not take partial theology to teach anything that does not encourage full joy.

And finally, it is ridiculous to pursue any path that does not show us a glimpse of God the Father.

  • Full joy.
  • Abundant life.
  • Revelation of the Father.

It’s what human beings need.  Therefore, it’s what Jesus is.

   

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Entertaining the Monster… June 23, 2012

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The monster never leaves.

He remains.

He festers.

He alternates between a domineering profile of supremacy and a whiny fussiness of oppression. He is looking for reasons to be offended. He, himself, offends.

He fears silence. He abhors contemplation. He resists the instinct to worship. He likes things to be noisy. He relishes clutter. He enters a room suspicious of all in attendance, wondering when his perfection will be acknowledged.

He has a memory with no conscience. He has a passion with no desire. He is looking for diversion from what he has not yet determined to be unworthy.

He fears reflection. He mocks repentance. He giggles over the notion of insufficiency. He is not to be reasoned with.

He demands to be entertained.

But sometimes …

Yes, every once in a while, I am able to devise a plan to fool the monster. I step out of my lodging, stride to my van and drive to a nearby park, where I sit on a bench, mulling. The monster is appeased because he thinks we have come to bask in self-pity. He believes we will recite the lines from a script which foretells a betrayal which will leave us bereft. He has prepared for consolation.

But you see, I have private plans. I had a meeting with my own soul, without inviting the monster. I sit in silence.

The monster is disquieted by my choice, but still feels confident that self-pity will soon raise waves of resentment, which will produce tears of anger, ending in childish tantrums.

But instead … I listen. In the midst of gaining solitude, I hear the song of one single bird, high above me in the tree. I concentrate on the bird’s ongoing song. Peace settles in my spirit. I consider the sparrow.

bird at piano lesson with rock

bird at piano lesson with rock (Photo credit: Terry Bain)

I listen to its melody.

Suddenly I am aware of my own inadequacy. My monster is desperate to acquire my attention. He tries to distract me with other sounds, other dangers, other diversions. I resist.

I stay focused on the song of the bird. In no time at all, I am given a window to my own sanctuary and peer at my treasure. And then, there before me–is my own heart. It is divided. It is sliced betwixt the truth of my need and the lies of the monster.

I retrieve the truth. It’s really not that painful, because in the midst of admitting the facts of my life, I am granted freedom through the choice. All at once I am exhilarated by my discoveries.

The monster is enraged by my pursuits, having been thrust to the back of my consciousness, locked in a closet unto himself. I have such a great assurance of peace in my soul that I feel like I can speak aloud to God–and there is that amazing chance that He might just speak back.

What a sensation.

I spend ten minutes on that bench with myself, temporarily freed of my monster. I don’t want to leave. I would love to believe that my adversary is gone forever, locked in the tombs of my past. But I know that as soon as I leave the bench and drive away from the park, the monster will gradually emerge from the shadows–sheepishly at first, acting a bit surprised that I ever deemed him an enemy. He will try to wiggle his way back into my thinking and will take the everyday disappointments and attempt to turn them into signs of the apocalypse.

I will resist him. I will recognize his hovering presence as being anything but protective. I will outsmart him again.

The monster lives. The monster breathes, being granted life by traditions and apprehensions. He seeks entertainment. He wants me to escape into the world, where I lose sight of gaining my own soul.

He wants me to hate. He wishes that I would call that emotion “discretion.” He is devious. He is part of me.

I fooled the monster today. I spent some time with a bird, my own reflections, talking to the Kingdom of God within me, uncovering repentance. The monster is a little weaker.

The monster craves entertainment, like an addict on the second day of rehab. I will attempt to refuse his demands. I will persever in controlling my monster. But it all begins by never forgetting that he is there.

Yes, knowing he’s there … but not giving it a single care.

   

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