Good News and Better News… January 2nd, 2017

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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Every January 1st, a preacher friend sends me an email with his prophecies for the new year.

His predictions are always pretty general–and also grim. I guess he thinks it’s a safe bet in a world of tribulation, to foretell disaster.

  • Yet there is no love without giving.
  • Faith dies without passion.
  • And hope disappears without dreams.

It’s just too easy to be upset.

It’s way too predictable to continue to complain about the circumstances.

Yesterday morning when I arrived at Carteret United Methodist Church, I was looking for people who were fed up with being depressed.

I think Pastor Frank was pretty surprised at the turnout. After all, it was New Year’s Day and a tremendous opportunity for folks to use it as an excuse not to come to church.

But they didn’t.

We gathered, we sang, we mused, we laughed, we cried, we fellowshipped and we left–believing that certain things must be honored, or honor will leave our world.

1. Love your neighbor is not optional.

Although we spend much time in diplomacy and negotiations with countries which are determined to hurt one another, the truth of the matter is, our greatest possibility lies in the souls who still insist on loving and believing in each other.

2. Be of good cheer.

Nothing is ever accomplished from a defeated position of gloom. If knowing the facts upset you, then choose the bliss of ignorance–because in the long run, it is not intelligence or education that saves us, but rather, the wisdom we garner from the data that gives us the power to believe.

I so enjoyed the congregation in Beaufort, South Carolina–and may I tell them:

The good news is that there’s a song of praise that needs to be written every day.

And the better news is that I, for one, want to meet my Creator with that song in my heart.

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PoHymn: A Rustling in the Stagnant … August 17th, 2016

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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PoHymn The Cost

The Cost

Ferocious mini-mongols

Topple my waning empire

Soggy dreams of nonsense

Dripping, can’t catch fire

Blinded eyes, hear the scream

Enlightened words, swell the dream

Cankered sores, leprous pain

Sense the brain become insane.

Sucking swill, peace be still

Lie in wait for my fate

Scattered pins across my mind

When I seek what will I find?

Scared to life, a deadly threat

Cast my lot. place my bet

Woven within the tapestry

A golden thread of what is me

Yet frightened to lose my sense of will

Listening for comfort, bombarded by shrill

Colossal failure, limited success

Cleaning the cup, leaving a mess

Precious is not the price, you see

But rather, the cost in evolving me.

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Ask Jonathots … February 18th, 2016

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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Parenting question: What is the best way to discipline young children? Do you believe in time-outs? How about spanking?

If you arrived on a new job and your boss walked in the room and said, “Don’t touch the water cooler, the copy machine and don’t drink more than three cups of coffee,” and then strolled out of the room, what would you think?

Well, since it was a new job, you wouldn’t know exactly what you were supposed to do–only informed of what was forbidden.

That’s the mistake we make with parenting.

A child, who is full of energy, hopes, dreams and wants to have a good time, is instructed in all the things that are unacceptable, without being channeled in a direction to use all of the creative explosion bursting within.

Although you may want to discuss discipline, I think the most important thing for any parent to consider are ways to avoid needing discipline.

By the time you get to the point of discipline, the issue is usually too much or too little, no matter how hard you try. So how can we avoid disciplining our children so much, and still have them grow up to be fantastic human beings?

It’s a two-step process:

  1. Decide what you want them to do.
  2. Shrink the situation and give them a chance to practice.

In other words, if you want your kids to play with a puzzle for an hour, find an area where you want them to play, provide a snack, and do puzzles with them until you ignite their interest.

Put a time limit on it, and then come and retrieve them for the next project.

You cannot expect to leave a child in a room with no guidance, no floor plan for activities, only telling them what’s bad, and think you won’t have a mess.

Find what you want them to do and then shrink the room to that activity.

Remember: life is based on a reward system, not a punishment.

So just as you are given a paycheck because you followed the rules of the company, which includes doing your job, your kids should likewise be rewarded for good behavior and contributing to the cause.

So the answer to your question?

Try to eliminate discipline, but when you do find a need to do so, make sure you have created a reward system.

Tell your children, “If you will play with this puzzle for thirty minutes and then pick up your toys in the corner and throw away this trash by the time I get back, I will let you watch your favorite show.” Then follow up on it.

  • You control the food.
  • You control the entertainment.
  • You even control the water.

Use it to your advantage.

But don’t expect children to follow rules without having a plan of action to fill their time and exhaust their energy.

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Good News and Better News … October 5th, 2015

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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Good News Cross Plains

Yesterday I had the chance to share at a Lutheran church in Cross Plains, Wisconsin.

Lutherans believe in grace. I have to admit, I do favor that particular favoring. Grace seems to be a cool drink of water on a hot day.

But I must tell you, I do think grace requires a bit of confirmation.

Just as kind is bolstered by a bit of kindness, and love is greatly enhanced by loving, grace waits patiently for the arrival of gracious.

Yes, those who have been bestowed grace are given the opportunity of being gracious. It is an opportunity that certainly should be embraced as an expectation. And what is gracious?

Gracious is when we wink our eye at our brothers and sisters and laughingly say, “You think you’re bad? You should know me!”

  • It’s endearing.
  • It’s humble.
  • It’s human.
  • It’s funny.
  • It’s relaxed.
  • And it is the definition, in human form, of good cheer.

I looked for the presence of gracious in my Cross Plains hosts.

Wow. They did good.

They welcomed us. They listened, They were helpful. They shared their own hearts without fear. And most importantly, rather than standing at a distance in piety, they learned.

It was amazing.

So what is my contribution to this lovely group of people I met in Cross Plains? Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that you’re either too young or too old.

