Good News and Better News … February 12th, 2018

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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You are not a farmer.

You are not called to plow, plant, kill weeds and fuss about the weather.

You are a sower.

Your parents were wrong–life is not about “being careful” so you won’t accidentally reap some undesirable result. As long as you’re not starving to death, hurting yourself or interfering with others, get out there and sow.

Your caution only hurts you.

Your intimidation robs you of the experience for which you yearn, and if you fail to achieve, makes you grumpy, old and judgmental. “How dare other people have fun in my presence?”

The story goes, “A sower went forth to sow seed.”

The end result of the process is as follows: Once you drop, you end up with a flop or a crop.

That’s how easy it is. And according to this tale, most of the time it is a flop. Yes, we sustain enthusiasm through many a disappointment, reveling in the sweetness of pleasure.

Some seed will just miss. It won’t get anywhere near soil. Forgive yourself. Laugh it off. “Okay, it landed by the wayside.” Maybe you can aim better next time. It didn’t do anything you wanted it to do. Get over it. Keep in mind, when you refuse to partake of life, you sit in your own sediment until you stink.

Some of the “drop” lands on stony ground. Yeah, the idea started out good, but it didn’t have sustaining power. This doesn’t mean you don’t get joy out of the undertaking. It’s the power of knowing when to walk away. And here’s a clue–when it stops being fun, you should start looking for your shoes.

Some of the seed you drop lands in the middle of thistles. Now, this is soil that’ll grow anything–good and bad. The trouble is, sometimes the bad eats up the good, so it’s not the greatest climate to maintain a cherished mission. Keep sowing.

And some seed miraculously lands right in the middle of rich soil, grows and gives you a crop. This is why we celebrate. It’s why we praise. It’s why we reflect. Why we testify.

We do all of these because success doesn’t happen as often as failure, and if you refuse to try because “doom is more likely than bloom,” you will only guarantee yourself the failure of nothingness.

And if you’re surprised that things don’t work out the way you planned, you may just hang up your bag of seed and pout.

The good news is, we are not farmers–we are sowers.

The better news is, every once in a while we sow into the right soil, and the meaning of life grows right in front of our eyes.

 

 

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Jesonian … November 25th, 2017

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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Aggressive apathy.

Seems like a contradiction–maybe even what they refer to as an oxymoron. How can apathy be aggressive, when by definition it avoids commitment, conflict or even connection?

But when apathy becomes the path to avoid deeper commitment, it will need to be defended whenever circumstances warrant greater involvement.

Jesus fell victim to aggressive apathy on two nasty occasions–when people chose to disregard and disavow the power of his calling.

Please keep in mind that miracles were a part of Jesus’ ministry. It wasn’t all Biblical text and parables. Yet even though there were certainly signs and wonders that followed him, apathy was still in the works.

The first instance was in Nazareth, when he had the audacity to announce the extent of his calling, the purpose of his message and the power of what was about to ensue to his hometown folks.

What did aggressive apathy do? Personal attacks.

  • “Who does he think he is?”
  • “He’s just the Carpenter’s son.”
  • “He doesn’t even have education.
  • “Why should we listen to him?”

When apathy becomes a communal mindset, it will feel the need to defend itself–sometimes violently. For if you remember the rest of the story, they push Jesus to the edge of a cliff, ready to throw him off and kill him–simply because he suggested that present circumstances were going to be changed.

In a second incident at the Pool of Bethesda, Jesus asked a crippled man if he wanted to be healed. The fellow launched into a litany of excuses and complaints about why it was just not plausible. Jesus heals him anyway–and the man ends up turning on Jesus, and rats him out to the Pharisees, who were angry about a healing on the Sabbath.

In both cases, Jesus found himself in danger.

Once apathy has become the charter of a community or a segment of people, they will aggressively use whatever is necessary to maintain their autonomy of blandness.

Jesus said we should learn from his life–and that also includes his mistakes.

As Christians, believers and even artists, we need to understand that once we offer our gifts and our message, if they are met with lukewarm response, to further labor in the malaise of nothingness is to risk triggering aggressive apathy, leaving us ridiculed, if not wounded.

Later on in Jesus’ ministry, he learns from these mistakes.

When the Samaritan village doesn’t want to let him in to minister, he just goes to another town. And when the five thousand depart because he offered a perspective they found distasteful, he doesn’t do anything to chase them down.

