Ask Jonathots … February 25th, 2016

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My parents and I got into a fierce argument in which they claimed that the Baby Boomers were the best generation–the most politically aware, socially progressive, and creative. I said they were sell-outs who only protested because they didn’t want to get drafted. What do you think?

And on the other hand, the Baby Boomers were greatly pissed off that their parents believed that winning World War II made them a superior generation.

I think there’s only one criterion for determining the quality of any group of people.

How well did they avoid distractions?

Distraction is what causes us to believe that the temporary situation will become permanent.

Saying that, I will tell you that technology and pseudo-intellectualism has distracted us more and more into believing that we are smart and non-prejudiced.

There has never been a greater amount of bigotry, racism, clamoring for war and intolerance than there is today. Yet the Baby Boomers had an opportunity to free our culture of much of this foolishness, but instead, mimicked their parents’ materialism just as soon as the threat of blood and mayhem in Vietnam had passed.

So the question is, can our generation–the new generation–avoid distraction?

Can we refuse to allow Facebook to be the well of our understanding?

Can we rightly judge within ourselves what still remains of selfishness and superiority?

Because if we can’t, the distractions will take this generation and cause it to sell out just as much as the Baby Boomers and the WWII heroes.

So how do we avoid distraction? Everything in our lives needs to be run through the prism of two ideas. If it is run through this prism and comes out with flying colors, then it is worthy of our consideration. If not, it’s a distraction.

  1. Does this new thing, new idea or new approach cause us to love people more?
  2. Does this possibility make us want to do better with our lives?

If the answer to these two questions is yes, then it is not a distraction. It is a pathway to progress.

If the answer ends up being no, then it is a dangerous detour which will only take us further away from understanding and peaceful coexistence.

  • The WWII generation thought owning a house and having a family was the most powerful thing in the world.
  • The Baby Boomers were convinced that a blending of social consciousness and financial prosperity was the key.

Today’s question is this:

Can we find our hearts, to touch our own souls, to renew our minds to grant us legitimate strength?

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Groomers… October 11, 2013

Jonathots Daily Blog


HendrixGraying baby boomers.


I am, of course, talking about those individuals born between 1946 and 1960, who broke the sound barrier by exploding like an atomic bomb, witnessing the end of segregation and the voting in of the first Catholic President.

They left a footprint on history. Maybe better phrased, they stomped their boots into our consciousness. Even though many people criticize the destination of this generation, it is difficult to challenge the authenticity of their origin. Now their ages range from fifty-three to sixty-seven–just beyond being parents, and still a little young to be the grandparents of adolescents.

Many of them have left the church and politics and are looking for other distractions to fulfill the aching memories of their youthful escapades.

But we need these graying boomers to come back to the church, the political arena, the social maneuvering and the emerging etiquette of our country–to bring the passion of the 1960s into our present age.

There are three things that baby boomers believed which have vanished from our present social climate, leaving us overly concerned about our personal needs and too short-sighted in our world vision. These are the three things the graying boomers, which I call groomers, should reinstate in their children and their budding grandchildren:

1. To question is to care.

I know my parents were annoyed because I would not “leave well enough alone,” as they phrased it, always challenging the ideas around me. Why was I able to do so? Because I was not alone in doing it. I wasn’t a renegade–I was in the flow of a generation which believed that many things were questionable, so therefore, go ahead and do it–question.

2. We can change the world.

Call it idealism or dub it presumption–but the baby boomers, for a season, believed they could affect the temperature of our country and clear out the dark clouds. There was no sitting or “waiting on the world to change.”

3. We’re all brothers and sisters.

The music, the movies, the books and the romance of the time were riddled with the notion of brotherhood and a greater understanding that “it was so groovy, now, that people are finally gettin’ together.”

This trio of ideas is in the genetic makeup of the baby boomers, although it seems to have been lost through years of cynical half-hearted participation. It is ironic that a generation which criticized possessions ended up selling out to them.

But there’s still that seed.

Nowadays someone who questions is viewed as being “a troublemaker.”

We need the groomers to come along and teach the younger folks that it’s all right to peer into the soul of our society and demand better angels.

Likewise, nobody in our age believes we can change the world. So what’s the purpose of personal improvement if your voice is going to be drowned out by the din of repetition?

Groomers need to remind the younger ones of protest, creativity and the power of cooperation. And instead of shrinking our love down to our personal families, it would not hurt for the groomers to remind the world once again that we are the family of man.

