Paying Paul without Robbing… July 6, 2013

Jonathots Daily Blog


Pine Island churchThere is a tendency to want to share truth by proving points instead of living out convictions. Yet when other people don’t share the convictions, what do you do with that unrelenting sort?

You can try to convert them–even though most people don’t change their minds as easily as a Mustang drops down its top.

It’s the other alternatives that bother me. Truthfully, as long as someone’s trying to preach at me or teach in my direction, I still have the inkling that at least they care enough about me to want me to become a part of their flock.

But when they give up on the idea of me joining the ranks, too often I become the enemy. They start looking for reasons to dislike me. They immediately alienate me from their circle of influence–and more often than not, meticulously foster a search to find evidence of my ignorance.

I believe this is not a good way to advance a fresh idea. Good ideas need to be faithful to their principles without being obnoxious to bystanders. Candidly, I believe we’ve lost that particular ability.

So as I go off tonight and tomorrow to share with the folks at St. Paul Lutheran Church in Pine Island, Minnesota, I have taken some time to understand that these burgeoning human beings have a history and a present to go along with their future plans.

For 114 years this church has been in existence. Just stop and think about that. I must ask myself if there’s anything I have pursued for 114 days–or even hours.

Ministers have come and gone. Parishioners have spent their entire lives seeking spiritual food within this enclosure. They’ve laughed. They’ve wept. They’ve married and they’ve died.

And you know what’s amazing? They did all of it without my help.

I’m not trying to limit the scope of my talent or influence. I’m just saying that respect for one another to where we have arrived is necessary in order for us to have a confluence of ideas and emotions that create fellowship instead of dissension.

To put it in today’s language, you’ve gotta give folks their props.

So I made a short list of things which I want to make sure to achieve before I depart the sanctity and beauty of this congregation:

1. Don’t try to make things bad to share something good. I’m tired of this approach. People feel like they have to tear something down that’s already established in order to promote their product. As Jesus said, “I didn’t come to destroy, but to fulfill.” Brilliant.

2. Don’t attack the outside to improve the inside. Is it really necessary to establish that the world is lost, confused and perhaps damnable, just so we feel more spiritual? Is God out to prove His point, or is He out to save the world? There’s a difference, you know.

3. Don’t give up on the good in an attempt to achieve better. I don’t know if I’ll like all the ways the St. Paul people worship. Honestly, no one asked my opinion. My job is not to tear down what is already established–just to strengthen the pillars.

4. And finally, give people a chance to find the Kingdom of God that’s already within them. It is essential that we realize that church is the revelation that God dwells best in the human heart, and less effectively in altars of stone. Just allowing people the joy of absorbing that happiness is what God wants for His children. And that bubbling in the spirit must be discovered through our personal communion with ourselves and our heavenly Father.

So you see, because I’ve been thinking about these four things, I can look forward to my time with these diligent brothers and sisters, who have constructed a 114-year history. I think I’ve learned the lesson–don’t destroy.

And therefore, in my own simple way, maybe I can help them fulfill some of their dreams.

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

Stay on the Bus … January 21, 2013


Martin Luther King Jr.Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., had a problem. The bus line in his local community had begun to raise a fuss about carrying the colored folks of the town. There were so many reasons for the conflict that it’s difficult to explain–but basically, Rev. King was a Negro minister in a municipality which believed in and practiced “separate but equal.” Racial mixing was frowned on except in the exchange of cordial, but brief, greetings in the marketplace.

The problem the young minister faced was that some of his congregation wanted to rebel and object to the lack of equality and respect given to the Negro community. But most of the folks just wanted to get along. They saw no particular reason, after all these years of struggle and winning significant improvements, to anger the white community over such a silly, little issue as transportation. But he was also aware of the power he possessed among his people as a member of the clergy. They would more than likely move out in any direction he deemed righteous.

He prayed about it. After he prayed, he decided that the true wisdom of God was to use discretion and humility instead of demanding acceptance, which would only be viewed as arrogant. He negotiated a deal with the bus company to allow the colored folks, who sat in the rear, to redecorate that particular portion of the bus to suit their culture and liking. The bus company thought it was an odd request but couldn’t see any reason why allowing the Negroes to do what they wanted to on the bus, within reason, should be denied–since no white person would step back there anyway.

Matter of fact, Rev. King sold the concept to his flock under the banner, “Redecorate Our Lives.” In other words, rather than fighting against society, requiring respect, his suggestion was that the colored community establish their uniqueness and the beauty of their culture, and therefore become a testimony through cooperation. It was a roaring success. The white community was happy because things were let alone, and the Negroes felt they had achieved a compromise, which allowed them to retain some dignity of their own.

Rev. King became so popular that he was asked to head a confluence of black educators who became consultants for Congress in Washington, D.C. Although the body of legislators continued to be predominately white, this gathering of leaders from the Negro community was permitted to input ideas on how to make race relations better across the country. In fact, Rev. King was one of the founders of the NCFL–the National Colored Football League, which he proudly touted often had greater attendance in their stadiums than the nearly all-white National Football League.

Oh, there were some downs with the ups. Martin was not pleased that the music and arts scene, never integrated, failed to blend the sounds of gospel, blues and jazz into the mainstream of the pop music scene. But most of the Negro artists were able to etch out a living among their darker brothers and sisters.

Probably Rev. King’s proudest accomplishment was his “Back to Black” campaign, begun in the late 1970’s, to take American families on pilgrimages to Africa, similar to the Muslims returning to Mecca or the Jews to Jerusalem.

