Good News and Better News … May 30th, 2016

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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Mt Pisgah 3Pastor John Crawford had decided to retire.

While in the midst of considering what would be his favorite chair, he was urgently “recalled” to help out at the Mt. Pisgah United Methodist Church near Verona, Virginia.

It was a temporary assignment that has lasted for twelve years.

I was fortunate to be invited to share with the delightful congregation and Pastor John this past Sunday morning.

The people are the salt of the earth, unfortunately living in a time when the masses prefer pepper.

Yes, we are a generation who has convinced ourselves that we are happiest when we portray reality as being dissension, describing politics as deception, and fostering religion that has more verse than rhyme.

So as I settled in to play music and chat with these inspiring individuals, I wanted to make sure I kept it simple–not because they were incapable of complexity, but because I am incapable of complexity.Mt Pisgah 2

If it’s necessary to make things difficult to find solutions, please do not contact me.

I’ve read the Bible through enough times that I have discovered there’s a central theme. Such a golden stream of understanding can never be achieved by focusing on a few passages here and there which seem to back your favorite prejudice.

The central theme I’ve discovered is that God will have a kind people, or no people at all.

Yes, I’m telling you–God is love until you get Him really frustrated. At that point He is described as a consuming fire. And what really sparks His blaze? Unkindness.

In our society, we now believe that the tougher you look, the meaner you act and the more aggressive you become, the better off you are in this dangerous climate.

Holy hogwash. It’s about being kind. Which, by the way, begins with the word “kin.”

Yes, to be kind you have to learn how to treat everyone you meet as kin.

This means you will continue to love them through their quirks, their preferences, their ideologies or even, God forbid, their diverse choices in baptism.

Kind.

Mt Pisgah 1For instance, I can never pray to my Heavenly Father unless I’ve already expressed kindness to His children. I even exaggerate it–especially when I’m feeling grumpy and my natural inclination is to spit at the world around me. Instead, I keep my saliva to myself, pucker up and force a kiss.

Case in point, driving to the church yesterday, a young man came behind my van, honking at me. I was a little surprised so I slowed up, thinking I must be doing something wrong. This infuriated him even more, causing him to pass me and give me the finger as he zoomed by.

Now, when I was younger I would have been aggravated at this assault to my person. But in my present mindset, I land somewhere between baffled and amused. (Because if he’s going to give me the finger over my slow driving, he should be around when my real faults show up.)

The good news is that being kind–treating all souls as your kin–is guaranteed to produce pleasure in the heart of God. There may be other things you can do to make Him happy, but they are completely negated if you are unkind.

The better news is that kind is not nearly as exhausting as mean.

Mt Pisgah 4 

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Three Ways to Win an Argument… October 30, 2014

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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arguing woman

Arguments are like hamburgers in the sense that most people agree that they’re not very good for us, but on the other hand, few are able to resist them. Unlike hamburgers, they end up being a part of our diet whether we like it or not, so we should learn how to ingest and digest them better.

First of all, we need to stop mingling the words “discussion,” “debate” and “argument,” as if they are the same species.

A discussion is when people come together, admitting they do not have enough knowledge on a subject and engage in an exchange of information for enlightenment.

A debate is when two people of differing opinions share their ideas with the aspiration that one of the presentations will come to the forefront as having more common sense.

An argument occurs when folks are certain they have discovered a truth which they believe has been tested, and they are unwilling to give in to any other insight because they feel they have found the correct path.

So an argument seems doomed to elicit frayed feelings and even digress to some violence if we do not know how to conduct ourselves and become the winners.

And by winning an argument, I do not mean usurping authority over other people, to bend them to our will. Winning an argument is to control the atmosphere and make sure that rage does not enter in.

So what should we do?

1. Ask lots of questions.

Arguments always turn volatile when people literally spit their opinions at one another, rather than challenging the source of the other person’s position. It’s difficult to become overwrought when someone is asking you a question and you’re having to provide evidence instead of just passion.

Some time ago I was arguing with a friend about a project he was working on and I stopped in the middle of the back-and-forth and asked, “Do you feel this project is up to the calibre and integrity of what you’ve done in the past?”

It brought him to a complete halt. In the midst of that stall, he calmed down, thinking more deeply.

To win an argument, always have more questions than comments.

2. Somewhere early on in the argument, concede a point or two which will not alter the quality of your conviction.

Anytime you argue with folks, they will make a good point, and usually pride will prevent you from admitting it. If you stop to acknowledge the truth, you disarm your competitor and also create a more gentle environment for the ongoing experience.

If it’s true, it’s true. And if it’s true, say so quickly. You don’t lose points and in the end you will actually gain respect.

3. Summarize as you go.

Every few seconds, repeat these words: “So what you’re saying is…”

It gives the person a chance to hear back what you heard, and confirm whether it’s true, or if some mis-speaking occurred. It also slows the progression of arrogance, permitting simplicity to have its day.

