Jesonian … December 23rd, 2017

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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A baby being born in a sheep stall in Bethlehem of poor Palestinian parents is not difficult to believe. After all, poverty extracts much of the comfort of good cheer.

Maybe the angels seem a little far-fetched to you (but you know how it is with stories about your young’uns.)

Believing that a year-and-a-half later, a troop of astrologers made their way into town to proclaim this child the hope of the world and the King of the Jews does seem highly unlikely–yet there are always people who have their eccentric ways and live them out because they have enough money to fund them.

Comprehending that there could be a leader of a nation who was so insecure that he was frightened of any competition, and scared a young family away, fearing for their lives, does not seem improbable. Matter of fact, it could be ripped from the headlines. One more refugee family ending up in a foreign land where they have neither kin nor kind is certainly well within the grasp of reality.

Having that young boy return to his alleged home town at age seven, carrying all the trappings and mannerisms of the heathen, would certainly make growing up difficult, not to mention the colliding wills of an every-growing collection of siblings.

Thinking that this boy would have no interest in carpentry, but instead, a precocious passion for humanity and the things of Spirit, is not implausible. After all, he’s the ugly duckling, whom we assume might one day become a swan. He grew in wisdom and stature, and even though he was a foreigner, gradually gained the favor of his neighbors.

It’s not difficult to believe that he lost his Papa, his only real connection with the village of Nazareth, and like many young men, launched out to find some purpose, ending up at the Jordan River, interacting with a wild and wooly cousin named John.

You can certainly believe he got baptized, and probably went out into the wilderness for a while, just to find himself, coming back with claims of interfacing with the devil. You might even forgive his youthful explanation, knowing that to some degree, we all wrestle with our demons.

But the story stalls.

He is rejected by his home town, moves to Capernaum next to the Sea of Galilee, encompassed by a sea of apathy, picks up some friends and followers, and starts traveling the countryside. It is hit-and-miss at best.

It is at this point that many folks who consider themselves to be intelligent and reasonable become cynical about a miracle-worker who calms the waves and casts out demons. But to a certain degree, even those sardonic souls might be able to explain away this and that, but still maintain their interest in the story–especially since he begins to hammer away at religion, loses the favor of the crowd and opens the door of the hierarchy to plot against him, find a betrayer, try him, beat him, nail him to a cross and kill him.

If the story ended there, the baby born in Bethlehem had a life that was a complete failure. His friends are scattered in every direction, his movement was about to become a joke–a piece of farcical history.

So this is where faith comes in. That’s right–you don’t really have to use much to this point. You can just glide along with the story, picking and choosing at will.

But the tale that unfolds, spoken of by those who claimed to be eyewitnesses, is that this baby of Bethlehem rose from the dead.

Now … faith is in full function and also full demand.

Did Jesus of Bethlehem, Egypt, Nazareth, Jordan River, wilderness, Capernaum and Mesopotamia end his life as a failure, beaten down by his critics?

Or did God, the power of the Ethos and the Spirit of the Universe, choose to resurrect him to give the message one more chance?

It’s a very important decision.

It changes this story from a baby shower to a heaven-ordained miracle.

For as we know, several weeks later, a hundred and twenty people in an Upper Room believed it was true. Twelve disciples gave their lives as martyrs, insisting they had witnessed a resurrection.

And at last count, 2.2 billion humans still living two thousand years later have taken their faith beyond the crib, past the crypt … and placed it in the Christ.

 

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Jesonian… April 22nd, 2017

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Cousin John was creating quite a stir.

He had found himself a wide spot on the Jordan River at Bethabara and was dunking people to cleanse them from their sins. News of the words and deeds of the flamboyant relative/prophet had reached Nazareth, and members of the community were split on their opinions of the events–based upon whether they had any family ties with the locust eater.

There was a lot of conversation in the home of Joseph the Carpenter, since Brother John was a part of the bloodline. Papa had died a year earlier, leaving the household to the care of his eldest son, Jesus. That oldest boy, though loyal, faithful and true, had never found great solace in carpentry, and with the death of his father, had become disillusioned with the daily chores.

