G-Poppers … July 1st, 2016

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G-Pop’s granddaughter called, very sad because she had just finished reading the story of the sinking of the Titanic.

Since she was fresh from the pages of the book and deeply touched by the loss of over fifteen hundred human lives, G-Pop comforted her. On another day, he decided, he would share with her the “Titanic Thinking” that brought about much of the calamity.

Matter of fact, most of that Titanic Thinking exists in our society today, as we thumb our noses at common sense, deeming ourselves invincible.

So many people could have been salvaged from that doomed situation if there had been a willingness to admit mistakes and seek reasonable and equitable solutions.

The first problem with all Titanic Thinking is:

1. We’re too big to fail.

Having constructed the largest, the best, the fastest and the brightest, we are completely intoxicated by the power of our own might.

  • Therefore, the Titanic did not have enough life boats. After all, why would they need them?
  • They didn’t have enough spotters looking for icebergs.
  • And with a sense of devil-may-care, they scooted at full throttle through what ended up being treacherous waters.

2. Don’t alarm the people.

Considering that the Titanic took several hours to sink, and there were masterful men and women of business, finance and commerce aboard ship, not to mention hardworking folk in steerage below–if these forces could have been united in a common goal, many more lives would have been retrieved.

But the captain and crew decided not to alarm the passengers.

There were many things on the Titanic that could float. How many make-shift rafts could have been put together? How many lifeboats could have been filled to capacity and beyond?

Not even an option. The reason they weren’t?

3. Some folks are better than others.

Because the Titanic was divided into first, second and third class, there was no ability for the passengers to interact and pool their information and strength, to assist in the salvation of their own lives.

You will take a toll if you believe that people are less than you–because the law of averages seems to play out that you eventually need them.

And finally:

4. It will work out.

This abiding foolishness, which some people call faith, was ill-placed in a man-made object which was at the mercy of a God-created sea. Yet deep in the hearts of most of the crew was the belief that the “good old boat would stay afloat” until help arrived.

Somewhere between a sense of dependence and independence lies truth. And when we are honest about our concerns and fears instead of hiding them behind the false bravado that “everything will work out,” we have a much better chance to survive.

Even though these thoughts came to G-Pop’s mind, he chose not to share this vivid detail with his young granddaughter. He was just pleased that her heart was touched by the loss of so many, so long ago.

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Ask Jonathots … March 24th, 2016

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What type of government would Jesus have preferred? Wasn’t the early church basically a communist organization? Is there one form of government that represents Christian principles more than another?

Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world.”

He continued by saying that if his kingdom were of this world, then his disciples would need to fight.

Government, politics and nationalism always establish a foundation with a flag flying–which then needs to be preserved and protected. This creates natural allies, and of course, enemies.

Jesus’ premise was simple: Wherever you place your devotion is where you will be devoted.

Makes sense, right?

So if the teachings of Jesus only worked in a democracy, with a capitalistic style of commerce, then nearly 70% of the world would be left out.

On the other hand, if Jesus had favored socialism and an even-handed distribution of funds to the masses, then the initiative to excel and do better for oneself would have been discouraged.

So Jesus promoted a lifestyle which excels under every form of government, because it does not need a particular climate.

Christianity has survived everything–from revolution, to renovation, to renaissance, to reformation–even to the threat of annihilation. Why?

Because Jesus said the kingdom of God is within us.

Each believer is a self-motivating, self-governing and self-aware “nation.” So we make our own decisions without having to express loyalty to politics or society.

To pull this off, there are three laws by which we maintain the “congress” inside ourselves:

1. No one is better than anyone else.

We don’t need a government to tell us what is acceptable or forbidden. It can be lived out through our actions.

2. Don’t worry.

The elimination of the fear of the future gives us the energy to shape our tomorrow.

3. Go the second mile.

The worst enemy of any culture is mediocrity. It’s when we begin to believe that our lesser efforts are sufficient.

You can take these three principles and live them out in any culture.

So Jesus is not a Republican, a Democrat, a socialist or a capitalist.

