Jesonian–Troubling (Part 8)… August 19th, 2017

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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jesonian-cover-amazon

I am wondering if Christianity can become a mission, cause and lifestyle instead of slinking back into the profile of being “one of the major religions of the world.”

The decision lies around the word “learning.”

For some reason we have taken the simple message of “love your neighbor as yourself” and complicated it with doctrines, forming a morass of misunderstanding.

If we think that faith and hope are even close to charity, we have misconstrued the message of Jesus. Jesus came to turn love into a lifestyle.

He taught in parables whenever he was with the masses, expecting to motivate them to believe for mighty things. Only when the disciples complained about being confused by the stories did Jesus teach them further. His goal was to get these disciples out on the road as quickly as possible, to share their hearts with other people.

Otherwise we have the quandary found in II Timothy 3:7, which describes a church which is “ever learning but never coming to the knowledge of the truth.” Jesus said his “way is easy and his burden is light” and that the Gospel is so simple that a “wayfaring man” can understand it.

Why do we believe that writing 3,000 new books on church practice will promote revival?

Perhaps I am the hypocrite speaking to the hypocrisy, because I, too, scribe my essays, trying to uncover some hidden meaning.

There is no hidden meaning. Just as we would not hide the groceries from our children to find out how determined they are to avoid starving, God certainly has not withheld peace of mind, contentment and joy from his offspring.

The church spends too much time teaching and not enough time sharing.

That’s troubling.

We keep studying the Old Testament–which really wants to study the New Testament. As Jesus said, Abraham yearned to see the Messiah. Yet we think one more classic tale, another seminar or a sermon series taken from a different angle will suddenly alert the congregation to its true soul.

There are three things that matter. They are what make you a Christian or separate you from the Kingdom of God:

  1. Love your neighbor as yourself.
  2. Don’t judge people.
  3. Multiply your talents.

The pursuit of these three things will keep us busy for a lifetime. Trying to figure out what the Apostle Paul meant or what I Peter was connoting or if Hebrews was really written by Timothy will not make good disciples.

We think interactive church is having people stare at a screen and sing songs. Interactive church is actually when humans offer a testimony, which builds up other brethren to share, embracing and encouraging each other.

It is troubling.

We have become a church of learning instead of a body of sharing. Until that changes … we will be as boring as we seem.

 

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Reverend Meningsbee (Part 50) Lights, Camera, Inaction … April 16th, 2017

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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Reverend Meningsbee

Russ and Tracy were the local and only filmmakers in Garsonville.

They referred to themselves as “cinemaniacs.” They loved movies. They loved making movies.

They could tell you the back story of every single Hollywood blockbuster that ever rolled across the silver screen. They spent hours discussing their preference on a particular type of electronic cord or the do’s and don’ts of good lighting.

They lived together, unmarried, in a small apartment above the downtown apothecary. Although such relationships were frowned on in the small town, the people accepted them and concluded in their minds that they must be brother and sister.

Russ and Tracy, along with Carl, came to see Meningsbee, possessing the excitement of three ten-year-old children who just discovered they had a snow day. They wanted to make a documentary–the story of the Garsonville Church since Meningsbee had arrived, including the controversy and also the burst of recent growth. For last Sunday, there had been 230 people in attendance at the church.

Meningsbee listened carefully to their plan, and was greatly surprised to discover they had already “townfunded” $4,223 from the citizens.

Meningsbee had his doubts. To him, it kind of felt the same way as the first time somebody described sushi. It sounded like a good idea, but something was a little fishy.

Actually, he had two major concerns, so he voiced them.

“Listen,” he said, “before I give my blessing to this project, I need to know, number 1, do I have to do anything different, weird, unusual or fakey?”

The three assured him that all he had to do was be his glorious self.

“Secondly,” he continued, “do I have to wear makeup? You see, about ten years ago, I did a talk show in Rhode Island and the girl at the studio insisted I wear makeup because she noticed that my lips were so thin that they crawled back into my face. Since she was the professional, I agreed to let her smear some stuff on my forehead, and then she took lipstick and put it on my mouth. It was kind of dark brown in color. Later on, when I caught a glimpse of myself on the TV monitor, I looked like one of those Old West gunslingers lying in the pine box before they carried him away to Boot Hill.”

Russ and Tracy assured Meningsbee there would be no need for him to wear makeup unless he really enjoyed it.

“I’ll tell you what,” said Meningsbee. “I think I can get the church to agree to take a $5,000 donation that’s just come in, and give it to you guys to make this idea come to life.”

Jubilation rocked the room.

Two weeks later there were cameras and lighting equipment in the streets of Garsonville, and the citizens were solicited for their opinions, insights and any stories they might like to share with the documentarians.

It took three months to shoot the whole thing. There was a complete sense of community–enthusiasm beyond measure–and with Russ and Tracy telling one and all there was a possibility that the little flick might be going to film festivals, everybody was preening and preparing for “bright lights and big city.”

Meningsbee gently but firmly warned the folks that they had been equally enthralled with USBN. But you see, this was different. This was “home town kids doing home town things to express the beauty of the home town.”

After three weeks of shooting, there was another forty days of editing, at which time it was decided there needed to be a premiere of the documentary at the local high school. They decided to call it “Looking for Eden,” and the premiere was only twenty-five days away.

The auditorium only seated 500 people, and the interest level seemed so strong that it was decided there would be two showings–one at 6:45 P.M. on Saturday, and one at 2:30 P.M. Sunday afternoon.

Posters were printed, the newspaper interviewed the filmmakers and all potential stars, and Meningsbee sat back and watched his congregation and community go just a little bit crazy one more time.

He, himself, had filmed two segments for the project. One was a question and answer session in his office, and another one had him sharing spontaneously from his heart as he walked slowly down the main street of Garsonville. Both scenes seemed a little bit contrived and incomplete to Meningsbee, but Russ and Tracy said the dailies looked great–the dailies being the footage they looked at each afternoon, to make sure quality was being maintained.

Watching the town prepare for the event was similar to eyeballing a seven-year-old boy in church who needs to pee. He’s not quite sure what to do with himself so he wiggles around, hoping a bathroom is in his near future.

Premiere night arrived. A couple of limousines were hired for the filmmakers and the more prominent dignitaries from the town, and the auditorium was packed all the way to the walls, with people who came to see a tribute to their town, which amazingly, included their mugs.

It started off all right. There was a song played by a local boy as the opening credits rolled.

But then the actual movie began. It wasn’t bad. The camera work was good, the sound was adequate.

But it was just boring.

What Russ and Tracy did not take into consideration was that Nebraskan folks sometimes take two minutes just to say hello. Slow paced life. Slow paced speech. Slow paced moving picture.

One of those just didn’t work.

People began getting fidgety, with lots of bathroom trips, several coughing fits, and some of the younger people couldn’t help but release agonizing yawns.

After two hours and thirteen minutes, the ordeal was over. Some folks hung around for a little while to express their appreciation, but most scurried out as quickly as possible, hoping and praying that this piece of cinema would never be seen anywhere else.

Matter of fact, on Sunday afternoon, the only people who came out to see the movie were Reverend Meningsbee, four or five close friends and two couples who had been out of town and just drove in, and were unaware of the reviews.

Russ, Tracy and Carl were discouraged. “I guess we’re just boring,” said Russ.

Meningsbee put one arm around Russ, the other around Tracy and drew them in close.

“No,” he said. “And you guys did a great job. Matter of fact, I was pleasantly surprised. Because let’s be honest, it could have been worse. When you put a close-up on our community, it’s like watching pudding cool and thicken. It’s not pretty, it’s not camera worthy, but it’s solid and you can count on it.”

Meningsbee took the three filmmakers out to an early dinner and they sat around and talked about life, dreams and love–and newer and better ways of looking for Eden.

 

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Good News and Better News … February 1st, 2016

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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Good news Better News hats

Many hats.

