Good News and Better News… October 30th, 2017


 Jonathots Daily Blog

(3476)

I have participated in thousands and thousands of …

Now, what shall I call them? For if I refer to these as “performances, shows or gigs,” religious people will give me the holy frown of disapproval because I have trivialized the spiritual significance.

But by the same token, referring to my efforts as ministry, worship leading or any other divine terminology makes me reek of pretension.

Of course, worst of all is the safe, but vanilla describer, “presentation.”

I run into the same problem when I try to decide whether to say a robust “Praise God” or a timid “thanks be to God.”

Do I go for the full dunk in baptism, or settle for some other plunk?

Should communion be unleavened bread, or a golden loaf?

Wine or Welch’s grape juice (which many denominations insist was Jesus’ preference)?

And I think the most intimidating crossroads of all is settling whether our Christian faith is ground in social commentary or revivalism.

That’s why the tambourine is pictured today. A tambourine can scare a Lutheran or a Methodist to death–almost as much as a printed bulletin with liturgy makes a Baptist tremble.

It just doesn’t seem to occur to us that defining the word “ministry” requires taking a long gaze into the lifestyle and actions of Jesus of Nazareth.

Jesus was both contemplative and flamboyant.

He had the strange notion that the profile for what he did in blessing others was contingent on what they needed, and not confined to the Book of Common Prayer.

So to one person, he said, “Be healed.”

He touched lepers.

He spit on someone else.

He stuck his fingers in another person’s ears.

And he shouted to raise the dead.

He would have upset a lot of people.

Jesus didn’t worship miracles; he didn’t minister miracles–he performed miracles.

He showcased the Gospel in stories, told with colorful description and high-flung gestures.

The church has lost Jesus because it has focused on either social gospel or revivalism.

Jesus was the Son of God, who came to teach us how to get along with each other–with a tambourine in his hand.

So the good news is that we need both social commentary and revivalism.

The better news is, when we actually mingle the two, we suddenly become more relevant.

 

Donate Button

The producers of jonathots would humbly request a yearly subscription donation of $10 for this wonderful, inspirational opportunity 

Advertisements

Jesonian… April 22nd, 2017


 Jonathots Daily Blog

(3284)

jesonian-cover-amazon

Cousin John was creating quite a stir.

He had found himself a wide spot on the Jordan River at Bethabara and was dunking people to cleanse them from their sins. News of the words and deeds of the flamboyant relative/prophet had reached Nazareth, and members of the community were split on their opinions of the events–based upon whether they had any family ties with the locust eater.

There was a lot of conversation in the home of Joseph the Carpenter, since Brother John was a part of the bloodline. Papa had died a year earlier, leaving the household to the care of his eldest son, Jesus. That oldest boy, though loyal, faithful and true, had never found great solace in carpentry, and with the death of his father, had become disillusioned with the daily chores.

After Joseph’s death, he had slipped away for a few days into the wilderness to think, and upon returning was greeted with the reports of his cousin’s outreach.

Some jealousy tried to slip in–for Jesus also felt a great calling to share a message with mankind. Knowing that John had already begun such an endeavor created a spiritual itch in him which he desperately needed to scratch.

In these fleeting moments of jealousy he was tempted to join the critics of his cousin. But ashamed of those inclinations, he decided to instead go to Bethabara and observe for himself.

It was a first step to sanity.

If something good is going on in the world, go hear it, understand it and support it.

So without announcement, he arrived at the encampment of the Baptist. He spent two weeks doing nothing but listening to his cousin, watching the events unfold and noting how John handled the contrary natures of the scribes and Pharisees.

He heard the Voice.

He dodged a huge clump of jealousy and instead developed a deep sense of admiration.

After hearing the Voice, it came time to make a choice.

Was he just going to be a watcher? Was he going to go back to Nazareth and try to be the dead carpenter’s son?

John talked about the Kingdom of God being at hand and the need to repent. Jesus stayed up one night thinking about his own repentance. For after all, there is nothing more sinful than believing you are sinless. He saw his errors. He saw where his discontentment with carpentry often came across to his family as if he had a feeling of superiority.

He knew he was tempted like everyone. He was touched with the same sicknesses that each and every human being experiences.

He wanted John’s baptism. He needed John’s baptism. It was the righteous thing to do–because if there was to be a mission, the first step to usher in the possibility was to make a choice.

Jesus made a choice.

He stood in line, waited his turn and stepped down into the Jordan River with his cousin to be cleansed.

To his surprise, the Prophet prophesied. The burly preacher called him “the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.”

