Good News and Better News … September 26th, 2016

Jonathots Daily Blog

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It is a medium-sized green table with retractable legs which we purchased at Wal-Mart about four years ago for $49.95.

tape-repairWe use it as a dining table in our motel room and it has faithfully served us many a meal, and even been put into service as a desk top for studious planning sessions. After all these years, it is a little beaten up, scarred and certainly worse the wear.

I could buy another table. I’m not cheap–it’s just that this table has not yet refused to stand up to its responsibilities. It continues to completely open itself up, offering its potential, although a bit bedraggled.

When I arrived at the Belleville United Methodist Church in Belleville, Michigan, and met so many intriguing individuals–including Pastor Jim–I was struck by the fact that most of us human beings are like my green table. We’ve been through some spills. We’ve been spread out, damaged and find ourselves in need of attention.

You can see in the picture where I have taken some duck tape to cover a multitude of errors.

Now here’s my thought–if we’re going to be a good church and reach people, the first thing we need to do is admit that we’ve been repaired. Yes, we’ve got the duck tape of salvation to prove it. We’re not pretty, but we’re still able to stand up.little-mirror-2

We also need to look in the mirror, not just for the purpose of good grooming, but to make note of our flaws before they become so obvious that we’re dubbed “ugly.”

So I carry a little mirror. I don’t like big mirrors–they display too much of me. But a little mirror lets me know that my face is still worth showing to the onlooker.

And I guess I want those people in Belleville to know that like a used Kleenex, I have already been put to the task, but well-used-3I’m still not ready to be thrown away.

Sometimes we look at older congregational members, and because they retired from their companies, we assume they’ve retired from life. Not so. None of us gets off that easy. Until we crawl into some sort of box and jettison off to heaven, we need to keep growing.

Yes, I’ve been used, but not abused, and I’m still worthy to be used some more.

And as you can see in the fourth picture, my table has some fresh tears. I haven’t gotten around to putting duck tape on them yet, but I’ll have to do so soon to keep them from spreading.

In other words, just like my table, I still have wounds. Sometimes I’m too touchy, so I keep coming back to church with my brothers and sisters because I need fixin’.

Many Americans don’t like to admit weakness. But the most powerful statement in life is, “I’m not good enough to be called good yet.” fresh-tear-4

In other words, don’t give up on me, don’t tell me I’m used up, but please remind me to look in my mirror and view my flaws.

The good news is, if visitors came to church and found human beings instead of folks trying to imitate what they think is righteous, they might just want to come back again.

The better news is, it’s much easier to live out life as a human instead of pretending you’re an angel.

 

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Jesonian: Jesus of Parkersburg … October 25, 2014

 Jonathots Daily Blog

(2393)

bearded man in headlamp big

Cara is hard at work, desperately trying to finish up an extra half-shift she has taken on to earn some extra money for her two children at home, who want to go on a field trip to Charleston with their class.

Things have been tough since her husband left early last year, without any explanation.

She’s working double shifts for single-digit dollars, trying to singlehandedly be a mother, provider, disciplinarian, and if there’s any time left over, companion to her fledglings.

She doesn’t need much.

Some encouragement would be nice.

Maybe just to not have people look down on her because her clothes are a bit bedraggled.

Maybe one night off, to laugh instead of budget.

She needs Jesus of Parkersburg.

She needs him not to be religious, but rather, helpful.

Maybe to just listen.

She needs him to tell her that she’s still only thirty-three years old, that her life isn’t over, and she’s not just a paycheck trying to fund her little tykes into an uncertain adulthood.

****

Matt has the afternoon off to go to Wal-mart to buy some incidentals–clothing and shoes–for his family. He tries to plan this trip to the Superstore once a month, taking a good bite out of his paycheck, hoping that they can make all the macaroni last as long as the cheese.

He doesn’t mind the hard work at the coal mines. He doesn’t care that often his safety may not be the primal concern of those who run the company. He has enough faith in God to get him in and out of the tunnels everyday without fear.

