Good News and Better News… January 2nd, 2017

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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good-news-jon-hat

Every January 1st, a preacher friend sends me an email with his prophecies for the new year.

His predictions are always pretty general–and also grim. I guess he thinks it’s a safe bet in a world of tribulation, to foretell disaster.

  • Yet there is no love without giving.
  • Faith dies without passion.
  • And hope disappears without dreams.

It’s just too easy to be upset.

It’s way too predictable to continue to complain about the circumstances.

Yesterday morning when I arrived at Carteret United Methodist Church, I was looking for people who were fed up with being depressed.

I think Pastor Frank was pretty surprised at the turnout. After all, it was New Year’s Day and a tremendous opportunity for folks to use it as an excuse not to come to church.

But they didn’t.

We gathered, we sang, we mused, we laughed, we cried, we fellowshipped and we left–believing that certain things must be honored, or honor will leave our world.

1. Love your neighbor is not optional.

Although we spend much time in diplomacy and negotiations with countries which are determined to hurt one another, the truth of the matter is, our greatest possibility lies in the souls who still insist on loving and believing in each other.

2. Be of good cheer.

Nothing is ever accomplished from a defeated position of gloom. If knowing the facts upset you, then choose the bliss of ignorance–because in the long run, it is not intelligence or education that saves us, but rather, the wisdom we garner from the data that gives us the power to believe.

I so enjoyed the congregation in Beaufort, South Carolina–and may I tell them:

The good news is that there’s a song of praise that needs to be written every day.

And the better news is that I, for one, want to meet my Creator with that song in my heart.

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G-Poppers … October 28th, 2016

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“A storm,” says G-Pop.

  • Certainly everybody gets wet.
  • Some souls are frightened by the lightning.
  • Others are chilled by the thunder.
  • The wind blows a portion away.
  • And many suffer under the devastation–loss of heart and home.

When the storm ceases, the healing needs to begin.

In what should have been a celebration of our democracy, our unity and our abiding purpose, the 2016 Presidential campaign has been a storm which has swept across our land, terrifying the citizens. Even those who prided themselves on being resilient, or were accustomed to boarding up their feelings to protect themselves from the onslaught, have been shocked by the fury of the blast.

It is certain that November 9th will still usher in a season of great conflict which will require sane people of hope and faith to step in and restore healing.

What will the healing be? The removal of complexity, providing a path to simplicity.

We will have to stop being Republicans, Democrats, old, young, people of color, white, poor or rich, and instead, nurture ourselves on the beliefs that have eternal power and everlasting worth.

G-Pop has decided to be a contributor to the common good. It doesn’t make him special–but it does make his mission purposeful.

Three treatments will be necessary to set in motion the remission from stupidity and the beginning of restoration:

1. Love your neighbor as yourself.

There’s no replacement for it. “No one is better than anyone else” is not a slogan, but rather, a constant reminder that attempting to find differences stymies commonality.

2. Take responsibility for your own life.

Stop blaming the government, abortion, the gay community or Wall Street. Count your pennies, and find things you can buy for a penny. Count your talents and multiply them. And count your blessings and be thankful.

3. Be of good cheer.

Good cheer is not happiness, but rather, a road map to get to it. It is a decision to maintain peace and stillness in the midst of the storm. For I will tell you–the storms are not gone. There are more coming.

So we must heal, but also prepare.

G-Pop offers this definition for our strength:

Nothing happens until we show up; nothing is over until we give up.

 

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Good News and Better News … October 24th, 2016

Jonathots Daily Blog

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good-news-plainwell-stage

Yesterday when I arrived at the First United Methodist Church of Plainwell, Michigan, a gentleman asked me, “So, what do you think about the 2016 Presidential election?”

I replied, “It’s like going to the grocery store to get some steak and finding out they’ve only got baloney.”

Yes. The campaign is just “cold cuts.”

So it’s very important that when we come to church, we give those who have chosen to attend a “people experience”–full of emotion, joy, humor and inspiration–because they certainly are not going to get it on MSNBC, CNN or Fox News. Likewise, neither Donald nor Hillary are motivated to edify people.

My Plainwell experience began the day before when I arrived for setup, and was delighted to meet Pastor Kathy and Sue, who generously afforded us their efforts, hospitality and gentleness. They were absolutely inspiring human beings who just happened to be women.

Therefore, when Sunday rolled around, my heart was full, and I wanted to ensure that everyone I met was aware that even though the world is full of tribulation, this is our season to “be of good cheer.”

good-news-plainwell-cup-and-spoonHowever, serving up good cheer demands that you portion things off in the right units. Otherwise, the recipe doesn’t taste quite right.

For instance, I do think we need a tablespoon of Bible–as long as it’s mingled with a cup of mercy.

How about a tablespoon of prayer, with a cup of helping out?

You can have a handful of church if you throw in a bunch of kindness.

I would welcome a teaspoon of preaching mingled with a quart of living.

I think you can have a cup of worship if you stir in a gallon of joy.

I suppose I could stand a pinch of study, if it will motivate a dash of discovery.

