Good News and Better News … September 7th, 2015

 Jonathots Daily Blog

(2685)

Sugar river

Many years ago, I sensed a voice within me, encouraging me to go out and share my heart and abilities with the world. Some people would say it was the voice of God, while others would probably insist that it was just me, declaring my own bidding. I don’t care.

I heeded the call, and that decision has taken me on an exotic adventure.

Verona, Wisconsin has a small church called Sugar River. I had the pleasure of being the guest artist for that congregation yesterday morning.

There is much good news to proclaim about Sugar River. First of all, they have the unique distinction of meeting in a former bowling alley, which honestly, unleashed the “demon” of pun and wordplay I felt had been dormant in my soul, culminating with me referring to the gathered as “a bunch of Holy Rollers.”

What was good about Sugar River?

1. They seemed glad to be there.

That in itself is a bit unusual in this day and age, when many people arrive at church with the passion level of a fresh recruit assigned to guard duty.

2. They kind of liked each other.

I know that may seem to be a silly statement, but merely attending the same worship facility does not necessarily stimulate friendship any more than arriving at a political debate causes all the candidates to hug.

3. They are weary of “old church.”

I’m not so sure that “old church” was ever a church. The real old church we often refer to was filled with compassion, energy and social awareness, but the old church that exists today is the back-slidden version of that former gregarious gang. Either way, Sugar River is tired of the back-slidden body of Christ.

4. But they all seemed a little afraid of the change they know must come.

Matter of fact, it’s causing many churches to cement their spirits and become advocates of certain doctrines, so as to protect themselves from the perceived anarchy that just might happen if the religious system was exposed for being a charlatan.

So I was happy to bring them better news. Matter of fact, Jesus often began his discourses with “be not afraid.”

No, Sugar River, there’s nothing to be afraid of.

The church that will emerge from the existing malaise now exists will only require that you bring your heart.

  • Not your soul, so you can pore through the scriptures to find obscure interpretations.
  • Not merely your mind, so you can draw psychological parallels between theology and the latest Hollywood movie.
  • And not just your body, to plop down and go through the formalities of surviving an order of service.

You will be required to be emotionally involved with your heavenly Father and with those humans around you.

You also will be unleashed to “be of good cheer.”

The only true enemy of spirituality is the notion that we seriously can figure out God. Discovering that we can’t and having a good laugh about it is the abundant joy that Jesus promised us in following His path.

The world has tribulation.

Heaven is beyond our grasp.

So be of good cheer.

Relax in your skin, love your life, and don’t get too solemn.

And finally, the last piece of better news for Sugar River is: be prepared to simplify.

Everything is complicated. Matter of fact, we are almost prideful in the pursuit of complicating things further.

In a world of unsolved problems, the genius in the room is the person who walks away from the problems and finds a place to be productive.

Simplify.

Get your faith down to two or three solid ideas, and then chase them down with all your heart.

I enjoyed my time at Sugar River.

And I’m so glad that I went to the former bowling alley with my spare time…and made a strike.

 

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Jesonian: Morning Person … August 9th, 2015

 Jonathots Daily Blog

(2657)

sun rising

Jesus is a Savior because mankind decided to reject his first offer of Son of Man, and kill him off.

Jesus is the Christ because God ignored our verdict and raised him from the dead.

This is great stuff for Sunday. But my week has seven days.

So Monday through Saturday, I need the Nazarene to be something more than Jesus Christ.

Jesus is my Lifestyle Coach.

It’s really what he wanted. He desired us to believe in him for his words. That’s what he said (with his words, by the way).

So since my day begins with a morning–as does yours–it would be nice to know what Jesus felt about the morning, and how he suggested for us to become better “morning people.”

  1. Don’t be in a hurry.

The best way to ruin your day is to start off in a rush. Jesus hung around a lot. He escaped the crowds. The Bible says he “tarried” even when people wanted him to come quickly. Hurrying destroys us. It makes us lose our power while simultaneously taking ourselves too seriously

     2. Get rid of yesterday.

It is unlikely that we will be able to enter our time machine and go back and redo anything. So the power of refusing to think about yesterday, or as Jesus said, “Take no thought,” gives us the full capability of considering how we want to butter our daily bread.