But it sure would be nice if Jesus of Parkersburg would lighten the load just a little bit. Not much.

Maybe give him a few extra dollars so he could buy some insulation for the house so that the winter months wouldn’t be so brutally cold and expensive.

Maybe Jesus could help him get a break on that medication that one of his young’uns needs, which the doctor insists will help with the repeated seizures.

Matt’s not a demanding sort, but he sure would appreciate a break.

*****

Calvin hangs out down next to the railroad tracks on the east side of town. He’s officially homeless, in the sense that he neither has an address nor a pillow on which to lay his head.

He begs next to the railroad tracks because when somebody does give him a quarter or a dollar, he jokingly runs across the tracks and says, “Thank you. Now, you just helped me get on the right side of the tracks.”

Ever since his wife was killed by a drunk driver, he has lost much of the will to pursue or succeed. It was just the two of them, and now that’s it just one of them, he feels no compulsion to over-produce.

But he sure could use Jesus of Parkersburg.

Maybe somebody could just come along and pop him a twenty-dollar bill so he could remember what the taste of a good hamburger is in his mouth.

Yes, that would be nice.

Maybe Jesus of Parkersburg could help him find a way to get back into life, and feel important to someone again, like he was to his loving mate.

For you see, Calvin’s not miserable. Just underused.

*****

And then there’s Tim–a young man who’s hanging out at the Dairy Barn, even though it’s set to soon close for the winter months.

He’s not sure where to go. A junior in high school, he’s not adept in sports, can’t sing in the choir, couldn’t afford a band instrument even if the school still had a band.

So he finds himself with a lot of time on his hands, with a bunch of mischief trying to tease and tempt him into some unnecessary choices.

Tim sure could use Jesus of Parkersburg.

Just someone to come along, put an arm around his shoulder and say, “Listen kid. Let’s go out, find what you can do really well, and then get you to doing it.”

He might rebel against such interference, but considering that Jesus is so compassionate and full of good cheer, he just might listen.

For after all, when the Dairy Barn closes, where is he going to go?

*****

You see, the problem is, there is no Jesus of Parkersburg.

There’s no Messiah walking around healing the sick and raising the dead.

For the next twenty-four hours, there’s me. Makes me feel sorry for the good folk of this town. They deserve so much better.

But since there is no Jesus of Parkersburg, I’m going to think, pray, laugh and try really hard, in my own clumsy way, to be Jesus… in Parkersburg.

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I’m Dying to Find Out… January 9, 2014

Jonathots Daily Blog

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What kind of life follows this earthly excursion?heavenly journey

I’m dying to find out:

  • If God is as nice as I hope–or as mean as some claim.
  • If heaven is an amplification of what joys I have found.

I’m dying to find out:

  • If God believes in the whole Bible, or sometimes winces over particular passages.
  • How creative punishment and reward might end up being.
  • If God had any plan, or just kept waiting for us to make a move.

I’m dying to find out:

  • If He might just be a She, or maybe a Whatever.
  • If we actually will know each other.
  • If the ongoing clash between plaids and stripes had any merit.

I’m dying to find out:

  • If my music, writing and art survives in the heavens.
  • If God has a better idea for eternity other than an elongated, perpetual church service.

I’m dying to find out:

  • If He, She or Whatever actually looked on the heart of humans instead of the outward appearance.

I’m dying to find out:

  • How much mercy is contained in the action of being merciful.
  • Does our Father have a sense of humor?

I’m dying to find out what’s next.

Yet honestly …  no hurry.

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

Click for details on the SpirTed 2014 presentation

Click for details on the SpirTed 2014 presentation

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

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click to hear music from Spirited 2014

My New Life… January 8, 2014

Jonathots Daily Blog

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closetThe reason most people don’t like to clean out a cluttered closet is that it demands that they throw things away–or even the frightening possibility of finding spiders crawling in the papers and pictures.