He is of the belief that meekness (adaptability) enables us to inherit the Earth.

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Just Say Great… May 1, 2014

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American Idol contestantThe contestants line up to offer their small-town, country-fair talent contest versions of popular songs in front of judges who have illustrious careers but still are looking for ways to create a bit more “sheen.”

And then it’s time for the critique.

We call it American Idol. But actually, it’s merely a few notches above the Rotary Club’s talent search at a local high school. And the critiques rarely offer any legitimate criticism.

Why? Because they can’t.

Between a booing audience, which thinks any offering of correction is mean-spirited, and the singers, themselves, who deflate like cheap balloons whenever anything is suggested that doesn’t end up with the affirmation, “you’re great,” the individuals who have been selected to move the show forward and find talented, excellent artists, are tied up and thrown into a corner and told to shut up.

We, as Americans, have become obsessed with our former greatness, which we insist is still intact. Every comment, suggestion, notion or even fresh idea has to be cushioned with the preface: “Of course, this isn’t any big deal. You’re already great. But maybe you might like to try something new.”

We seem to be almost comatose in the face of the reality that as of later this fall, for the first time in over 150 years, the economy of China will become the number one commerce in the world. Not since 1871 has the United States been eclipsed.

Yet if you offer this observation or even put forth the assertion that there is room for improvement, the masses will stare at you in disbelief and say, “You’re not saying we aren’t great, right?”

What I am saying is that greatness does not require praise, but rather, opportunity.

There are three cardinal principles located in the gospel I follow which launch a human being in the direction of success, enhanced by individuality:

1. Blessed are the poor in spirit.

It is the admission that I am not naturally good. Because I’m not. I want to cut corners. I would cheat if I could get away with it. I want to blame other people for my mistakes and I don’t want to hear criticism.

2. I am an unprofitable servant.

The message here is that even when I have done well, I need to realize that I am not naturally better. Better is something that comes my way when I admit my need, make adequate adjustments and receive the benefit of my repentance.

3. Go the second mile.

I am not naturally excellent, either. I have a tendency to spend my time asking an abundance of questions about what is necessary to fulfill the commitment instead of blowing past the competition and guaranteeing myself placement.

You know what the power is of going the second mile? You are a mile ahead. That means if you want to rest, slow down or push forward–getting further distance between you and the competition–you have that choice. No one is nipping at your heels and the only thing you have to compare to is the quality of your own work.

Shows like American Idol are frustrating, but also enlightening because they portray how far we’ve fallen from the pinnacle of passion.

Even though it seems to be popular to insist on being called “great” when you’ve barely shown up for the race and slid on your sneakers–please, don’t do that for me.

I will set a standard and if I find that standard is not up to the par of what is required, I will push myself joyously to escape the criticism that I know my spirit will not handle well.

Sooner or later America must understand that if we allow other nations to supersede us economically, they will gain a voice in our world which will control the spirituality and emotions of our planet–when they may not be worthy of such a calling.

We are still a nation that believes that all men are created equal.

But the purpose of that creation is to strive towards excellence, taking pride in the sweat of our brow instead of sitting around, waiting for the next affirming statement to our self-esteem.

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Two Speeches (not from the stump) … September 23, 2012

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I don’t agree.

Political parties and pundits tend to aggravate some little open wound in my soul which refuses to heal, becoming calloused to the bizarre. I guess the popular thinking is that a certain amount of lying, cheating, attacking, fussing and maneuvering of truth is necessary to win an election. I not only disagree with this premise, but I wonder if anyone has actually ever tried to utilize the facts faithfully to a conclusion before giving up early in the pursuit to strike back over a recent smarting smack.

