Jesonian … January 13th, 2018

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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Every single week.

As I journey across the country and stop off to do my presentation, I am always greeted by people who want to know my political persuasion. When I reply, “Apolitical,” they smile and begin to probe me so they might unearth my hidden beliefs, and thereby categorize me with either a big “R” or a big “D”–Republican or Democrat. How disappointed they usually end up being when I do not attack President Trump or swear my allegiance in that direction.

Many years ago, I discovered four verses from the Good Book which are so full of common sense and understanding of the human condition that I have embedded them into my own thinking, declaring this passage to be my touchstone.

When Jesus was explaining the Pharisees to the disciples, he said, “They hold Moses’ seat.”

In my lifetime, twelve men have held the position of President of the United States. Jesus’ approach on the matter? Honor the men because they’re in the position–and he goes on to say that we need to be careful to do what they say.

You see, this is where it gets tricky.

Many of my friends who are Democrats feel it’s necessary to resist President Trump, and likewise, my Republican friends demand some blind acceptance.

Jesus’ take? “Be careful.”

For instance, every time I step into my van to drive, I realize I am losing my freedom, suddenly at the mercy of the policemen in the local village who might have a speed trap. If picked up, I lose my ability to be autonomous.

“Be careful.”

Jesus says to “be careful to do what they say,” but then he adds, “But don’t do what they do.”

Not one of the twelve Presidents I’ve encountered in my lifetime would I choose to imitate in personal profile. Fortunately, since we don’t live in a dictatorship, I don’t have to do that. As long as I maintain a respectful cooperation with present laws, America gives me the right to pursue my single-minded goals while following my own philosophy.

With that in mind, I will also tell you that every week I meet a new pastor. He or she has a job. They also have a calling. What they discover is that the job often interferes with the calling, and the calling certainly complicates the job.

So they often end up pastoring a church instead of the church. They learn the mannerisms of their congregations–the quirks, limitations, aggravations and the preferences–and then try to build an institution saluting the lifestyle of Jesus inclusive of these guidelines. It often leaves them exhausted, and sometimes faithless–because believe it or not, people don’t always agree with Jesus, even while they’re praising him. People don’t always concur because they’re too busy being Republicans or Democrats.

So unfortunately, the job of the local pastor becomes that of an arbiter instead of a proclaimer.

They can even forget to give respect to the congregation, but don’t follow their ways. It is the mission of the pastor to shepherd the people to greener pastures. That begins by removing the “R’s” and the “D’s” and the denominational allegiance, and finding the simplicity of the message of Jesus, and keeping it as healthy and pure as possible.

It will take such men and women to bring about a revival.

But in Matthew 23:1-4, Jesus pronounces that it is completely plausible to respect the position of someone without following the leadership.

I do it every week. It doesn’t make me anemic. It doesn’t make me hypocritical. It simply means there are temporary solutions which are offered and can be implemented as long as the greater good is held in supremacy.

To be Jesonian is to follow the heart of Jesus. Part of the heart of Jesus is respecting those who have “gained a seat” in our society.

But most of the heart of Jesus is clinging to your autonomy so that the choices you make in your life are yours and yours alone.

 

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Catchy (Sitting 30) Visiting Hours…January 7th, 2018

Jonathots Daily Blog

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Jo-Jay’s memory of her past two weeks was like a jigsaw puzzle dumped out in a dark room. There were moments when she was almost able to connect thoughts, but then, as she described it, a dark cloud would come over her consciousness, stealing the information.

She was certain of three things: she woke up in the middle of the Amazon jungle, she was rescued by missionaries, and somebody named Joshua was a son-of-a-bitch.

Jubal and Matthew listened patiently, but were unable to garner enough story line to pursue any solution. Jo-Jay was still weak from her bout with disease, and agitated over being abducted, abused and thrust to the point of death.

There was a fourth thought which she shared with Matthew and Jubal. She believed Michael Hinston was involved in some sort of conspiracy against the “Carlos Revival”–that’s what the press was beginning to call the movement which was quietly sweeping the nation. Some had referred to it as “Jubal-ation” but Jubal was careful to play down the silliness, while trying to bring to the forefront what could be accomplished simply by believing instead of cursing.

