Salient … April 23rd, 2018

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We called him “Denny the Dork” because we were twelve-year-old jackasses. He was socially awkward, walking around in a mental fog from the bog.

We could have been nicer, but when you’re twelve years old, nice is something you think people should do to you. It never occurs in your adolescent mind to be the initiator.

Denny was the equipment manager of our seventh-grade football team. If he had just brought water and taken care of the uniforms, he would have been fine. But Denny was inquisitive–what you might refer to as “an experimenter.”

One day Denny decided to replace the pads in the football pants with poster board. For some reason, nobody noticed while donning the uniforms–and after the practice, everybody arrived back in the locker room with extra bruises, and one kid had a dislocated knee.

When Denny’s act was discovered, he quickly explained that he wanted to learn the purpose of the pads, and thought the best way to do so was to remove them.

This made complete sense to him. It did not to the coach. Denny was kicked off the team and spent about six weeks coming to school early, to help the janitor clean the toilets.

Likewise, we have a lot of people in our world today who are determined to extract civility and kindness just to see what happens.

Is it curiosity? Is it a fear that goodness makes us all look weak and simpy? I don’t know. But because that emotional padding has been removed from our society, people are showing up bruised and broken.

Unfortunately, there is not one “Denny the Dork” to blame. All parts of our society–religion, business, politics, entertainment and even education–are permeated with the contention that dominating one another is preferable to accommodating.

We have allowed the jungle to be released, but unfortunately, none of us have the girth of the elephant, the tough hide of the lion, nor the universal survivability of the cockroach.

We are a vulnerable species that needs to be treated tenderly, or we break.

Yet there seems to be a competition to see who can be the “assiest hole” or the “assholiest.” (Yes, I think that second one fits it better, don’t you?People who act like asses but portray it is the holy mission of self-esteem they pursue.)

Yet in a room full of people who are crazy, suggesting mental instability is neither helpful or healthy. So today I stand as one soul speaking to you, saying that we have removed the padding which protects us from bruising each other.

It’s time to call ourselves dorks, and change this pattern.

So here is your salient moment:

You can’t make omelets without eggs, just like you can’t create a beautiful life without courtesy.

 

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Good News and Better News… August 21st, 2017

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I had the night off from my gigs.

I decided to take in a church service at a small pioneer work where I’m staying. It is called Renaissance Fellowship. It touts the uniqueness of being a Christian church focused on the arts. Since I’ve been known to have a brain cell or two tuned in that direction, I was titillated.

The church is held at a community center and has about twenty-five folks who attend. The people are typical “church.” About 35% of them are excited, involved, busy scurrying around, and the rest of them have the appearance of folks arriving for a seminar on an unknown subject, with the promise that they might get free passes to a restaurant at the end.

Renaissance suffers from what every church suffers from. In trying to find God, they accidentally kill passion.

The pastor, a young man in his early forties, has a delightful desire and talent for sharing his thoughts. You can tell he is still deeply involved in the pursuit of God and the salvation of human souls, but growing a bit worn around the edges in all the well-doing. It happens to all of us.

But I heard something I liked. I heard rumblings that sounded like possibility.

Even though his message was plagued with too much preaching to the soul and teaching to the brain, I sensed that he’s beginning to reach for the heart.

For you see–human beings are not really spiritual. We aren’t thoughtful. We are emotional.

It doesn’t matter if it’s about work, play, a football stadium or church–the evidence that we are impacted is always an emotional outburst.

So I speak with great clarity to this pastor and tell him to keep reaching for the heart. Go ahead and abandon preaching to the soul and teaching to the mind. No one cares what Abraham, Moses, Joseph or any of the old patriarchs did. If the stories do not relate to family, Wal-mart and the Internet, they will not touch the hearts of American people.

Instructing the brain by pointing out clever pieces of information may once have been a path of probability, but no longer. Our brains are inundated with too much information, and of course, way too many posts on Facebook about nothing.

  • Reach the heart.
  • Touch the heart.
  • And demand a heartfelt response.

It is the only way people are healed. As Jesus said, “If you say to this mountain, be removed, and you do not doubt in your heart, it shall be done.”