Apathy by its nature is not violent. But it is alive–and any living thing will fight back if you try to kill it.

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Reverend Meningsbee (Part 38) Gramps Creekside… January 22nd, 2017

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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Reverend Meningsbee

The local mailman decided to enter the cabin when he heard the old tick hound, Queenie, howling.

He found Gramps Creekside dead in his bed.

Now, “Gramps” was not his given baptism name. His bank signature read “Benjamin Donnelly.” But everybody in town called him Gramps because he seemed to be more aged than anyone else they knew–and “Creekside” because many years before he built a small cabin by a creek about three miles outside of town.

Gramps had the legendary blending of cantankerous, kindly and wise. He always seemed to have a good word when it was needed and a little piece of sass when the world became too complacent.

It’s safe to say that everybody in the town, at least once a year, made a pilgrimage out to the little cabin to visit with the old man as he sat and mused over life, spitting tobacco in his ‘toon.

Meningsbee had made such a journey just three days earlier. Feeling the need to be around someone as old as the hills, with the possibility of receiving irreverent counsel, he headed out and sat in the old man’s only extra chair.

As always, Meningsbee tried to start out nice, but Gramps just didn’t like preachers.

His contention was that ministers didn’t have enough work to keep them busy, which caused them to get nosy about other people’s business. Gramps had only attended the church one time, on no particularly special Sunday, and walked out giving Meningsbee the sideways compliment, “You’re better than most.”

So when the news came to town that Gramps was dead, there was a shudder of grief and a reluctance to accept the reality. Deep in their hearts, people knew they would get over his departure, but the absence of his freewheeling style of observation would certainly deplete their world.

The pastor was asked to conduct the memorial service on Sunday afternoon. The church was filled with those who had been graced by the touch and the gruffness of the aging philosopher.

On Saturday, Meningsbee went out to the cabin and walked around, looking for hints as to what to say at the memorial service. There wasn’t much there. Apparently, the old man had savored tobacco and beef jerky.

Gramps had a Bible on his nightstand, what appeared to be a year’s supply of black coffee, three dozen fresh hen’s eggs in the ice box and many cans of Vienna sausages.

Meningsbee picked up the Bible, opened it, and a little slip of paper fell onto the floor. He retrieved it up and read the brief paragraph with a smile. He had found his subject for the service.

When Sunday afternoon rolled around and everyone had tearfully finished their tributes to Gramps Creekside, the Reverend stood to his feet and said:

“Searching through the limited belongings of Benjamin Donnelly, who we lovingly know as Gramps Creekside, I quickly realized that this was not a man who was laying up treasures on Earth.”

The audience laughed.

“Matter of fact, in the whole cabin I could not locate a second pair of shoes, though he granted himself the luxury of three pair of underwear.”

More laughter.

“What I did find was a Bible–a Good Book which had the strokings of many a finger-passing. In that Bible was a note, handwritten by Gramps himself. It read: ‘Am I starting? Am I done? Don’t rightly know. Guess I’ll go on.'”

Reverend Meningsbee paused for a second to allow the words to sink in, and then continued. “Just like you, at first I was perplexed by the meaning, but then it was so much like Gramps that it was like he was whispering in my ear. You see, here’s a man who wasn’t sure how much time he had or whether it was time to leave. But because he didn’t know, he thought the smartest way to live was to keep going full speed until something stopped him. When I read the words, they convicted my heart. I thought about all the things that have stopped me recently, just because they challenged my ego. I thought about all the matters I worry about, which don’t amount to more than dust on a country road. And I realized that Gramps sat out there, not totally convinced that anybody cared, but always prepared to receive a visitor and encourage a heart. We are too busy being busy to really be busy. That’s the truth of the matter. Let me tell ya’–we’ve taken the last few months and allowed the world around us to come in and dissect us like a bunch of frogs. They’ve looked at our insides and concluded that we’re pretty messed up. Well, so be it. Truth is, everybody sitting in this room could tell a nice story about Gramps–and a bad story about him. He wasn’t very bigoted but he was impatient with children. I once heard him tell a mother of a fussy child at the grocery store, ‘Why don’t you leave that little brat home so the rest of us can enjoy squeezin’ our favorite loaf of bread?’ She was offended. But I will tell you–she is in this room today. Because less than six months later, when her husband died, Gramps was out in her driveway, shoveling snow so she could get to work. You see, it’s not about being right. It’s sure not about being wrong. As Gramps said in his note, it’s about keepin’ the thing going until it’s over. He did not lay down for a nap on Thursday thinking he was going to die. Never crossed his mind. That’s the way it should be.”

