Good News and Better News … October 31st, 2016

Jonathots Daily Blog

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coldwater-back-wall-1From everything I hear in the news media, our country is “angry.”

People are mad.

I’m not really sure what they are so upset about, but I guess that’s why pundits get to dress up and over-explain.

Yesterday when I arrived at the Coldwater United Methodist Church, I met people who are trying really hard to be kind and gentle in an atmosphere of crudeness and despair. Even the pastor of the church is beginning a new phase of her life, expanding the horizons of her ministry–completely and totally by faith.coldwater-set-2

Even though we accept the veracity of the reports about the frustration in our country, the constant repetition of complaint does nothing to alleviate the pain.

But it really revolves around a three-step process:

1. Stop being mad at me.

Yes, I need to stop being mad at myself. Most of the antagonism I feel toward other people is centered in my own dissatisfaction with my choices–especially when it comes to lying. For after all, once we start deceiving ourselves and others, we’re grouchy and fussy because we fear there’s the chance we’ll be challenged or get caught. So the best way for me to stop being mad at myself is to set in motion no lying–and that goes for exaggeration, too.

2. Stop being mad at others.

No grudges.

The grudge is always a piece of pride we fester because we’re not willing to discuss our feelings, fearing that we just might have to compromise. When we no longer insist that other people are “just so stupid that we couldn’t possibly reason with them,” we begin to address the animosity we have with mankind as a whole.

3. Stop being mad at God.

Most Christians would insist they feel nothing but love for their heavenly Father. But since He is our Dad and we are His children, there’s a good chance that occasionally we’ll be pissed off over the household rules–especially since religion comes along and puts the doctrines in stone. You can’t have a relationship with God through religion.

So–no religion.

Religion will not make you closer to God. It makes people prejudiced, self-righteous and nasty.

So I contend that a good portion of what I am called to do is remove the arrogance of anger so that the congregation can manage to forgive themselves, others and God.

That’s the good news.

The better news is: when you have no lying, no grudges and no religion, you find it much easier to relax and enjoy your relationships.

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Jesonian: The Look of Love… July 26th, 2015

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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Young Robert Downey Jr.

Having just finished rebuking his disciples for trying to chase away the little children, Jesus takes the tots in his arms, lays his hands on them and blesses them.

But more importantly, he tells us that they are the true definition of the Kingdom of Heaven.

Yes, I can always tell when people are truly unspiritual, craggy and have a dying spirit. They’re critical of young humans.

God loves young people.

Matter of fact, in this particular passage of about 20 verses in the Gospel of Mark, we see that Jesus makes this forever clear–because not only does he express great warmth and tenderness to the little children, but immediately afterwards, when a young man arrives, asking questions about how to obtain eternal life, he channels that same affection toward this adolescent.

We refer this chap as “the rich young ruler.”

He is respectful. He is complimentary. But he is dissatisfied.

The things he has been taught have not brought him peace of mind nor a sense of purpose.

The scripture tells us that Jesus looks on him and loves him.

The average churchgoer would think that this is not unusual. Doesn’t Jesus love everybody?

But Jesus didn’t constantly manifest “the look of love.” He was often pissed with hypocrisy, angry with indifference, rebuking self-righteousness, and looking around the room befuddled because people were so unwilling to see other folks healed just because “it wasn’t the right time.”

Matter of fact, this is one of the few times that the Bible tells us that Jesus gave someone “the look of love.”

What did he love about this young man?

  1. The kid was still searching.
  2. The dude was looking for something good instead of something bad.
  3. The young man had faithfully followed what he had been taught to be true.
  4. But he had the sense to search for more.

What a great combo.

But Jesus gave him a gift. He offered a simple principle:

Learning stuff is not enough.

Investing your heart is where to start.

He told the young man that he should take his money and get rid of it–give it away to the poor, and make a new beginning.

For after all, even following our theological interpretation of him being a “rich young ruler,” if he forfeited his riches for a season, he was still young and he was still a ruler. He had plenty of time to make his money back again, and because he ruled over people, he could acquire their taxes and ingenuity. He could learn once again how to do it from scratch, and therefore rediscover his abilities and passion.

He didn’t want to do it. He walked away sadly.

It’s a great story, and it links up beautifully with Jesus blessing the children.

The young humans that surround us are the hope of finding the better parts of our message and applying them emotionally–not just spiritually.

Jesus looked on him and he loved him. He realized there was still a chance.

All the young fellow needed to do was accept that religious stuff was not enough–our heart is where it must start. 

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Workman… December 15, 2013

Jonathots Daily Blog

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toiletPictured is the toilet that greeted me as I arrived in my motel room this past week. It had a bolt missing, of which I was extremely sympathetic, since I, too, have a screw or two loose.

