Ask Jonathots … January 21st, 2016

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When is it right to fight–to stand up for yourself? Everyone I know and everywhere I look, people say you have to “fight back” and “defend yourself.” So what does it mean to “turn the other cheek” or even “thou shall not kill?” And how is it we are a “Christian nation” when fighting and killing and wars are constant?

Let’s begin with the concept of a “Christian nation.”

Jesus never envisioned his work as a country. He said his “kingdom is not of this world.” So the Christian message was intended to be an individual experience. Then these converts were challenged to become “the light of the world,” and affect the climate of society.

So to tout ourselves as a Christian nation, we have blended in the concepts of the Old Testament so that we can obtain a nationalistic flavor. And when you include the Old Testament, you get “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth” and vendettas against enemies.

So I don’t know if it’s possible to approach this as a Christian nation without including ideas which Jesus said had been cast aside in favor of more loving and noble adventures.

If we were a Christian nation, our agenda would be simple: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

In other words, take care of those around us and develop a healthy, prejudice-free environment where people can prosper, and in so doing, gain personal peace of mind and solvency.

Then that “city on a hill” could be a testimony to the world and they could begin to measure their philosophies against our philosophy, and decide where they might want to revise their thinking.

Of course, in the process, we must realize that enemies still come along due to jealousy and revenge, but when this happens, we can stand guard without totally destroying those who attack us.

This is exemplified in the Garden of Gethsemane, when Jesus takes eleven men into this secluded place for a time of prayer, asking them if they had the means to defend themselves, and when they said, “We have two swords,” he replied, “It is enough.”

So if we could put together a military without trying to overwhelm our enemies with our prowess, then we would be in a position to take the rest of our money and use it to improve the lives of our citizens instead of constructing an arsenal of intimidation.

You will be told by most people that this idea is childish and stupid. This is why Jesus never intended to take over countries and rule them.

The Christian message is intended to be placed in existing cultures, and through its charity, affect the climate that surrounds it.

So I don’t think there’s an easy answer to this question. Yet I will tell you that the fighting and killing that goes on in our world cannot be attributed to the message of Jesus of Nazareth, because he never intended to possess turf.

And if you ever have to add Old Testament to New Testament to justify your actions, then you are not living under the total spiritual impact of the Kingdom of God.

So I walk in a simple situation:

  • If the United States is attacked, we should defend ourselves.
  • We should also protect the innocent of the world as much as possible without entering into old grudges that are thousands of years in the making.
  • And we should take most of our financial power to build up the lives of our people so that we can offer a testimony of peace and prosperity to the world around us.

Whatever it would take to do this is what would be sufficient. Because when eleven men told Jesus they had two swords, he said it was enough.

It certainly is not enough to attack, but it did end up being enough to allow them to escape.

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Confessing … November 28th, 2015

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XXX.

I confess so I can heal.

If I deny, I remain sick.

For the sake of this essay and season of confession, let me refer to it as “Thanksbumping.”

It’s that uncomfortable moment when older folks such as myself decide to openly share some insight with younger folks who absolutely have no interest in the input whatsoever.

It is tricky. It can slip up on you when you merely believe you’re sharing your heart, and almost always is interpreted as intrusion.

I thought I had outsmarted “Thanksbumping” this year by controlling the amount of time I spent with my family, while also promising myself to keep my convictions to my own inner pleasure.

I did really well the first night, but at the second joining together, subjects came up for which I had great passion.

I spoke up.

It did not go well.

I quickly retreated and spent the rest of the evening trying my best to imitate invisibility.

At the Thanksgiving meal the next day I was much better, and had learned my lesson.

But I must apologize to myself, to my Father in heaven and to those who once sat under my tutelage, for accidentally continuing to “tutle.”

Before you become self-righteous and insist that you never do such a thing, let me gently and mercifully explain that our children perceive any intervention which they have not requested as a breach of their territorial waters.

So as I confess this to you–that I did better at “Thanksbumping” this year but am still not without reproach–let me give you three hints to keep you out of this iniquity:

  1. Avoid giving opinions without hearing a question coming your way.
  2. Don’t offer contrary views in a climate where well-established ideas are being revered.
  3. And certainly, don’t attempt to do any sideline parenting.