After Joseph’s death, he had slipped away for a few days into the wilderness to think, and upon returning was greeted with the reports of his cousin’s outreach.

Some jealousy tried to slip in–for Jesus also felt a great calling to share a message with mankind. Knowing that John had already begun such an endeavor created a spiritual itch in him which he desperately needed to scratch.

In these fleeting moments of jealousy he was tempted to join the critics of his cousin. But ashamed of those inclinations, he decided to instead go to Bethabara and observe for himself.

It was a first step to sanity.

If something good is going on in the world, go hear it, understand it and support it.

So without announcement, he arrived at the encampment of the Baptist. He spent two weeks doing nothing but listening to his cousin, watching the events unfold and noting how John handled the contrary natures of the scribes and Pharisees.

He heard the Voice.

He dodged a huge clump of jealousy and instead developed a deep sense of admiration.

After hearing the Voice, it came time to make a choice.

Was he just going to be a watcher? Was he going to go back to Nazareth and try to be the dead carpenter’s son?

John talked about the Kingdom of God being at hand and the need to repent. Jesus stayed up one night thinking about his own repentance. For after all, there is nothing more sinful than believing you are sinless. He saw his errors. He saw where his discontentment with carpentry often came across to his family as if he had a feeling of superiority.

He knew he was tempted like everyone. He was touched with the same sicknesses that each and every human being experiences.

He wanted John’s baptism. He needed John’s baptism. It was the righteous thing to do–because if there was to be a mission, the first step to usher in the possibility was to make a choice.

Jesus made a choice.

He stood in line, waited his turn and stepped down into the Jordan River with his cousin to be cleansed.

To his surprise, the Prophet prophesied. The burly preacher called him “the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.”

Jesus had only met John a handful of times. There was no private coalition. So he took John’s words into his heart as he immersed himself in the experience of the Jordan River baptism.

He rose from the water, walked to the shoreline and realized it was time for him to begin his own work. What was the best way to do that?

How could he change the noise in the world around him?

He smiled and took off across the countryside, bellowing, “Repent, for the Kingdom of God is at hand!”

He borrowed the message of his cousin.

It had been a successful slogan–it was a great place to start.

At that fateful day at the baptism of Jesus, no one would ever have guessed that the Nazarene’s work would spread across the entire planet and that John would historically be viewed as a forerunner.

It was all made possible because Jesus had the sensitivity and wisdom to hear the voice and then make a choice before he went out to change the noise.

 

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Untotaled: Stepping 30 (November 12th, 1966) Candy Crash … September 6, 2014

Jonathots Daily Blog

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A mumbling conversation.

An attempt to disguise the nasty details of a tragedy from the fragile adolescent.

That would be me–the teen who is to be seen but never understood.

I listened carefully.

Whispers.

Aunt Janice. Uncle Randy. My cousin Jeremy. And my cousin Candy.

My ears perk when I hear “Candy.”

I love Candy. I mean, I love her because she notices me. She believes I’m alive. Her eyes focus on me instead of quickly darting away to other distractions.

The last time I saw her she said, “Jonathan, you look nice today.”

My breath squeezed from my lungs. I thanked her and rushed from the room, went outside, found a corner unto myself and cried.

No one sees me. And certainly, no one thinks I look nice.

So I listened more intently.

Car wreck. Injuries.

And then many hidden words I can’t quite make out.

When suddenly, the room stands still as I hear uttered, “Candy was killed.”

I couldn’t breathe, I couldn’t think. I didn’t want to know–but I had to ask them.

They rebuked me for listening in on adult conversations. I didn’t care.

“What happened to Candy?” I shouted, trying to pull up short of a scream.

Driving on vacation in Florida, Aunt Janice, Uncle Randy, Jeremy and Candy were struck by a drunk driver who went left of center, seriously injuring three of them … and killing the flower.

I couldn’t comprehend.

I saw no reasonable purpose for such insanity.