Jesus had only met John a handful of times. There was no private coalition. So he took John’s words into his heart as he immersed himself in the experience of the Jordan River baptism.

He rose from the water, walked to the shoreline and realized it was time for him to begin his own work. What was the best way to do that?

How could he change the noise in the world around him?

He smiled and took off across the countryside, bellowing, “Repent, for the Kingdom of God is at hand!”

He borrowed the message of his cousin.

It had been a successful slogan–it was a great place to start.

At that fateful day at the baptism of Jesus, no one would ever have guessed that the Nazarene’s work would spread across the entire planet and that John would historically be viewed as a forerunner.

It was all made possible because Jesus had the sensitivity and wisdom to hear the voice and then make a choice before he went out to change the noise.

 

Donate ButtonThe producers of jonathots would humbly request a yearly subscription donation of $10 for this wonderful, inspirational opportunity

Good News and Better News… April 10th, 2017


 Jonathots Daily Blog

(3273)

I grew up in a church which contended, believed and insisted that baptism was only to be performed through immersion. No “sprinklin’ on the head” for our parishioners. It had to be a full, “ear-washin’, born-again, dunkin’ hullabaloo.”

Our church also believed that communion needed to be served every Sunday, not every once in a while, leaving a congregation spiritually malnourished due to the fact that they had not sufficiently partaken of the wafer and juice.

There were also other fragments of doctrine which were enforced by numerous sermons, as the minister often mocked other ways of thinking, which he deemed heresy.

Even nowadays, every single church on every corner has some pet portion of the Good Book they feel supersedes all others, and sets them apart as the “true Chosen of God” instead of the errant rabble.

Although the mainline denominations, such as the Methodists, will smile at you and promote their flexibility, they still would never think about saying “hallelujah,” clapping their hands, or allowing for the possibility of the miracle of healing in the middle of a service. I guess we need Pentecostals for that.

Every single fragment of a once-noble, unified body of Christ is positive that they are the heartbeat of the Gospel.

Over the years it has become very simple to me–I don’t give a tinker’s damn what people believe. I watch how they act.

Some of the most intolerant, inflexible and mean-spirited people that I’ve worked with over the years seem to possess the most intense Bible knowledge. And other folks, who the righteous would consider to be damnable sinners, have taken the time to wash the shirt on their back before they gave it to me.

Of course, there are all sorts of Christians out there who will tell you that I’m promoting a Gospel of works rather than grace. Actually, all I’m saying is that I can’t thoroughly confirm that grace is at work unless the recipient is gracious.

I’m not so sure people are forgiven if they can’t forgive.

And I definitely don’t see them possessing the Spirit of God when they’re prejudiced against other people.

If you want to find out if a man, woman or child is a Christian, take one morning of your life and work on a project with him or her. Then go back and look at what the fruit of the Spirit is. Because if memory serves me, it is “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.”

When I see those virtues at work, I begin to believe in what people say they believe that they truly do believe.

When I run across grouchy, short-tempered, fussy, back-biting, gossiping and aggravated individuals, I think they are disconnected from their beliefs, even though they seem to be very proficient at quoting scripture.

Don’t tell me what you believe. Show me how you act. And if that has too much “works” in it for you, then go cuddle up to your dead faith.

The good news is that Jesus said “by their fruits you shall know them.”

The better news is that a Gospel that can be acted out is much easier to imitate than trying to mouth holy words.

Donate Button

The producers of jonathots would humbly request a yearly subscription donation of $10 for this wonderful, inspirational opportunity

 

Good News and Better News… February 20th, 2017


 

 Jonathots Daily Blog

(3224)

church-lady

Scold: a nasty rebuke offered by a disciplinarian to an underling.

No one likes to receive the scold. Matter of fact, it can unearth a teenage rebellion out of an eighty-year-old.

And also cloistered within “scold” are two other words, just as fussy and frustrating:

Cold: an absence of warmth, and

Old: the passing of years, turning us into grumpy sorts.

Although a strong case can be made that repentance is at the heart of our faith, trying to initiate that with harsh words offered to a fellow-traveler is highly unlikely. But it’s exactly the approach we take in the religious system to attempt to get people into the church.

We scold.

First we scold by saying, “We just don’t understand why people don’t come to church,” instead of sitting down and coming up with the logical reasons why a human being might not want to flock to the flock.

Then we turn cold.

If they actually do pop in on Easter, Christmas or for the baptism of a little grandson, we don’t know how to treat them. To a certain degree, we are frightened of the outside world–therefore, when people show up, we’re at a loss to muster the confidence to welcome them wholeheartedly.

