Good News and Better News … March 19th, 2018

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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I can be a brat.

I must confess it, because sometimes it’s obvious. I get used to my own voice, own thoughts, own beliefs, and then everything else seems to dim in comparison.

I know a lot of bratty Christians. They are people, like myself, who are quite dissatisfied with the religious system and its cantankerous and stubborn practices, which keep people from pursuing personal excellence.

I can be a brat. I even caught myself criticizing the inception of “Christian movies” that offer an alternative to existing Hollywood fragmentation, presenting my thesis that these religious flicks are too filled with pat answers and unrealistic scenarios.

Actually, I suffer from the mindset of a predecessor who also had the name John. John the Disciple came to Jesus, explaining that they had come across a man who was casting out demons in Jesus’ name, and when the disciples demanded the gentleman come and join their flock and follow, he refused.

John was infuriated. Not only did this gentleman rebuff any attempt to get in step with the program, but he felt he had the right to have a separate outreach other than theirs.

When I read this, I had to giggle. At this point, Jesus hadn’t died or resurrected, but there was already an independent work based on his teachings. We were already starting denominations before there was even a church.

When I read John’s complaint, I feel great empathy.

Why can’t this guy just come and be part of us? Certainly Jesus will be pissed off by this rip-off artist and sue his ass!

You see, John was being a brat, too.

Jesus gives a fascinating response. It’s in two parts:

1. Leave him alone.

2. Those who are not against us are for us.

My dear friends, I don’t believe in either of these statements. I am convinced that if you leave false ideas alone, they just get “falser” (which, by the way, I know is not a word.)

And I don’t believe that simply because someone uses the name “Jesus,” they are my brother or sister.

But I am wrong. I’m also a brat–because there is one thing we know for sure:

Whatever rendition we have come up with of the Gospel of Jesus of Nazareth is the daily comedy material shared by the angels and God in heaven. They certainly laugh at us.

For no one will end up being right. We’ll all be surprised at how the universe actually functions and “clicks together.”

So what is the point of getting self-righteous and bratty? I have developed two guidelines:

A. Love your neighbor as yourself

B. Don’t judge and don’t even think about judging others.

Those who do not hold these principles in supreme position are not my enemies–just not my comrades. Jesus tells me to leave them alone. It will play out.

He’s so right.

So the good news is, since every one of us is basically ignorant, there’s no need to be a brat.

The better news is, if we leave people alone who don’t agree with us, it gives us more time to enjoy the fellowship with those who share our hearts.

 

 

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Catchy (Sitting 7) Accumulating … July 23rd, 2017

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On May 8th, the largest blizzard in the history of meteorology in the state of Nebraska dumped nineteen inches of wet, slushy snow all over Lincoln, closing the freeways and the airport.

Matthew was at that airport.

He had cleverly put together a plan to meet up with three of his old college buddies from the “Leaven of Seven,” and explained to them in vivid detail some of his ideas about how to take the money from the eccentric billionaire and attempt to make Jesus not only the Christ, but popular again.

He had left messages with each, and they had successfully negotiated their air itineraries to have at least a two-hour layover at the Lincoln, Nebraska Airport–all at the same time. It was a feat of magic, only to be expected from those who had benefitted from higher education and had never had to be concerned about anybody but themselves.

When the announcement was made over the public address system that all flights were canceled and that the local motels were also filled, Joanna Lawrence (Jo-Jay) let out a tiny whimper that culminated in a miniscule scream. Yet it was loud enough to alarm people around her who already had experienced the danger of the sky falling.

“I can’t believe this,” said Jo-Jay. “I am going to need lots of alcohol.”

Matthew interrupted. “You always say that, Jo-Jay. You don’t need to be intoxicated. You just choose to be drunk. And if there isn’t a crisis, you’ll tip your glass to the threat of one.”

Jo-Jay paused and peered at Matthew with a surprised expression. “Wow. That was deep. I think you just changed my life. Why don’t we get a drink and celebrate?”