The soul, the brain and the body have nothing to do with moving mountains. It is a heartfelt action.

Although I’m sure they are delightful and blessed people, many of the folks at Renaissance were doing their best imitation of being church cardboard cutouts. But becoming a church of artistry will require that the congregation that’s already there–tiny as it is–become emotionally excited with its own faith.

If it doesn’t, they will be just an average church that occasionally puts on plays.

The good news is that the Gospel is an experience of the heart.

The better news is, the pastor of Renaissance Fellowship and his congregation have a great opportunity to become heartfelt.

I have confidence in them.

For you see, the pastor is my son.Donate Button

 

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Good News and Better News … October 3rd, 2016

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good-news-frankenmuthUnderrated:

The cheese on a pizza.

Sliding on a pair of socks which just came out of the dryer.

A plate of nachos when you’re really, really hungry.

An evening of television without politics.

The Frankenmuth United Methodist Church.

Yes, to the outside observer, the congregation meeting in Frankenmuth seems to be a small, middle-America United Methodist Church. As a society, we’ve nearly given up on such institutions.

I totally disagree.

From the minute I stepped in the door and met Pastor Scott, with his warm, inviting, gentle ways, to when I walked out to climb in my van, I was awarded the opportunity to be in the presence of untapped miracles.

By no means am I trying to tell you that the emotional environment of the Frankenmuth United Methodist Church is suited to the taste of the common person. To him or her it would still reek of religion and provincial thinking.good-news-frankdnmuth-sign

But the potential is there to do great things for mankind. What is missing?

Joy.

Joy is the unity of confidence and gratitude: A confidence based on the fact that we feel valuable, and a gratitude because we know a bit about our own unworthiness.

  • Too much confidence appears to be arrogance.
  • Too much gratitude creates a timid soul.

How do we generate joy?

Joy is when our “face shows our place.”

In other words, it bubbles out. Peter, in the Epistle, declared it “a joy unspeakable and full of glory.”

The folks in Frankenmuth still believe that their “Father, which art in Heaven” is a hard-ass. It’s just difficult to look at Him as “Daddy” when you find His demands unrelenting.

It causes them to be cautious–more fearful than appreciative–and it makes them reluctant to invite others to church because they’re pretty sure their friends would be unimpressed.

The good news is, if the Frankenmuth United Methodist Church would allow for more emotion in their worship experience, they would begin to realize why they meet together.

The better news is: when they are more certain of the reasons for their gathering, others will want to gather around their reasons.

 

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Jonathan’s Latest Book Release!

PoHymn: A Rustling in the Stagnant

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Ask Jonathots… September 29th, 2016

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I am always suspicious of superstition–blaming resistance on outside forces and nefarious entities. But at the same time I believe the blessings in life are always wrapped in hassle and difficulty. How can you tell the difference between the resistance that comes from a bad idea and the resistance that come from the brink of greatness?

In the moment of conflict, our personal reaction cannot be controlled.

Even though people insist they can “count to ten, take a deep breath” or “breathe a prayer” to muster a mature response to difficulty, we have already locked in our profile.

This is the essence of “turn the other cheek.”

Jesus is saying that we must literally choreograph our reactions. Otherwise we will spill out the abundance of our emotional turmoil.

Therefore, it really doesn’t matter if something comes from a nefarious source or if it’s just an inconvenience.

Our reaction determines if it will be elongated or eliminated.

So we should be working on an emotional sense of security. We are heart creatures. We don’t answer tribulation from our spirit. All communication comes from the abundance of our heart.

So where should we start?

We should work on the dance–the ability to know how to move when life tries to stop us. To do this we must learn to recognize the triggers that cause us to fall back into genetic or pre-programmed training instead of making our own pure choice.

1. If I’m angry and I do not reveal it, it will turn into frustration, which will make me incapable of handling any unwanted surprise.

2. If I feel cheated and don’t voice my concerns, I will accidentally look for ways to diminish the ego of others to match my depleted profile.

3. If I’m tired of trying, I will stop doing the necessary steps that make my effort productive and start acting entitled.