What I will share with you today are two speeches–one from each of the men running for President of the United States. These discourses don’t actually exist, of course. They are what I feel each individual candidate might want to express if he was intent on winning the job on both merit and humility. I will begin with the incumbent:

My name is Barack Obama. I would like to continue being your President. I guess, in a manner of speaking, you could say that I won the job four years ago. I have learned that there is a difference between winning and succeeding. I was not ready for all the surprises. No one can be prepared–because, dear folks, there is a world of problems out there in what we call the world. It is impossible to understand that in entirety until you actually get in the position where you need to make decisions that affect the lives of millions. But I have learned. May I tell you this–it is not easy to learn. You are tempted to explain your mishaps and trumpet your victories. Here is an assessment: some of my decisions were good. Others are still working out. Some of my choices, though, didn’t completely address the need. Once again–learning. To be President of the United States, in my opinion, means you have to know the difference among those three conclusions. I will tell you, after four years, I understand so much better what is going to be effective and what is a waste of energy. So let me tell you what I would like to do, should you grant me four more years:

1. Abandon all bad choices and pursue the path that is fruitful.

2. Listen to all people who actually want to help the country, no matter what affiliation or what party.

3. Be a President of the conservative, the liberal, the independent and anyone else who is blessed to be an American.

4. Tell you the truth, even when it makes me look bad.

I ask you to give me a chance to use what I have learned. Thank you for your trust.

Another offering:

My name is Mitt Romney. I want to be President of the United States. I have no experience in this job. I have lived a full life. I have a collective understanding of business and commerce, discovered through my work,  family and adult journey. I am rich. It doesn’t make me better. It also doesn’t make me the enemy. I understand that when you are given much, much is required of you. I realize that I will be taking what I have experienced and using it the best I can, while learning how to be a good President. I will need help–not because I am helpless; it’s just that some of the assistance will need to come from Republicans, Democrats, independents and Americans of all types. I will need to listen to all of these voices because they are you. I will:

1. Abandon all bad choices and pursue the path that is fruitful.

2. Listen to all people who actually want to help the country, no matter what affiliation or what party.

3. Be a President of the conservative, the liberal, the independent and anyone else who is blessed to be an American.

4. Tell you the truth, even when it makes me look bad.

Thank you for your time. I can’t promise you an easy solution–I can tell you that we will be able to do this together. I will bring all I know and a heart to learn more. Thank you for your trust.

The pundits would not like with these two speeches. They would insist that showing vulnerability is displaying weakness, and since they believe that politics is a jungle, that such openness would turn a candidate into a lame antelope instead of a roaring lion. Maybe they’re right. But see–we don’t know. There is no way to be sure, because no one has ever had the guts and determination to stay faithful to the understandable truth throughout an entire campaign. I will tell you this–without a heart filled with simplicity and a humble spirit, the responsibility of guiding human beings is carried out by a fool instead of a righteous king.

Two speeches–it is my offering for today. I guess my only counsel to you would be that the more you hear of these admissions from which ever candidate, the better prepared he will be for the inevitable struggle of leadership.

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Do-cision … August 19, 2012

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“It is appointed unto a man once to die, and then the judgment…”

On this the atheist and the believer agree. Someday, in some way, we all will have a final evaluation based upon what we do. So perhaps we should take another look at the process by which we, as human beings, decide to do things.

If you will allow me a bit of simplicity, I think the approach to achievement falls under two different categories: do-cision and diss-cision. In other words, there are those who do and others who have developed a complicated process of determining the best way to “diss,” or say no, to opportunity.

Here is an interesting little piece of insight: there is plenty of money, plenty of business, plenty of jobs and plenty of commerce available at this time in our country to pull us out of this economic decline. The truth of the matter is, those individuals who have the most power to contribute and assist in a recovery are frightened, nervous and basically refuse to do anything but “wait out” the circumstances and hoard what they’ve got. It is a regressive attitude in the realm of business, which has changed us from being a country of do-cision to diss-cision.

Somehow or another, we’ve convinced ourselves that turning down possibility makes us appear to be more mature, studious and grown-up. We don’t want to come across as careless and fly-by-night, so it’s just safer, generally speaking, to diss every idea that comes our way and when it ends up failing due to lack of support, pointing to the evidence that we chose well by being one of the contributors to snuffing out what could have been a great inspiration.