Paul Padwick thought that was hilarious. When he agreed to join them at the Lincoln airport, he requested they no longer use his college name, Pee Pee. (Matthew had texted him back and said, “If we call you Pee Pee, will it piss you off?”)

Michael was supposed to join them from Washington, D. C., but missed his flight, and in trying to catch a later one, discovered they were all canceled.

So after much inquiry and questioning, Matthew, Jo-Jay and Paul Padwick (never, ever to be known again as Pee Pee) discovered that they were going to be stuck overnight at the airport without the benefit of a shower.

Just moments later, poor Jo-Jay found out that the bar had closed at the establishment out of fear that cantankerous folks who were trapped in tight quarters might get along better without being totally sauced.

“I guess,” said Matthew, “we should find our corner in the airport, where we can bed down for the night.”

Bedding down had become possible because airport staffers had begun to circulate cushions and blankets, formerly the property of the “Cornhusker Airline” before it surprisingly went out of business. So the three of them, taking their cushions, blankets and a respectable supply of candy, chips and soft drinks, found a remote corner in the airport where the Cornhusker Airline had formerly dreamed of building a massive terminal.

It was quiet, it was pretty warm and it was just a little bit spooky–the kind of atmosphere which was ideal for old friends to catch up and discuss plans that might bring them together once again.

Jo-Jay had barely opened up her Doritos and begun to consume them like a starving woman when she croaked, “Can I get this straight? At least let me hear it from your mouth. Basically, from your message, you have an old man who died with some sort of religious compunction to leave behind money to make his God the Number One God in the world.”

Matthew corrected her. “Actually, it’s Jesus–but you are kind of close.”

“I guess I felt like the Jesus thing kind of maxed out a while ago. You know what I mean?” posed Paul, making his contribution. “Like, the ones who were really interested in it had already gotten on board and everybody else gave it a look-see and passed on it for their own reasons.”

“That is so true,” agreed Jo-Jay. “I mean, short of lying, cheating and fudging the figures, you either dig Jesus or you don’t.”

Matthew leaped in. “Well, I kind of dig Jesus, but I wouldn’t call myself religious–though I think it’s admirable to be Christian. So I might classify myself in that category…”

Paul laughed. “Well, it’s admirable to be a weight lifter, but don’t you have to actually lift something?”

Jo-Jay roared with laughter. “Yeah, God-guy. If you’re going to be a Christian, don’t you have to do a lot of Christian things?” She reflected. “Or maybe not, come to think of it. There seem to be a lot of those who claim the title who don’t pursue the agenda.”

At that point, they all just stopped speaking.

Maybe it was the darkness falling outside that left the room even more dismal. Perhaps it was the realization that the area they had selected for their resting space was a little chillier than they thought. Or maybe it was just the awkwardness of being back together.

But they didn’t hurry it. No one tried to make small chat or bring up the consistency of their candy bars. Just a moment to reflect on who they were, where they were and what the hell they were going to do about this “heavenly” issue.

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Reverend Meningsbee (Part 38) Gramps Creekside… January 22nd, 2017

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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Reverend Meningsbee

The local mailman decided to enter the cabin when he heard the old tick hound, Queenie, howling.

He found Gramps Creekside dead in his bed.

Now, “Gramps” was not his given baptism name. His bank signature read “Benjamin Donnelly.” But everybody in town called him Gramps because he seemed to be more aged than anyone else they knew–and “Creekside” because many years before he built a small cabin by a creek about three miles outside of town.

Gramps had the legendary blending of cantankerous, kindly and wise. He always seemed to have a good word when it was needed and a little piece of sass when the world became too complacent.

It’s safe to say that everybody in the town, at least once a year, made a pilgrimage out to the little cabin to visit with the old man as he sat and mused over life, spitting tobacco in his ‘toon.

Meningsbee had made such a journey just three days earlier. Feeling the need to be around someone as old as the hills, with the possibility of receiving irreverent counsel, he headed out and sat in the old man’s only extra chair.