“So what do you think Michael’s got to do with this?” Matthew asked with a furrowed brown.

“You don’t believe me,” squealed Jo-Jay. “I can see it written all over your face. Do you think I’m crazy?”

Matthew reached for her hands but she pulled away. “I don’t think you’re crazy,” he said. “I just think you’ve been somewhere you never intended to be which led to you getting a disease nobody knows anything about, which took you to the brink of death. So yeah. I guess you’re allowed to be a little eccentric.”

Jubal stepped in to soften the conversation. “I think we should listen to her. I think she’s got a story in her mind and if we hang around long enough, we’re gonna get all of it.”

Matthew was pissed. “Oh, you do. So you think we should sit here and listen to a person who’s just come back from the dead explain to us in a common-sense way the logic we should pursue.”

“You’re such a little shit,” said Jo-Jay.

“I’ll have you know I’m a big shit,” Matthew retorted.

Jubal laughed–not because it was particularly funny, but he thought laughter might tenderize the moment.

Jo-Jay swung her legs over to the edge of the bed. “I’m telling you. There’s something about Mikey, Joshua and something else called the CLO that’s just not right.”

Jubal leaned forward and asked, “Why would these people care? What difference does it make to them? Why would anyone try to hurt you simply because we’re off here goofing around with the Gospel?”

Matthew chuckled. “Now there’s our title. Forget about this Carlos Revival thing. ‘Goofin’ Around with the Gospel.’ We should go with that.”

Jo-Jay would not be deterred. “You guys can joke all you want to. You didn’t wake up with a snake kissing your cheek.”

Matthew frowned. “Do snakes kiss?”

“With lots of tongue,” said Jubal, laughing at his own joke.

Jo-Jay reached for a glass of water and nearly drank it dry. “I don’t know what to tell you fellas. I think we’re all in trouble. After all, if we knew what trouble was, we would avoid it. It’s trouble because we never know what it is, right?”

Matthew smiled. “You know, I came close to understanding that. Listen, Jo-Jay, I never particularly liked Mickey. Or Michael. But I don’t believe he would do anything to hurt you.”

Suddenly from the doorway came the voice of a new visitor. Standing there, in a three-piece suit, with a bright red tie, hair slicked back, holding a bouquet of roses, was Congressman Michael Hinston. “So why don’t you like me, Matthew?”

Matthew was stunned. Jubal, anticipating a violent reaction from Jo-Jay, moved closer to her bedside.

“Speak of a son-of-a-bitch, and there he is,” she said breathlessly.

“Well, this is awkward,” said Michael. “Actually, I was just coming to pay my respects and see how you were doing. But I sense that I am not welcome.”

“Who is the CLO? Who is Joshua? Why are these people trying to stop us? What’s wrong with what we’re doing? How did I end up in the Amazon jungle? And why, for the love of God, are you standing here in my room?”

Jo-Jay spouted her array of questions. Michael turned to walk away, but Matthew stood quickly and grabbed his arm. “I guess this is how she wants you to pay your respects,” he said.

Michael turned, and with great sincerity, responded, “I don’t know what you’re talking about. I have my own opinions on what you guys are doing. I think it’s foolishness. I think it’s going to upset the wrong people.”

Jubal stepped forward. “And who are the wrong people, Congressman?”

“You are very young,” said Michael. “To you, everything is black and white. It’s not really that way, you know. I thought when I came to Washington I would be involved in compromising. Most of my time is spent attempting to thaw out frozen thinking, so that maybe a single drop of inspiration can be achieved.”

“What a crock,” said Matthew. “And what an attempt to avoid this issue. Jo-Jay thinks you’re dirty. Are you dirty, Congressman? Michael? Have you hooked up with some really bad dudes? Did they pay you well to betray your sister?”

“My sister?” asked Michael.

“Yes,” Jo-Jay said. “That’s what you used to call me in college. We were all brothers and sisters.”

“We were also constantly drunk,” Michael inserted. “So I can’t really be certain what I felt one way or another. But I’m here–something tugged at my heart to come and see you, wish you well.”