Here is my blatant statement: You’ve got to end up saying yes to more things in your life than no.

If you don’t, you will end up with a personality which is possessed with caution, riddled with insecurity and devoid of the excitement which allows for joy to find a home. The power in life is not in making correct decisions. The real energy in living a human existence is in knowing that correct decisions can only be made while we’re doing something with a little bit of faith and evolving with what we are learning as we go.

So for me it’s become quite elementary. I ask myself seven questions when I realize that some sort of fresh innovation has been offered to me. I thought you might find them interesting. Because for certain, when I pass away, I want my family and friends to be able to say that Jonathan Richard Cring was involved in do-cision instead of spending all of his time shaking his head with diss-cision. So here are my seven:

1.  Will what I’m about to do hurt anyone or anything? (Of course, sometimes we don’t know. Our best guess is often all we have.)

2.  Am I willing to adjust to the changes necessary to make an idea work without being stubborn?

3.  Does it resemble something that I believe in?

4.  Can I fail at this particular adventure without sprouting some shame?

5.  Does it appear to be pretty good timing?

6.  Would I back it if I weren’t fronting it?

7.  And finally, will I be proud to have been a part?

There you go. Now, some of the answers may be yes and some no, and you may have to split the difference. But we do need to avoid two nasty axioms which are presently smothering our society: “Better safe than sorry” and “I think I will err on the side of caution.” That particular duet of shivering emotional jello is keeping many people from trying the things that will at least take them down the right road towards success.

We have to do-cide if we’re going to mess with it or if we’re going to leave the mess alone. Historically, leaving messes alone only makes the messes stinkier and draw flies. It is a time for do-cision–to crawl out of the cardboard box where we are hiding in diss-cision.

The Bible makes it clear–to have it in your power to do good and refuse to do it is sin. So while we debate various sins of the flesh and what we might deem to be obvious evil, the greatest dangers are those Godsent miracles that come our way, which we ignore and refuse to pursue. Yes, I will tell you bluntly–your Judgment Day and my Judgment Day will be much more centered around what we fail to do instead of what we actually launched out into the deep and tried.

Do-cision–an attitude that is predisposed to chase a dream instead of sitting around with aged hands, sipping tea … wishing we had.

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Where do we go from here?… July 6, 2012

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She crinkled up her nose like she had just sniffed a basket full of sweaty socks at the Y.M.C.A. I could tell by her scrunched-up countenance that I was about to receive a little piece of nasty criticism. She asked, “Why don’t you go to bigger places where you could do more good and help more people instead of coming to small towns with congregations with so little attendance?”

She thought she had invented the wheel. She believed she had discovered a weakness in my effort and had uncovered a fragment of stupidity in my planning. I asked her a simple question.

“My dear, what’s working?”

It stumped her. Because even though she was bound and determined to prove her point, there doesn’t seem to be much in our society that is heavily promoted which is accomplishing anything resembling resolution.

If you turn to the world of politics, there is just too much to prove to produce any power. My dear Lord, you have to convince everybody that you’re a reputable Republican or a distinguished Democrat before you are able to step into the ring and do something to improve the circus. By the time you get done being a pundit for all the platforms of your particular political persuasion, you have used up all the time granted you on the stage of opportunity. Neither one of the political parties have all the answers, and worse, neither are even asking the right questions.

You can feel free to go to religion if you want to, but then you find yourself in the unenviable position of having too much to defend. I will tell you, my dear friends, that I am a person of faith and spirituality, but I have absolutely no intention of trying to explain the Bible. Greater men than me have attempted that feat, and have ended up looking overly pious or have been disproven by the flow of knowledge. I am not going to defend anything. If it can’t stand on its own, then it should suffer from its inadequacy. So I can’t participate in religious ceremony because it just has too much to prove.

Corporations are equally as inhibited and waterlogged. There’s just too much profit to be made. When your latest business meeting is about finding ways to cut employees in order to increase your bottom line, more than likely you will never be considered top of the line. Just too much to profit to have the vision for people and better products.