And of course, we are freakishly old.

We expect people to come into the church and adapt to our ancient traditions. It’s been years since we’ve questioned whether the rituals in the church actually minister to human beings, or are just symbols of what we think the Divine might like.

The good news is, if we’ll stop scolding people with our cold attitude from an old mindset, we might just free up a new idea, using our talents to embrace strangers.

The better news is, we really have no option. If we don’t evolve very soon … there will be no one left around to scold.

Donate Button

The producers of jonathots would humbly request a yearly subscription donation of $10 for this wonderful, inspirational opportunity

 

Reverend Meningsbee (Part 38) Gramps Creekside… January 22nd, 2017


 Jonathots Daily Blog

(3194)

Reverend Meningsbee

The local mailman decided to enter the cabin when he heard the old tick hound, Queenie, howling.

He found Gramps Creekside dead in his bed.

Now, “Gramps” was not his given baptism name. His bank signature read “Benjamin Donnelly.” But everybody in town called him Gramps because he seemed to be more aged than anyone else they knew–and “Creekside” because many years before he built a small cabin by a creek about three miles outside of town.

Gramps had the legendary blending of cantankerous, kindly and wise. He always seemed to have a good word when it was needed and a little piece of sass when the world became too complacent.

It’s safe to say that everybody in the town, at least once a year, made a pilgrimage out to the little cabin to visit with the old man as he sat and mused over life, spitting tobacco in his ‘toon.

Meningsbee had made such a journey just three days earlier. Feeling the need to be around someone as old as the hills, with the possibility of receiving irreverent counsel, he headed out and sat in the old man’s only extra chair.

As always, Meningsbee tried to start out nice, but Gramps just didn’t like preachers.

His contention was that ministers didn’t have enough work to keep them busy, which caused them to get nosy about other people’s business. Gramps had only attended the church one time, on no particularly special Sunday, and walked out giving Meningsbee the sideways compliment, “You’re better than most.”

So when the news came to town that Gramps was dead, there was a shudder of grief and a reluctance to accept the reality. Deep in their hearts, people knew they would get over his departure, but the absence of his freewheeling style of observation would certainly deplete their world.

The pastor was asked to conduct the memorial service on Sunday afternoon. The church was filled with those who had been graced by the touch and the gruffness of the aging philosopher.

On Saturday, Meningsbee went out to the cabin and walked around, looking for hints as to what to say at the memorial service. There wasn’t much there. Apparently, the old man had savored tobacco and beef jerky.

Gramps had a Bible on his nightstand, what appeared to be a year’s supply of black coffee, three dozen fresh hen’s eggs in the ice box and many cans of Vienna sausages.

Meningsbee picked up the Bible, opened it, and a little slip of paper fell onto the floor. He retrieved it up and read the brief paragraph with a smile. He had found his subject for the service.

When Sunday afternoon rolled around and everyone had tearfully finished their tributes to Gramps Creekside, the Reverend stood to his feet and said:

“Searching through the limited belongings of Benjamin Donnelly, who we lovingly know as Gramps Creekside, I quickly realized that this was not a man who was laying up treasures on Earth.”

The audience laughed.

“Matter of fact, in the whole cabin I could not locate a second pair of shoes, though he granted himself the luxury of three pair of underwear.”

More laughter.

“What I did find was a Bible–a Good Book which had the strokings of many a finger-passing. In that Bible was a note, handwritten by Gramps himself. It read: ‘Am I starting? Am I done? Don’t rightly know. Guess I’ll go on.'”

Reverend Meningsbee paused for a second to allow the words to sink in, and then continued. “Just like you, at first I was perplexed by the meaning, but then it was so much like Gramps that it was like he was whispering in my ear. You see, here’s a man who wasn’t sure how much time he had or whether it was time to leave. But because he didn’t know, he thought the smartest way to live was to keep going full speed until something stopped him. When I read the words, they convicted my heart. I thought about all the things that have stopped me recently, just because they challenged my ego. I thought about all the matters I worry about, which don’t amount to more than dust on a country road. And I realized that Gramps sat out there, not totally convinced that anybody cared, but always prepared to receive a visitor and encourage a heart. We are too busy being busy to really be busy. That’s the truth of the matter. Let me tell ya’–we’ve taken the last few months and allowed the world around us to come in and dissect us like a bunch of frogs. They’ve looked at our insides and concluded that we’re pretty messed up. Well, so be it. Truth is, everybody sitting in this room could tell a nice story about Gramps–and a bad story about him. He wasn’t very bigoted but he was impatient with children. I once heard him tell a mother of a fussy child at the grocery store, ‘Why don’t you leave that little brat home so the rest of us can enjoy squeezin’ our favorite loaf of bread?’ She was offended. But I will tell you–she is in this room today. Because less than six months later, when her husband died, Gramps was out in her driveway, shoveling snow so she could get to work. You see, it’s not about being right. It’s sure not about being wrong. As Gramps said in his note, it’s about keepin’ the thing going until it’s over. He did not lay down for a nap on Thursday thinking he was going to die. Never crossed his mind. That’s the way it should be.”

