Good News and Better News… December 11th, 2017

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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Pictured are my wife, my granddaughter and my son, standing in a bandshell, Weston Park, Florida.

Jerrod, my son, produced an outdoor concert with the cooperation of three churches and invited two of their praise bands, while putting together a dramatic reenactment of the Nativity tradition.

It was cold.

Usually in Florida, when it’s cold, people escape into their homes and pull out blankets they purchased twenty years ago, which are still in plastic wrappers. But for some reason, a respectable, decent and nearly surprising gathering braved the chill to come, sit in a park and listen to music that was jubilant, if not pitch-perfect.

They perched patiently as the story of Christmas unfolded before their eyes with deliberation, dodging a few technical gaffes. I was among them, along with my comrade-in-tunefulness, Janet Clazzy.

I was struck with the beauty of the evening.

It was not all drenched in serendipity. The audience was tribal, and much too linked to their own concerns to homogenize into a spiritual sweet butter, but setting that aside, it was proof positive that the Christmas story still has wheels.

Honestly, as they told the tale in front of me, I giggled a little bit. If I were hearing this fantabulous explanation for the first time, I wondered if I would shake my head in disbelief.

But you see, it’s not about what happened in a manger two thousand years ago. It’s about what transpired in a park last night in Weston, Florida.

If an idea that appeared two thousand years ago can put a chill down your spine, (and not just because the thermometer dipped) and still has real human emotion, then you’ve discovered magic.

Christians are not better people. We have our share of sinners, assholes, pedophiles and fruitcakes. But we have a great back-story.

Our Savior doesn’t kill people.

Our Savior doesn’t want to hurt women and children.

Our Savior is humble.

Our Savior sets people free instead of locking them up in bondage.

Our Savior isn’t religious.

Our Savior was one of us.

I left warmed. (Well, at least warm enough to get to my car and turn on the heater.)

Congratulations to my son, my daughter-in-law, my granddaughter and my wife for having the courage to test the message of the angels one more time.

The good news is, when “Oh Come, All Ye Faithful” get together, the better news is, it brings “Joy to the World.”

 

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G-Poppers … December 2nd, 2016

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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Jon close up

G-Pop was wondering what it would have been like if Facebook had been around for the birth of Jesus.

What would have grabbed the attention of the average Facebook reader in Judea?

Let’s look at the classic elements of the story:

  • Rejoice
  • Glad tidings of great joy
  • A Savior is born
  • Prince of Peace
  • Listen to the angels
  • Can you see the star?

These would more than likely have been deemed boring, averaging seven likes, zero comments and no reposts.

Even if someone had inserted the statement, “a baby was born in a manger,” the single repeating comment would have been, “Come on, Joseph. Get a job.”

Facebook demands drama.

Facebook seeks attention.

Facebook feeds off frenzy.

Facebook is selfish.

No, for the Christmas story to have worked on Facebook, one would need to hand-select the elements, and twist them a bit to make them of interest to the market:

“Pregnant teen and her boyfriend snub traditional marriage”

“Bonnie-and-Clyde-style crazy kids hold shepherds hostage in stable”

“Foreigners, astrologers, wanted for questioning by authorities for smuggling in unknown drugs”

“Lights in the sky! Could it be aliens?”

“And here is a picture of my ‘fur son,’ Jehoshaphat, the cat, as he rubs up against a little immigrant boy in the barn. Isn’t he cute? I mean the cat.”

G-Pop contends that we have become a society of “I’s” who include a few “we’s” if they agree with “us.”

To get likes, shares and comments, the entry has to be insipid enough to have universal appeal to those who find most of the universe unappealing.

But there will be a persistent few who insist on planting the notion of salvation, joy, humanity, brotherly love and peace on Earth.

And who knows?

Maybe in two thousand years, if that is done, they might call us Wise Men.

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Good News and Better News … December 28th, 2015

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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Good News Fulford jpeg

Rarely do we find ourselves abused by the Devil from Hell, nor steered by the Lord of the Heaven.

Most of the time, we are situated smack-dab in the middle of our own whim or lack of planning.

It really is good news.