Matthew walked over to the window and stared out into the night. “This is just crazy. Think about it. The guy who Jo-Jay thinks might have put her in a jungle prison which nearly took her life is now standing in front of us–and we’re trying to discuss whether we got too drunk in college. Yes, Michael–you are a politician. You have learned to avoid the truth at all costs.”

Michael turned and looked at Jubal. “You know, you do look a little like Jesus. Not the Jesus people would be comfortable with, but probably the way he might have looked when he was here on Earth. If he was here on Earth. There are many schools of thought.”

Jubal patted Michael on the shoulder and said, “Many schools of thought. But faith demands that we all graduate to some sort of belief.”

Michael stepped back. “I don’t like where this is going,” he said. “My common sense tells me it’s time to go. If I may leave the flowers–by the way, they’re not poisoned–and just wish you…Well, wish you all well.”

Jo-Jay stood to her feet for the first time, wobbling to the side and falling into Jubal’s arms. She regained her footing, stepped forward and pointed her finger at Michael’s chest. “I know who you are. And as soon as I figure it out…”

She paused. Michael was waiting for a conclusion, and when it didn’t come, he looked at Matthew, then at Jubal, hoping for further explanation. He shook his head, then patted Jo-Jay’s shoulder. “Get well. Sickness is a crazy thing. I remember when I had kidney stones. I thought the devil was in the room, whispering in my ear.”

Jo-Jay leaned forward, nearly fell again, held up by Jubal. She whispered, “Maybe that devil is still talking to you.”

In the midst of a very tense moment filled with uncertainty and the unpleasant smells of a hospital surrounding, a bright-spirited nurse’s aide entered the room, announcing, “I’m sorry. Visiting hours are over.”

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Jesonian … December 9th, 2017

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jesonian-cover-amazon

To the classic question, “Were you born in a barn?” I can truthfully answer, “Matter of fact, I was.”

Although my good friends, Matthew and Luke, did a charming job relating the circumstances of my coming into this world, many layers and textures of the actual tale were left out in favor of a concise sharing, a Hollywood ending with all the participants–shepherds, wise men, angels and Holy Family–lined up in a row for a photo op.

Certainly beautiful and even miraculous, the actual unfoldings were different. I did not learn all the factors of my birth in Bethlehem until I was twelve years old. Mary and Joseph wisely chose to withhold some of the more frightening aspects of the experience from my ears until I was of an age when I could at least attempt comprehension.

But following a trip to Jerusalem, where I was particularly disobedient to them by chasing my curiosity instead of using my common sense, they sat down one night along the trail and spilled.

First, let’s understand that a young girl getting pregnant without a husband was always met with shunning or stoning. Mary’s simplicity and piety did not spare her from the wicked tongues of the gossips.

Joseph felt pressure. We’re told that an angel spoke to him, but Joseph never confirmed that with me. He said he was tortured in his dreams and finally realized that he loved my mother more than he wanted the approval of the town elders.
He did not need to make the journey to Bethlehem with Mary–he could have represented on his own to give the information about the taxes. He brought her because he was afraid to leave her alone.

So they made a fifteen day journey to a little town outside Jerusalem, which had no significance in their lives other than the fact that some “Great-Great Somebody” was born there and Joseph happened to be part of that clan.

When Mother and Father were unable to access lodging in the houses surrounding the town square, they quietly slipped into the stable, hoping not to be discovered. The innkeeper found them huddled in a corner among the animals, and when he saw that Mary was hopelessly pregnant, he chose to leave them alone rather than interfering.

They were stowaways in an animal shelter.

The birth was difficult because Mary was so small, weary from the journey–and both of them completely inexperienced with the process.

No shepherds arrived that first night. No angels sang. Nothing but grunting animals, relieved parents because the baby actually came out whole, and a chill in the air disguised by the heated odor of the stable’s occupants.

The next morning Joseph went to try to find food, and both of them realized there was no place for them to go. They would need to stay where they were for eight days to fulfill the Jewish law on circumcising the baby, so they remained as quiet as possible, hoping the innkeeper would leave them alone.

Three days passed with them scrounging for food, tucking themselves away in the farthest corner of the manger. It was on the fourth night that some shepherds did arrive. They looked perplexed, abashed and completely out of their element. They explained that they had been spoken to from the skies and told to come to find a baby in a stable.