As always, Meningsbee tried to start out nice, but Gramps just didn’t like preachers.

His contention was that ministers didn’t have enough work to keep them busy, which caused them to get nosy about other people’s business. Gramps had only attended the church one time, on no particularly special Sunday, and walked out giving Meningsbee the sideways compliment, “You’re better than most.”

So when the news came to town that Gramps was dead, there was a shudder of grief and a reluctance to accept the reality. Deep in their hearts, people knew they would get over his departure, but the absence of his freewheeling style of observation would certainly deplete their world.

The pastor was asked to conduct the memorial service on Sunday afternoon. The church was filled with those who had been graced by the touch and the gruffness of the aging philosopher.

On Saturday, Meningsbee went out to the cabin and walked around, looking for hints as to what to say at the memorial service. There wasn’t much there. Apparently, the old man had savored tobacco and beef jerky.

Gramps had a Bible on his nightstand, what appeared to be a year’s supply of black coffee, three dozen fresh hen’s eggs in the ice box and many cans of Vienna sausages.

Meningsbee picked up the Bible, opened it, and a little slip of paper fell onto the floor. He retrieved it up and read the brief paragraph with a smile. He had found his subject for the service.

When Sunday afternoon rolled around and everyone had tearfully finished their tributes to Gramps Creekside, the Reverend stood to his feet and said:

“Searching through the limited belongings of Benjamin Donnelly, who we lovingly know as Gramps Creekside, I quickly realized that this was not a man who was laying up treasures on Earth.”

The audience laughed.

“Matter of fact, in the whole cabin I could not locate a second pair of shoes, though he granted himself the luxury of three pair of underwear.”

More laughter.

“What I did find was a Bible–a Good Book which had the strokings of many a finger-passing. In that Bible was a note, handwritten by Gramps himself. It read: ‘Am I starting? Am I done? Don’t rightly know. Guess I’ll go on.'”

Reverend Meningsbee paused for a second to allow the words to sink in, and then continued. “Just like you, at first I was perplexed by the meaning, but then it was so much like Gramps that it was like he was whispering in my ear. You see, here’s a man who wasn’t sure how much time he had or whether it was time to leave. But because he didn’t know, he thought the smartest way to live was to keep going full speed until something stopped him. When I read the words, they convicted my heart. I thought about all the things that have stopped me recently, just because they challenged my ego. I thought about all the matters I worry about, which don’t amount to more than dust on a country road. And I realized that Gramps sat out there, not totally convinced that anybody cared, but always prepared to receive a visitor and encourage a heart. We are too busy being busy to really be busy. That’s the truth of the matter. Let me tell ya’–we’ve taken the last few months and allowed the world around us to come in and dissect us like a bunch of frogs. They’ve looked at our insides and concluded that we’re pretty messed up. Well, so be it. Truth is, everybody sitting in this room could tell a nice story about Gramps–and a bad story about him. He wasn’t very bigoted but he was impatient with children. I once heard him tell a mother of a fussy child at the grocery store, ‘Why don’t you leave that little brat home so the rest of us can enjoy squeezin’ our favorite loaf of bread?’ She was offended. But I will tell you–she is in this room today. Because less than six months later, when her husband died, Gramps was out in her driveway, shoveling snow so she could get to work. You see, it’s not about being right. It’s sure not about being wrong. As Gramps said in his note, it’s about keepin’ the thing going until it’s over. He did not lay down for a nap on Thursday thinking he was going to die. Never crossed his mind. That’s the way it should be.”

The service concluded and the folks trailed off to the cemetery to lay the old man to rest. It was decided by the city council to leave the cabin as it was for a while, so people could go out to visit and reminisce.

For the next two months there was a sweet spirit of revival that swept across Garsonville. Not a “Holy Ghost shouting” kind, but a gentle reflection, where everybody asked themselves, “Am I starting? Am I done? Don’t rightly know. Guess I’ll go on.”