It would be a miserable thought–to believe that we mortals are part of a cosmic chess game between good and evil, and more often than not, end up being the sacrificial pawn.

This little piece of joy came to my mind this week as I arrived in South Florida to celebrate the birth of Jesus with my family, work on my blogs, make plans for the coming year, and do two gigs in the area.

Honestly, I had some apprehension about being able to pull off all the stipulated events with the amount of professional quality and personal touch I felt was necessary. But fortunately for me, I’ve been granted the grace of having a wonderful group of sons, daughters-in-law and grandchildren, who seem to be functioning quite well on the auto-pilot of faith.

In other words, I didn’t need to do nearly as much as I thought I would. Therefore, I was much more qualified.

On the other hand, making plans for the coming year to enhance my program, enriching the results, is a labor of love to me. The Gospel is always good news, but it is refreshing to find a way to make that revelation even more inspiring and easy to understand.

So by the time I arrived at my two performances on Sunday, I was itchy to share my heart.

The fine folks in North Miami, pastored by a delightful young man named Nathan, welcomed us with open arms, even though I’m sure we appeared at first to be strangers.

I just happen to believe that in the pursuit of loving your brothers and sisters, the best route to achieving such a sublime experience is to seek out commonality. My dear God, we have so much in common.

So by the time I got to my Sunday evening performance, I was prepared to relish the people around me, and was especially invigorated because the venue is a new church plant pastored by my son, Jerrod.

He’s always had a calling in his life, although, like many of us, it seemed a little in the distance from the everyday chores of maintaining life and limb.

But now–he’s launched.

About thirty souls came out, and we just had a festive time in our human smorgasbord.

The two churches had something in common: they were unsure enough of what they are doing to be open to the possibility of the Holy Spirit changing lives.

So I celebrated the good news, which is: there is no Devil chasing me nor God manipulating me. Rather, I am a free-will agent to pursue my heart’s desire.

And the better news is that all the fretting and fuming I may do from time to time, wondering if my abilities are sufficient, is irrelevant and quickly calmed by the realization of two beautiful ideas:

1. If it’s not my business, then drench it in mercy and love.

2. If it is my business, fill it with creativity.

 

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The Best of the Story… December 21, 2012

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He was fifteen years old…and horny.

He was my son, and extraordinarily girl-crazy. May I point out to you that he was interested in the female of the species, not in the sense of being a great anthropologist, but mainly for sexual reasons. I had already had the first “talk” with him, where I explained the parts, purposes and precepts of human sexuality, but now it was time for the second talk. Yes, I do believe there’s a need for a second “talk”–otherwise girls and boys grow up to be men and women with a complete sense of disconnect. Here’s what I told him:

“Don’t try to get inside a woman until you’ve found the woman inside you.”

He sprouted one of those adolescent expressions, blending perplexity and antagonism with a side of rebellion. So I explained. Yes, I explained to him the best of the story. It is actually the true tale of Christmas. So I thought that since we are in this season, it would be righteous to share it with you.

God made man because He wanted a companion–an extension of Himself. He always wanted to be a Father instead of just a deity. He breathed into man the breath of life. Man became a living soul, the best of both worlds–spiritually enlightened, physically enticed. There was one thing missing–companionship.

You see, an attempt at righteous living without having a confidante and a fellow-pilgrim is tedious, if not impossible. Thus the true value of church–when the religious system is at its best, it offers a delightful container wherein we might rub shoulders with those who share our journey and faith.

Meanwhile, man wanted more. Because he was created in God’s image, he also desired to have partnership of his own–and also a sense of fathering. God went inside man to find woman. Even though man was created from an external source–dust of the earth–woman was extracted from the internal portions of an existing comrade. So all the ingredients of woman were already inside of man.

So you see, all attempts to try to get the sexes to converse and agree will fail miserably until we teach our young men that all the portions–tenderness, compassion and emotion–of their desired coupler already dwells within.

Woman emerged from man–she, part of him and he part of her. The centuries roll on. There came a point where the redemption of the entire world becomes necessary, not just the Jewish race. The local prophets had predicted that this redeemer would emerge from among the ranks of their own lineage. The difficulty with that proposal was the question of how this salvation for the world could be solely Jewish, but universally applied.

