Good News and Better News … August 8th, 2016

Jonathots Daily Blog

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Lititz United Methodist Church

The big black van rolled up to Lititz United Methodist Church in Lititz, Pennsylvania, with Jan and myself inside.

We had two shows to do there. Although I must be honest, there are religious folks who do not like it when you call it a show, and also become quite indignant if you use the word “performance.” (Candidly, the only exercise some human beings get is fidgeting their brain with nonsense.)

So to keep peace, let me just say that it was after the “Second Encounter of the Church Kind” that a lady approached me, hugged me around the neck, pulled back slightly, looked me squarely in the face with tears in her eyes, and said, “Thank you for the common sense.”

It amazes me that anyone can read the Gospels and not come away from the experience realizing that Jesus was a promoter of common sense. Matter of fact, you could sum up his whole philosophy of life with one simple phrase: “To he who much is given, much is expected.”

That is a healthy dose of common sense.

The people I met on Sunday morning were courteous, caring, fun-loving and hopeful. You could change the world with such an army–that is, if you fed them with common sense. Perhaps a definition is due at this point, since I’ve been throwing around the term.

Common: we’re all human.

Sense: we all can learn.

That’s what it takes, folks.

When some people think they’re better than other people, creating a hierarchy among the Homo sapiens, any sense of fellowship disappears.

And if we don’t think we have anything to learn, all the good stuff that God could give us is limited to our own tightly wound minds.

Lititz was a snapshot of Middle America without any touch-up or air brushing.

  • They aren’t perfect because if they were, we’d have to hate them.
  • They aren’t all pretty, because if they were, we would feel intimidated.
  • They are mortals in need of common sense.

They come to church with a look in their eye that says, “We might be ready. We’re not sure. If your ideas are too crazy, we’ll move on down the road. But we might be ready. There’s a chance we’re prepared to leave the foolishness of religion, the insanity of politics and the selfishness of prejudice and find common ground.”

But they also communicate that they would really appreciate it if you’d be gentle. The mean-spirited approach of our present social structure has left many a soul wounded and frightened.

And finally, I think there’s a spirit in this country–a desire, if you will–to make it plain. Everything is too complicated. Break it down into its parts–and let’s take one part at a time.

The good news is that the uproar of ridiculous debate over nothing in this country has produced an appetite for common sense.

The better news is that Jesus has already given us the bacon and eggs.

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The Third Story… August 30, 2013

Jonathots Daily Blog

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Story One

constructionI was driving along in Grand Rapids in my 1997 Toyota Tercel, late to pick up my wife from her shift at the Meijer Grocery Store. As often happens when one is running late, I looked ahead and they had closed off one lane, the road diminishing to one passageway, with traffic backing up. The last thing I needed was to be late again. Last week I had arrived tardy to pick up my lady, and she told me how frustrating it was to sit at the picnic table outside the store waiting for my arrival after a long shift, with her friends asking her if everything was okay. I did not want to be a jerk again.

As I neared the closing of the lane, I looked up and suddenly a big, black van pulled out in front of me, causing me to slow up my progress. I even had to brake. The person in the van needed to realize that his vehicle required more clearance, so I pulled into the next lane, even though I had only 100 feet before it closed. He speeded up so I was side by side with him, and I had to cut him off because he wouldn’t let me take my place.

When the road widened about two lights later, the driver in the big, black van–a  fat, bald guy–wouldn’t even look over at me, apologize or acknowledge his mistake. It really pissed me off.

I arrived five minutes late and explained to my wife that I had been delayed by a stupid dude with Florida tags who thought he owned the road.

Story Two

Stopping in to pick up some groceries at Aldi, Janet and I were heading out of the parking lot towards our headquarters and home when I noticed there was a sufficient space to pull onto the road in front of a Toyota Tercel. I realized that he might have to slow up a bit for my entrance, considering how large the van is, but thought he might not mind since the second lane was closing, and all traffic was having to adjust accordingly.

I acquired my place in the flow of traffic and was surprised to notice that the Toyota had come up beside me, even though there was no remaining lane. I didn’t know whether to slow down to let him in, or speed up to try to get him to go behind me. Because I delayed my decision, when the lane closed he swerved in front of me, barely missing my front bumper. I slid off the berm to miss him.

When I arrived, two lights later, past the construction, and was about to turn, I saw that he had pulled up next to me. Not wanting any confrontation with a local, I looked straight ahead and turned right.

I didn’t give it much more thought–but it did seem a little bizarre.

Story Three

When a big, black van is about to enter a flow of traffic that is closing down to one lane, the driver needs to know that like it or not, he probably should make eye contact with the next car to see if it will let him in. Whether he sees a space is  immaterial. And local people driving Toyota Tercels should realize they represent their community and offer a little graciousness, even if it means they might be forty-two seconds later to pick up their wife at work.

Evaluating your own character by choosing one minute of convenience over mercy is not necessarily a very good trade-off. And pulling a very large van out in front of a Toyota Tercel whose driver had not motioned to give permission for such an adventure is certainly failing to recognize the right of passage.

You see, this is life. As long as we have our own story and those who confront us have their story, and no one discovers the third story, we are constantly at each other’s throats, believing the worst.

May I learn and know … we just can’t afford the unnecessary conflict.

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Two Busy People… March 5, 2013

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black vanOn Mondays, I stop being Batman.

Well, actually, I’m never Batman, but I do use Monday mornings to leave my cave, buy a box of cereal and wash out my super-underwear. I guess what I become is “Bitman“–a bit of this and a bit of that.

Yesterday was no exception. Well, there was ONE unique aspect to it. We were running just a little bit later than usual and had a deadline of 11:30 A. M. for Janet to do a radio interview. So perhaps there was a bit more “hurry” in our steps.

We had finished all of our activities and were heading back to our lodging, deeply engrossed in conversation, feeling pretty good about our progress and enjoying a sunshine-filled day in Houston, Texas. Cruising through a green light at about forty miles per hour, I suddenly viewed a pickup truck, making a right turn on red, completely and totally oblivious to my presence.

Even though it all happened in a split second, I could see inside his cab and realize that he was turned to his right, involved in an animated conversation with a woman next to him. I had no time to think–no time to slam on the brakes. I had to rely completely on reflexes.

But the problem is, reflexes are often hampered by exhaustion, exasperation or especially, the sense of being busy or in a hurry. I took a quick peek in my left mirror and saw that God had granted me a free lane. I swerved into it, barely missing the truck and scooting by him in a breath of time–on down the road.

I do not know if he ever saw me. He obviously was in a hurry and had forgotten to take note of oncoming traffic.He was seconds from being plowed into by a three-ton black van. The situation was out of his control, and his life and vehicle, for that moment, were placed in my hands.

I didn’t honk at him. I didn’t shake my fist. I didn’t stop and ask him why he was so careless. I rolled on.

I was so grateful that I was not on my way to a hospital and thankful that I did not have to call insurance agent and talk about repairs. Mostly, I was glad that God has granted me the serenity and teeny-weeny bit of wisdom to know three important things:

1. Find out what you can do and relax in it. I don’t know why people worry. You can’t do more than you can do anyway, can you?

2. While you’re doing it, stay focused on what you’re doing. Multi-tasking is a great way to plan your own defeat.

3. If you’ve got an extra moment, watch out for the other guy. Maybe he hasn’t learned the first two points. Maybe he deserves a break. Maybe next time … it’ll be you.

So in this world where we all think we’re so busy, let us temporarily escape the mantra of reciting our crowded schedule and remember these three points. It’s so much more relieving.
Actually, it’s a great way to remain accident-free.

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