And certainly feel free to throw in a tablespoon of faith–as long as you realize it functions best with a cup full of effort.

The Gospel works because it is suited to people.

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus tells us to find the gaps in the world, and instead of being angry about them, fill them:

  • Life is rather tasteless, so bring your salt.
  • Things get pretty dark, so make sure you light it up.
  • Most people demand–learn to ask.
  • Lots of folks blame. Jesus suggests that we seek.
  • And of course, it’s very common to stand on the outside and feel cheated, but Jesus insists that it’s more fulfilling to knock on the door.

We had a fabulous time yesterday in Plainwell.

We laughed, cried, snickered, snorted, watched, listened and embraced. It was a human event–which means it gave God glory, since He was the One who came up with the idea of humanity in the first place.

So the good news is, church is a great remedy for politics.

And the better news is, the more people-friendly church becomes, the more people will be drawn to it.

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Good News and Better News … August 1st, 2016

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Good News Enola NewsletterI always request a church newsletter–every place I go. I imagine the staff might speculate on why I want it. They might think I’m trying to confirm whether our appearance was adequately advertised, but since I’m already there, it would be fruitless to know.

The reason I read the church newsletter is that I’m trying to figure out what they’re doing and where they’re going.

It’s very important. Without a definite idea on doing and going, we can find ourselves whisked away with many a tornado of confusion.

So I read the newsletter of Enola Emmanuel United Methodist Church while I was sitting in my green room before the program.

The main article was about “branding”–passing on an easily identifiable image to the surrounding community concerning mission.

Here’s the dilemma: in branding, we too often try to chase spiritual goals, using limited human abilities. For instance, we extol the importance of prayer, witnessing, church attendance and Bible reading to human folk who spend most of their time working, eating and sleeping.

Jesus had a different idea.

He told us that the world was full of tribulation but there wasn’t anything we would be able to do about that.Good News Enola Good cheer

He also said the world would need to be overcome. He placed that chore on himself.

He gave us a human mission: “Be of good cheer.”

Yet if you share this with people, they look at you as if you’re silly or irresponsible. But good cheer is the only thing we can accomplish with energy.

It begins by understanding that church should not be a service or a worship experience, but rather, a rally. We need to teach our congregations to:

1. Be

“I will find joy, joyfully”

2. Of

“I will join with others”

3. Good

“Together we will discover what is valuable”

4. Cheer

“Linking in fellowship, we will celebrate goodness”

Removing celebration from church is like taking the breath out of lungs. It leaves us with reverence and no praise. The Gospel of Jesus was intended to be human-friendly, not ethereal.

Good News Enola penSit down, take a pen and paper and write what turns you on. Make a list of the things you find joyful, enhancing and enriching. Then go out and find a way to do those things while benefitting others.

There is an empty chair waiting in the church for the person who will dare to be real and admit that he or she is human, and not ashamed of it.

The good news is that branding is finding our way to “be of good cheer.”

The better news is that cheerful people are a great draw.

Good News Enola chair

 

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Good News and Better News … July 18th, 2016

Jonathots Daily Blog

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Lady Liberty hillAll the squirrels and sparrows in the woodlands of Pennsylvania did not seem to care.

As I drove through on my way to St. Andrews United Methodist Church in Valley View, these creatures were preoccupied with the pursuit of living–actually, rather excited and vigorous about it. They seemed unaware that political conventions were about to convene or that lunatic killers roam the earth, trying to prove that their god is better or that their lives truly matter.

I realized that I could either imitate my friends in the forest or the commentators on television, who bombard me with the command to be sad or mad.

After all, it seems appropriate to be forlorn or infuriated. Killing is deadly. Worse, it’s terrifying. (That’s why we call them terrorists.)

It seems irresponsible to follow the advice of Jesus and “be of good cheer” or “be not afraid” and “rejoice and be exceedingly glad.” Matter of fact, one of the better ways to be mocked in this day and age is to suggest that things will get better instead of worse.Valley View Map

So I was delighted when I arrived at the church and discovered that the human creatures emerging from their homes had decided to imitate the squirrels and the sparrows instead of the pundits on television, who continue to repeat the same information, hoping it will create greater nervousness and rage with each pronouncement.

Why do we need to be glad? Because we become emotionally unhinged when we’re mad, and mentally depleted when we’re sad.

Gladness releases the chemicals in our bodies which make us willing to go the second mile instead of complaining about the first one.

Gladness causes us to remember times of goodness instead of being partly cloudy with evil.

Gladness is the abiding notion that we still have something to contribute instead of being at the mercy of the people with the loudest guns or the biggest truck.

For I will truly tell you that yesterday the only place of satisfying sanctuary and hope was the church.

  • It’s not because it’s perfect.
  • It’s not because every issue is handled correctly by the clergy.

It’s because we serve a Master who insists on fueling us with good cheer instead of wearing us down with negative reports.

During the service, I watched the people bloom. They brought the seed, I brought the water and God gave the increase.

I watched Pastor Duane encourage it to happen without inserting reports of doom and gloom or trying to balance it out with an overuse of concern. Yes, concern is overused if it has no intention of becoming involved.