4. If I believe that I’m supposed to find my enemies in order to isolate and avoid them instead of love them and overcome them with wisdom, then I will become paranoid and find myself making new adversaries.

Even those evangelicals who fear Satan and his wiles need to realize that the punishment of the Serpent in the Garden of Eden was to be cast down to Earth. In other words, evil has to work with Earth-bound fussiness to get at the believer.

So any way you look at it, the more you prepare for life by choreographing an emotional outlook that is not shocked by the arrival of setbacks, the better the chance that you can conquer problems–whether you believe they are natural or supernatural.

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PoHymn: A Rustling in the Stagnant

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Dear Man/Dear Woman: A Noteworthy Conversation … June 4th, 2016

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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Dear Man Dear Woman

Dear Woman: You scare me.

 

Dear Man: What do you mean?

 

Dear Woman: I mean, you frighten me. Is it natural? Was this terror taught to me or is it legitimately part of the evolution of our species–to keep a certain amount of friction between the genders?

 

Dear Man: Since we’re being honest, I’m scared too. Scared of myself. But mostly when I’m around you. Why do you think women put ten or twenty different fragrances all over our bodies everyday? We’re afraid we stink. Stink to you. I don’t know where I learned that. It’s hard for me to believe that I have a genetic code that makes me want to use lotion.

 

Dear Woman: While we’re on the subject–I’m supposed to smell like a man. What in the hell does that mean? I feel like there’s a role I need to play. Sometimes it feels natural, but other times I think you just need me to be manly so you can feel womanly.

 

Dear Man: So what does it mean to be womanly? Does it mean I feel more than I think? It’s so confusing because we say that women are more emotional, but then we turn around and say women are smarter than men. Which one is it?

 

Dear Woman: And is there any spirituality to this whole mess? Is there a Creator who sees us as equals? Or is He intent on us camping out in our genders and remaining separate?

 

Dear Man: It started when I was a kid–trying to avoid “handsy” male cousins and being quietly warned by my mother about certain uncles. I felt like an object. I was in the room but I wasn’t seen unless I was pretty, or unless someone noticed how fast I was growing. None of my relatives ever asked how I was doing on the basketball team. It was always some reference to my beauty or my training as a young woman.

 

Dear Woman: So no wonder we’re terrified of each other. But I will tell you this–I certainly think it would be worth the time to find out how much of this horror was infused by our training and if any of it is legitimate tension brought on by our differences.

 

Dear Man: And here’s the kicker. You’re supposed to be my best friend while simultaneously I am led to believe that a man can’t really be my friend at all.

 

Dear Woman: So I come back to my point. I’m nervous around you, which sometimes makes me not want to be around you, so I can avoid being nervous.

 

Dear Man: I totally understand that. When I want to be myself, I get away from men because I’m afraid if I reveal my real desires, they will either be apathetic or turned off.

 

Dear Woman: I can’t live my life wondering what a woman thinks about me. It will drive me crazy and make me hate her.

 

Dear Man: Likewise for me. There has to be a soft place to be in life–where you don’t have to try too hard, as you do try to improve what you can, without fear of being criticized.

 

Dear Woman: Shouldn’t that be with me?

 

Dear Man: It should, but not as long as I am convinced by society that you’re my enemy.

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Dear Man/Dear Woman: A Noteworthy Conversation … May 14th, 2016

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Dear Man Dear Woman

Dear Man: If I remember correctly, I was eleven years old, in middle school, during gym class, and Miss Pontier shared with us girls. It was a rainy day and we were supposed to be playing softball. We were forced inside, and for some reason, our teacher decided to wax poetic about men.

 

Dear Woman: Really? What did she say?

 

Dear Man: As I look back on it, I realize that she was probably going through a hard time in a relationship, but she quickly–and kind of comically–explained to us the three things that men don’t do.

 

Dear Woman: This is interesting. What were her findings?

 

Dear Man: She said men don’t emotionally care about much of anything. Secondly, men find it difficult to carry on a meaningful conversation, and third–men don’t remember anything if it’s more than a week away and doesn’t involve food and beer.