Separate but equal” remained the law of the land but gradually was beginning to resemble equality more than just separation. Race relations were fine unless a few trouble-makers came along rocking the boat, insisting that the forefathers’ concept of all men being created equal was an inclusive concept MEANT to promote integration.

Although Rev. King was sympathetic to their feelings, he warned them that fighting against the general opinion of the population was not going to bring peace and contentment, but rather, a forced situation of interaction, which ultimately would only produce anger and resentment.

He was successful in calming the turmoil. He was well-respected within the black community and considered to be a healing force among the whites.

While attending a convention in Atlanta in 1992, he was preparing to give a speech when he had a heart attack and died. The topic of his last presentation was to be, “Separate but equal–thank God Almighty, at last.”

You see, this very easily could have been the story of the man. He would have lived longer, he would have been more accepted and he would never have had a bullet pierce his neck and bleed out on the balcony of a cheap motel in Memphis, Tennessee.

But everything we are today–all progress we’ve made, every idea of justice and every possibility of interaction, while looking each other directly in the eye, would be pure mythology. Dr. King wrestled with two Presidents to secure the civil rights legislation that steers the ship of social justice.

Yet we live in a generation which advocates “staying on the bus” instead of boycotting the corporation because of its unfair practices. We are civilized; we are rational and we are just … damned boring.

Remember today–one man had to make one choice. Do I find a way to work with the system? Or do I declare that system filthy, evil, and fight against it–willing to give my life?

Think about it.

Then–when it’s your turn–this time, don’t compromise.

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

Confluence … July 12, 2012


It was an odd sensation. Not odd in the sense of bizarre, but rather, intriguing, invigorating–spine-tingling, if you will.

He stopped off at my motel room before he headed off to be in Chicago with his wife. He’s a full-grown man but he calls me Pop. The reason for that lovely addressing is that when he was just about ten years old, a rocky storm of a family in peril deposited him on my shore. I took him in as a son. He gradually took me in as a possibility.

We sat and talked yesterday for what ended up being much longer than a traditional farewell. What made this situation particularly unique was that thirty-four years earlier, I sat in a room with his father when he was exactly the same age, discussing many of the same dilemmas, coming to mostly identical conclusions.

But this time it was different.

When I talked to his father, I was only five years his senior–and he was deeply engrained in a culture which possessed too much macho and not enough tenderness for discovery. His father was frightened, nervous, incriminated, worried, horny and broke. It is not a particularly appealing buffet of possibilities. His father was driving around in a beat-up yellow Ford Pinto with a burnt valve, which only started on mornings when there was absolutely no moisture in the air. His father was wounded, but not seeking treatment. His father was angry, but content with the rage. His father was ignorant, while adding the unnecessary and unseemly addition of being arrogant. I worked with his father for a long time, and although there were occasional hints of progress, he always returned to his roots instead of honoring his new sprouts.

So yesterday, when this fine, young man came to my motel room, talking about his life, he lamented that he was a little nervous that he might end up being like his dad.

I laughed. I wasn’t trying to be scornful or disrespectful to this fine fellow; it just seemed humorous to me that this particular insecurity was plaguing him. For you see, something had changed. The curse of repetition of father to son had been broken by the power of a confluence.

It is impossible for two things to remain identical if one insists on changing the level of experience. It is the reason that our society is not moving forward–because we are not admitting our frailties to our children and sending them to places where they can learn how to be stronger than we were. Some folks who tout the name of Mother and Father even feel great pride that their children are exactly like them.

God forbid.

The greatest love you can have for your son or daughter is to wish that they will take the better parts of you, reject the worst and go out and experience more than you did, so that in their souls there can be a confluence of newness.

What is a confluence? It is when the combined streams of many rivers join together to form a heart.  And that is what we’re supposed to be.

The young man sitting in my room could never be his father because:

  • he traveled to China to learn more about our world
  • he met a young woman there, fell in love with her, married her and has a son
  • he walked the streets among the poor in that country, learning their ways, their language and their customs
  • he dealt with his temper by seeking ways to find peace in his soul and harmony with those around him
  • he learned a craft of making movies instead of complaining about his lack of ability
  • he made friends with his wife’s family and has their support instead of their disdain
  • he keeps in contact with his brothers and family here in the United States, letting them know of his love and concern
  • he drives a car that starts with a key instead of needing the will of God
  • he came to the United States with his dear lady to aid her in continuing her education and dreams

Do you see what I mean? He created new rivers from the waters of his soul, to generate a confluence that was guaranteed to be different from that of his hapless father.

It is what we need. Every conservative should have to spend three weeks of his life living in poverty in the inner city. Every liberal who blithely contends that abortion is a choice should take their turn counseling and listening at a Planned Parenthood Clinic. Every Republican should work in a food stamp office and every Democrat should go deer hunting with some of the good folks down in Rome, Georgia. Every religious person should go out and see some of the injustice and pain in the world before they produce the silly piping of “God is good–all the time.” And every atheist should sit in the hospital room of a soul of faith, dying of cancer, and sense the angels entering the room to retrieve a friend.

America suffers because we have one stream of thinking instead of a confluence of many rivers of reason. No one ever became a worse person by opening up to learn about how other human beings feel. It is why we celebrate Jesus–because he insisted that the whole world was to be loved, not just Jew or Arab–and he picked up some boxes and moved God and Allah out of Mesopotamia to a home on the entire planet.

Jesus created a confluence. So did the young man who sat in my room yesterday. I was touched because he was concerned about his destiny, but he has already determined the power of his journey by sending in more water.

It’s a confluence–a decision to let fresh streams into our thinking, which will make us realize that the world is not quite as simple as Mom and Dad made it, and not nearly as complicated as we fear it to be.


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

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