It made no sense. Matter of fact, there was a sniff of alcohol on all three of them which hinted that the visit from heaven might have come from a flask. But Mary and Joseph listened politely, and it made for great conversation over the next few days while they waited for the circumcision.

Arriving at the temple on the eighth day, they were accosted by two very old, wild-eyed individuals–one man and one woman–who claimed the gift of prophecy. They told Mary and Joseph that the baby was going to be great and amazing. Even though Mary and Joseph wanted to believe the words, they feared the utterings were coming from dementia rather than another dimension.

Then things became really difficult. There was no need to go back to Nazareth. The presence of the baby would only increase the gossip.

So Joseph talked to the local carpenter and secured a single room in his home in exchange for work. The job included repair work, masonry and even some garbage collection.

They found contentment, until Joseph was awakened by an angel. (This time he really believed it was an angel.) He was told to leave Bethlehem to protect me from danger. When Joseph told me the story, he said it was the hardest decision he had ever made. It seemed illogical, for they had been in the carpenter’s home for a year-and-a-half and had found some peace of mind. Leaving seemed futile, if not insane.

Before departure could be executed, there was a visit from foreigners–those wise men mentioned in the Gospel story. They brought gifts. They inserted finance into a family that was about to be on the lam from the law. It was certainly timely.

The visitors explained about a star in the sky, but Mary and Joseph never really understood the significance, nor the tie-in.

During the journey to Egypt and the next six years of exile, I developed a separation anxiety. I just never felt part of anything. When Mary and Joseph started having other children, I didn’t feel like a brother. It was more like I was an intrusive uncle or a foster child.

This haunted me my whole life. I never felt quite secure with my surroundings. There were times I left the fellowship with my disciples to slip away and get my head straight, so I wouldn’t come off like a crazy man, nervous and frustrated.

Even though Egypt saved me from King Herod, the rejection hung in my mind throughout my life. I had to be careful not to get offended by the treatment I received. I learned mercy because I had no sense of mercy being given to me.

It became especially strong, and nearly violent in my soul, when Nazareth rejected my ministry, and then my mother and family thought I was crazy. I had to walk away from them.

You see, Christmas is a different tale to me.

It’s a story like many stories in the sense that God’s hand is not completely obvious in the moment, and is only unveiled through the endurance of his followers.

God picked the right pair. For if Mary had been prissy, Joseph would not have been able to manage without her. And if Joseph had been too conventional, Mary would never have been able to muster a companion. They needed each other.

Christmas is a miracle story–about God allowing people of faith to use their faith to do faithful things, to see their faith make things whole.

So Merry Christmas.

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Reverend Meningsbee (Part 51) Under the Weather… April 23rd, 2017

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Reverend Meningsbee

Shortly after the premiere of “Eden,” it was as if the community fell under a spell.

People just started getting sick–lots of flu, colds, injuries. An ever-growing list of those diagnosed with cancer during prayer time. A few of the prominent couples in town filed for divorce. It sent a shock wave through the community.

Meningsbee was fully aware that those who live on the prairie are not without the knowledge of the real world, but the decision to stay there was often an attempt to escape it. Sometimes superstition smothered common sense.

Some of the members started talking about “curses.” There were musings that the sins of the town were taking root and that God had removed His favor from them and that everything they tried was laying an egg.

Meningsbee attempted to encourage folks, but a dark slime of depression settled in.

Meningsbee went to prayer. Normally when it came to prayer, Meningsbee liked to listen. If he was in a group of people, they often deferred to him to lead in prayer, but he frequently requested that someone else do it so he could just enjoy.

But sometimes he knew it was important for him to pray–find a good closet, shut the door and turn down all the noise. Just allow his spirit to be free of fear and open to the possibility of solution.

While he was in prayer, he remembered a question that one of the women from the Ladies Auxiliary had posed. “Pastor Meningsbee, how do you know it’s not a curse? It’s not like evil would let us be aware of its plan.”

He thought long and hard on that. People spend an awful lot of time fighting, cursing or chasing the devil. Yet if there were actually a creature who spawned darkness and evil, it was unlikely that people would be able to deter him from his ways.