 

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G-Poppers … September 9th, 2016

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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Jon close up

Sometimes G-Pop forgets.

He is suddenly overwhelmed by the nasty, cantankerous, mostly-cloudy conclusions, and then drenched in the negativity.

Weathering the storm.

What G-Pop forgets is that there are two worlds: the world around him and the world of his undertaking.

It is so easy to get trapped into believing that significant change can be accomplished by arguing, fussing, preaching or evaluating the lives and actions of eight billion other people.

But we’re all human. We want everything, everywhere, to be just fine. And by “just fine,” we mean “to our liking.”

There is only one world. It is the world where we live and have some sense of contribution.

But to keep on that straight and narrow of wisdom, G-Pop realizes that certain ideas need to be honored on a daily basis:

1. No one is better than anyone else.

Even if you have information to the contrary or discover evidence which contradicts such a noble notion, be intelligent enough to ignore it.

2. Don’t judge anyone, anywhere, at any time.

Even if you feel you have the backing of eternity or a stack of holy books, laugh at your inclination to be superior.

3. Stop thinking big.

It sets your mind to enormous expectation which causes the smaller opportunities to escape your vision. Life is not about a magic wand which causes dreams to appear, but rather, a pile of bricks, which we put in place one at a time.

4. Laugh.

It’s better than crying, and even if weeping comes for a season, be prepared for it to turn into giggling. Taking things seriously only puts you in serious trouble.

5. Don’t stop believing, but don’t rely on it.

Believing has an unrighteous tendency to wait too long before determining to do something. If you want God to know that you believe, start working with what you already have.

You see, sometimes G-Pop forgets these things. The bickering causes him to become cynical, or worse, proud.

When G-Pop lives in his own world, change actually seems possible.

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G-33: Propheting… July 18, 2014

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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  • Billowing smoke at the crest of a mountain leaves things a bit hazy.mad as hell
  • Tablets of stone are pretty concrete.
  • The heads of Amorites posted on sticks are not terribly inspiring, but actually, gross.
  • Butchered animals burnt on an altar of worship end up quite smelly.

The Creator needed a more creative idea to reach His creation.

For symbolism may have its charm, but after all, it demands that the person being attracted to the concept have both an interest and some intelligence. And here’s the rub: interest and intelligence are unusual commodities in the human race. We are people who require a more straightforward, human solution.

The Creator, the Father of al, decided to send prophets–human beings themselves and therefore capable of error and misstep, but also valuable because their mortal lips could convey an eternal message.

At first it seemed to be a workable idea. The people were alerted, impressed and even impacted.

But unfortunately, all prophets eventually have to speak unpopular ideas to cantankerous hearers.

So the life expectancy of a prophet dropped suddenly, leaving the job unpursued and frequently unfilled.

Still, it was a better way than killing turtle doves and terminating enemies in the path of the Ark of the Covenant.

“I will have mercy, not sacrifice,” said one of the prophets. Yet the people insisted on killing off livestock.

“I desire to repair the breach.” But people continued to fight instead of searching out reasons for peaceful coexistence.

“Be kind to strangers.” Unfortunately, strangers had little chance for acceptance among a people who deemed themselves chosen.

No matter what the prophets said, the people found fault and eventually realized that not listening to them levied no toll.

We were back once again to Creator and creature, standing at a distance, peering at one another suspiciously.

It was time to make a decision.

 

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Hone to Own … December 7, 2013

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  1. “I did my best.”
  2. “It must not have been in God’s plan.”
  3. “It wasn’t fair.”

You have just read the three excuses that keep mankind pursuing a mediocrity that teeters us precariously between animal and God.

These excuses are so universally accepted as “facts of life” that to question them is to be declared either cantankerous or un-American. Yet, may I address them?

First of all, I don’t know what my best is.

It is both arrogant and surrendering to make the statement. Arrogant because I am presenting that my best should be good enough, and surrendering because I portray that life should not be about the pursuit of improvement.