And I have no intentions of leaping into the forefront of the entertainment industry, which is basically occupied by many pseudo-intellectuals who are more historians than history-makers. They would much rather discuss the subtleties of a scene than risk producing new art that challenges and awakens the audience. Just too much to posture. I never like to be around a group of people who believe they prove their worth by how much they know instead of how much they do.

This is the same position Jesus found himself in when he came out of the wilderness and decided it was time to start his work. There were many, many large towns and countless affluent people looming the horizon. He picked Capernaum. It would probably be the last choice of most individuals who were trying to get a pulse on first-century society. It was tiny, behind the times and certainly out of the flow of the general direction of politics, religion, commerce and entertainment.

So why did he do it? Was it just an attempt to be humble? Or did he know something that other people failed to recognize? Let’s take a look at it from his perspective. If the Jewish religion was going to be decimated in the next seventy years and the Roman Empire would cease to exist within four centuries, there was no wisdom in planting the seeds of your ideas in the format of those who were doomed to be left in the history books. It was necessary to find an environment where the elements of renewal would be received because they were viable to everyday life–not because they were trendy.

Here are the keys to making a difference:

1. Find people who still believe in their talent, but want more. Capernaum was a fishing village. They pulled the sustenance to keep them alive out of the nearby water, and they knew they were at the mercy of nature. These people were prepared to learn more about earth and God. If your coffers are full, it’s hard to believe you lack anything.

2. Find people who use their abilities but aren’t stubborn about tradition, and still seek ways to do it better. One morning, Jesus happened upon Peter and his fishing companions and asked them how they had done during their night’s fishing expedition. They had caught nothing. He told them to cast their net on the other side of the boat. At his word, they did–and pulled in the most fish they had seen in years. Had they been conceited, overly frustrated, pious about their knowledge of the sea, or just aggravated with the turns of life, they would have missed out on pulling in 153 fish. That’s right. We get a count.

3. Learn from people who do it better than you. No one is able to swallow pride, so you might want to spit it out instead. But after you spit it out, realize that it’s not nearly as painful to learn and improve as it is to repeat and fail. Check around. See if there’s anyone who knows more than you do and quietly acquire their storehouse of information.

4. Find people who are willing to stop critiquing. America is obsessed with judging things. Having an opinion is dangerously like stopping on the freeway in the middle of seventy-mile-an-hour traffic. You may know why you did it, but it won’t keep people from wanting to smack you. Keep driving, but learn as you go. Don’t criticize. It makes you look arrogant and stupid.

5. And finally, get somewhere with people who understand that they need to be happy. None of us like grouchy folks. We try to be tolerant but they really do tick us off, the thought being: “We’ve got just as much reason to be grouchy as they do. Why don’t they shut up?” If you can find people who understand that happiness is everything, so therefore, choosing to even fake it from time to time while you’re waiting for it to reappear is the safest way to live, you will find yourself in an environment where God feels like He can show up without having to dodging too many complaints.

So–to give a final answer to my lady who thought she was enlightening me with the need to be more famous, I tell her this:

Nothing is going to happen in this country unless the people who live in the grass roots, who don’t have too much to prove, too much to defend, too much to profit and too much to posture, step forward, use their happiness and learn better ways to love the world and use what they’ve got.

Where do we go from here?

One by one, to the next person who selects a smile instead of frowning at all the choices available.

   

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Location, location, and, oh, yes… location … January 31, 2012

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I have had the pleasure of attending a meeting of the Chamber of Commerce where inspiring speeches were given on the glories of capitalism and business, as people dismissed to pass out their cards and inform others of a booming possibility with their rendition of the American Dream.
 
I have sat at the fireside of a gathering of homeless individuals, sharing a platter of beans with two pieces of day-old white bread purchased from the Dolly Madison Store, as all those surrounding the warmth discussed their day’s activities.
 
I have been at a rock concert with screaming fans leaping to their feet, hoping the next tune would be their favorite one.
 