      3. Ignore tomorrow.

People are only interested in the future because they believe it is beyond their control, and therefore they are victims to what will transpire. If you understand that the future does not exist until you craft it through your decisions, using your free will, then you will also comprehend the need to avoid crafting too soon.

Jesus comically told his disciples, “Today’s got enough problems of its own.”

        4. Be of good cheer.

  • I’ve achieved more in my life by joking than I ever did lamenting.
  • I’ve made more friends poking fun at myself than I ever have reciting my accomplishments.
  • And I’ve gained much more energy by smiling than by frowning.

Once you realize the world has tribulation, trying to stop the turmoil is fruitless unless you want to halt the insanity temporarily–with a good laugh.

      5. Be ready. It’s coming.

The next thing that needs to be addressed will become pretty obvious. You can make your lists, but sometimes, #16 bumps the 15 previous candidates out of the way and wins the debate.

It’s just the way things are. Flexibility makes us powerful. Stubbornness always makes us stupid.

So avoid the dastardly, useless statement that you are “not a morning person,” and instead, look at the direction your Lifestyle Coach takes you in dealing with the first fruits of the day.

 

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Jesonian: Pillars… July 12th, 2015

 Jonathots Daily Blog

(2631)

Three pillars

Anyone who is willing to spend 24 hours hanging out with me will quickly realize that I have three pillars that hold up the household of my faith and keep a roof over my personality.

  1. Be of good cheer
  2. Be creative
  3. Be honest

It doesn’t mean that I’m never grouchy, lazy or a liar. It just means that normally I reject those profiles and when I accidentally slide into them, I attempt to repent quickly.

So it should be no surprise to anyone that Jesus of Nazareth–the unemployed carpenter-turned-preacher–should also have such pillars.

If you ignore them, you will fail to understand his character.

So what are the three pillars of Jesus?

1. Be smart.

He told his disciples to “render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and unto God the things that are God’s.”

In other words, not everything can be solved by the Bible, and certainly not every situation is covered by the Constitution.

Sometimes science has all the answers, and on other occasions, we must defer to the mystery of creation.

The true Jesonian person understands the importance of being smart–applying what is applicable instead of forcing something in that is irrelevant.

2. Be universal.

Jesus made it quite clear to the Jewish people around him that he was not Jewish. He told them that before Abraham existed, he was around. He interacted with Samaritans and outcasts.

If you don’t believe this to be true, then you have only to look at the reaction of those who were Jewish around him. They deemed him a sinner, a seditionist and a friend of those who were against Israel.

He didn’t care. He knew the power of his message was to package it for the whole world and not merely for a small portion of Mesopotamia.

3. And finally, Jesus made it clear that he expects his followers to be forgiving.

Every time he was confronted with someone who was faulty and that individual was willing to repent, Jesus never failed to forgive.

What is forgiveness? It is the realization that we don’t perform the job of God and that each one of us is so needy that we shouldn’t point out the need in others.

Those are the three pillars of Jesus:

  • Be smart
  • Be universal
  • Be forgiving

I’m terribly curious what would happen if the Christian church actually followed these pillars…and built their house on the rock instead of the sand.

 

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Three Ways to Start Fresh… January 1, 2015

  Jonathots Daily Blog

(2460)

bread bigger

Dream and scheme.

It is the dual approach used in the United States by those who are pursuing success.

We are told to have “big dreams” and be prepared to scheme our way into the marketplace using cunning–everything short of illegality.

The pundits of this philosophy sit back and smirk at its ambiguity. In other words, how realistic are dreams and how proficient is it to scheme for what we want?

The “dream and scheme” tactic is not only inefficient but also dangerous–inefficient because it leaves us at the mercy of hope, and dangerous because we are tempted to cheat.

As we begin the New Year, we often have the sensation of wanting to improve our lives. But dreams put us to sleep, threatening nightmares, and scheming puts us in a competitive arena with those who may be more ruthless.

Here’s how you can start fresh:

1. Don’t fret over what you haven’t done.

There’s a reason for it. Don’t study the reasons so much. The past only gives you a certain amount of input before it turns into a nagging mistress.