Pictured above is a stack of my hats. I have six in all–five in the shot and one on my head.

It’s not really many hats. I used to have a whole lot of them. But the odd thing about accumulating all that head-gear was that most of it spent its time in a closet, never worn. It was almost sad.

Yesterday morning, I went to Goose Creek to get a gander.

Goose Creek, South Carolina.

Gosh, I enjoyed myself. I suppose you might get tired of reading my Monday morning report because it’s always so upbeat and hopeful. The reason for that is simple–I don’t show up with many hats, so my message is easily accessible and whosoever has an ear hears it and the rest of them go out the door, avoiding me, possibly to grumble in the parking lot.

The good news is that the people in Goose Creek, South Carolina, which is a suburb of Charleston, are no different from the people in Panama City, from the week before.

They are beautiful people of God, created in His image, who are somewhat baffled and dumbfounded by too many ideas and way too much information.

Let’s just take the fact that the church begins with the idea of Ten Commandments.

Ten. Are you kidding me?? I go into the grocery store and try to remember two items and forget one.

  • There is just too much to recall.
  • There’s too much to do.
  • And there’s too much required of the normal person for success to be attainable.

The best thing we could do for our fellow humans and ourselves is come to the conclusion that our greatest gift to those around us and our own soul is to just be honest.

If it’s boring, don’t be afraid to say it’s boring.

If you don’t understand, say so.

If it seems mean, call it what it is.

Politics is boring. It’s not an acquired taste. It’s not for the select few who want to rule and reign over us. It’s boring in order to scare us away from finding the truth.

The movies extolled in Hollywood are also boring. They are not cinematic wonders made by a handful of individuals who have studied the art form. They are made to be purposefully over-complicated so some people can feel they are smarter than someone else.

And church is boring. We make sure it is even more boring by setting aside times for quiet, meditation, and refraining from too many spontaneous outbursts.

My message to Goose Creek was very compact. Give away some hats. They don’t have anything to do with faith. More than half of the things we do are absent purpose.

Doggone it, I have never read 66 books that agree with each other on anything. Why would the Bible be any different?

So don’t reject the Word of God, but don’t show up with glue and tape, and try to piece it together so you can claim that you “follow it all.”

I have six hats. They are different colors and shapes. They fulfill a purpose when I need them. I don’t need any more hats.

And when it comes to my spirituality, loving my neighbor as myself, going the second mile, being the light of the world, and using my talents is plenty to keep me busy.

If you want to insist on additional doctrines to prove that you’re going to heaven…well, God bless you and good luck.

So the good news is, if you ever get a chance to go to Goose Creek and encounter Pastor Debra and the fine congregation, you grab on and get there.

And the better news is that I hope those beautiful brethren will throw away some of the useless hats that never get worn, and settle in on a simple message that changes lives.

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The Difference… July 7, 2013

Jonathots Daily Blog

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huntington pianoOften the difference between success and failure is the voice within that gains our full attention.

I was twelve years old. A traveling gospel quartet came to our church and sang, with a pot luck dinner following. Everybody went to the fellowship hall–except I grabbed three of my friends, went into a nearby Sunday School classroom which had an old Huntington upright piano, and I tried to get the four of us to sing like the quartet we had just observed.

After a while we became loud and boisterous, so one of the deacons popped his head in and rebuked us for failing to be part of the church family through enjoying an “afterglow” with the gospel singers. My three friends slunk away with the avenging deacon and I pretended to follow–but then slipped back to the room and just played the piano more quietly, so as not to be heard.

That night made a difference to me.

Several years later, a minister and counselor told me I should forget my girlfriend, who had gone away to college in Arizona. He said she obviously did not love me,  and was afraid I was going to make a fool of myself by continuing to contact her. Little did he know that I had already purchased a student/standby airplane ticket to Tucson, Arizona, He was also completely unaware that my girlfriend was pregnant with our child. That was forty-three years and four sons ago.

I chose a different path. It made all the difference.