I have the responsibility to hone my talent. “Hone” is an unusal word. We don’t hear it much because it requires the combination of critique and passion. Actually, if I follow the Good Book, I am told to multiply my talent–which in reality, is the only way to hone it. If I am not looking for subtle ways to create differences and increase my potentials, I will gradually slide back into mediocrity.

I critique myself, and then pursue with passion additional avenues with great joy due to the possibility of getting better.

Secondly, God’s plan, put bluntly, is to give people the freewill choice to not perish.

As a matter of fact, it says that: “It is not God’s will that any should perish.” Then it adds this caveat: even though it is not His will that any should perish, He wants us to pursue repentance.

Repentance is changing your life in the direction of success.

If you actually believe that God planned for you to suffer, you might want to start checking out those Greek gods from Mt. Olympus.

And finally, “it wasn’t fair” is comical because life was never meant to be fair–but rather, balanced.

And the balance in life is found by combining events with my reaction.

In other words, if a blessing comes my way and I gloat, I set myself up for future failure by ignoring the need for reflection. If a trial comes my way and I become depressed, I am a duck sitting in the middle of a pond in front of twenty-five hunters.

It is my job to hone my abilities in order to own the privilege of determining my destiny.

Don’t cripple yourself with self-confidence. Also, don’t limit your prospects with self-pity.

  • You haven’t found your best yet.
  • God’s plan is for you to succeed and not perish by adding the miraculous ingredient of change.
  • And searching for fairness is futile when the only balance in life is giving a great reaction to whatever comes our way.

In conclusion:

Answer the question

Question the answer.

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I’m Looking For… A Content God February 4, 2013

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handsGrouchy, grumpy and growling–three attributes we associate with being cantankerous and therefore, usually equated with getting old. Actually, teenagers can be just as grouchy, grumpy and growling as the retirement set, but apparently the younger generation has a better public relations agent.

I believe in God. I belive in God for three reasons:

  1. The world is too magnificent, too intricate and too well-devised to be an accident of a “Big Bang” idea.
  2. I need someone to love me as I find ways, through trial and error, to be more loveable.
  3. I am arrogant enough to desire immortality.

Now, you will notice that I don’t choose to believe in God simply because the Bible tells me so, that I am fearful of the power of His nature, or even because I’m frightened of a devil’s hell. No–I’m looking for a God who’s content–because I know that I’m better when I allow myself to be.

Unfortunately, that book called the Holy Bible presents at least three different Gods, if not more:

  • There’s the God who created the world, walking around like a proud papa, calling everything good and placing gold stars on daily assignments.
  • Then you’ve got the God who had some sort of faith crisis own and began demanding the foreskin from male children, the deaths of the Amorites and Philistines, the forbidding of shrimp scampi and the killing off of folks in Sodom and Gomorrah because…well, because they weren’t right in the head. We go through a season of this God, who seems to be enamored of blood, requesting that small animals be killed as confirmation of forgiveness, and relegating women to the status of cattle.
  • All of a sudden, some of the prophets from the minor leagues started sharing about a God who didn’t like killing animals and preferred mercy over sacrifice, and this carried through until we were given a live and in-person interview through the deeds and ideas of this fellow named Jesus. We were told that he was God. Suddenly back in our presence was a God who cared about people, told stories, condemned hypocrisy and welcomed repentance.

Recently I told a theologian that I was in search of a “content God” who was thrilled with the invention of fish in the ocean. He frowned and replied, “All the gods of the Bible blend into one God, who was all things and whose ways are mysterious. We will not understand until all things are revealed.” I looked into his dissatisfied face (which was grouchy, grumpy and growling) smiled and walked away.

You can feel free to boil down the entire Bible in an attempt to come up with a God who was able to kill children because they mocked a prophet but also heal the lepers because they cried out in praise. Not for me.

My God is a content one–because I know that I’m better when I am content. My God is the one who sat down on Friday afternoon, during his “week” of creation, and looked at man and woman, which He had just formed, and smiled in joy–with a tear in His eye.

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