G-Poppers … July 7th, 2017

 

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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Jon close up

Is it natural? G-Pop is particularly curious.

Are people naturally mean, or typically kind?

Is it normal to be self-involved, or is there a part of our inner being that yearns to escape selfishness?

Are folks naturally bigoted? In other words, is there an inclination somewhere in our DNA to cling to those who resemble us?

Are we talented?

Is the human race spiritual, or much too burdened by its carnal appetites?

Is intelligence a part of our makeup, or is a certain amount of vague, blank misunderstanding intertwined in our beings?

What is natural?

Are we naturally generous?

Is it common to be vengeful?

Forgive, or unforgiving?

What are the drastic differences between the genders that cause us to believe there’s a chasm that cannot be crossed?

What is natural?

G-Pop offers this warning: over the past ten years we’ve promoted a sarcastic, cynical and bitter interpretation of our species. It’s become easier to accept lying, cheating, immorality, greed, and hubris as natural parts of the human intellect instead of temptations that are given too much time and turf.

So the statement, “I’m only human” covers a multitude of sins–from being late to a dinner party to accidentally shooting a suspect or a police officer.

What is natural? G-Pop wants you to know one simple fact:

Babies are born beings. We teach them to be human.

Being human is simple–it is an intelligent awareness of our animal instinct, while simultaneously reaching inside ourselves to find the breath of God.

Even though we’re not spiritual, we also are not carnal. Not one of us would last fifteen minutes in a jungle with other creatures. And though our first instinct may not be gentleness, we are fully aware that the backlash which comes from sporting antagonism leaves us offensive, if not mortally wounded.

Beware–there is a movement in our society to make every human vice seem natural. It is not.

We are not animals. We are the part of the animal kingdom which has emerged through the intelligence of the Creator, to be able to think, reason, feel, empathize and invent.

This is natural.

So we may find ourselves needing to challenge our motives a bit more often.

But in the long run, we will find that we live more peaceably with other folks when we go to sleep knowing that we did more loving than gnawing.

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Good News and Better News … March 14th, 2016

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St. James Composite 2

Saint James Lutheran Church in Fayetteville, North Carolina.

Realizing that you may never include this sanctuary as a stop off in your pilgrimage of American churches, I will attempt to relate my experience of enjoying the fine folk I met there.

The pastor is John Locke, who has the noble name of a great English philosopher, the inspiration to such American forefathers as James Madison, Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson. (Thomas, by the way, used much of Locke’s language in penning the Declaration of Independence.)

That said, I will tell you that I enjoyed the present incarnation of John Locke of Fayetteville equally.

The congregation was inspiring, and therefore capable of being inspired. Although there were certainly individuals who were curious about my pedigree and what my theological background was, most of them just relaxed and allowed me the chance to share my talents and my heart.

They arrived having survived a week of bitter political struggles and angry candidates, generating a climate threatening mayhem. Let’s be honest–most of us feel rather insignificant when we are viewing the 24-hour news cycle and realize how meager our simple efforts may seem.

But that’s the purpose of the church. It is supposed to be a safe zone–a place where you come to escape social pressure, politics and even religion, and spend an hour or so finding reasons to still believe.

It is a sanctuary where we can proclaim:

1. We’re human.

And then we can ask God, “Is that what you expected?”

We’re not perfect, because in striving for such a position, we would look both prideful and foolish.

2. We’re more “child” than “angel.”

So heavenly Father, enchant us.

Any God we serve who expects us to become more than we are is a charlatan. We are God’s children, and therefore definitely require a certain amount of entertainment with our enlightenment.

3. We need a safe place to come.

The world is full of tribulation, and even though we understand that Jesus has overcome the world, we require a reason to be of good cheer.

It is up to the good folks at Saint James–from leadership all the way through nursery–to provide such an atmosphere.

If they do, they will become viable and powerful in the community, offering an option to the raging storms of those who follow the present wind-blowing.

If they insist on being religious and trap themselves in the drapings of their faith, they will not only be an anachronism to a former time, but will find themselves gnawing on each other out of frustration.

So there’s the good news.

We’re human, we are more like children and we need a safe zone.

But here is the better news: on top of all that, we have this quality–just a bit of sweet, creative divinity placed within us by the breath of God, hinting that we also can surprise you.

We are capable of being gentle and powerful.

So watch us.

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Jesonian: Reasonable (Part 8) Priority … January 24th, 2016

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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Jesonian hands

I am often reluctant to quote directly from the Good Book.

It is not due to a lack of respect or devotion to the volume. I would have a similar sensation about reading passages from Moby Dick if historically the Melville work had brought about horrific division and chaos.

But sometimes a particular passage from the Bible needs to be shared in its simplicity–and entirety–to point out how misunderstanding has driven us away from the consensus of what makes things good.

“Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things will be added unto you.”

It is virtually impossible for a theologian to interpret that verse without adding his or her religious convictions, practices and pious overtones.

Yet it’s really quite simple. It’s divided into three sections:

  1. The kingdom of God.
  2. His righteousness.
  3. All these things.

To identify what these mean, you must have an awareness of the overall and abiding principles that are represented.

The kingdom of God is not a church, a belief system or a denominational approach to religion. Jesus made it clear that the kingdom of God is within us.

So the first step to establishing priority in our journey is to find ourselves.

The creation story tells us that God breathed into humans the breath of life and we became living souls. So if we can’t find that breath, we don’t know how to breathe. And all attempts we make to find the kingdom of God outside the confines of our own created space are not only futile, but often lead us in the wrong direction–trying to become sanctified without really being holy.

Here is the kingdom of God: I am happiest when I can be strong enough to help others.