The service concluded and the folks trailed off to the cemetery to lay the old man to rest. It was decided by the city council to leave the cabin as it was for a while, so people could go out to visit and reminisce.

For the next two months there was a sweet spirit of revival that swept across Garsonville. Not a “Holy Ghost shouting” kind, but a gentle reflection, where everybody asked themselves, “Am I starting? Am I done? Don’t rightly know. Guess I’ll go on.”

 

Donate ButtonThe producers of jonathots would humbly request a yearly subscription donation of $10 for this wonderful, inspirational opportunity

Good News and Better News… November 14th, 2016


 Jonathots Daily Blog

(3125)

good-news-belmont-sunflowerJesus offered a tender warning to each of us: Mother Nature does not favor us more than a tree branch full of sparrows.

Therefore we will be greatly disappointed if we do not access our willingness to repent and our endearing quality of good cheer. Without repentance and cheer, we become exhausted in our futility.

What is it that exhausts us?

This was fresh on my mind when I drove to the Belmont United Methodist Church in suburban Dayton, and encountered some excellent new friends. Pastor Randy, Mike, Janet, Terry, Larry and a whole bunch of other sparkling souls made us feel at home (once they realized we had arrived with no intention of robbing the joint.)

And as I had the blessing of standing in front of the congregation on Sunday morning to share my vision, it occurred to me that the actions and craziness of our society had worn out the people sitting in front of me.

But there were some surprises. There was one lady who came all the way from Mansfield, Ohio, after seeing us last week, and brought along one of her friends, who lives in Dayton. There was a great sense of anticipation in the air–that the spirit of innovation might just visit us with a baptism of rejuvenation.

Being exhausted is debilitating. It makes us believe we can’t do what we once did, and if we could, we’d rather not. So to get rid of that exhaustion that causes us to falter in the midst of our journey, we need to declare war on two nasty little faith drainers:

The first one is judging.

It will nearly wear you down to a nub of nothing if you think it’s your job to evaluate the lives of other people. It’s hard enough to breathe on your own. It’s even worse when you try to take the breath out of the life of someone else.

We are grouchy when we judge, we are ill-tempered, we are picky, we are fussy and we end up taking our eyes off of our own ability.

The second exhausting activity is complaining.

Every time we convince ourselves that we don’t have enough, we always end up failing to use what we have. Complaining happens when the brain overrides the spirit and creates an unholy alliance with aggravated emotion. We have an exaggerated sense of importance which causes us to think that we’re worthy of more than our daily bread.good-news-belmont-sign

So the first thing we did in Belmont yesterday was judge judging and complain about complaining.

Suddenly energy began to fill the room. We were no longer feeling the need to criticize other people or critique God and Nature because they failed to give us the quality we think we deserve.

The good news is that when you stop judging others and complaining about your life, exhaustion gets tired and leaves.

The better news is that when exhaustion stumbles away, we actually want to do things instead of feeling like we have to.

Donate ButtonThe producers of jonathots would humbly request a yearly subscription donation of $10 for this wonderful, inspirational opportunity


Don’t let another Christmas season go by without owning Jonathan’s book of Christmas stories

Mr. Kringle’s Tales …26 Stories ‘Til Christmas

Only $5.99 plus $1.25 shipping and handling!

An advent calendar of stories, designed to enchant readers of all ages

“Quite literally the best Christmas stories I have ever read.” — Arthur Holland, Shelby, North Carolina

Only $5.99 plus $1.25 shipping and handling.

"Buy

 

 

Jesonian: Reverend Meningsbee (Part 28) He That Has An Ear … November 6th, 2016


 Jonathots Daily Blog

(3117)

Reverend Meningsbee

Little Hector McDougal was just fifteen days old when his mama and papa, Jessie and Marty, brought him to the Garsonville Church for an official baptism. The parents were so grateful for little Hector that they could not wait to see him sanctified in all the right spots.