As a human race, we often remind me of an old vaudeville troop, which has rented a theater for nearly fifty years but no longer has the talent, but faithfully dons bedraggled costumes, to perform in front of smaller and smaller, unappreciative audiences.

Thirteen days ago I determined to start losing weight again. I think I do this periodically just to keep people from asking me why I don’t.

Yet this time was a little different. Apparently a level of conviction has accompanied the decision, which not only has sustained me through this fortnight, but has also frightened my inner being, alarming my selfishness and ego into action.

This manifests itself in my dreams. During this past thirteen days, my dreams have been a collage of nostalgia over food, reminders of my inadequacies, and bizarre comedies and dramas about my numerous trespasses from the past.

I do believe my psyche is trying to shock me into stopping this foolishness of shedding pounds.

There is a sadness hidden in my dreams somewhere–apparently my bruised feelings about being rejected early on, as a fat boy–trying to make me go back to a sense of physical instability.

What surprises me is that I do feel a tug. The dreams are successful in impacting me with some sort of silly self-pity or tremendous feeling of incompletion, making me want to abandon the sensible path I have chosen.

Isn’t it funny?

We learn to trust ourselves, and in so doing we end up making the greatest mistake. My heart, soul, mind and strength have no desire to work together unless I lock them in a small room, throw away the key and make them deal with each other.

I keep hearing three questions in my dream life from my whimpering wimpiness:

  • Where are you going?
  • What’s the hurry?
  • Can’t we stay?

Truthfully, we are all addicted to mediocrity–and mediocrity is best defined as “what I want to do right now, which you and I both agree to proclaim as excellent.”

Awakening this morning from one of these journeys into the absurd, I just laughed.

I am not at the mercy of my inability. As long as I keep my eyes on the prize (which is nothing more than the next thing in front of me) I will continue to frustrate my dreams while satisfying my soul.

There is an old life, which is comfortable, content and has even found an easy chair in the center of my room.

My only job, if I desire new life, is to do more than rearrange the furniture, but instead, remove it–which brings about the need for redecorating.

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

Click for details on the SpirTed 2014 presentation

Click for details on the SpirTed 2014 presentation

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

click to hear music from Spirited 2014

click to hear music from Spirited 2014

Strife As Life… November 6, 2013

Jonathots Daily Blog

(2057)

arguing housewivesI remain optimistic.

Perhaps it would be better to say that I remain. “Optimistic” because I think it is a much more pleasant profile.

But there are times when I look at the entertainment in our society and I become bedraggled in my spirit. You see, there is a strong misconception that the inspiration of our lives comes either from our philosophy OR our theology. Since both of these entities are passed along to us through a combination of our upbringing and our experiences, they are a little too etched in stone to be inspiring in the moment.

Factually, most of our inspiration is derived from our entertainment.

So when that which is meant to entertain us begins to eat away at the foundation of our positive sensations about life, we are tempted to crumble or become cynical. I am a little nervous about how life is being presented as an ongoing struggle in strife on television and in the movies.

I am surprised that the way people used to speak to each other in anger, and then felt the need to repent and make up with each other, is now considered normal, merely “standing up for yourself,” to “keep from being walked on.”

The reality shows are a glimpse into the underbelly of human existence, dividing humanity into two categories: people and person.

Unfortunately, we believe that we are the only “person” and everybody else is just “people.”  We do not grant personhood to anyone else. So if anyone crosses us, disagrees with us, challenges us or questions us, we give ourselves permission to treat that individual as a creature outside the human species.

  • So in our music, women can become “sluts” and “bitches” simply because they don’t do the will of a man, and men are portrayed as dogs and whores because they “treat their women bad.”
  • On reality shows, the more selfish, introspective, sullen and fierce a competitor is, the better chance he or she has for gaining an audience, fame and boosting ratings.

Now, I know I will be accused of being an old fogey, but it is difficult for me to believe that this kind of aberrant behavior has anything to do with what age you are.