The church is losing its power by eliminating the youth, and assuming that those who have reached retirement are incapable of transformation. If you’re going to stunt the growth of a congregation by thinking people are too young or too old, you’ll put your faith in those in the middle, who are completely encompassed with raising children and having their mortgage growl at them every month. These are not the people to lead your church–these are the folks who desperately need the ministry of the church.

But getting your younger members to be excited about church again, and your older folks to put their work boots back on instead of setting them in the corner, is what will transform all churches–including the Lutheran souls in Cross Plains–into a force of gracious effort.

I so enjoyed all the people I met.

I was greeted with warm handshakes, smiles, tears, hugs and one dear lady even kissed me.

But good Lutherans that you are, please remember, grace is much easier to understand when it is acted out by those who are gracious.

And it will be the young who will see visions ,,, and your older folks who will hatch new dreams.

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G-Poppers… December 26, 2014

  Jonathots Daily Blog

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G-Popper

 

After the presents were opened, the children quickly disappeared to gather all their treasures for deep consideration of play-status preference.

An hour passes. The little ones begin to dribble back into the room. One of them asks G-Pop, “Are you sad Christmas is over?”

G-Pop: It’s not over until we say so. It doesn’t stop unless we cease to give. The songs are not silenced, waiting for another year. Bits and pieces of them are contained in every tune we sing. “Peace on earth” awaits champions. “Good will toward men” is the needed mission of every soul who chooses sanity.

The baby born stirs the child within us. The shepherds remind us that God is alive in our work. The angels recruit giddy believers, summoning the willing. The wise men keep us all chasing our dreams.

Christmas is ours and ours alone, if we will take rightful ownership and refuse to relinquish our deed.

It is a lifestyle, not a holiday.

It is yours and mine to possess … and release. 

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Three Ways to Ask… December 18, 2014

  Jonathots Daily Blog

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Timid or aggressive?

It is the unholy bounce we find ourselves in when trying to pursue our heart’s desire.

  • Timid makes us ill-suited to acquire our dreams.
  • On the other spectrum, aggressive is undesirable. We end up looking self-serving.

Yet we do have needs. We do require certain input to make our lives work and on occasion these valuables are not immediately provided.

So how should you ask? How do you bridge the gap between timid and aggressive and find the appropriate profile to offer your beseeching?

1. Ask from a history of gratitude.

I do not believe that anyone will get what they want in life without preceding it with a great dose of gracious thankfulness. There is something in the heart of humans–and I also believe in the heart of God–which repels those who think they can come making demands without first giving testimony of the blessings that have already come their way.

People don’t like to do this because it seems awkward, contrived and insincere. But what could be more awkward, contrived or insincere than coming one more time to ask without expressing a “thank you” for what has already been provided?

2. Ask and be specific.

It is annoying to have to draw out of someone what they really need instead of them being candid and sharing their heart with you.

If you’re embarrassed about your lack, then you should learn to live with it. You have to decide if you want to improve your situation or if you just want to act humiliated.

Be clear about what you want.

Focus on what you’re asking.

3. Ask, prepared to use what is available.

Once people know you’re grateful and you have been forthcoming, be prepared to get a little bit less than what you petitioned, and then astound yourself and the world around you by working with it.

My definition of greed is thinking that what you have determined to be your bottom line has to be achieved before you will move one muscle to begin.

Asking is one-third of the great energy that’s necessary to be a human being. It is the first step to seeking, and finally culminating with the perseverance of knocking.

Never be afraid to ask–as long as you have a grateful heart, an honest tongue and a willingness to make a start of things instead of stubbornly waiting for exactly what you want.

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Three Ways to Be Valuable Without Being Used … December 4, 2014

  Jonathots Daily Blog

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For every reason you can give to encourage people to be generous, open and expansive, they are fully prepared to counter with a hundred excuses why such benevolence never works.

It is usually accompanied by some well-rehearsed horror story, when an attempt was made to share heart, soul, mind and body with another human being, only to be used or abused.

This leaves you standing there, holding your rejected virtue, sheepishly walking away, dismantled by their aggressive dismay.

But somewhere along the line, the human race must be caring enough to include one another, or we very well may resort to eating one another.

So how can we be valuable without being used?

1. Invest in people, but do it in three phases:

(A) Start by offering your ears. If you listen to folks, and realize they are either crazy or unwilling to heed advice, you might want to keep that relationship on the back burner. But if you discover that these people are not just hearers of the word, but might actually become doers, you can move to phase two of your investing.

(B) Time. Never give people time if they’re not listening. It’s a waste of … well, time. And since you have limited quantities of that, you may not want to be too extravagant. If you discover that investing your minutes in people is fruitful, then you can consider the generosity of money.

(C) Yes, some people are worthy of a financial risk. But never pursue them if they aren’t listening.

2. Don’t be in demand–just available.

You may think it’s cool to be popular and bombarded with requests, surrounded by those who need your care, but it gets old really fast, and the personal benefits aren’t obvious. To make sure that you’re not in demand, but just available, learn how to say no.

Yes, every once in a while, when you sense that people are taking advantage of your soul, choose to pass on the present opportunity. It will balance things out and will let them know that when you are involved, you’re in it all the way.

3. Use hope for your own dreams and common sense for the dreams of others.

If you believe you’re going to be a millionaire, that’s absolutely fine. But if you’re gathering around a candle, holding hands and joining in the belief that someone else is going to be a millionaire, you’re an idiot.

Your hope belongs to you because you can sustain it with your own faith and survive any failure in your own way. But you cannot maintain the faith of another person, nor control his or her disappointment.

So when people share their dreams with you, be enthusiastic, but also ask the logical questions that cause them to think, instead of getting generally “goosey.”

If you pursue these three approaches, you can avoid being a doormat … while still becoming a door.

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