It may be difficult to succeed at being a bystander when you feel as if you should be included and treasured, but it is the nature of our species.

It is the changing of the guard.

And to have a good Thanksgiving, you must make sure you dodge the “bumping.”

 

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The Alphabet of Us: A is for Anger… December 8, 2014

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All human beings possess a heart, a soul, mind and strength.

Nothing of any true significance can be achieved unless this is understood.

  • Trying to deal with our emotions by thinking our way out of the situation is doomed to failure.
  • Becoming emotionally involved with mathematical equations is equally sunk in the bog.
  • And ignoring our spirituality, hoping to physically dominate in every facet of our lives, is just downright exhausting.

Every human being gets angry. Beware of those who insist they don’t–they are ticking time bombs, having stuffed all of their frustration down inside, likely to explode at a most inopportune time.

Anger is an emotion. To take a class in anger management is the belief that we can control that emotion by using better thinking.

I must disagree. As an emotion, anger must be handled emotionally.

So in pursuing the alphabet of us, let’s look at how we should handle our anger:

1. Be verbal.

Emotions should not be trapped without speech. It is “out of the abundance of the heart that the mouth speaks.” What you want to ensure is that you can speak in a climate where you don’t have to be judged by your adversary, but can sound off to a friend and hear your feelings expressed in syllables.

That’s right–practice. Rehearse your anger–in the mirror, to a friend, to God or to anyone who is not the source of your resentment.

2. Listen to yourself.

There is nothing worse than being in the middle of an argument and hearing yourself voice your misgiving for the first time, and suddenly realize how stupid it is. Then you’re stuck in the midst of a fight, with your pride trying to win the day.

Listen to yourself.

That’s why we need to be spiritual. It is the soul that gives us the ability to separate out the real complaint from the blown-up rendition.

3. Clear your head.

There’s only one way to renew your brain. Make sure you take all previous experiences and set them aside in favor of a fresh encounter.

That’s what clearing your head is. It’s offering a brand new pathway, to allow conversation to produce change.

4. And finally, choose what’s really important.

Before you go have that interface with a person who has upset you, find out the core issue. Keep your anger as small as you possibly can to make it easier for the person hearing your insights to comply.

The biggest mistake we make is separating our parts–heart, soul, mind and strength–and believing they have the power to act on their own.

They are a team. They perform best as a team.

And the only way to handle anger is to use their teamwork.

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Populie: God Bless America… July 2, 2014

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Kate Smith

God is still pretty popular.

America, too.

Yet there are many people who believe the two are synonymous–practically inseparable.

Thus the populie: “God bless America.”

Politics loves this slogan because it enables them to incorporate just enough religion to get the evangelical vote and just enough patriotism to acquire the libertarians.

Entertainment plays off the idea by producing both tear-jerking war movies and also flicks that question the authenticity and purpose of nationalism.

And of course, religion is partial to this idiom simply due to the fact that if we are convinced that we are favored by God, we might be able to get by with a few more inconsistencies before Daddy calls a time-out.

Yet as we near Independence Day, I am focused in on the power and veracity of the statement, “To he who much is given, much is expected.”

So because I love my country, respect our attempts at democracy and favor our liberty, I would like to deny the populie of “God bless America” and replace it with, “God challenge America.”

I know that God chastises those He loves–to make us sharper and more powerful. Yet we are losing our authority, presence and respectability due to the belief in our exceptionalism.

  • When it comes to women, we should be world leaders in equality, but we trail behind others.
  • We should take it seriously to stop killing. After all, when we discover a few packages of tainted ground beef in a grocery store, every package is recalled. Yet if twenty-two children are killed in a school, we continue to taint our lives with guns.
  • We should expand ourselves in equality by including others we do not agree with, honoring their right to freedom. God respects free will above all else, even purity.
  • We should be a nation that excels in productivity. For instance, I think we’re taking the wrong approach to the minimum wage. To give people more money for what they’re already doing is not only foolish, but actually a slothful business practice. But by the same token, if we can encourage productivity in our work force while passing along the dividends by increasing paychecks retroactively or offering bonuses, then we’re making our workers part of the solution instead of tying them in with the problem.
  • Why aren’t we leaders in morality?
  • How about civility?
  • Instead of arguing about the climate of the Earth, why don’t we at least see if there’s something we could do and then surprise ourselves by doing it?
  • Why don’t we take our young generation and encourage them to be respectful, industrious and creative instead of working to legalize more drugs, to dull their senses?
  • Why do we allow our older citizens to become bitter and calloused instead of demanding they use their journey to become wise and merciful?
  • If we truly do have the best medical care in the world, why aren’t we healthier?

