Good News and Better News… November 27th, 2017

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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Upon arriving at the Immanuel Lutheran Church in Palm City, Florida, we were greeted by Pastor Roy and John, who graciously agreed to carry in our equipment and assist us in any way possible. It is magnificent to run across human souls who welcome strangers–no matter how strange they may appear to be.

Pastor Roy is a congenial fellow who, like Matthew of old, was called from his trade to come and share the Gospel. Courteous, gentle, kind, inventive and helpful. During the time of our set-up, and also our whole visitation, this dear brother became and remained, our right arm.

I am humbled by such an active service.

I had one mission in Palm City–an attempt to escort beautiful children of God’s kingdom from fear to good cheer.

Fear grips us.

Good cheer greets us: Greets us with the awareness that all is well, God is with us and we have resource.

Being good Lutherans, they were naturally afraid of any show of spontaneous emotion. After all, we’re not positive that God isn’t a solemn and austere figure. (Of course, if He is, we’re in a world of trouble.)

Good cheer is what Jesus suggests we use to survive while he overcomes the world, which is full of tribulation.

I explained to these dear brothers and sisters that there’s a difference between clapping your hands and applause. Applause is often deemed an expression of appreciation or even praise for an artist. Clapping your hands is the most authentic evidence of the presence of joy.

So when we come into God’s house and we sit tight in our seats, afraid to move, waiting for the Eucharist, we miss the point of our gathering.

We should be there for three reasons: to strengthen one another, to care for one another and to confirm that the Gospel continues to be “good news.” All of our other traditions are delightful, but have little to do with what actually constitutes praise and worship.

So I told my new friends that I personally need no applause–but that God loves to hear them clap their hands.

So if you hear something good, see something good, feel tingly and warm in the Spirit or are overcome with joy: “Clap your hands, all ye people. Shout unto God with a voice of triumph.”

The good news is that when these Lutherans did so, the building reverberated with the power of love.

The better news is, if they will continue to release that Spirit through clapping their hands, many prayers for miracles will come their way.

 

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Good News and Better News … August 8th, 2016

Jonathots Daily Blog

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Lititz United Methodist Church

The big black van rolled up to Lititz United Methodist Church in Lititz, Pennsylvania, with Jan and myself inside.

We had two shows to do there. Although I must be honest, there are religious folks who do not like it when you call it a show, and also become quite indignant if you use the word “performance.” (Candidly, the only exercise some human beings get is fidgeting their brain with nonsense.)

So to keep peace, let me just say that it was after the “Second Encounter of the Church Kind” that a lady approached me, hugged me around the neck, pulled back slightly, looked me squarely in the face with tears in her eyes, and said, “Thank you for the common sense.”

It amazes me that anyone can read the Gospels and not come away from the experience realizing that Jesus was a promoter of common sense. Matter of fact, you could sum up his whole philosophy of life with one simple phrase: “To he who much is given, much is expected.”

That is a healthy dose of common sense.

The people I met on Sunday morning were courteous, caring, fun-loving and hopeful. You could change the world with such an army–that is, if you fed them with common sense. Perhaps a definition is due at this point, since I’ve been throwing around the term.

Common: we’re all human.

Sense: we all can learn.

That’s what it takes, folks.

When some people think they’re better than other people, creating a hierarchy among the Homo sapiens, any sense of fellowship disappears.

And if we don’t think we have anything to learn, all the good stuff that God could give us is limited to our own tightly wound minds.

Lititz was a snapshot of Middle America without any touch-up or air brushing.

  • They aren’t perfect because if they were, we’d have to hate them.
  • They aren’t all pretty, because if they were, we would feel intimidated.
  • They are mortals in need of common sense.

They come to church with a look in their eye that says, “We might be ready. We’re not sure. If your ideas are too crazy, we’ll move on down the road. But we might be ready. There’s a chance we’re prepared to leave the foolishness of religion, the insanity of politics and the selfishness of prejudice and find common ground.”

But they also communicate that they would really appreciate it if you’d be gentle. The mean-spirited approach of our present social structure has left many a soul wounded and frightened.

And finally, I think there’s a spirit in this country–a desire, if you will–to make it plain. Everything is too complicated. Break it down into its parts–and let’s take one part at a time.

The good news is that the uproar of ridiculous debate over nothing in this country has produced an appetite for common sense.

The better news is that Jesus has already given us the bacon and eggs.

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PoHymn: A Rustling in the Stagnant

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Dear Man/Dear Woman: A Noteworthy Conversation … January 23rd, 2016

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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Dear Man Dear Woman

Dear Man: Do you think I’m smart?

 

Dear Woman: Trick question, am I right?

 

Dear Man: No trick. I just wonder if you find me intelligent.

 

Dear Woman: I guess I’d have to know what you mean by intelligent.

 

Dear Man: Stop analyzing the question and give me your general impression of my brain power.

 

Dear Woman: Yeah, I think you’re smart.

 

Dear Man: No, you don’t.

 

Dear Woman: So it was a trick question.

 

Dear Man: No, but if you thought I was smart you would have answered immediately instead of trying to figure out what I was getting at.