For instance, I know when I’m acting like a jerk. Here are three tell-tale signs:

  1. I stop listening and start talking over the top of other people.
  2. I’m sure I’m right.
  3. I dredge up things from the past and use them as ammunition as I try to “slay” the spirit of the person with whom I am fighting.

There you go.

As long as we believe that strife is the energy of life, we will accept a kind of interaction which sniffs of the jungle of struggle instead of the Eden of creativity.

My voice is small, my readership diverse–but tiny. There are millions who applaud strife. I want my family, my friends and everyone from my generation to know that I am one who does not believe that strife is reality.

Rather, it is actually when we forget how beautifully and wonderfully we are made.

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Just Talk… March 9, 2013

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allAt 9:15 A.M. yesterday, I found myself tooling through the grocery store in search of those final ingredients that escaped my initial purchasing from earlier in the week. One of the things I was looking for was an inexpensive package of shrimp which I could add to a can of New England Clam Chowder, transforming it from a poor bowl of soup to go along with a tuna sandwich, into a meal fit for a Gloucester fisherman.

So I eyeballed the frozen foods and headed in that direction, discovering an older woman unpacking boxes nearby. She seemed a bit bedraggled by her task.

This is where I am probably weird. Maybe it’s that I’m arrogant–but I just don’t believe there’s any power in seeing someone under the weather or depressed and leaving them alone, hoping they’ll work it out by having an inspiring evening of prime time television. So I ventured a bit of conversation.

“How are you?” I asked

“Fine,” she replied, making her one-syllable answer sound even shorter.

You see, that in itself was a noble effort. But I didn’t leave it alone. “Are you sure you’re fine?” I chuckled.

She looked up from her mountain of boxes and gave me a small smile. She launched. Yes–she started to talk. In the two-and-a-half-minute conversation, I learned her entire financial situation, her frustrations with Medicare, her worries over the President and Congress, and the fact that her husband’s pension doesn’t cover much of anything.

Now, I will admit to you that there IS difficulty in finding a way to extricate yourself from the flood of words that proceed from people once the “dammit” is broken. But it’s worth it.

Because when I came around about five minutes, I paused to take a look her way.  Her pace had quickened and she was humming a bit to herself.

You see, it’s not that I am such a good Joe for talking with people. The point I’m trying to make is that we have become a nation instructed to listen and watch as OTHER people talk, giving us no outlet for our feelings, frustrations and especially, our ideas.

So when you see folks trudging along, there are three dark clouds that encircle them:

  1. “Nothing matters”
  2. “No one cares”
  3. “Never mind”

You may think this is no big deal, and often it isn’t–until you accidentally cross one of these storm clouds with all of this negative energy bottled up inside.

When we are not allowed to talk, we become creatures of silent defeat–and depending on the mental health status of the defeated one, it can lead to anything from reclusion to stepping into the marketplace with a semiautomatic rifle and opening up fire.

Just talk.

It has to be more than a tweet. Our new social media forces us to be brief and clever, instead of forthcoming and honest. Matter of fact, I would suggest that the church become a forerunner fo this great idea. Instead of projecting images on the wall that people sing and recite, cueing them on when to stand and clap, let’s have an hour sometime during the week when human beings can talk and share their hearts.

As the old verse says, we certainly ARE “saved by the word of our testimony.”

My words may encourage you, but it is your own words that motivate you.

The Bible may offer a great sense of comfort, but it is your interpretation and re-speaking of truth that makes it a reality.

There may be nothing greater that we can do for each other than overcoming the silent defeat that settles into the human soul because we don’t get the chance to talk about our feelings, and we begin to insist that nothing matters, no one cares and never mind.

I left a woman singing a song. That’s pretty good for this fat boy. And until we realize that watching and listening is no any replacement for feeling and sharing, we will have a country that is saturated with a sense of desperation–exhausted before it even begins to work.

Just talk. Just share. And make sure that any sensations of sadness have a chance to escape before you become convinced that we were meant to be lonely.

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