Our generation needs to be groomed by those who remember when music was not just downloaded, but taken into the heart.

We could begin this in the church, since we have so many gray-hairs there already. We might as well put ’em to work.

Who knows? It might make them feel young again.

Who knows? They could be the spark of a new revolution.


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It Took a While … June 10, 2012


Realizing that Father’s Day is a full week away–NEXT Sunday–I wanted to take a moment with this particular jonathots to “warm up the oven,” as it were, on the subject.

I have the distinct honor of knowing six human beings who call me “Father,” “Dad” or “Pop.” Three of those individuals I had the pleasure of conceiving and three I had the great honor of enjoying. Along with those six young men, presently come four daughters-in-law, who graciously allow me to be included in the spectrum and vision of their desires for a father. Ten in all.

I think I was well into the process of being a father before I realized anything about the substance, value and importance of the process. First and foremost, above all else, if fatherhood is done correctly, it is not that much different from motherhood. I know this may upset some religious people (or folks who are trying to make a buck off of separate greeting cards) but once you understand what it means to be a parent, the vision for pursuing the project is not that dissimilar, whether you be male or female.

But what I never comprehended was that the logical linkage between human birthing of children and God‘s innovative creation of humans is identical. It’s why Jesus told us that the best way to understand God is to understand fatherhood. I go to churches and frequently see a banner displaying all the names for the Divine from the Old Testament–but honestly, folks, they’re irrelevant. God is a Father, and the minute you leave that perspective, you depart from understanding His true nature. So as I learn to understand my function as a parent, I really grow to comprehend the heart of the Almighty.

Fatherhood comes in three portions–like a three-act play, if you will. First is to conceive. It amazes me that something so pleasurable as sex can lead to the unearthing of another human being. The conception part of fatherhood is boisterous, exciting, boastful and intoxicating. I have one of my sons right now who is in the midst of this emotional inebriation. His chest has grown about six inches with pride, and he can basically think of nothing else but the fact that he and his dear wife have conceived a child and they are about to birth the little one. This spirit should never be dampened, quelled or even challenged. I don’t know about you, but I am thrilled that God is passing around cigars somewhere because He created me. It may be pure human vanity, but I do not think that I want to consider a Heavenly Father who is not a proud Papa. Yes, as fathers, first we conceive.

And then the second step is equally as pleasant as long as you do not argue with the results. A good father receives. With the factors of the genetics of two separate families colliding together, environment, climate, attitudes and training, gradually a human being emerges from the birthing ooze to become a voice. It is a voice that often has an opinion contrary to yours. Sometimes it’s purposefully antagonistic. But a very important part of fatherhood is to receive. Can I be candid with you? If God has created a natural order, and he honors His own system, He is often just as surprised with the results of His creation, as far as its make-up, preferences and pursuits, as they are. There is no power in preaching about an all-knowing God who is all-possessing and therefore, all-controlling. Good fathers don’t control. And God is the supreme example of a good father.

I have to receive all six of my sons as they are. Honestly, it was not easy. I wanted to reshape them and at times, wished that I had the power of do-overs. But that’s not what fatherhood is about. It’s about receiving what you’ve conceived, and doing your very best to instruct without manipulating, and to love without taking away free will. It IS the difficult part of parenting–which makes us grateful for the experience and honestly, jubilant when it’s finally over. God does not force Himself on His children. Why? Because He’s a good Father.

Which leads me to the third step in discovering the essence of fatherhood. Believe. The notion that “God has a wonderful plan for my life” is similar to me insisting that my six sons pursue a path of my liking. If I actually did that, people would condemn me, attack me, and insist that I receive counseling for being such a tyrant. So why would we attribute to the greatest Father in the Universe the attribute of being an interfering ninny?

No, the truth of the matter is that somewhere along the line, your children grow up and you have to believe in them. You don’t have to agree with them. You don’t have to stand back and endorse all of their choices. But you have to allow them the privilege of making them without your ever-present sense of disapproval or stoppage.

It is a step that is missing from parenting today. I think it came along with the baby-boomers. For some reason, my generation just seems incapable of letting go of their children and allowing them to be people. It is this notorious notion which is spoken aloud and now has become part of the brain process of our nation–“they will always be your kids.”

Not so, my friend. Somewhere along the line, they become their own people with their own dreams and their own children. You have to believe in what you’ve done, stand behind it and let them live. This is where religion fails to deliver the true promise of God. God is no respecter of persons–therefore what He conceives He receives, and then allows to live–with Him believing in them.