 

Dear Woman: Are you trying to say that you don’t understand why I try to figure out what you’re getting at?

 

Dear Man: Do you think I’m too sensitive?

 

Dear Woman: Are we moving on to another question?

 

Dear Man: Let me explain.

 

Dear Woman: Please do.

 

Dear Man: I think I’ve got something figured out. I have a tendency to share what I feel. You, on the other hand, offer what you think.

 

Dear Woman: I would agree with that.

 

Dear Man: Please don’t interrupt me. I’m on a roll. So I react by feeling about what you think and that forces you to think about what I feel, which more or less–at least partially–aggravates both of us, and because we think aggravation might lead to fighting, we shut up and pout in our own corner.

 

Dear Woman: I don’t pout.

 

Dear Man: Yes, you do. You just call it “going for a drive.” Or “watching a football game,” when you don’t even know the names of the teams. Anyway, once we get aggravated and we don’t deal with it, there’s enough of it left over inside both of us that we’re not courteous to each other, or at least not as much as we should be. And then we are both quietly offended by that lack of courtesy and soon we begin to believe we have drifted apart.

 

Dear Woman: So you figured this out on your own.

 

Dear Man: Yeah. I think a lot about us. Don’t you think about me?

 

Dear Woman: Definitely a trick question. Yes, of course I think about you. It’s hard not to consider someone you share a bed with every night.

 

Dear Man: So what do you think can be done about this?

 

Dear Woman: Maybe nothing. Maybe it’s just the way things are. Maybe it’s part of the imperfection that’s evolving. Who knows?

 

Dear Man: Don’t you think there’s a middle ground? A place between my feelings and your thinking where we can meet?

 

Dear Woman: I don’t know and that’s an honest answer. I really don’t know.

 

Dear Man: We go to church.

 

Dear Woman: Every once in a while.

 

Dear Man: Right. Did you ever notice something? In the story of Adam and Eve, God doesn’t give them two different sets of instructions. There wasn’t a manly way to take care of the Garden and a girly way. Just one way.

 

Dear Woman: I never thought of it, but I guess you’re right.

 

Dear Man: And if I can continue, there’s not a blue Bible for the boys and a pink Bible for the girls.

 

Dear Woman: That’s cute. I bet somebody will eventually try that, though.

 

Dear Man: And without getting too religious, Jesus did say that in the Kingdom of God there is neither male nor female.

 

Dear Woman: I get all that, but what are you trying to say?

 

Dear Man: I’m saying that if God thought we could get along, there must be a way to do it, or he was a real ass for creating an impossible situation, and then sitting back and laughing at our arguments.

 

Dear Woman: I don’t think you can call God an ass.

 

Dear Man: I’m not calling God an ass, I’m saying that anybody who would torture people with a hope that does not exist would be an ass.

 

Dear Woman: I agree.

 

Dear Man: So the reason I asked you if you think I’m smart is that I came up with this idea. What if I took what I felt and tried to make it more thoughtful, and you took your thinking and allowed for more feeling, and we ended up landing together in something that had spirit?

 

Dear Woman: And what would we call that place?

 

Dear Man: Human.

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Trion for Size … December 4, 2013

Jonathots Daily Blog

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keysIt was Monday morning.

We hauled our instruments into our motel room, set up and prepared for a rehearsal which also was an inspirational session of putting together our Spirited Christmas Show. We would have just a couple of hours, and then the next day we would be performing in Trion, Georgia.

I always find it great fun. Matter of fact, it really boils down to a simple little formula, which is almost fool-proof because it takes into account the nature of human beings.

Sorting through the material, I look for four ingredients:

  1. Something fast.
  2. Slow it down.
  3. Bring some heart.
  4. Make ’em laugh

Any time you put together that quadrangle of attitudes and gratitudes, you’re bound to have success.

But it got me thinking. How is life in general any different?

After all, we do need something fast.

We need to be quick on the uptake, to step in and be courteous, assisting one another when it’s in our power to do so.

Isn’t it important to slow it down?

How valuable can you become when you walk into a room that’s harried, worried and frustrated and you get everybody to calm themselves and quietly consider options?

I don’t know what we’d do without bringing the heart.

The religious package we offer to mankind in our churches is often heavy-laden with spiritual theology or tipsy with mental acuity and ideas. But here’s the problem: we’re emotional people, and if you don’t touch the heart, you can’t bless your fellow-travelers. What’s the best way to bring the heart? Admit your weakness and then testify about what makes you stronger.

And finally, make ’em laugh.

Do we really think anything special in life will happen without good cheer? Have a solemn and somber generation of old-thinking human beings ever generated a revival or a renaissance? If you remove the Mayflower and the idea of having turkey at Thanksgiving, the Pilgrims are a pretty empty group. Make ’em laugh.

So Jan and I sat down and came up with a show that had something fast. Then we slowed it down to bring the heart and make ’em laugh.

Last night we took it to Trion, Georgia, and it was sized perfectly.

We can learn from what works if we’re not afraid to work with what we’ve learned.

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Click for details on the SpirTed 2014 presentation

Click for details on the SpirTed 2014 presentation

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

click to hear music from Spirited 2014

click to hear music from Spirited 2014

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