  • We are not happy when we are weak.
  • We are not happy if we have sufficiency and choose selfishness.

The breath of God is the blessing of finding ourselves and then dispensing mercy to others.

We are told to seek this first.

Dare I say that many religious people are so riddled with insecurity and superstition that the only way they know how to express salvation to others is to load them down with guilt, intimidate them over their lifestyle, then stand back and judge their actions. It is a waste of time.

Get happy, be happy, and from that position of joy, find a way to make others happy.

Which brings us to His righteousness.

This is not my righteousness. This is not a general righteousness. This is God’s righteousness.

It doesn’t take too long in perusing the Good Book to discover that God is content when we grow in confidence so we can help others around us whom He would love to touch with His grace.

If you believe that God is stomping around Heaven, angry about the Ten Commandments being broken, you should probably read the Good Book a little more carefully.

“It’s not His will that any should perish, but that all come to repentance.”

Exactly.

Which brings us to the final thought: “all these things.”

While Wall Street and business tycoons try to figure out the secret to accumulating loot, the process is accessible. Satisfied souls who manifest a creative and passionate life become a magnet to material goods.

It’s just the way it works.

Everybody who chases money, fights for money or kills for money always ends up vanquished by those who are stronger. All the things we desire in life will be at our disposal when we find the breath so that we can breathe, become creative and allow our lives to be filled with passion.

So this little journey we have taken in the Gospel of Matthew is summed up best in this way to discover priority:

I will find the breath of God within me, which will enable me to breathe and become strong so I can help others. I do this because God has one great mission statement: help people. And in the process of finding my confidence, being creative and having a passionate life, the opportunity to gain what I need will be readily available.

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PoHymn: A Rustling in the Stagnant…February 11, 2015

Jonathots Daily Blog

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PoHymn Feb 11

Nearly seven years ago I began this daily essay called Jonathots–2,500 entries. I would like to dedicate today’s offering to all the little voices I have cried out into the wilderness.

I Write

I write because I am wrong.

I am wrong because I am not right.

I scribble, searching for truth.

Truth scurries from my pen, mocking me.

I persevere because I require a mission.

I seek a mission to learn the power to persevere.

I question, starving for answers.

I want answers to justify my questions.

I believe in God because I don’t want to give up on people.

I study people. They are the breath of God.

I love my neighbor because hate is exhausting.

I am still exhausted because my love is incomplete.

I laugh to avoid crying.

I cry because the laughing fails to heal.

I have stopped judging because the blowback is ferocious.

And being ferocious only scares the infirmed, who need my gentleness.

I write to question the wrong.

I am wronged to have reasons to write.

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My Little Improv… January 5, 2014

Jonathots Daily Blog

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masksSome rules are good.

They help people understand better ways to do things to welcome success and happiness.

On the other hand, some rules are bad. They’re put in place–sometimes in stone–to control folks, eliminating the creative passion that allows us mere mortals to touch the face of God.

I’ve tried to figure out which one is which for most of my life.

When I was a kid, they had a rule in our church that young students in junior high school couldn’t be on the Bible League competition team until they got into the ninth grade. I suppose somebody who originally came up with the idea imagined it was a good thing–to make being on the team a reward, and also that probably most youngsters in seventh and eighth grade were not mature enough for such an endeavor.

It was a bad rule. I objected, complained, lobbied, got it changed and was the first thirteen-year-old on the team.

It doesn’t matter where you go. There are people who enjoy their work so they try to make it more accessible to themselves and others, and then there are those who are a bit miserable, who feel it is their duty to pass on the sullen attitude.

Music, religion, politics, corporations, clubs, schools–all of them have their share of “grumpy grumpers” who really hate their lives and want to make sure that everybody hates equally.

So when I sat down to plan what I wanted to do in my sharing this year–and also how I wanted to expand–I came up with three very important criteria:

  1. I need more time at every stop-off to spend with the audience, to make a greater connection.
  2. I need to work on defining the message instead of allowing the confusion of present philosophy and theology to leave people devoid of feeling.
  3. I need to purposefully break some bad rules.

So yesterday, as I thought about what I’m going to be doing Sunday night–a drama entitled Front Porch U.S.A.–I realized that I was truly blessed with a piece of great improv.

I call it a “three-active play.” By that term I mean that each and every time I perform it, the message, the pursuit and even much of the plot will remain the same. But the words, stories, conflict and resolution will be different each and every time.

There is no script.

I’m going to allow myself to be led of the Spirit, to share what’s on my heart in the moment, as will my fellow-thespian, Janet.

It’s breaking the rules. In theater, you’re not supposed to be too improvisational. You’re not supposed to interact with the audience too much. Blocking, staging and scenery are to remain the same.

I plan on breaking all these rules. Why?

Because I think the three greatest things we possess as human beings are often buried under form and tradition.

  • We have a story.
  • We have a spirit.
  • And we have an imagination.

So every Sunday night, I’m going to trust my journey, my faith and my heart to give an audience, at the conclusion of my weekend, a fresh piece of myself that no other gathered congregation has ever heard.

I’m so excited I can hardly stand it.

In conclusion, don’t be afraid to follow good rules that help people discover their humanity and the breath of God inside them. But don’t be timid in using your improv, and challenge rules that were put in place to stifle and foster “fussy fussers.”

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Click for details on the SpirTed 2014 presentation

Click for details on the SpirTed 2014 presentation

Please contact Jonathan’s agent, Jackie Barnett, at (615) 481-1474, for information about scheduling SpiriTed in 2014.

click to hear music from Spirited 2014

click to hear music from Spirited 2014

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