So where does that leave us? he thought. Exactly. It leaves… us. What do we know we can do? What do we know we can be? What do we know we can think, that will keep the effects of gloom out of our minds and open the door to good cheer?

From that time in prayer, Meningsbee put together a message, which he shared the following Sunday.

After praying for a grim list of sick folk and listening to a hymn sung with no enthusiasm at half-volume by weary people, he offered a simple thought.

“The only thing I can do, the only thing you can do, is control what comes inside us. Because once it is inside us, it’s going to feed us or it’s going to starve us.”

He stepped out into the middle aisle and pointed out five or six different individuals.

“Do you believe that if you eat better, you might just feel better? But if you’re like me, when you get depressed, you want to eat things you know are bad for you, but they temporarily make you feel good.

“And if your mind is clouded and unclear, should you be watching things on television or at the movies that leave you with more questions than answers? For the Good Book tells us that a double minded man is unstable in all his ways.

“And if you’re pretty sure that life has temporarily decided to suck, should you be sitting around listening to people who have prime, juicy examples to confirm your conclusion? What should you be hearing?

“Now I know some of you think we’re under a curse. I don’t happen to agree, but let’s say you’re right. How should we break the curse? It’s against the law to sacrifice virgins anymore. I don’t think any of us are up for an exorcism.

“God only asks you and me to take responsibility for what we handle. So I don’t know about you. Maybe it’s just a bad time, or maybe it’s a curse. But here’s what I can do.

“I can eat better. I can stop watching trash on TV. And I can listen to people who have a message of hope instead of those who’ve given up. You know what? I feel better just thinking about feeling better. How about you? How many of you feel better just thinking about feeling better?”

Nearly everyone in the sanctuary raised their hand.

“Now, we can’t expect our brothers and sisters who don’t come to church to set a miracle in motion, but if our town needs a miracle we need miracle workers. And Jesus says that begins with faith.

“So if you dear souls have the faith to say to this curse, ‘Be thou removed’ and you do not doubt in your hearts, it will go away. Especially if we start eating better, looking for light and listening for good reports.

“Now I want you to do something we don’t normally do in this church. If you heard what I shared today and you thought to yourself, ‘that’s a pretty doggone good idea,’ I want you to come up here and stand with me.”

The entire congregation stood to its feet in clumps and intervals and moved to the front altar area.

Reverend Meningsbee made his way to every single soul, squeezing their hands and simply saying, “Let’s be well.”

Now maybe the good news was there all the time, or maybe the community was so depressed it was unable to see anything but bleak possibilities. But starting that very morning, Garsonville got healed.

It was their faith that made them whole.

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G-Poppers … March 24th, 2017

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Jon close up

G-Pop wants his children to learn two massive universal initiatives:

  1. Don’t forget to remember
  2. Always remember to forget

Without the institution of this pair into human life, it is easy to become overly sensitive to danger and unappreciative of salvation.

Over-sensitivity can lead to insecurity which breeds fear, and fear chases away the love that would come to assist us.

So in a strange sense, the thing we need the most–support–is cast aside because we’re frightened of what might happen if we trust.

So what should we forget and what needs to be remembered?

  • Forget the ordeal.
  • Remember the survival.

Even as you recount the stories in your life, make sure that you place much more emphasis on the solution, the blessing, the great idea and the healing than you ever do on the actual difficulty itself.

It is a transforming miracle in our emotions which feed the soul with hope. If everything is survivable, then the present ordeal is on a time clock awaiting its departure.

There are other examples, too:

Forget the offense that others may have brought to you and instead, remember the recovery.

Forget the sadness of losing loved ones and remember the joy they continue to bring to your life.

Forget the pain, remember the healing.

Forget the inconsideration that was thrust your way and remember the conclusion, when time and chance gave you the opportunity to bless those who cursed you.

And of course, forget the past and remember the way of escape that God, Mother Nature and common sense provided in your moment of need.

Great mental health can be ushered into our being simply by practicing forgetting, and welcoming remembering.

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Good News and Better News… March 20th, 2017

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If you get a penny for a thought, then sense would cost you hundreds of dollars. It is the commodity the human race haggles for, but often settles for much less dividend.

