G-Poppers … August 11th, 2017

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G-Pop spends more time thinking than he does talking. Long before he offers a chat to his children, he tosses the ball of confusion around in his brain to see if he can get it to bounce right.

Such is the case between caring and involved.

Normally we think that if we care, we will become involved–but the danger of becoming involved is, with our assistance, we bring our opinion.

This year G-Pop has learned this lesson with great clarity. He aspired to be helpful and involved. Why? Because he cared.

But he did not believe that caring was enough–caring being that action of expressing concern and standing ready with prayer or even some financial support, to help those around him achieve what they set out to do.

  • “Caring” comes without interference.
  • “Involved” often brings a bit of nosiness and mouth along with the tender touch.

For instance, does God care for us or is God involved? And if He is involved, where does that place free will?

In other words, can you be involved in other people’s lives and still completely honor their choices, without displaying a disgruntled expression?

G-Pop believes the answer is no.

Here’s a truth: it’s better when people work out their own problems. We need things to be our idea. If possible, we need the idea to be born of our will.

Following advice does make you a follower.

G-Pop now realizes that he needs to care, but not get so involved. Caring will always be received well but involvement can be interfering.

So G-Pop says to his children, be careful not to intrude and then become offended because people treat you like you’re an intruder.

“All I was trying to do was help.”

What we should try to do is care–and encourage people as they find their path. Because if we stand afar and care more instead of involving ourselves, the number of people we can bless increases.

Because here’s the fact: involvement is downright exhausting.Donate ButtonThe producers of jonathots would humbly request a yearly subscription donation of $10 for this wonderful, inspirational opportunity

 

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Good News and Better News… July 24th, 2017

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Sunday morning, bright and early, I headed off with my buddy, Janet, to St. Timothy Lutheran Church in Melbourne (even though the words “bright and early” should never appear in the same sentence.)

Over the years, Ms. Clazzy and I have learned a very important lesson: those who have gathered in a church are not there to see us, no matter how much we’ve been advertised. And they’re not necessarily there to learn about God, either.

They are accustomed to gathering. It is a tradition. Each one has his or her reasons for being there–ranging from preparing the coffee to loving the organ music, to appreciating communion, to getting stuck with usher duty.

So it is ridiculous for the two of us to think that we will come in and move mountains, or even rearrange dirt piles. Our job is simple–and made easier by the kindness of those who assisted us with our equipment and by the tender spirit of Pastor Blaine Johnson.

We are to be grateful for those who’ve attended, encourage what we see that’s positive, and gently address what’s missing.

Without the initial burst of gratitude for what is available, you immediately becomes the eternal brat who is never satisfied unless you get your own way.

Do I wish there were more people at St. Timothy Lutheran Church? I don’t give it a second thought, since there aren’t.

Do I wish I was going to larger churches than St. Timothy Lutheran Church? I don’t give it a second thought, because I’m not.

I am grateful for all the souls before me.

Then there are things that come out which are delightful and positive. There are people who greet you even though they have never seen you before. There is a sense of organization that lends itself to progress instead of chaos. Opportunities.

Yet in the midst of Jan and myself being grateful and reveling in the positives set before us, some missing spaces are obvious. Shall we refer to these as an absence of the presence?

  • An absence of the presence of jubilation.
  • An absence of the presence of radiant joy.
  • An absence of the presence of personalizing the message of Jesus to our own endeavors.
  • An absence of the presence of giggling.
  • An absence of the presence of the hand clapping which symbolizes confirmation of inner glee.

Just quietly ask the question, what’s missing?–and then allow the Spirit of God to offer suggestions.

So while grateful for the congregated and my celebration of the positives, I talked to them about passion–the ability for the heart to stimulate praise instead of relying on the memory.

Did we make progress? Will next Sunday’s service at St. Timothy reflect any of the energy of the visitation?

It’s a foolish question; irrelevant.