Hiding your talent and refusing to use it is considered to be the definition of a sluggard.

Knowing what to do and not doing it is the best example of sin.

And living beneath your privilege only generates self-pity.

The populie is, “God bless America”–a way to live off the past by pretending that the present is sufficient because a Divine Presence controls our future.

My hope in this season is that we will allow God to challenge America to live up to our ideals, abilities and dreams.

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So, Sow… December 19, 2013

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farmerEveryone wants to be unique–yet no one wants to be peculiar.

Unique means “one of a kind.” To gain that individuality, you have to step away from the herd, chew your grass differently and end up producing fortified milk.

But in our society unique is defined as “doing what I want in the moment.” The absence of finding a position makes it unclear to those around where to find you.

Our culture teaches this ridiculous concept: let me reap and then I’ll sow–I promise.

In other words, “give me a reason to become excited and I’ll become excited.”

“Give me money and I’ll invest.”

“Give me a climate where everyone agrees with my philosophy, and I’ll embrace them with love.”

“Give me the funds for education, the books for reading and the classroom for receiving and I will eventually turn into a student.”

“Give me sex and I’ll consider love.”

“Grant me financial security and I will give my best impersonation of happy.”

“Take away hassle and I will try not to be grumpy.”

“Remove intimidation and bullying and I will show up to give you a better adequate performance.”

“Take away all the things that make life human and I will show you how divine I can be.”

This insipid thinking revolves around the word “unconditional.”

  • Unconditional love: take me as I am and critique nothing.
  • Unconditional faith: believe as I do and question nothing.
  • Unconditional politics: be Republican or Democrat, swallow the pill and support the party.
  • Unconditional romance: love me even though I have stopped loving myself by refusing to move in the direction of improvement.
  • And on top of this, we use the dynamic of God‘s love, God’s grace and God’s mercy as the model for this ludicrous acceptance of mediocrity.

Let’s look at the way it was meant to be from the foundation of the world:

I promise to sow so I can reap.

There is nothing that will be harvested from our life journey unless we have first planted our seed.

There is nothing that is guaranteed without our focus and commitment.

And there is no way that reaping will occur before sowing–or the entire cosmos will implode.

I sat around a table last night with family and friends to celebrate my birthday. But we did not celebrate the passing of a year adding to my longevity. What we celebrated was my belief in the treasure of sowing … to reap.

Stop cheating yourself out of the joy of human life. You will never reap until you sow. No matter how much you plead and beg for a loan from the universe, the heavens will turn a deaf ear … until you can bring collateral.

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REALvival… May 16, 2013

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revival tentI wasn’t there.

When the first producer pitched the idea for a reality show, I personally was not present. But I have been a partaker of such events often enough in my life that I can give you a pretty accurate idea of how it came down.

Some young guy in a t-shirt and jeans arrived at a board meeting in front of some  overly business-minded older gents and said the following:

“It’s really quite easy. We’re gonna call it a reality show. We know five things: First–human beings are all unique and different; secondly, these differences create conflict, which–number 3–ends up making great theater and drama for an audience watching that conflict, which produces a fourth possibility–that people will schedule their lives around viewing the pending explosion of human emotion. And finally, Number 5, to keep it really pumped up, we can give a big prize to the winner at the end, who ‘survived’ all the insanity.”

The young fellow got a green light and thus began the onslaught of reality shows.

We now believe that true reality–or what is real, if you will–is the acceptance that human beings can’t get along. Instead, what we do is tolerate one another, and when that’s impossible, we eliminate each other by voting one another out of our lives.

Do we really want this to be our legacy?