I have attended a family reunion where aunts and uncles barely of my acquaintance have insisted that I knew some old relative who had since passed on, as we conversed about names unfamiliar, while munching on delectable potato salad.
 
Out of curiosity, I have actually gone to political party meetings of both sides and been inundated with pamphlets, propaganda and platforms, encouraging me to make a good American stands against the opposing party’s irrelevant views.
 
Being a father of children, I have also sat through a PTA meeting, often out-numbered, lacking members of my particular gender, as speaker after speaker lamented the lack of something or other in the educational system.
 
Stupidly, I was lured into an investment party because it promised something free and ended up being a ploy to get me to take the little money I had and drop it into a hole, hoping that the crevice would spew back profits.
 
I have been in many a counseling session–mainly as the counselor–listening patiently as each party made his or her case against the other, well-organized, well-rehearsed and well-entrenched.
 
I have done these things and many others in the pursuit of discovering the best of my human family, only to realize that when we herd together, we normally want to make sure that we’re with cattle of our own kind.
 
It limits us. It retards us (if I may use the word in its correct form without being politically incorrect). It inhibits us from using the two greatest possessions we have–a mirror and a brain. Because in all those conclaves I listed, at no time at all was I asked to examine myself, nor was it necessary for me to think–because the mental agenda was provided.
 
Which brings me to last night in Clinton, Louisiana, where forty-six people emerged from the community–from different paths, walks, theologies and political persuasions. They huddled into one building to consider a message and how they measured up to its intensity. It’s called a church. And even though I will rail against a religious system which tries to turn the true church into something that blends the Chamber of Commerce with a political party meeting with overtones of a counseling session, I am a firm believer that the church is the only place where the possibility of looking in the mirror at oneself and actually tapping the brain that God has given you is plausible.
 
Oh, yes–I am not naive.  I realize that the present religious system would love to mimic the Chamber of Commerce.  Poorer congregations would like to react like the homeless, making fun of the rich. There are those “hip” congregations, which think the church is just a rock concert, cheering on Jesus and the Spirit of God. Smaller groups of church folks actually become nothing more than a family reunion, discussing the week’s activities, dead parishioners and the weather. Too many religious institutions have become the harlot for political parties, pushing a social agenda more than salvation.
 
But when it’s done right, there is nothing in our society like the church–because it asks us to look in the mirror and to use our brains.
 
How do you know if you’re in a real church or just a religious system trying to parrot the world around it? The real church has seven important ingredients:
 
1. Be prepared for the unpredictable. For after all, repetition has always been the agenda of hell.
2. Stop complaining. No one ever learns in the midst of a lament.
3. Love somebody new. If we aren’t expanding the family of man around us to include more and more people, we are shrinking the vision of God.
4. Cry until you laugh. There are people in churches still in pain after many years of suffering, who should have had a nighttime of weeping and allowed joy to come in their morning.
5. Think for yourself about yourself to improve yourself. Don’t use God’s house as a way to confirm your inadequacy.
6. Be thankful. Sounds simple, doesn’t it? But thankfulness is missing from our society. It has been bumped out of the way by expectation. We need some place to go where we actually express gratitude.
7. And finally, leave changed. The Chamber of Commerce didn’t ask me to do that; nor did the homeless, the rock singer, Aunt Mabel, the Republicans and Democrats, the teacher’s conference, the investment firm or even those attending the counseling session. We all basically came into those events with one mind-set and left with a little bit more cement added. The true church is a place where we leave changed every time we are there, or we must question  the gospel which is supposed to give us the truth that makes us free.
 
Yes, it’s all about location, location, location. And if you’re looking for a place to go that will renew you and allow you to look in the mirror without fear and think instead of merely react, I recommend a good church which understands the seven things I just stated.
 
I was at one last night. It was a good time … although I did miss my beans and day-old bread.
 
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Jonathan wrote the gospel/blues anthem, Spent This Time, in 1985, in Guaymas, Mexico. Take a listen:

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