Because the good news is that Pastor Blaine and the fine folks of St. Timothy found it in their hearts to invite us to come and share our talents.

And the better news is that God, in His infinite wisdom, leaves it up to each individual soul to determine what he or she will do with what has been seen and heard.Donate Button

 

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Good News and Better News… April 24th, 2017

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I’m a sucker for kindness.

If you’re going to give me some bad news, do it with a smile. I just don’t buy into this concept that the more grumpy, frowny-faced and serious you are, the better chance you have of passing for a grown-up–or for that matter, making God think you’re truly an observant disciple.

I once wrote a gospel song which had a line about arriving in heaven, which was, “Bursting through the gates, a’laughin’…” (Now whether that will be a chuckle of relief or a belly laugh of victory, I plan on arriving to meet my Father with good cheer.)

So when I came into the doors of Wesley United Methodist Church in West Melbourne, Florida, and saw four beautiful human beings sitting there just smirking, with joy in their eyes, welcoming me–well, I felt good. There’s nothing wrong with that, is there?

Sometimes I think we believe church is a place where we need to feel bad before we feel good. I’d like to skip that step, if you don’t mind.

Now, the church building itself is wide open, like it wants to wrap its arms around you and give you a hug.

Yet it started the day before at sound check when I got to meet Pastor Doug. He’s one of those guys that when you encounter him, you immediately realize you like him simply because he doesn’t lead with a bunch of suspicion, and he actually appears to have an interest in your life. I got tickled because they were having a spaghetti supper on Saturday night and Doug was going to be imitating Elvis Presley.

Now, can you beat that? A good preacher who loves people and doesn’t mind a nice pair of blue suede shoes.

So the next morning, when it came my turn to share my little piece of myself with these darling souls of the kingdom, I just decided to be joyful and honest. My dear Lord, what we could do in this country if our leadership would be honest and joyful, and if that didn’t work real well, they became joyful and honest.

The people of Wesley UMC allowed themselves to be touched so then they were ready to reach out and touch others. I even had one lady who gave me the “Grace” of a wonderful shoulder rub. I can’t guarantee that you’ll get the same treatment–I mean as far as therapeutic muscle relaxation–but I will tell you this: Pastor Doug has these people ready to enact what the Gospel is all about: Love your neighbor as yourself with a special emphasis on making sure that those who love Jesus double-love one another.

So, for convenience, let me box up my conclusion.

Here’s the good news: you should arrive at church with a heart ready to be encouraged.

And the better news is, if we start preaching the Gospel again the way Jesus taught it–which is mingling our own humanity with mercy for others–then we’re going to have a great opportunity to leave encouraged.

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Good News and Better News … January 25th, 2016

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Good News Messiah Lutheran

I arrived early.

Nothing had started popping at Messiah Lutheran.

I was sitting at my book table checking out a few details when I looked across the vestibule and saw the bulletin board pictured above.

My first instinct was to chuckle since I was peering at a snowman while abiding in Panama City, Florida. But I guess because it was Sunday morning and my thoughts had become a bit introspective, I considered the snowman.

It isn’t, you know–a man, I mean.

If you came across a snowman and decided to melt it and free the human being inside, after extensive warming, all you would end up with is a puddle.

There’s nothing within.

It’s an imitation of life–using lumps of coal, a broom, a button, a scarf, a carrot and a top hat.

But it got me wondering if there are frozen people crusted over by the iciness of our culture, who really are more than just snowmen. Is it possible to become so chilled by indifference that you live beneath inches of ice?

Well, I certainly see it in politics.

Freezing out your competition and appearing above the fray, free of fault, seems to be the “call of the wild” in Washington. But I fear if the real heat of pressure and responsibility fell upon any one of them, they would sink into a drippy mess.

How about entertainment?

What could be more hypocritical than a bunch of snowmen in Hollywood who think they are so open-minded and liberal, who make a stand against guns–even as they use pistils, automatic rifles and any number of instruments of mayhem to kill thousands of human beings in their plotlines.