Yet there was some sadness mingled in with their joy. Although Hector was born with all of his digits in place, immediately after his arrival he developed a severe bacterial infection in both of his ears, which left him deaf. No one was sure if it would be permanent, but the hospital certainly wasn’t prepared to offer much hope.

So even though Jessie and Marty had a baby, they had resigned themselves to the fact that he would never be able to hear the praises they so wished to heap upon his ears.

Now, Reverend Meningsbee was not very experienced at baptisms, so he had reviewed the liturgy and pageantry feverishly. He even bought himself a bright-colored tie with Mickey and Minnie Mouse on it, having read somewhere that children were nearly hypnotized by the bright colors.

So you can imagine how surprised the pastor was when he dipped his fingers in the water, placed it on the baby’s head, and the child began to scream and holler like a wounded animal. Everybody immediately turned and stared at the preacher, wondering if he had somehow pinched, shocked, poked, stabbed or wounded the hapless repenter.

Meningsbee just stepped back in horror.

The baby continued to scream with hellish decibels–so much so that Mama felt it necessary to hurriedly leave the sanctuary to tend to her little one. Daddy trailed behind, holding a blanket in one hand and a pacifier in the other.

This left Meningsbee standing there in his Looney Tunes tie, sheepishly looking at the congregation, feeling like he had hexed the young fella.

The screaming continued.

Attempting to be clever, Meningsbee suggested that the gathered sing “Brahms’ Lullaby,” only to realize that nobody knew the words. A nervous, tenuous, but meaningful humming ensued. It did not calm the raging storm which had burst across the brow of Hector McDougal.

As a precaution, a decision was made to rush the little one to the hospital to see if the medical field could somehow remove the screaming curse.

Needless to say, the morning’s worship service was shortened–and considerably less appreciated by the folks who had hoped that their minister would be much more successful on his christening journey.

Stranger still, four hours later the phone rang at Meningsbee’s house and Jessie McDougal, with motherly tears, explained that the little boy had been squalling because he could hear. Apparently it was quite a surprise to him, and set off the onslaught of his throat alarm.

Yes–after testing Hector, the doctors found there was a healing, and he was now able to hear just as well as any other fifteen-day-old infant.

The news spread quickly.

It became known as “the miracle baptism.” Matter of fact, three days later at the Wednesday night “Stay and Pray” service, many of the congregational members contended it was God speaking to the church–to become an international center of healing. They suggested that the whole outreach of the Garsonville Church should be using the sacraments of baptism and communion as vehicles for God to intervene–healing the sick and maybe even raising the dead.

After all, they explained, Meningsbee wanted it to be a Jesus church–and what could be more like Jesus than a “hallelujah healing?”

Meningsbee did not know what to say. He was not sure how they came up with such a conclusion based on Hector’s experience, but he also did not want to dampen their hopes and dreams.

“Folks, it could be that what happened to Hector was meant for Hector and Hector alone. Just his personal piece of God.”

Everyone was baffled at Meningsbee’s ignorance. Certainly God would not give his grace to one poor little boy, and not intend it to be offered to the masses.

Meningsbee persisted.

“I’m just saying, maybe it’s not like Coca-Cola, to be bottled up and served over the counter to anyone with a dollar-fifty who needs a magical elixir…”

No one was listening. Meningsbee was not shouted down. It was worse. He was ignored.

Complicating matters, a news organization–one of them with all the letters in its name–called and wanted to come and do an interview with the church folk, pastor, mayor, city elders and even teenagers, to discuss the strange and bizarre happenings in Garsonville, Nebraska. You see, they deemed that with all the church splits, a suicide, drug overdose and now deaf ears being opened, it was quite a feature story, and the news division felt they could market it pretty well to their listening audience.

Reverend Meningsbee was against it. But the church council saw it as a wonderful chance to share the faith and vision, and show people on the West and East Coast that God truly did favor the prairie.

Donate ButtonThe producers of jonathots would humbly request a yearly subscription donation of $10 for this wonderful, inspirational opportunity


Don’t let another Christmas season go by without owning Jonathan’s book of Christmas stories

Mr. Kringle’s Tales …26 Stories ‘Til Christmas

Only $5.99 plus $1.25 shipping and handling!

An advent calendar of stories, designed to enchant readers of all ages

“Quite literally the best Christmas stories I have ever read.” — Arthur Holland, Shelby, North Carolina

Only $5.99 plus $1.25 shipping and handling.

"Buy

 

 

%d bloggers like this: