Somer-salt … October 29, 2012

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Today‘s story is in two parts, so please grant me the courtesy of staying around for both tellings.

Yesterday morning I was introduced, and our dear sponsor invited the congregation to make us welcome. What followed was silence. Now, I don’t consider myself an authority on human customs across the globe, but I am pretty sure that silence, as a form of greeting and welcome, is universally considered to be hostile. I paused for a moment before striking the keys of my piano to begin my opening song. Was I going to say something? Was I going to request that they give me the basic courtesy of the gentle acceptance normally given to any stranger? Or would such a demand come across as crass and pushy? I opted to go ahead and just share my song.

The reason I made that choice? This was NOT a normal situation.

I was in a church.

And for some inexplicable reason, we have convinced ourselves that God expects us to act anti-human when praying in His presence. I don’t know how this got started. It would seem to me logically, that since God is our Creator, He would not only anticipate our need for enthusiasm, but encourage it. Yet I am often led to believe that applause in a church is not only optional, but often inappropriate. This belief has flourished even though the Bible screams at us, “Clap your hands all ye people! Shout unto God with a voice of triumph!”

What cranky grandmas got together with a bunch of malevolent old widowers to conjure the rule that being in the presence of God demands silence, reverence and apparently, giving tribute to eighteenth-century classical music? I don’t know. But it does not make better people–and if it doesn’t make better people, it can’t be God.

For instance, that’s why I stay out of politics. I have never seen anyone become more generous and creative by running for office. But I have also never had the experience of observing human souls who have been cleansed of their sins by baptism free themselves of being introverted and frightened of being successful.

Here’s the way I read it: we are to love God with our heart, soul, mind and strength. I looked out at those faces who refused to welcome me with even a tiny round of applause and saw beautiful, gorgeous, delightful fellow-travelers who, for some reason or another, got “stuck in neutral” through perching in a pew.

This leads me to the second part of my story. The problem is not the people. The problem is what we ask the people to be.

Human beings were never meant to be dry,  somber and withholding. If you don’t believe me, just go to a football stadium. They don’t sit there and sip coffee, staring at the field, barely acknowledging the activity before their eyes. We LIKE to clap. We LIKE to cheer. We LIKE to be happy. It’s our nature.

Here is the formula for having a successful venture when it comes to dealing with human beings. I don’t know–maybe your organization is trying to gear its approach to melancholy, intergalactic aliens. I would have no idea what these creatures from outer space would require to make them tick. But human beings are heart, soul, mind and strength. Therefore may I present a list? We need:

  1. To feel more.
  2. To believe something.
  3. To think deeper
  4. To live bigger.

If we do these things, we can escape the limitations of the culture of our upbringing, and at the same time, enhance it–by feeling more, believing something, thinking deeper and living bigger.

I have grown weary of hearing people say that “certain parts of the country have certain personalities” and will not adjust to any unfamiliar offering. It just ain’t so.

I was in Somerset, Ohio, a village of fifteen hundred people. Yes, I am sure they have ways of doing things. Undoubtedly, they pride themselves on NOT being part of the big city down the road. But church is not about duplicating the mindset of the community around you, while ignoring your own personal needs to excel and be joyous.

Jesus says we are the salt of the earth. Could anything be any simpler than that? Try to cook a meal without salt. You may have just discovered the menu of the cafeteria from hell. Salt is flavor; we are salt. We are the good taste to those around us. So we are supposed to teach people who love God to be salt. It doesn’t mean they walk away from their loved ones or even some of their choices. It means they feel more, they believe something, they think deeper and they live bigger. They choose Jesus over their culture. They always select love over fear and they produce joy as a remedy for disappointment.

Can I give you the good news? I did my little “dog and pony show,” opened up my heart to these beautiful brothers and sisters, and guess what? They greeted me with their own personal victory, humanity and sense of well-being. They were lovely. They escaped religion to find God.

This is what we all have to do. You have to escape politics to find justice. You have to run away from big corporations to generate quality products. You have to refuse to succumb to committees to promote progress. And you have to ignore religion if you want to be close to Jesus.

I love Somerset. I just want to see them become Somer-salt–to live in their town but be just enough flavor to make people thirsty to drink at the waters of life. One fine gentleman came up to my table and said, “We had church today.”

We certainly did. I will never forget you folks, because you stepped out of your predictable approach and allowed yourselves to be human in the presence of God. You learned the power of true worship:

  • Feel more
  • Believe something
  • Think deeper
  • Live bigger

And if you do this, you will become the salt of Somerset. Your vision for your new community center will be more than a building, but also a great big hug for your neighbors, telling them how much you love them. And you won’t EVER sit in silence again, pretending that’s a way to welcome strangers.

I take great comfort in the fact that God made humans. And since He did, I don’t have to spend all of my time apologizing for being one.

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

It Took a While … June 10, 2012

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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.”

   

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

She Got It… March 26, 2012

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It nearly took my breath away.

Yesterday a woman came up to my book table, having carefully waited for a personal moment. With tears in her eyes, she said, “When you shared the messageNoOne is better than anyone else–I realized that I thought I was better than people at work. It really touched me, opened my eyes and made me realize that I’m not–and that this attitude is my problem.”

It was  a marvelous, miraculous moment–similar to Jesus walking on the water, the resurrection and the second coming of Christ. What I was seeing was the birth of faith. I was looking into the eyes of the woman with the issue of blood, who realized that touching the hem of Jesus’ garment might be her last opportunity for restoration. I just sat quietly and listened to her, afraid to breathe, afraid that one little eyelash lifted on my face would steal the moment of spiritual purity. She didn’t stay long; she was there and she was gone.

Shortly after this encounter, I overheard another woman leaving the sanctuary, speaking to the pastor.  In sullen tones she said, “Well, it was different.”

Of course, you and I know that in our society, the word “different” is synonymous with the word “crap.” Now, here was a woman who sat through the message and refused to let it in because it was out of the bounds she was accustomed to.

Beautiful.

As it should be. For I don’t need everybody to come out of my presentations convinced I’m cute or even viable. It just won’t happen. But my dear friends, when you encounter faith–the power of it–you understand why God accepts it as the measure of pleasing Him. Here are the four steps to faith–and this is what that dear woman who confessed at my table achieved to receive the cleaning in her heart that washed her eyes with tears and freed her mind from confusion:

1. She heard the message. The Bible says that “faith comes by hearing.” And Jesus admonished, “He who has an ear, let him hear.” When we set too many restrictions on what is acceptable, we close the door for God ever speaking to us. The message will never come with the voice we expect. The message will never resound with our familiar liturgy. The message will never be ushered in by ritual or repetition. It is always fresh–to the point of being alarming–and if you are not open to it your ears will be closed and your soul will suffer from malnutrition. She heard the message. It may have been bizarre to her eyes and unfamiliar to her taste. But the words were salvation to her heart.

2. She believed the message. What makes something believable? When we allow our heart, which has heard the message, to be softened by understanding instead of being hardened by trepidation. It is so much easier to believe when you remove the obstacles from the process. What are the obstacles?

  • “I never heard it that way.”
  • “I don’t understand.”
  • “It’s not my style.”
  • “He doesn’t look the part.”
  • “I’m uncomfortable with the implications.”

All of that vanished because her ears heard and her heart understood. so the process found root in her soul.

3. She applied the message. Nothing spiritual ever occurs until we OWN it. Verses of scripture and scraps of inspiration have absolutely no value until we prescribe to them and allow the medication to heal our wounds. This lady did not walk to my table and tell me how powerful she thought the message was for others. Often I will get that. People will say that “NoOne is better than anyone else” is needed in the church and for me to keep up the good work. This woman stepped out of the “Amen” crowd and into the solitude of  “I am.”  Somewhere along the line, truth has to be our provision–even if no one else hears. She absorbed the impact and allowed the magnitude for change. Which allowed for the fourth and final step in the process of faith:

4. She IS the message. Just as “the word became flesh and dwelt among us” when Jesus was incarnate on earth, the only confirmation we ever have that true spirituality is at work is when people embody the concepts through their actions and lives. She became the message. She took words and was determined to cause them to become flesh through her efforts.