2. Set your aspirations based on what you can do instead of what you want to do.

If you’ve never done it before, although you tried, your next attempt will probably be no more illustrious. Instead, winnow down your talents to those you can perform when sick, inspired, depressed, under pressure or handicapped. After all, these are your gifts. Use them well.

3. Don’t blame anyone.

That includes yourself. Circumstances always arise to bring tribulation. We have two defenses against such onslaught:

A. Count the cost.

In other words, don’t budget in what you don’t have. Only consider what’s available.

B. Be of good cheer.

And here is my definition of good cheer:

Nothing happens until I show up. Nothing is over until I give up.

If you will escape the “dream and scheme” apparition which is haunting our culture, you can begin a fresh, new life–working with your abilities, doing what you can do, and not taking things so personally.

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Jesonian: Mike, Carol, Alan, Suzanne, Bill, Alicia, Dan, Becky and All of Us… November 30, 2014

 Jonathots Daily Blog

(2429)

guns in dumpster

He said he “did not come to be served,” but to be a servant to all.”

Yet we turn Jesus of Nazareth into a religious icon instead of a person of purpose who was out for the best of mankind.

Mike wants to know if you really meant what you said, Jesus. You told us to be “poor in spirit.” So would you do us a favor? Tell those preachers to stop pushing your perfection. It’s not impressive–it’s intimidating. We don’t need you to be perfect–just aware and understanding.

Carol is curious if you really do “mourn.” You told us to do it. But it’s really important to Carol that you’re touched by her difficulties, even if, from your lofty perspective, they seem silly. After all, silly is something we have to discover for ourselves.

Alan asked me to inquire of you if you think “being meek” is an actual power position, or just some pious platitude. Can you show us, in your life and teachings, and in your dealings on earth, how your gentleness actually wins the day?

Suzanne contacted me and wondered whether you still “hunger and thirst” for truth and knowledge. It sure seems like some of your followers have frozen themselves in time, refusing to thaw out and learn much of anything. Can you take your words and spirit and prove to us that God is still growing in His experience of being “Our Father” every day?

Then there’s Bill. Bill’s going through a rough time. He wanted me to ask you if you really are merciful. Are you giving out second chances? Would you consider granting a third opportunity? And Bill knows that in some areas of his life, he requires a fourth go-round.

Do you know Alicia? She wishes to find out what you mean by “pure in heart.” You asked us to be pure in heart–yet can you share in some detail how you continue to be honest with us and grow with us?

Dan wants to be a “peace-maker.” Yet he hears the rumble and rumors of war everywhere. What does it mean to you? That’s what Dan wants to know. Are you still backing nations and cultures? Or are you pursuing any human being who has a desire to bring peace instead of murder and destruction? Is “whosoever will may come” your plan of action? Or just a campaign slogan?

And Becky. Oh, my dear Lord. Becky has had a hard time with people gossiping about her and criticizing her. She reads over and over again that you say, “Blessed are those who suffer persecution for righteousness’ sake.” She just wants to understand how to let it roll off her back without stuffing the pain down in her gut, to resurface at a later time.

And I guess all of us want to know how you expect us to “rejoice and be exceedingly glad” when we’re hurt and shunned. It seems to be a bit more of your divine nature than your human one. Did you really have a divine nature? Or were you a human being who discovered the secret of “being of good cheer,” jumped on board and rode it all the way to resurrection?

I guess it’s pretty simple. Mike, Carol, Alan, Suzanne, Bill, Alicia, Dan, Becky and all of us really need you to be more like Jesus, instead of so much like God.

If we understood God, we wouldn’t have needed Jesus.

Can you tell us how you did it?

Would you relate what it was like to be human–just like us–and still find a way to be blessed?

 

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We’re Open… October 9, 2013

Jonathots Daily Blog

(2031)

openThe restaurant was determined to communicate its message.

Since it found itself tucked away behind a barrage of construction, orange cones, dump trucks and road workers, it was important to communicate to the public that they were still there, making food–open for business.

As I head off tonight to Grace Lutheran in Pittsburgh, I wonder if they’re as smart as this restaurant. Do they understand that the true message of love, compassion, mercy and forgiveness is nearly hidden by a busy religious machine which has committed so many atrocities against human beings that it hardly seems likely that anything behind the curtain of theology has much to offer?