One week passed. It was Candy’s funeral. Aunt Janice was there in a body cast, Randy with a broken leg and Jeremy, all cut up and weeping. The whole room smelled like blood and rubbing alcohol.

One by one, family members passed by Candy’s casket. They paused and wept for a young woman with such promise, struck down at twenty-one.

It was my turn.

I spoke firmly to my legs, asking them to move, and gradually made my way to look into the mahogany box.

It was so odd.

Because she had been thrown through the windshield and severely mutilated, they had constructed a mask of her face made out of plastic, put make-up on it and squeezed it over her fractured features.

Before me was a doll.

It was a mannequin representation of a living soul.

I must have stood there too long because my mother came to my side, poked me in the ribs, and told me to move on.

I did so obediently, having no urge to stare at the harlequin before me. I excused myself and went outside.

About ten minutes later I returned. No one was in the room–just the casket, the empty shell of a saint … and me.

Mustering all my strength, I walked over again and looked at my departed loved one.

I said, “Candy, you look nice today.”

 

 

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Palm of the Hand… March 24, 2013

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Breathlessly, the young tyke ran up to me, thrusting a palm branch in my face, screeching, “Come on! Join us!”

I took it from his hands as he quickly ran away and I watched his retreating form, wondering what it was like to be so young, energetic and completely overtaken by joy.

I was curious, which is the best I could do at my age. I had heard a lot about the young Nazarene preacher and even had a cousin who knew a friend who was acquainted with  a fellow who claimed to have been healed of leprosy by the mob-proclaimed miracle worker. My cousin was rather dubious about whether such a transformation had actually occurred, thinking perhaps it was merely one of those remissions common to the disease. Or perhaps a hysteria that had merely been exposed. But still … I was curious.

I was not one to become quickly duped or overtaken by fits of emotion or passing fancies. As I stared at the palm branch in my hand, I was suddenly surrounded by a horde of adoring folk, mostly women and young children, making their way down the road toward the gates of the city.

I decided to follow at a distance, to learn more. For after all, I had enough dissatisfaction in my soul to wander from the common, acceptable procedures, to peruse the thinkings and aspirations beyond the normal scope. I wasn’t normally a participant, but rather, a student. So on this day, I was out on a studious hike, to learn the ways of a crowd in the midst of an exciting journey into the big city.

Yet I was careful. Trooping along with them, I noticed that the religious leaders were standing at a distance, expressing their disapproval, some even scoffing. The Roman soldiers were less offended, but treated it as a lark, or, if you will, a bit of comic farce. It was a bit humorous. Peasants marching along with palm branches instead of swords, following a vagabond minister who was bouncing on a small donkey, unarmed, with a pleasant smile spread across his face. He was innocent, inane and dangerous, all at the same time.

I suddenly discovered myself lagging behind, careful not to appear as if I were part of the reverent masses. I gingerly fingered the palm branch so as to appear to be an observer rather than a worshipper.

I caught a glimpse of the young boy who had given me the present and had encouraged me to join the flock. He motioned for me to move forward and become part of the procession. I smiled at him–so beautifully youthful and idealistic. Yet my feet, which had begun to delay further motion, now completely stalled.

It seems I had decided. Let them parade without me.

I was curious–but just not enticed. And most definitely not prepared for the condemnation that might be awaiting these creatures of adoration when they reached the gates of the city.

Unsettling times–and certainly no season to take undue risk.

I turned on my heel and headed home. I stared down at the palm in my hand. I lifted it to my nose and smelled the pungent fragrance. And then … I let it fall to the ground.

The further I walked away the less I could hear, and the less I heard, the more distant it became in my consciousness. I made a decision.

Not today.

I would salve my curiosity in some other fashion. Maybe listen in on one of the young man’s talks. Maybe question some of his disciples on his stance on issues. Maybe wait for the religious leaders to draw their determinations and glean wisdom from their experience.

Or maybe just wait for the next time. Yes.  The next time.

I was nearly home when I concluded that the next time I saw the Galilean in the street, in the midst of such a jubilant march, I would join in.

I would be bold. I would grab my palm branch and in my own way, celebrate the moment.

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