I called the front desk and requested some attention to adjustments on my throne. In about fifteen minutes, the maintenance man arrived at my door. His name was Booger (I’m sure not the given name by his mother following the exertion of birth pangs).

I noticed that this gentleman, who had come to take care of my bathroom situation, was not very happy. To confirm that fact, in less than fifteen seconds, he began to explain why the management at this motel treated him poorly, cut corners and therefore was doomed to a godless hell.

It made me think of an old saying from the Good Book: “Study to show yourself approved … a workman that does not need to be ashamed…”

Even with all of Booger’s objections to other people’s frailties, he was unable, during his visit, to repair my toilet. It does not mean he didn’t spend time attempting to accomplish the task, but most of his visitation was encompassed by complaint.

It made me consider a simple question. When do we become workmen who are shameful?

  • If we find that we’re complaining more than we’re praising.
  • If we discover that somebody has stolen our “glad”
  • If we’re overwhelmed by a feeling of being trapped.

Each of these situations are unpleasant enough by themselves, but the action of generating them also damns us to unfulfilled emotion, vacant spirituality, zero mental progress and an awareness of every physical ache and pain.

I really try to like everybody I meet, but in short moments I found myself despising Booger, wishing he would leave and find a bitching post elsewhere. I felt bad about being so uncaring, but then I realized that none of us want to be surrounded by feelings of inadequacy and sensations of dissatisfaction. We get tempted to join into the pity party, becoming part of the problem instead of a pathway to solution.

What does make a good workman? What will cause me, at the end of the day, to feel fulfilled instead of shamed?

1. I’m always glad to be here.

This does not mean that “here” is always pleasant–it just means that not being “here” means that I’ve ceased to exist.

2. I’m always “here instead of far away.

The key to life is finding joy in where you are instead of believing you have to travel somewhere to retrieve it.

3. I’m always staying away from what steals my “glad.”

Yes, life is filled with suckers and drainers–more than willing to enter your space and deprive you of any potential for glee or jubilation. To survive, you must find a way to avoid these people and situations as much as possible.

Booger and I probably will never be friends. I am not so naive as to believe that my mere presence, personality or input would be salvation to his soul. I am not a savior, I am a fellow-traveler. If you’re in the mood to travel, I can be great fun.

If you need a savior … I can offer a recommendation.

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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.

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Assumed Supremacy… March 26, 2013

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classroomThirty excited children in a classroom–wiggling, squirming, trying not to talk out loud for fear of correction, waiting for the school day to begin.

The teacher stands, calms down the hum of thrill and says, “Repeat after me: I am special.”

Thirty young voices respond in unison.

The teacher continues. “I am unique.”

Again, a chorus of youngsters faithfully parrot the phrase.

The teacher concludes, “People need to accept me.”

As the classroom finishes the last phrase, they cheer and clap their hands. Thus begins the school day.

There is an assumed supremacy being passed on in our time under the guise of establishing good self-esteem.

It began in the Garden of Eden when Eve was tempted, convinced that eating some magical fruit would make her smarter. It continued with her sons battling for supremacy, ending in a notorious murder.

Moving along in history, you had Pharoah, who needed to oppress the Jewish nation in order to confirm his own dominance. Alexander proclaimed himself Great to get license to conquer and oppress the world.

Even though we are an honorable nation, our history is speckled with an inclination to be superior, whether it was the Native Americans, the blacks from Africa, the Chinese–well, each and every country arriving here had to take its turn at being presumed inferior.

It was the byline of a man named Adolph, who rose to power in Germany by telling the populace that they were “special, unique and people needed to accept them.” In the process of establishing this assumed supremacy, other folks needed to be shoved into gas chambers to confirm the concept.

You can see, it is a dangerous philosophy. It is a mindset that causes people to settle in, accepting their own eccentric behavior instead of soul-searching for better choices. It is a universal drug of words poured into the mainstream of entertainment and education, which dopes up the public to believe that since “we were born” some certain way, there really is no need to be “born again.

Any sensation of supremacy will eventually need to reinforce its point with violence. Any challenge to our supremacy will require that we defend ourselves and commit acts of treachery. We will end up surprising ourselves with how bigoted, angry and frustrated we are if we persist in pursuing the false premise that “we are fine as we are.”

A certain amount of dissatisfaction is necessary to find lasting satisfaction. So since this pseudo self-esteem has come in the front door of our culture, what can we do to address it kindly, but usher it out the back door?

That sounds like a great topic for tomorrow.

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Dissatisfaction… October 7, 2012

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Live from October 1st filming

The unknown.People who believe they understand the unknown are plagued with the curse of arrogance instead of blessed with the abundance of faith. For after all, faith gently permits hope but fiercely avoids certainty. It is what causes us to be faithful instead of self-assured.