You can continue to extol the notion that some passages of holy writ exist as divinely inspired without human application, but what you will have is a form of godliness which really denies the power of it. She IS the message. From this point on, the words, “NoOne is better than anyone else,” will be extolled by her actions.

I left the church yesterday exhilarated by the experience of eyeballing the process of faith through the life of another human being. Facts are, I love both women. I love the woman who came showing that she had heard the message, believed the message, applied the message and is the message.

I also love the woman who left, desiring to return next week to a more customary fare. The difference lies in the progress of their journeys. Because faith is measured out by the fruit that is born through human lives. 

And until we allow ourselves to hear, believe, apply and become, we will be creatures of repetition instead of dynamic forces … through repentance.

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Below is the first chapter of Jonathan Richard Cring’s stunning novel entitled Preparing a Place for Myself—the story of a journey after death. It is a delicious blend of theology and science fiction that will inspire and entertain. I thought you might enjoy reading it. After you do, if you would like to read the book in its entirety, please click on the link below and go to our tour store. The book is being offered at the special price of $4.99 plus $3.99 shipping–a total of $8.98. Enjoy.

http://www.janethan.com/tour_store.htm

Sitting One

 I died today. 

I didn’t expect it to happen.  Then again, I did—well, not really.

No, I certainly didn’t expect it.

I’ve had moments of clarity in my life.  Amazingly enough, many of them were in the midst of a dream. For a brief second I would know the meaning of life or the missing treatment to cure cancer.  And then as quickly as it popped into my mind it was gone. I really don’t recollect dying.  Just this unbelievable sense of clear headedness—like walking into a room newly painted and knowing by the odor and brightness that the color on the wall is so splattering new that you should be careful not to touch it for fear of smearing the design. The greatest revelation of all? 

Twenty-five miles in the sky time ceases to exist.

The planet Pluto takes two hundred and forty-eight years to circle the sun. It doesn’t give a damn. 

The day of my death was the day I became free of the only burden I really ever had.  TIME.

Useless.

Time is fussy.  Time is worry. 

Time is fear.  Time is the culprit causing human-types to recoil from pending generosity. 

There just was never enough time. 

Time would not allow it.  Remember—“if time permits …”

Why if time permits?  Why not if I permit?  Why not if I dream?  Why not if I want?  Why does time get to dictate to me my passage? 

It was time that robbed me of my soulful nature.    It was time that convinced me that my selfishness was needed. 

I didn’t die. The clock in me died, leaving spirit to tick on.  

So why don’t we see the farce of time?  Why do we allow ourselves to fall under the power of the cruel despot?  Yes, time is a relentless master—very little wage for much demand.

I died today. 

Actually … a piece of time named after me was cast away.

Me, Shelled from the Nut … February 9, 2012

In Houston, Texas

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I am as old as I am willing to learn

I am as young as I choose to believe

I am as wise as the width of my heart

I am as smart as the depth of my brain

I am as talented as the level of my use

I am as loving as the vacating of my fear

I am as attractive as I decide to attract

I am as ugly as I persist to repel

I am as giving as I am grateful for what I have

I am as funny as I relax to laugh

I am a worker as I discover the cause

I am lazy as I resort to “because…”

I cry as I feel the pain

I rejoice as I reject the insane

I whisper as I need to be heard

I shout as I ascend to the housetop

I am secure as I build on the rock

I am nervous as I feel the sand beneath my feet

I am American as I grant freedom to others

I am Christin as I search for Jesus

I am Godly as I comprehend His humanity

I am human as I see my possibility as Godly

I am at my best as I escape the rut

I am me, shelled from the nut

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Jonathan wrote the gospel/blues anthem, Spent This Time, in 1985, in Guaymas, Mexico. Take a listen:

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To see books written by Jonathan, click the link below! You can peruse and order if you like!

http://www.janethan.com/tour_store.htm

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