There are three types of sense: ultimate sense, common sense and human sense.

For the sake of simplicity, let me explain that ultimate sense is, “I’ve got God’s brain.”

Common sense could be defined as, “I’ve got a good brain.”

And human sense, plainly stated, is, “I’ve got my brain.”

None of us have ultimate sense. There are inklings in ancient writings that someday, once we have surrendered to death, all knowledge will be transfused into our eternal spirit. But I secretly believe that the Creator of the Universe will probably hold back a few details for Himself.

Now, common sense is that basic 25 things we learn before the age of five which continue in our adult life if we trust them and pursue them. They make us happy people.

For instance, don’t stick your finger into a light socket (pictured above). Being nice to people, generally speaking, makes them be nice to you. Don’t stick a Q-tip too deeply into your ear. Water boils at 212 degrees, but don’t thrust your hand into it. If you want to be around people, set up a respectable shower schedule.

It is not only common–it is understandable. Most of the difficulty that befalls us is from rejecting common sense. Is it rebellion? Is it stupidity? Is it forgetfulness?

No. It’s when we get overtaken by human sense.

Human sense is that selfish notion that we are unique and require our own set of rules. This makes us ask three ridiculous questions:

  1. What do I lack?
  2. How unfair is this?
  3. Why doesn’t anyone care?

So long before we can get answers, we have to be ministered to and healed of these nasty insecurities which trap us into human sense and deny common sense.

Truthfully, if you want to have a revival in your church, just take three or four months to journey your congregation on returning to common sense, ignoring the selfishness of human sense, which fails to recognize other people or the power of universal principles.

The good news is that God, with ultimate sense, sent Jesus to teach common sense to try to awaken us from our human sense of doom and gloom.

The better news is that if you can awaken the common sense in people again, they begin to believe that God is a possibility instead of a myth.

 

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Jesonian… February 25th, 2017

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jesonian-cover-amazon

 

Completely inundated by a traffic jam of divergent opinions, many of which are directly or indirectly attributed to the thinking of Jesus of Nazareth, I decided to sit down one afternoon this week and spend some time with my good old buddies, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John–reading all the “red stuff.”

Yes, I still have one of those Bibles where all the things Jesus said are highlighted in red, granting them the significance of being the thoughts of God.

The purpose for my quest was simple–I wanted to narrow down the three basic topics of Jesus’ mindset. Because when you finish perusing all this material, you realize that he said a lot–and you also quickly conclude that he intended his words to be honored, to the point that he measured the love of his followers by how much they held his teachings in regard.

I finally came up with three. You might have different suggestions. Honestly, there were a lot of great runner-ups.

My three statements of Jesus that punctuate his ministry are as follows:

1. Love your neighbor as yourself.

Just about a third of what Jesus talked about has to do with human relationships.

Candidly, Jesus was not terribly concerned about our relationship with God. Instead, he paralleled and intertwined it with our interactions with our fellow humans. So even though “turn the other cheek” was nearly a winner, it fell under “love your neighbor as yourself.”

And “loving the Lord God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength…” was included because Jesus closed it out by saying “… and your neighbor as yourself.”

2. Count the cost.

This is about human common sense.

Anyone who believes they can live a life to honor Father God by spitting in the eye of Mother Nature is in for a sorry conclusion. Jesus never suggested that we ignore the signs of the times or even the color of the sky, if it might give us wisdom on whether to bring an umbrella.

In other words, get saved but don’t lose your brain. You’ll need it.

3. Go the second mile.

This is human motivation.

Try as I will to find teachings of Jesus where he advocates languishing in grace or getting sleepy in our salvation, I fell short. He believed that “by our fruits” we will be known. He also said, “if somebody takes your coat, give them your cloak also.”

He contended that the power we have is our ability to continue the race when others have fallen out.

So a third of the Gospel is about human relationships. Another chunk is about human common sense, and the final piece is human motivation.

If we simply return to that glorious format laid out for us in the writings in red, the people around us who desire relationships, common sense and motivation will find the BEST FRIEND they ever had in the world.

Until Jesus is honored as a life coach instead of merely a baby born to die for our sins, we will hemorrhage people from the church.

 

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