Then there’s religion.

Seems to me that we have sunk to the position of the Pharisees of Jesus’ day, who spent their time counting cups, cleaning plates and decorating their robes.

Snowmen.

Nothing really left inside–just a cold form of what they once might have looked like.

So as I prepared to share with the folks at Messiah, I was reminded of the sarcastic statement of the angel, speaking to the women who came to the tomb to embalm Jesus: “Why seek ye the living among the dead?”

I had to ask myself a two-part question:

  • Is my life the pursuit of melting snowmen, only to find there’s nothing really there?
  • Or, under this arctic exterior, are there still living human beings who would like to have joy and abundant life?

The good news is that Messiah lifted my spirits.

Although at first they treated us as strangers, our hearts soon burned within us, taking away the frigid fear.

It was powerful.

It was good.

It was hopeful.

And unlike the snowman on the wall of their bulletin board, what I discovered were human beings suffering from a little hypothermia from being exposed to too much cold. So here’s the better news: We can warm up society and find out where the snowmen are and where the people just need to come in out of the elements.

1. When you see somebody doing a good job and you know they make minimum wage, give them a buck and a word of encouragement for their extra-mile efforts.

2. When you’re in the doctor’s office, instead of pretending to read an out-dated magazine, attempt to strike up a conversation with a nearby human being and see where it takes you.

3. Let “thank you” come off your lips more and more easily.

4. Lead with a smile long before you come face-to-face.

5. Appreciate the small things and be amazed at how the big things begin to take care of themselves.

6. Sit in your quiet, staid church and clap your hands during one of the hymns and see if anyone joins you.

I could go on and on.

Here are two dangers in life: falling under the spell of the deep freeze, or believing that you have no power to thaw it.

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Ask Jonathots … November 5th, 2015

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I have a close friend who has decided to have a baby. She’ll raise the child herself–a single mom. I don’t disapprove, but I do wonder if the child will be somewhat disadvantaged. What do you think? Is there an innate power in the nuclear family–mom, dad and children?

No. There is no natural power in having a nuclear family in raising a child.

Children respond to two stimuli: love and discipline–hopefully dished out in equal portions.

Is there a positive aspect to a child having a male and female role model within the same household? No, but the mother, in your case, needs to be fully aware that since we are a world of men and women, that the child will need to have positive, joyous and untainted visions of the male of the species.

There would be a temptation, as a single mother, to pass along some bitterness, which would not only be useless to the child, but also could create an offspring that is overly sensitive to one gender in favor of the other.

Here’s the truth: we create too much drama around raising children.

People have been doing it for millions of years. Good people have raised bad children and excellent human beings have risen from the ashes of abusive situations. None of us are quite sure what makes the perfect climate for a young human to grow–except we do know that love and discipline go hand in hand to forming a better possibility.

You and I and the next guy standing near us need to realize that we carry prejudices into our relationships, even though we don’t intend to. It could be anything from a distaste over what is referred to as an “unwed mother,” or even a sense that we privately consider ourselves to be “Superparent,” and no one could raise children quite as well as we do.

This is where we can perform the function of encouragement and exhortation.

I will tell you–critique is absolutely worthless. Telling people what they are doing wrong is like spurring them on to do it more. But when you see your single mom friend performing brilliantly, step in and pat her on the back. Buy her a package of disposable diapers. And when you see her questioning what she’s doing, exhort her to pursue her better choices.

The human race will not improve because we are constantly correcting mistakes. Because we are emotional creatures, the human race only improves as we focus on what we are doing which is positive … and only gradually discards the useless ways.

 

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Ask Jonathots… June 25th, 2015

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My best girlfriend and I meet for lunch once a week. She is overweight and is on a diet–and she does seem to be losing some weight. But every time we eat out she orders huge meals and extravagant desserts. