Good News and Better News … September 7th, 2015

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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Sugar river

Many years ago, I sensed a voice within me, encouraging me to go out and share my heart and abilities with the world. Some people would say it was the voice of God, while others would probably insist that it was just me, declaring my own bidding. I don’t care.

I heeded the call, and that decision has taken me on an exotic adventure.

Verona, Wisconsin has a small church called Sugar River. I had the pleasure of being the guest artist for that congregation yesterday morning.

There is much good news to proclaim about Sugar River. First of all, they have the unique distinction of meeting in a former bowling alley, which honestly, unleashed the “demon” of pun and wordplay I felt had been dormant in my soul, culminating with me referring to the gathered as “a bunch of Holy Rollers.”

What was good about Sugar River?

1. They seemed glad to be there.

That in itself is a bit unusual in this day and age, when many people arrive at church with the passion level of a fresh recruit assigned to guard duty.

2. They kind of liked each other.

I know that may seem to be a silly statement, but merely attending the same worship facility does not necessarily stimulate friendship any more than arriving at a political debate causes all the candidates to hug.

3. They are weary of “old church.”

I’m not so sure that “old church” was ever a church. The real old church we often refer to was filled with compassion, energy and social awareness, but the old church that exists today is the back-slidden version of that former gregarious gang. Either way, Sugar River is tired of the back-slidden body of Christ.

4. But they all seemed a little afraid of the change they know must come.

Matter of fact, it’s causing many churches to cement their spirits and become advocates of certain doctrines, so as to protect themselves from the perceived anarchy that just might happen if the religious system was exposed for being a charlatan.

So I was happy to bring them better news. Matter of fact, Jesus often began his discourses with “be not afraid.”

No, Sugar River, there’s nothing to be afraid of.

The church that will emerge from the existing malaise now exists will only require that you bring your heart.

  • Not your soul, so you can pore through the scriptures to find obscure interpretations.
  • Not merely your mind, so you can draw psychological parallels between theology and the latest Hollywood movie.
  • And not just your body, to plop down and go through the formalities of surviving an order of service.

You will be required to be emotionally involved with your heavenly Father and with those humans around you.

You also will be unleashed to “be of good cheer.”

The only true enemy of spirituality is the notion that we seriously can figure out God. Discovering that we can’t and having a good laugh about it is the abundant joy that Jesus promised us in following His path.

The world has tribulation.

Heaven is beyond our grasp.

So be of good cheer.

Relax in your skin, love your life, and don’t get too solemn.

And finally, the last piece of better news for Sugar River is: be prepared to simplify.

Everything is complicated. Matter of fact, we are almost prideful in the pursuit of complicating things further.

In a world of unsolved problems, the genius in the room is the person who walks away from the problems and finds a place to be productive.

Simplify.

Get your faith down to two or three solid ideas, and then chase them down with all your heart.

I enjoyed my time at Sugar River.

And I’m so glad that I went to the former bowling alley with my spare time…and made a strike.

 

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Putting Her Finger On It… November 1, 2012

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She didn’t get the promotion.

She had allowed herself permission to think about it, but had not yet said the words out loud to herself–let alone to her mate and husband of twelve years. It was just too painful–too real in a way that forbade revision.

It was a classic American injustice. She had entered into competition for this new position in the company with a younger man who was her subordinate–and everybody knew it. The idea of her receiving “the boost” was not hers alone, but held by everybody around her, who just took it for granted that she was the next in line to be … well, the next in line. Suddenly it was over and her young fledgling apprentice was promoted over her.

There seemed to be only one reason. He was a man.

She suspected that the male-dominated company reasoning was that this young fellow had recently impregnated his wife for a third time and that his financial responsibilities were more excessive than hers, since she was childless with a working husband. Of course, this was not stated aloud. That would be an admission to favoritism and sexism. But once again, as is often the case in business-driven America, the sperm whale swam away victorious while she was relegated to being a “mummy,” declared corporately dead and shoveled into a neglected tomb.