First and foremost, I don’t believe it. I don’t believe reality shows are real. I believe they are made up,  overly promoted or manipulated to keep us at odds with each other so that news stories can be reported and politicians and religionists can promote their cause by attacking “the enemy.” Here’s what I believe is real:

1. Humans are all family. No one sees an ant crawl across the sidewalk and asks himself, “I wonder if it’s German.” No, we say, “There’s an ant.” Why do we think God looks down from heaven and sees gay, straight, Australian, black, yellow, honey mustard sauce or barbecue? If God sees human beings, don’t we become more like God by doing the same?

2. To be real is to find similar heart in each other. Most things that move one person move another. There are a few exceptions, but they are just that–personal tastes in the moment which do not preclude general appreciation.

3. We are here to learn from each other because it more than likely will determine our survival. When we start off resistant to the inclusion of others or to hearing their insights we are limiting our possibilities to what we already know and have experienced. Talk about creating a climate for repetition and boredom!

4. Because we’re involved, no one is merely watching–everyone is participating. Life is not a spectator sport. There is no stadium to sit in and view the game. There is just a field and a ball.

5. We all win. When we work together as a species, finding similarities, learning from each other and participating, we all end up wininng, even when the prize goes to another. Why? Because they would not have gotten there without our cooperation.

So I would like to be part of a REALvival–to take what is historically proven to be true instead of living off the opinions of the past twenty years, which, may I add, in another two decades will be viewed as silly and comical.

You and I are part of a reality show–it’s called life. By the way, it demands that we work together to be true “Survivors.”

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Count to Eleven… March 23, 2013

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elevenLife is not a plan, but rather, an unfolding story with plot twists and turns, which if one survives, provides the potential and climate for a happy ending.

There you go. That’s the truth.

This week I saw this personified when my business partner, Janet, took off to get her hair done. You may remember, several days ago that I told you she was in the market for a perm. She did her homework, found a good place to go, procured her finance and set aside adequate time for the excursion.

Of course, “the greatest laid plans of mice and men” go kerplunk, kerplop. That would also include the well-thought-out concepts of women looking for a good hair-do. For as it turns out, she was well into the process of getting her hair curled when the young lady who was performing the job realized that it wasn’t going to work and began to make a myriad of excuses about the reason that this mission had become impossible. In the process, bits of Janet’s hair decided to leave its moorings, which required that there be a trimming, which was not part of the plan.

When she returned, I was astounded at how calm she was–at peace and really, overjoyed. Her assessment of the whole event was that the perm gave her just enough curl to make her hair full-bodied, she received a nice dispelling of her split ends and the whole thing didn’t cost very much–because of course, they did not charge her for the privilege of being part of the disaster.

She abandoned her plan, entered the story, survived the details and got a happy ending.

Traditionally we tell people to count to ten whenever they are confronted with a surprise difficulty in order to curb their temper or fear. But I have to tell you–it may be necessary on many occasions to count to eleven.

The art of success is determined through the craft of survival. Here are five things you should consider whenever confronted with the disintegration of a scheme:

1. Look for a clue. Remember–God has no desire to make you look stupid. So often, buried in the midst of a crumbling fortress is a sweet little sign of a means of escape.

2. Open the door. It is no time to get picky, when the world is falling down around you. When you find a door that appears to be a solution, use it instead of over-thinking it.

3. Consider the mix. Remember, all things work TOGETHER to the good. So don’t isolate off one particular dramatic part of your dilemma and focus on it. Set everything down in front of you and evaluate it as a mix instead of individual punches in the face.

4. A time to wait. Human beings were never designed to be patient. Yet sometimes it is necessary for us to delay our expectations. When we know we’re going to have to wait in the airport, we take a book. It is a good idea to have other things to do while you’re waiting for your present situation to improve.

5. And finally, ask yourself where you’ve been. We do not lose our history as we live out our present. Everything we’ve learned, everything we know, everything we believe and everything we possess is of value to us at all times if we don’t act like we just got hatched from a nearby egg.

There you go.

Of course, all those may be difficult to remember in the midst of a crisis, so let me put it in a simpler form:

One, two, look for a clue

Three four, open the door

Five, six, consider the mix

Seven, eight, a time to wait

Nine, ten, where you been?

And finally, eleven: on earth as it is in heaven.

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