I guarantee you that if you do these three things, you will win every argument, because the true goal is to arrive at a way for both of you to continue to work together and be friends, even though this rift has occurred.

The key to life is realizing that you can give up some turf and still have enough room to stand.

arguing man

 

 

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The Sermon on the Mount in music and story. Click the mountain!

The Sermon on the Mount in music and story. Click the mountain!

 

Click here to get info on the "Gospel According to Common Sense" Tour

Click here to get info on the “Gospel According to Common Sense” Tour

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

Click here to listen to Spirited music

Click here to listen to Spirited music

Surprise … April 7, 2014

Jonathots Daily Blog  

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car van grillMy itinerary and the front end of my van took me this morning to a time of fellowship and celebration in Surprise, Arizona.

They were lovely folk.

I suppose if you’re a continual, or even occasional, reader of my column, you may get a little weary of the general application of the word “lovely” that I use in describing human beings. I should clarify. When I say I met lovely folk, I mean that they surprised me.

Some of them surprised me with how clinging they are. Others surprised me with their reaching aspect. Both groups are intriguing.

Those who are clinging often find that my simple sharing and homespun ideas fail to confirm their ongoing desire for complexity.

They would much rather cling to their tradition, which I would classify as religion minus a true understanding of humanity. (I don’t know what good it does to believe in a God who doesn’t know crap about people.) Yet some people cling to aspects of practice and precepts that bring very little satisfaction to either body or soul.

They are also clinging to fear. Following suit, I would define fear as replacing understanding with a purposeful choice to remain ignorant.

And finally, they seem to be completely fulfilled with inadequacy. If they don’t have enough money it’s “God’s will” or “the devil’s doing.” If they’re sick, it’s “the Lord testing them” or “the devil chasing them.”

Clinging is not a very attractive attribute. So I’m surprised when I run across those people who continue to pursue such an unfulfilling path–and will project their disapproval of my liberty by snubbing any of my thoughts.

But likewise, I’m surprised when I run across people who are reaching. They’re reaching for a message. It will be difficult to propel a spiritual awakening in this country by using symbolism instead of hardcore ideas. The cross may be an emblem of our faith, but it is the Sermon on the Mount that truly personifies the heart of Jesus.

They’re also reaching for a chance:

  • A chance to become something.
  • A chance to do something.
  • A chance to use their talent instead of complaining about absence or rustiness.

AND FINALLY

They’re reaching for repentance. Nothing happens on earth if you’re not willing to evolve towards the source of greater wisdom. This requires that we admit our frailty and embrace our solution.

Clinging is the opposite of reaching, which is the process for discovering a better use for your hands.

So Surprise, Arizona, was like every other place I am so blessed to infiltrate during my pilgrimage. There were clinging people and reaching people.

And both of them I find lovely–simply because those who are reaching benefit from my philosophy and those who are clinging are blessed by my mercy. 

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Click here to get info on the "Gospel According to Common Sense" Tour

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

Pockets… March 27, 2014

Jonathots Daily Blog  

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cave

Safe places to hide

Perhaps an escape

Surround yourself with fellow-agreers

Discourage strife through eliminating discussion

A consensus of repetitive ideas

A unity in smallness

A feeling of blocking difference is divinely inspired

A request for hope to depart from your village

A surrender to adequacy

A jarring alarm over being challenged

A corner where enemies can be easily detected

A decision to remain uncertain

A selected night without fear of the bump

A purposeful retreat with no battle in sight

An exclusion of simplicity to extol the glory of complexity

A requirement of a unanimous vote

Squeezing a dollar bill, pleading it will not leap from your grasp

Laughing at transition

Criticizing creativity

Believing that belief has no responsibility to become more believable

Grasping at straws but never drinking

Imitating emotion in favor of true encounter

Praising darkness for fear of the light

Praying to gain silence

Silent to acquire peace

Peaceful to run from questions

Pockets, not resistance

Reservation

Avoiding the exposure to ideas

Which just might revive the dead.

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The producers of jonathots would humbly request a yearly subscription donation of $10 for this wonderful, inspirational opportunity

Click here to get info on the "Gospel According to Common Sense" Tour

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

Bounce … May 3, 2013

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ying yangKeeping it simple.

The purpose for such an action is not because I think I’m stupid or other people are ignorant, but rather, that complexity rarely brings about greater productivity. So let’s look at it logically:

I have a heart–emotions. I need to let them feel.

I have a soul. My soul is supposed to remind me of better things.

I have a brain. My brain is intended to be used for learning.

And I have a body, with strength, which always works better when I am in motion–doing

So my heart feels, my soul reminds me, my brain learns, and my body enacts. Pretty elementary, yet often is ignored. But what we may not realize is that each one of these parts of our being has a bounce position.

In other words, the human emotions are not meant to just feel. We all know people who feel things very strongly, who are not healthy at all, but rather, imbalanced. So the bounce position for emotions–after we’ve given them a good dose of feeling–is listening. I’m talking about empathetic, compassionate hearing of the needs, wants and desires of others. This is the relaxed position for our hearts when we’ve overindulged in feeling. We need the sensation of listening. People who do not listen and only feel end up distraught.