The service concluded and the folks trailed off to the cemetery to lay the old man to rest. It was decided by the city council to leave the cabin as it was for a while, so people could go out to visit and reminisce.

For the next two months there was a sweet spirit of revival that swept across Garsonville. Not a “Holy Ghost shouting” kind, but a gentle reflection, where everybody asked themselves, “Am I starting? Am I done? Don’t rightly know. Guess I’ll go on.”

 

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Good News and Better News… December 26th, 2016

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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My Christmas morning:

  • Four tiny little ones
  • One twelve-year-old
  • A teenager
  • Eighteen adults
  • And six dogs marauding about, sniffing at presents.

It was all held in a lovely, but somewhat square-footage-impaired house in East Nashville.

Although most people consider Christmas to be a holiday season which they either enjoy or complain about trying to get through, I contend that Christmas is a microcosm of life as it should be. It’s a collision of giving and receiving, organizing and finding yourself surprised by a slip-up, and having a crunch of humanity around you which requires you to be open-minded and willing to adapt.

For instance, in the course of our morning, well over a hundred presents were opened.

Also, one of the young men decided to use it as an occasion to propose marriage to his girlfriend–an amazing precedent.

And there were moments of silliness followed by junctures of tenderness, concluding with decisions to stay energetic enough to survive the gauntlet.

The adults made themselves flexible to appreciate toys opened by Santa believers and the subtleties of certain gifts which needed to be explained because they only had significance to the recipient.

Then, in the midst of the festivities and the brunch following, we discovered that one of the guests just lost his grandma. She had passed away in her sleep.

Quiet–and amazing it was how quickly it settled on the room, even among the children. A time to feel and consider the magnitude of such a departure.

Tears.

Gentleness.

Allowing ourselves to transition from one emotion to another without trauma or drama, to return to eating and enjoying one another as life insisted on pushing forward. I heard one person declare the day a “miracle,” but actually, it’s the way our lives are meant to be lived: in abundance.

Abundant opportunities

Abundant problems

Abundant relationships

Abundant attempts

Abundant failures

Abundant successes

And abundant gratitude

The good news is that Christmas is a time for abundance.

The better news is that the baby in the manger came to give us life, and it more abundantly.

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Jesonian: Reverend Meningsbee (Part 6) Back in the Old Days … June 5th, 2016

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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Reverend Meningsbee

Meningsbee found a note taped to his front door when he returned from a Tuesday morning grocery excursion.

His desire to purchase food stuff had lessened in the two years since his wife, Doris, had died of a heart attack. Throughout their marriage, they had done all of their shopping together, and had even found great fulfillment in meal planning.

Yet a meal for one is not much fun.

So every couple of days the good Reverend pried himself away from duties and went out to consider the quality of a tomato.

Carrying his small bag of groceries to the door, he found the note. It was hand-written and contained a very simple message:

We are too old to change. Why don’t you leave us alone?

Meningsbee removed the note from his door, came into his home and sat down at the kitchen table. He wasn’t sure why this particular message impacted him, but he felt sad.

Was he doing too much?

Is there such a thing as being too old to change?

Was the note from someone who had left the church, or from a parishioner who remained but was frightened to share it with him face-to-face?

The contemplation hung over him all week long. Even as he drove to the church on Sunday morning, he was still wondering about the prudence of his efforts.

As in the previous week, he arrived and things were already buzzing. People had placed the chairs in the front, and were praying for each other, and about eight new souls were visiting.

The atmosphere was completely different from an average church. It more resembled a well-run clinic, or perhaps students in a high school getting ready to head off to home room to begin the day’s activities.

Yet as Meningsbee watched and listened, his uncertainty persisted. Was it possible that he was trying to change something holy into something too common?

He made his way to the front of the church as the congregation gradually fell silent. For a long, almost uncomfortable moment, he stood facing the altar with his back to his friends.

He turned around very slowly and spoke.

“I hope you folks understand that I’m not coming to destroy what you’ve built here at this church, but instead, as Jesus said, trying to bring us life and it more abundantly, and find a way for our joy to be full.”