It’s perfect.

With six sons and four daughters-in-law, I have ten ongoing lifestyles bouncing around me all the time. I have to have faith that what I’ve conceived and received, I can now with confidence believe in. Without this, I create an atmosphere of tension and apprehension that makes me appear to be a dictator and them frightened to be themselves. It doesn’t mean that I do not continue to insert my opinions, and even desires. But they are just that–mine, and therefore, subject to dismissal by my offspring.

Conceive. Receive. Believe.

It took me a while, but I finally understood the make-up of a good father–actually, a good parent. But it is also the true nature of God. Our Father conceives, He receives and He believes.

That’s fatherhood to me. It demands that I be involved, but like John the Baptist, it also requires that I learn that “I must decrease and they must increase.”


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They Dare — September 12, 2011

They Dare (1,267)

I’m going to take the risk.

I spent a delightful morning in Perry Hall, Maryland, enjoying the human beings that came before me and stood with me on September 11th, 2011. Such fine people. I am enriched beyond words to be in the presence of God’s good folk.

I met a minister who quietly goes about the business of loving people and maintaining a vision for his congregation. He has quite a background. He was a missionary for many years in the Caribbean and also in Africa. So many stories he can tell us. But yesterday was not a time for us to share our personal potential, but instead, commemorate the horrific loss on September 11th, 2001.

Here’s the risk I’m going to take: America stinks at commemorating. We have no idea how to turn an event of such tragedy into a celebration of human life. I’ll give you a clue—it doesn’t revolve around showing one more ash-covered person escaping from a collapsing building. Matter of fact, promise to do me a favor—ten years after I die, would you please swear not to sit around and discuss how I died, how horrible it was and how brave I was during the process? Would you please have a great conversation about my life, my dreams, my fulfillments and my legacy?

Because all of the discussions of the weekend—all of the news broadcasts, in my opinion, just served to produce the frustrated, self-righteous attitude of, “How dare they?” How dare these terrorists come and attack our country? How dare they destroy human lives? How dare they intrude upon our way of thinking and believing?

They dare.

And they will again—because they err. Yes. They dare because they err.

They have taken three portions of life that are precious and glorious when balanced and have turned them into a war cry instead of a gift from God. Country, God and family. They’re over-zealous about their national status, their upbringing and religion tells them they are a “chosen” race with a mission to save the world through their particular brand of “Godism.” And when it comes to God, they are convinced He is a wrathful blaze of anger, ready to extinguish the heathen into a vapor. And they only see family as being those who are linked to them through genetics, culture and proximity.

Yes, these are the three things that make people crazy—too much patriotism, a belief that God hates some people and loves others and that your family is limited to those who gather around your table for the holidays.

While we decry the actions of these pathetic madmen, we must be careful that we do not allow ourselves to become just as single-minded in these areas, and therefore in our own way, just as dangerous.

How did Jesus address these issues? He made it clear that he was not part of a provincial thinking, but rather, embraced the entire world. When the people around him wanted to lock him into a Jewish family in Nazareth, he refused to go back home, but instead, gestured to the people in the room with him and said, “Anyone who does the will of my Father is my mother, my sister and my brother.”

When he was rejected by his own countrymen, he said, “A prophet has no honor in his own country—amongst his own kin.”

And when dealing with the severe nationalism of the Jewish race, he told the leaders that “God was able to make children of Abraham from the stones.”

And finally, he made it clear that we should be careful not to expect a warm greeting from God if we treat those around us who are considered the “least” with disrespect and dishonor.

I was not pleased with how America handled this anniversary. However, there were some bright moments—honoring the courage of those on Flight 93, who gave their lives to save an unknown target in Washington, D.C., was moving. When they focused in on individual people, their stories and dreams, I was touched. When Mayor Bloomberg said that the tragedy had brought about thousands people moving into New York and turning it into a more family-environment rather than merely a habitat for Wall Street, I was astounded at the image. When I realized that because of the efforts of firemen, policemen and first responders, nearly 25,000 people were saved from the destruction, I was moved to tears.

Every commemoration must end in a celebration of human life or we merely confirm that we’re victims and we develop that arrogant notion, “How dare they?”

They dare because they believe their country is supreme, their God is mean, and their family is small. Let us not make the same mistake.