Likewise, even though the soul reminds us, no one actually grows spiritually without pursuing the bounce position of sharing. In other words, if God is speaking to us and we’re merely retaining the information instead of sharing it, putting it into practice or sending up a test balloon to confirm our findings, we will quickly forget the lesson and end up being obnoxiously stubborn. Yes, the bounce position from being reminded in our soul is sharing from it.

And even though the mind is pre-conditioned to learn, it requires a good bounce, when we go into our old files and replace them. Case in point: the reason prejudice continues in the US to this day is that although we have learned that it’s wrong, we have not gone inside our mental files to update what pumps out when we meet somebody of a different ethnicity or lifestyle. So in a sense, we’re nervously open to each other, and the nerves can’t go away until we replace the old information in our upbringing with new knowledge that supersedes it.

And in our bodies, although it is important to remain in motion, the “bouncer” is to be just as adept at resting as we are at working. We should learn to work efficiently but also to use our down time to recuperate instead of festering in nervous energy, which prohibits us from finding solace.

You see? Human beings are beautifully balanced between these great bounces.

  • Emotionally we feel, but we also listen.
  • In our soul, we are reminded of what is right but we find a way to share it in order to make it a part of us instead of just a theology.
  • Our brains learn, but then take the additional step of replacing old attitudes with new revelations.
  • And even though we desire to be extremely productive in what our bodies do, we require the alternative blessing of being equally as intuitive in our seasons of rest.

If you focus on any one of these things over another, you experience some sort of rebounding difficulty, which will leave you teetering on sensations of inadequacy which flare up in pride.

So just like a red rubber ball, all of this comes bouncing back to you. Find your bounce. Find your balance.

And in the process, find the beauty that God intended in His last creation … human beings.

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*****

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Graceful Effort … May 1, 2013

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birdsI love believing. It’s so much more fulfilling than being cynical, doubting the power of virtue and the possibilities that lie within the human family.

On the other hand, I don’t always LIKE being a believer. What I mean is, the stigma placed upon spirituality by relegating it to the status of mere “religion” often annoys me to the point of pulling out my hair (thus explaining my baldness).

What is the difference between believing and being the common believer who follows the rhetoric of religion? I think it lies somewhere in discovering the balance between grace and works.

If you’re on of those believers who thinks that God has a wonderful plan for your life,” or that everything is written in the stars, or that the future is pre-determined and you’re just finding your place in the great scheme of destiny, you usually find yourself in a bit of despair, inept and impatient with your lot.

If you happen to be one of those individuals who is minus a spiritual direction and believe that you forge your own path with no help from a divine friend, you can also become disheartened and angry at the complexity of what you hoped would be simple.

I think it would do us good to become bird brains. For some reason or another in our pursuit of human superiority, we have deemed the bird to be stupid, when the Bible actually tells us that the birds have it figured out better than us. For instance, I woke up this morning to the sounds of chattering, singing, flying feathered folks right outside my window. I didn’t pick up any aggravation in their song; no disgruntled soul complaining about the early hour or off-key brothers and sisters. They just seemed to get it.

“We’re birds. We sing. It’s morning. Sing loudly. Sun came up. Go get worms. Bring them back to the nest. And fly around … until something kills you.”

But in our pursuit of some deep hidden meaning to life, we refuse to accept the fact that even though Jesus said we are worth “many sparrow,” he DID compare us to sparrows. You may want to believe that you, personally, are of more value than all the sparrows in the world, but in heaven your actual rate of exchange is merely MANY sparrows.

So what is the perfect balance between grace and works?

Graceful effort: pursuing what life has set in front of you, working on the excellence of your humanity, perfecting your craft, keeping a good sense of humor, while all the time understanding that this humility permits God to extend His grace to you.

God does not give grace to the prideful–and it is certainly prideful to proclaim our sanctity and purity without producing any evidence of works and effort.

So what creates humility?

  1. “Like the sparrow, I will sing my song.”
  2. “Like the sparrow, I will hunt my worms, knowing that they feed me.”
  3. “Like the sparrow, I will build a nest and find my peace within it.”
  4. “Like the sparrow, I will know that life is brief and my time, limited.”
  5. “Like the sparrow, I will leave the rest to God’s grace.”

No sparrow ever dies in its nest of natural causes. Sparrows don’t get Alzheimer’s. They live their life full-throttle until their lives are no more. Often it’s a tragic end–but quick. Knowing this, they never miss a morning to sing.

Graceful effort: when I realize that life has conditions, direction and purpose, and rather than fighting it, I eagerly join in with my portion. In doing so, I humbly offer my melody to my Creator

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*****

Please contact Jonathan’s agent, Jackie Barnett, at (615) 481-1474, for information about personal appearances or scheduling an event

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