 

Dear Woman: Wow. That’s pretty jaded. So what did you think at the time?

 

Dear Man: I thought she was the goddess of wisdom. Who was I to question her?

 

Dear Woman: I had a similar thing happen when I was playing junior high football. We were on the bus on the way to a game and the coach talked to us about girls. We were not just a captive audience, but captivated by the subject. He said that girls don’t like sports, they don’t like to be ignored, and they don’t ever want to be wrong.

 

Dear Man: I would assume you agreed.

 

Dear Woman: Well, from my lack of experience I decided to accept his insight.

 

Dear Man: You see–that’s the problem in our society. People think it’s funny to portray the other gender as ridiculous, stubborn or stupid. But once we think that they don’t do something, it colors our efforts, and pretty soon we translate it to “they won’t.

 

Dear Woman: In other words, we take it personally.

 

Dear Man: Absolutely. So even though we feel the need to pair off and mate, we establish our main relationships within our gender, insisting that it’s impossible for a man and woman to get along completely.

 

Dear Woman: So let me get this straight. Because somebody tells us, for instance, that “women don’t do something,” we go out and confirm through our experiences, which are now prejudiced, that they won’t.

 

Dear Man: And it doesn’t stop there. Once we’re convinced they don’t and they won’t, we start believing they can’t. Despair sets in, disappointment, and a nagging resignation to having a relationship that is less than fulfilling.

 

Dear Woman: So we do a disservice to our children by telling them that the opposite sex doesn’t do things–because they will begin to believe they won’t, which makes them conclude that they can’t.

 

Dear Man: Yes. That’s why we have so much prejudice. Because if I believe you don’t do something, and I conclude you won’t, I disrespect you by thinking you can’t.

 

Dear Woman: So what can we do?

 

Dear Man: I think we can stop generalizing that men and women react as genders instead of individuals. It will block that deadly process that ends up with us thinking that the opposite sex is incapable of addressing our feelings.

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Good News and Better News … May 7h, 2016

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West Virginia Jon and Jan

Wedged, Virginia.

Yes, squeezed in between West Virginia and Virginia is the little village of Peterstown, where I was fortunate to spend my Mother’s Day Sunday with the fine brothers and sisters of the Mountaineer State.

I don’t know whether it’s the blessing of aging or a submission of my well-traveled soul, but I seem to be finding greater delight in the human beings around me instead of constantly taking an inventory of their deficits.

I don’t know if the world is getting better or not, but perhaps if I decide to get better, the world might just seem that way.

The good news is that I see a gradual awakening in the American population–an alarm clock going off, letting us know that we’re in need of a new morning. Honestly, no one is springing out of bed to face the day. Most of us are reluctantly reaching over to punch the snooze button, hoping to gain a few more moments of unconsciousness.

But the alarm continues to sound.

It rings in our politics, our racial relationships, our families, our educational system, and certainly in our churches.

As it pertains to the latter, we are mercifully beginning to understand that church is not a dining experience, where we perch, get served a meal, and sit around with our friends discussing the menu and the quality of the attention given to us by the waitress.

Church would be better described as a self-service gas station, where we roll in knowing we need fuel, but understanding that we’re going to have to give something to get it.

That’s what I sensed Sunday morning with the Peterstown conclave.

They might be willing to be served–but they also were completely open to the idea that it is their turn to give back to the system.

God did not create human beings to worship Him. The angels had already filled that position. God created human beings for companionship and to replenish the Earth.

So every minute we spend in His house, we should enjoy sweet fellowship among our friends and great conversation with our Heavenly Father, preparing ourselves to replenish the Earth.

And what does “replenishing the Earth” mean?

Giving back just a little more than we take.

So I come out of my experience in “Wedged, Virginia” rejoicing over the alarm that is awakening our culture from a deep sleep of emotional and spiritual lethargy.

That’s the good news.

The better news is that we human beings are always smarter, sharper and funnier when we’re involved–instead of sittin’ on our butts, waiting for the dinner rolls to be served.

West Virginia Composite 2

 

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