So I thank each and every one of you for your ongoing miracle of living out your heart and soul. I am glad to be on the planet with you at this time. And I am grateful that we, as Americans, can overcome our feelings of self-importance and realize that our country is part of a world which exists as a tiny spot in a universe created by a God who loves and grants mercy and wisdom to those who care—and teaches us to enjoy our personal families, as we extend that same tenderness to the entire family of man.

God bless America.

Yes. God bless America as we continue to bless others.

Just This One Time

Just This One Time . . . (1,263)

September 8, 2011

Even though I had the privilege of being a parent to seven sons—four of my own making and three I adopted—I have always made it a practice to avoid giving advice on the subject of raising children. I feel that the process is so personal, so individual and so sacred to the family unit that trying to manufacture principles that work across the board is not only futile, but often a bit arrogant. Yes, to me parenting is a lot like salvation—something we take on for ourselves and handle with a bit of fear and trembling.

That said, I have noticed a phenomenon going on with the fresh crop of care-takers that does concern me. These parents are the children of the baby-boomers and grew up believing that taking care of the kids was an arduous task instead of a human process to be taken in stride with as much good cheer as possible. Yes, the baby boomers have parented a generation which is nearly overwhelmed with the natural order of having off-spring. Too bad.

So I am going to humbly offer two suggestions on the issue and this pair only, for all time. Both suggestions revolve around the word “convenient.”

Good parenting is NEVER doing anything that is inconvenient to yourself, lest you pass on the impression that your children are a burden instead of a delight.

How do you do that? you may ask. Make sure the house is set to an adult temperature of behavior rather than a childish one. For let us be honest—our particular batch of “be fruitful and multiply” are going to spend most of their years as grown-ups, not as children. Nowhere in the real world is anyone going to spank them. Nowhere in the business world do we have “time out.” Nowhere in the working world are we sent to our room to think about our actions.

The adult world is very simple—it boils down to one phrase: “Learn and earn.” If you’re willing to learn how things work, what matters most, and discover the parameters of the project, you will earn the right to participate, the respect of others, and ultimately, get to enjoy a piece of the profits. If you refuse to learn, you are simply left out of the benefits and end up earning less than everyone else. The sooner your children adapt to this axiom of behavior, the more congenial your household will be and the less inconvenient having the little rascals around will seem.

How do we apply this practically? If your kids’ room is a mess, you can explain that the rest of the house does NOT resemble their room, and we that we want the entire house to have a similar look. They don’t have to clean it all at once, but they do need to offer a plan on how they are going to clean it and then honor their own promise. If they don’t, they fail to earn opportunities, allowance, payment or respect. I think children should be allowed to negotiate a deal—as long as they are faithful to their word. When you allow them to do that, you see two magnificent results: (1) they learn to make things better; and (2) they learn to be trustworthy.

So the first suggestion is to make sure the household is set to the mind-set of the adults living there, and not geared to those under the age of eighteen.

The second suggestion is to make sure that everything is NOT convenient—for your children. Just as you have provided for your own convenience, you need to make sure that life is inconvenient enough to them that they will avoid being spoiled, presumptuous and overly-expectant. Surprise them. Involve them in things they haven’t done before. Ask them to sit and enjoy something that is out of their present culture, possessing some historical quality and a part of YOUR life.

Ideal parenting, in my mind, is creating a life for yourself because you have earned it and then finding a way to include your children in that life, where they have the ability to use their own personality as long as they respect the impetus of the household. Simply stated, make the house convenient for the parents and just inconvenient enough for the kids that they garner the power and lesson of “learn and earn.” Then you won’t dread being around them and they won’t sense that they are a burden to you.

For instance, if your son wants to try out for the soccer team, take him to the store and show him how much it costs to buy socks, shoes and shorts. Let him look at the bill. Don’t make him feel bad about it, but give him some tasks to allow him the sensation of earning his chance to be a soccer star.

Every evolution will seem painful at first—especially when your organisms have been stuck in the mud. But the sooner you can teach your children to “learn and earn,” the more quickly you will have a house that is convenient to the adults, and just inconvenient enough to the offspring that they will become better people. Without this, the children run the house, the parents are bedraggled and the kids are confused and bewildered by the responsibility of being in control.

Like I said, this is a one-time stop-off. I suppose I shouldn’t promise I’ll never do it again, but if I do, it will be with the same fear and trembling that every parent feels in the pursuit of trying to build a good human being.

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