She felt bruised. Her whole being had the sensation one experiences the day after a car accident–seemingly free of injury, but the morning after, displaying the creaks and twinges of unexpected damage.

What was it that bothered her so much? The rejection? The unfairness? Was it the loss of money? It was certainly all of them–but mostly the money. There was just something magnificent about continuing to do excellent work and knowing that the paycheck reflected a better return.

Now she found herself sitting next to her husband, partner, best friend–or maybe just roommate–in their smoke-gray BMW, driving away from her job in silence. She wanted to talk but her lips were sealed because her heart had declared a moratorium on all further emotion. And she wasn’t quite sure that the man sitting next to her was prepared to be the sympathetic ear instead of the instructive father. Yes, it seemed that every time she came to share her ideas or sentiments with him, he took the profile of the professor encouraging the flailing student instead of just going eyeball-to-eyeball with equality–to embrace her as himself.

So the silence continued. The only sound in the whole car was this man of hers, tapping his fingers nervously on the steering wheel as if playing percussion for a rock and roll tune, unheard.

She was angry. She was disappointed. And she was distressed.

All at once she noticed a big, black van up ahead, with its turn signal flashing, sporting Florida license plates, trying to get over in front of them. Her melancholy and bitter spirit sprang forth.

“Don’t let them in!” she bellowed at her husband. She didn’t know why she suddenly wanted to release the pain from her own heart onto these Sunshine State strangers, but her husband obliged, speeding up and forbidding the Floridians to get in front.

As they drove by, she looked over and saw a fat, bald, aging fellow with sunglasses, who was smiling at her. She determined it was not friendly, but rather, a smirk of condescension, similar to the look on her boss’s face earlier in the day when he had gently explained how much he valued her work and that the next opportunity available would be hers.

She couldn’t take it anymore. How dare this stranger smile at her?

She rolled down her window, extended her arm and gave him the middle finger of disapproval. She tried to accentuate her disdain and displeasure with the biggest frown that her memory could manufacture.  The driver of the van just tapped his horn, waved at her, and pulled in behind them–the beneficiary of a nicer couple to the rear. She continued to keep her finger pointed to the heavens in defiance for another few seconds before yanking her arm in and restoring her window to the closed position.

All at once, she had transformed from a promising forty-year-old woman with a great future in her company to an angry peasant, hurling insults at the king who had already escaped into the castle. She became the princess at the snack bar at the bowling alley. She was the dim-witted young lass who couldn’t watch reruns of the Beverly Hillbillies without becoming homesick. She was the young mother toting her eight-year-old daughter to beauty pageants, discussing the slight differences between brands of hairspray. She was Bonnie, sitting next to her … well, in this case, Claude.

And worst of all, that big, black van with that big, bald man kept following along behind them. Was he harassing them? Was he gong to continue to tail them all the way to their home, to produce some sort of confrontation with her husband, whose virility seemed to peak at the point cheering for his favorite football team? She thought of calling the police, but what could she say?

“There’s this big, black van with Florida tags, driven by an older gent, who seems to be following us because I gave him the finger, and I think we might be in danger …”

Fortunately, her apprehensions were alleviated when two blocks later, she and her husband turned right and the van continued on its merry way. She had squandered part of her arsenal of fear for no good reason. She had given a nasty gesture of disdain and hatred to a stranger–an action she would later have to justify by embellishing a storyline about this innocent driver’s supposedly untoward behavior.

She was going home without a promotion, without a conversation with her husband–but  with a little less dignity.

Meanwhile, the black van rolled on toward Richwood, Ohio. The incident was long gone in the memories of its two passengers. They had laughed it off and moved on to more congenial pursuits.

The reason I know the story so well, of course, is because I played the part of the tubby character in the dark van. And the reason I constructed the story about this woman who gave me the finger is that I always find it easier to forgive people when I understand that they don’t know what they’re doing.

A friend of mine taught me that.

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

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