So God went inside woman to make the man, Jesus. He was the perfect man, not because he was mistake-free, but because he was the manifestation of what every man and woman is meant to be–a complement to each other.

So you can see, it’s because we accept Jesus as the great gift and conclusion of the human creative process that brings salvation to men and women, north and south, east and west.

The experience is no longer limited to one race of people and certainly, because it was the seed of the woman that brought forth Jesus, we are not exclusive to gender. That is why the Bible says that in the kingdom of God there is neither male nor female. There is Jesus.

  • God created man.
  • God created woman by removing her from within man.
  • God birthed Jesus by going inside a woman to find the treasure of mankind.
  • We come to Jesus to find the best of our story.

It’s why we celebrate Christmas. It isn’t a holiday–it is who we are.

Yes … we are Christmas.

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Overshadowed… December 24, 2011

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Jonathan in Miami

You probably have heard the traditional, well-traveled joke:

Question: “Why couldn’t Jesus be born in Alabama?”

Answer: “Because they couldn’t find three wise men and a virgin.” (My apologies to the good folks of Alabama. Actually, you can insert the name of any region you’d like to poke in the nose.)

As humorous as that may seem, finding a virgin–and even wise men–is always plausible. It is not the impossible quest nor even the pearl of great price. The part of the Christmas story that is most astounding and nearly beyond our present human comprehension, given our society’s climate, is the conception itself.

A girl being about thirteen years old and a virgin is not a rarity. A young lady possessing a fervor for God is even within the realm of possibility. But a thirteen-year-old girl who was able to understand the importance of a mission, while relegating herself to a lesser function for a greater good, while simultaneously ignoring her own personal reputation and needs? That is truly remarkable. Where would such a lass be found today? The preoccupation we have with American adolescence, allowing our offspring to not only be self-indulgent in their teens, but now also deep into their twenties and thirties, inhibits the foundation for pursuing the common good.

A young girl named Mary from Nazareth, was told she was going to have a baby. At least half of the American damsels would split out of there just with THAT revelation. She was told she would be a virgin–but become pregnant. You’re going to lose another 25% with that one. And then she was informed of an astounding fact: the Holy Spirit would overshadow her to bring it into being.

Overshadowed: being willing to set aside ego, cause, agenda and dreams for a season, to allow something of significance happen, benefitting others. How would you ever talk a thirteen-year-old girl into such a magnanimous choice? Where would you find a person willing to be overshadowed by the spirit–to allow God to birth something of eternal quality through her life?

This is the amazing part of the story. Yes–the truly marvelous proportion of the Christmas tale lies in the fact that God chose a woman as the implementation of salvation–and that woman had to counteract the rebellion of Eve by being willing to be overshadowed by spirit instead of overcome by her own desires. It is amazing.

It gets me thinking–am I willing, at any point in my life, to be overshadowed by the greater spiritual requirements of my time, to temporarily set aside my own wishes, to see something of significance transpire? And how would I do it without becoming self-righteous or appearing to be the martyr for the cause? Could I achieve any level of joy? Could I even become excited with the notion that something was going to happen and my hands and body were going to be the conduit? Do I possess the ability to abandon my own self-awareness long enough to let the Spirit of God overshadow me with a greater vision?

Most of the time the answer would be no. Not because I’m particularly resistant, but mostly due to the fact that I’m dull–especially if you caught me by surprise in the middle of the night, awakening me from sleep with some apparition from heaven trying to impress me with an idea. I would just attribute it to bad bologna or tainted lasagna.

Not Mary. Now, I don’t think Mary is worthy of worship–but I do think Mary demonstrates God’s resolute belief that Eden does not need to be lost just because Eve was trapped in a weaker moment. No. Along Comes Mary–a woman who allowed herself to be overshadowed by the spirit, to birth the hope of the world. She didn’t know what “Christ” meant in all of its intricacies. She just knew the world needed something more–and therefore, someone who would make herself available.

Overshadowedallowing ourselves to sit back and let God show us the greater capabilities of all of our faculties.

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