Yes, right out in front of your church there are blockades, orange cones, dump trucks and people with signs, squeezing the traffic of life down to one lane, headed away from you.

If you have any intention of helping the brothers and sisters around you, you’d better get a big sign and put it out in front of your establishment that says, “We’re Open.”

  • We’re open to feeling. Yes, we don’t just recite things in our building. We let people feel the presence of God in the heart. Likewise, we don’t walk in ashamed because we have sinned. We come in looking for ways to do things better, so that next week we don’t have to be so embarrassed.
  • We also apply. That’s right–spiritual ideas are not merely noted or read in a deep voice from the lectern. We actually take ancient ideas and make them current, and if we can’t, we move on to the next passage, probing for the new wine.
  • We think.You will not need to leave your brain at the door and pick it up when you leave the service. We are willing to listen to great ideas, because after all, if we really believe in God, such noble overtures are completely within the spectrum of His will. And when we leave to head out to the parking lot to push past the construction:
  • We smile. We know nothing in life can be achieved if we do not decide to “be of good cheer.”

Lo, we need to put up a sign in front of the fellowship house of God that says “We’re Open.” We need to hope that pilgrims trapped in traffic, aggravated by the construction and torn up roads in front of our location, will risk coming in, and when they get there, they will find people who feel, apply, think and smile.

Or I guess we can just hope they assume that “supper’s cookin’.”

As I said, the church tonight is called Grace. But true grace is extended to those who are confused by the screaming yells of religion and would love to hear the voice of the Good Shepherd.

We’re open.

Advertise it–but also be prepared to back it up … if somebody can survive all the detours.

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WINona … October 5, 2013

Jonathots Daily Blog

(2027)

lightAfter my show in Circleville, Ohio, a woman asked me where I was heading. I told her I was going to Winona. She frowned and inserted, “Winona? Are you kidding? They don’t even have a stop light.” (I was completely unaware that having a stop light was the new criterion for village viability.)

But I guess everybody has standards for what they think is normal in their surroundings. I personally like the fact that Winona has “WIN” as the first three letters of its name. I know it’s a little silly, but I believe a bit of mirth is necessary in our lives to keep us from becoming dark “doodis” or “doodats.”

And that got me thinking about the word “win.” I think we have the mistaken idea in our society that some people are born winners and the rest are innately losers. I don’t agree. I think there are easy things we can do which cause us to chalk our efforts into the win column more than in the loss. Actually, these steps are so simple that people might consider them to be trivial. But it might be a mistake to call something ridiculous until you put it into practice and find out how the wheel rolls.Winona UMC

What will I tell the good folks of Winona this weekend, encouraging them to win instead of lose?

1. Stop blaming other people. One sure way to lose control in your life is to insist that someone else holds the key to your success, which they have swallowed and you are now waiting for it to come out their back side. I am tired of finger-pointing, folks with their noses out of joint, and stiff-necked grown-ups who just don’t take personal responsibility for their own actions. Do you want to do something really exciting? Blow everybody’s mind and take the blame for something you DIDN’T do. It gives you the power to change the circumstances while feeling free from the guilt.

2. Do one thing better. Don’t try to change your whole life. Just find one thing that comes up every day and do it with a bit more flair, finesse, attention and care. It will be noticeable. Acting like you are trapped in your own haplessness with no remedy guarantees that you will stay a failure and have those around you testify to your inefficiency. How can you advertise being a loser? Act disappointed, depressed and dismal. All of your friends and enemies will fill in the blanks.

3. And finally, to chalk one up for a win: Be of good cheer. All losers have three things in common. They’re grumpy, they’re glum and they’re gloomy.

Just removing these three things from your life and replacing them with a bit of humor and perspective sets you apart from the masses, which are determined to paint all dark brown rooms black.

That’s what I will share with the good folks of Winona. I will tell them to cease to be ashamed of their lack of a stop light and instead:

  • Stop blaming other people
  • Do one thing better
  • And be of good cheer.

In that way they will be able to live up to the first three letters in their name.

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

Please contact Jonathan’s agent, Jackie Barnett, at (615) 481-1474, for information about personal appearances or scheduling an event

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