I have many unknowns. I occasionally will awaken with a pain–and at my age, the mind races towards more dismal possibilities. If I take a moment to regain my sanity, I can laugh at my own jumping to conclusions and merely move on, realizing that most discomfort is temporary.

I don’t like to join into conversations about heaven–not because I lack a desire to go there or because I am secretly agnostic about its existence. It’s just that when I hear folks trumpet their testimony and support for the supernal, it rings of a bit of insincerity and maybe even hidden anxiety about the presence of eternity. Yes, it’s true–often the louder we talk, the less we truly believe.

Again–the unknown.

For instance, I don’t know what you’re going to do next. I neither control it nor do I particularly affect it. Anticipation is what we do when we have decided what people should be pursuing, audaciously making out a “things to do today” list for them and become quite disappointed when they wad it up and throw it away. Most arguments between friends are not based upon an actual occurrence, but rather, a general feeling of disapproval over the failure of one person to comply with the other person’s demands.

I heard someone once say that there’s a “world of the unknown” out there. Actually that’s not true. The world is something that we CAN understand–we are able to discern the face of the sky and pretty well forecast what will fall from above. But strangely enough, we often become the most pompous about the things that are NOT of this world, and fuss with those who disagree with our conclusions. For instance, those of the Hindu faith would be greatly disappointed if they discovered they were not returning to earth again in some new incarnation. On the other hand, most Christians would be very surprised if they came back as a fox instead of walking streets of gold.

So we stomp, argue and insist. But no one really knows. No matter how much you try to point to testimonials of those who claim to have come back from the dead, the fact of the matter is, they always tend to share a rendition of what they saw in the afterlife that is very similar to what they were taught here. We know that can’t be true. The Bible says that “eye hath not seen nor ear heard” what God has prepared for those who believe in Him. So if it ends up being an exact replica of what has already been written, it certainly would smack of the mediocre.

There are so many unknowns. What will be the next virus to invade our world? Will Iran and Israel make peace, or continue to throw rocks at each other over a poorly constructed fence?

This subject came to my attention the other day when I was backing out of a parking lot in my van, and in my blind spot was a pick-up truck which was perched behind me–double parked and awaiting another available space. Honestly, I did not see the truck, so as I backed up, there was a long blast from his horn. I quickly stopped.

I didn’t think anything more about it, until I began to leave the parking lot and an older gentleman stepped in front of my van. He was angry. I glanced over and realized that he was the owner of the pick-up truck which had just honked. He demanded that I roll down my window. So I did, and with a red-jowled, angry face, he challenged my driving skills and wondered “what the hell I was trying to do.”

I was not expecting this. I did not know why he was so angry. But you see, I had been spending some time with myself, which is the most important “known” factor you can actually deal with in life. In the past, I would have been angry that HE was angry and we would have exchanged an unfulfilling conversation ending in rage. He explained to me the obvious, which was that I almost backed into him.

I replied, “I’m so glad you were paying attention. We needed ONE of us to! Thank you for doing that.”

He was completely disarmed. I don’t know what he wanted; I don’t know what he envisioned. His motivations are completely unknown to me. Therefore, honestly, I don’t care. Maybe he had a bad morning. Maybe he just came from the doctor’s office and was diagnosed with cancer. Maybe his wife burned his eggs and for the forty-fifth time this year he had to eat them without saying a word. I have no idea and once again–it doesn’t make any difference.

Because I will tell you truthfully–there are only two knowns that I make my concern: my space, my face.

After all, if there ends up being no God and just a grave, I will only be remembered for how I handled my space and what disposition I selected to display on my face.

I can’t control your space and when I do, I am always made to look foolish, and liberty wins the day and curses my interference.

I certainly have no authority over your face and if I suggest that you may be offering a disconsolate countenance to the world around you, you will not only consider that an intrusion, but actually may deepen the furrows on your brow.

After all the unknowns are set aside and placed intelligently into the hands of more divine ability, I am left with my space and my face.

I surprised myself a little bit when I had this encounter with the frustrated gentleman in the parking lot. I was amazed that I felt no wrath or desire to hurt him. I just wanted to move on.  I wanted to quickly admit that I was unable to see him, he did a good thing–and because of that, we were not exchanging the numbers of our insurance companies.

My space. My face.

Here’s what I do know:

My space is peace. I will not fight with you. I will not try to hurt you. I will not try to impart anything to you that hasn’t been tested and proven in my own soul to be beneficial. Then, when I do share it, I will do so as an offering instead of a demand.

My face is joy. Joy is a resolute happiness that continues in a desired path, even when others have abandoned it for the latest craze.

You may continue to debate the unknown and contend that you have some sort of authority over things beyond your fingertips. I would rather indulge in the power of dissatisfaction about the supernatural and instead, take care of my space and my face.

And in case you didn’t hear me the first time, and for all my lifetime to come:

May it be clear to one and all–my space is peace and my face is joy.

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