Here’s the good news: Jesus told us that even when we’re confronted by those who are persecuting us, we should “rejoice and be exceedingly glad.” Why? Because in the hour of need, our “smarts” might be our only friend.

And the better news is that the only way to tap the full potential of what we’ve experienced in our lives is to busy ourselves living instead of worrying about dying.

Valley View book table

 

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Good News and Better News … March 7th, 2016

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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wilmington composite

2:42 A.M.

I am suddenly awake.

It is a ritual I follow every Saturday night before the Sunday morning sharing of my heart with a congregation. This week it was Lutheran Church of Reconciliation in Wilmington, North Carolina with Pastor Bill.

What wakes me up at that early hour is a mingling of excitement, inadequacy, a hint of fear and wonder. Yes, I wonder if I can get enough of “me” out of the way to be able to feel for those around me.

For I will tell you–the good souls of Lutheran Church of Reconciliation deserve more than a pompous ass. Even though I don’t view myself in that manner, it doesn’t hurt to take a few moments to scour the soul for hidden dirt in the corners.

That’s why I have posted a picture of my pillow. During those late night sessions, my pillow becomes my sounding board as I muse some important questions:

1. Can I get rid of my anger?

We’re all angry. We all have an axe to grind. We all have unrequited feelings that whine at us. But they are useless when we are interfacing with our brothers and sisters.

2. Can I find my weakness?

Jesus said when I’m weak I’m strong.

Why? Because talking about our strengths is easily misinterpreted as boasting instead of reality. Sharing our weaknesses links us with others who are duly reminded of some shortcomings of their own.

Which leads me to:

3. Exploit it.

Yes. Exploit my weaknesses. Giggle about them. Tell stories that show how these frailties have failed me–but the grace of God has saved me. This brings me to:

4. Chase away my fear.

My greatest fear is that I will be exposed for my foibles. If I share my own mistakes, the human race does not have to expose me. Which concludes with:

5. Let love laugh.

  • Love is fine when it speaks.
  • Love is better when it hugs.
  • But love is supreme when it laughs.

Yes, a full-hearted laugh at my humanity lets you know that I believe that God will see me through.

When I finally get peace over these five, sleep slips back in. I’m ready.

That’s the good news.

The better news is that when I take the time to prepare my heart, I have the right tool to open the hearts of others. These beautiful people in Wilmington did just that.

One man shared with me the spine-tingling story of his calling from God.

Another lady was dealing with a nasty email, which she decided to answer with gentleness.

Yet another gentleman came up with a memory of using his talent.

And there was a woman with a painful event from her past which had been eased by the sweetness of Spirit.

They tell us that people in America are angry. Here’s the truth: angry people attack, which causes other angry people to attack back. Disappointed folks hurt–but cheerful souls heal.

So what is my mission?

Get America to be of good cheer.

 

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Ask Jonathots … November 26th, 2015

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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Considering the many shootings around the nation and terrorist attacks around the world and the tragedies we hear on the news every single day, exactly what should Americans be thankful for this year? I know this sounds cynical, but how and why are we supposed to be happy in the face of so much grief?

Fear arrives when we forget what we truly can affect.

In other words, if you were diagnosed with cancer, your first question should be, “What can I do?”

But if you decide to say, “How long do I have to live?” you welcome the realm of fear.

The nightly news, in an attempt to keep their stories interesting, embellishes on the facts. In doing so, they make the stories so formidable that no one can get a handle on them or feel that they can make a contribution toward a solution.

Feeling powerless is what produces fear. To remove fear, you have to institute some power in your life.

So what we Americans can do on this Thanksgiving is confirm those things that still have power–to make lives better, to enrich our families, to enjoy a meal, to prepare for Christmas shopping, and to set in motion the kind of direction that frees us from fear, and therefore welcome love.

Specifically, here are three ideas to take into today’s holiday to help you confirm that the world is filled with tribulation, but Jesus has overcome the world:

1. There are no terrorists in your family.

I know it sounds silly, but considering the fact that we all come from diverse places and are pursuing various occupations, your family may have eccentricities, but none of them are ready to strap on a suicide bomb.

2. There are more good people in the world than bad people.

Start counting heads.

After your Thanksgiving meal today, drive by local churches and relief centers where fine human beings are serving meals to those less fortunate, while laughing, eating and fellowshipping with them.

3. Since the terrorists have the goal of creating terror, the best way to foil their efforts is to “be of good cheer.”

How can you be of good cheer?

First, celebrate having gotten this far in your life without being shot. Pretty amazing, isn’t it? And then realize that the chance of being attacked by a terrorist is less likely than being hit by lightning (and most of us know how to avoid being hit by lightning.)

Good cheer is the awareness that we are not cast down on this earth to be under the manipulation of maniacs, but instead, we are given the opportunity to help the disturbed around us–so there will be fewer maniacs.

A diet of news reports is like eating pizza seven days in a row–you don’t have to ask yourself why you feel sluggish and constipated.

 

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