Meningsbee was surprised because a huge “Amen” was chorused across the room.

He smiled and continued. “It’s really not complicated. It’s what Jesus said in Matthew 5, verse 21. He told us there are things said by ‘men of old,’ but they just don’t work anymore. Maybe they were good once upon a time, when they were fresh, and brought life and joy, but now they are tainted by repetition and squabblings. Our job is to find out what is old, but really gold, instead of what is old and just mold.”

There was an inspiring giggle. He chuckled a little himself as he continued.

“There are many things that have been done in this church for hundreds of years that may still be good. They bring life, they bring joy. We should keep them. They are gold. And then there are things that are just old and covered with an unhealthy mold that are making us sick and bored. They need to go.

So my assignment for next week is to come in here and tell me the things you remember about this church. What is old and gold, and what is old and mold?”

The congregation clapped its hands in agreement. It seemed to be a concept quickly grasped and eagerly accepted. Even the visitors began to chat among themselves about possible choices.

Young and old alike were stirred to rumination. Were the things being done in the Garsonville church uplifting or life-taking?

Meningsbee was rejuvenated.

He realized, you never get too old to change.

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Ask Jonathots … March 3rd, 2016

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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ask jonathots bigger

The medical field keeps people alive much longer than it used to. Do you think this is a good thing?

Are you asking me, do I think more people should be dying? (Somehow or another, I think this is a trick question.)

For thousands of years, life offered only one possibility: quality.

Quantity was fairly unlikely, except in a few rare cases, where longevity was miraculously granted without any obvious effort by the recipient.

Most people, from the time they were children, grew up with an awareness of their mortality and the realization that death was not only present, but often imminent.

So over the years, through medical advances, we have succeeded in increasing the quantity of life without really doing anything to enhance the quality.

This is what I feel about long life: Long life is wonderful if it’s good life.

To me, good life has three elements:

  1. Purposeful work.
  2. Expanding, growing relationships
  3. A good balance of vulnerability and confidence.

The medical field does not address these situations, nor should it have to. This should be the responsibility of our philosophers, teachers and ministers.

If you’re only going to live longer to spend that time fussing about your health, well-being and treatments, then I’m not sure what you’re achieving by becoming a prisoner of your own body.

So I think pursuing a long life is an enriching experience as long as you avoid a trio of negative by-products:

A. Becoming obsessed with your physical health to the detriment of your emotional and spiritual health.

B. Allowing your concern about health to encompass your conversation to the point that you become irrelevant to younger people.

C. Living so long that you settle for a less-than-fulfilling situation, which is only a fragment of what you originally intended to have in your life journey.

Somewhere along the line we need to understand what life is all about. A great teacher once stated that “life is more than the body–what we shall eat and what we shall wear.”

So true.

So if you can give the same attention to your body that you have given to your heart, soul and mind, then I think it’s possible to live on for a long time…with joy.

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PoHymn: A Rustling in the Stagnant … February 24th, 2016

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PoHymn Feb 24

Come With Me

Come with me, young Nazarene

Far away from the caustic scene

To live, to share another day

Escape the voices of disarray

Before they steal your mind

And treat your soul unkind

Remember the shores of Galilee

Thoughts were fluid, hearts were free

Come away to our special place

And teach us to love the human race

For they want to eat your skin

Drink your blood, remit their sin

An aching desire to be divine

Needing wisdom, seeking a sign

Trapped in a tomb of dead men’s bones

Muttering commands, misguided drones

Just this once, follow me

Time to leave Gethsemane

Crippled, anger in their eyes

Slaves to tradition, children of lies

Messiah has come, Messiah need live

The world must receive what you have to give

Run with me, Jesus, do not delay

Don’t take the time to stop and pray

Surely this cup must pass from you

God’s will is life, this is true

Hurry, Carpenter, they’ve brought the nails

Let’s make sure their plan fails

They’ll be here soon to do it again

Make you a sacrifice for their sin

Please, oh, please, keep the message alive

And grant the Earth a chance to thrive

But you sit calmly and patiently wait

For freedom of choice to seal your fate

Death with honor is poorly stated

But life with retreat is over-rated

You waited too long, young Nazarene

Your spirit willing, theirs just mean

So they return each Sunday just about eleven

To confirm their souls are bound for heaven.

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