Up until the time I was eighteen years old I had never even thought about composing a song. Matter of fact, some of my friends chided me because I was always singing the hits of my favorite groups over and over again. But one day, in the back room of a loan office, where there was a piano, I perched myself, and in less than three hours I wrote two songs of my own making.

That was many writing sessions ago, and hundreds of songs. But that day made the difference.

I borrowed twenty dollars one night to go to a contest in West Virginia with my singing group. Everybody said we wouldn’t have a chance. We went down there and won. They were wrong.

That trip made a difference.

I wiggled my way around to get my group, Soul Purpose, an appearance on a Nashville, Tennessee, television program called the Teddy Bart Show. No gospel group had ever been on, but we worked at it and worked at it until we finally got invited. Afterwards I received a phone call which led to a beautiful working relationship with Marijohn Wilkin, leading to my first national album.

The difference.

I have never achieved anything in my life by playing it safe. I honestly have never found any lasting peace or purpose by pursuing the consensus of those who always seek the higher ground for fear of a flood of creativity.

Of course, I have left out the tales of woe and pain caused by such a flamboyant philosophy. Not every escapade into the unknown was a striking of gold. But it didn’t keep me from going. It didn’t keep me from trying. And it didn’t keep me from believing that life is short–and the only way we elongate it is by playing it too safe and making it so boring that it’s interminable.

It’s the difference.

It’s the ability to hear the voice within you and the confidence to believe that somehow that messenger has been with God and has come to bring a special-delivery mission your way.

It is audacious, it is often over-bearing, it is occasionally lonely–and it is certainly bizarre to those who choose a safer path.

But it isthe difference.

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

Twenty Seconds… March 7, 2013

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watchBad language–a phrase usually associated with four-letter words, by people who act like they’ve been splashed with acid upon hearing such foulness. Truth of the matter is, there’s lots of bad language. It is also not limited to four-letter words.

Any words that are hurtful, boring and confusing are nasty and anti-human.

Any phrasing of the language that aspires to hurt people, leaves them bored or at the end of the discourse, produces more confusion than understanding is detrimental. So you can see, bad language is not limited to street talk or R-rated movies or blue comics.

I’ve heard bad language in classrooms, as teachers have espoused information which has left their students uninspired, with no desire whatsoever to pursue knowledge.

I’ve heard bad language in churches, as repetition and repudiation have caused people to recoil in fear instead of embracing a loving heavenly Father.

I’ve watched television shows espousing themselves clever by portraying what they determined to be “reality” which left the viewers hurting and sometimes even bored in their confusion.

I will repeat it again: any words that hurt humans, bore them, or confuse them are bad language.

  • If you can’t take the hurt out of your words, to make what you have to say is interesting and to connect the dots to produce comprehension, then it’s like you’re cussing a blue streak.
  • If you’re spending your time studying prophesy, don’t be surprised if people perceive you as Harry Potter or a hobbit.
  • If you think that a string of four-letter words linked together actually form a sentence, you may need to go back and study subjects, verbs and objects.
  • And if you think you’re going to get more than twenty seconds to make your heart’s desire clear to others, you are sadly mistaken–and on the verge of hurting, boring or confusing your hearer.

Often people ask, “Well, what do you believe?”

I would suggest that you have a twenty-second, thirty-word answer. For instance, the Bible is full of them. John 3:16 is less than thirty words. “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”–the summation of the whole Bible–is much less than thirty words.

So when the question is posed to me, “what do you believe?” I know I have less than twenty-seconds of attention span. So here’s my answer:

“I believe in a God who wants heaven to begin here on earth by including everyone as brothers and sisters and knowing that ‘NoOne is better than anyone else’.”

That’s mine. It’s not hurtful, not long enough to be boring and not confusing. Matter of fact, I’ve found it to be a conversation STARTER instead of killer.

Sometimes the spotlight will hit you for twenty seconds. You will need to escape bad language which is hurtful, boring and confusing.

What are your thirty words?

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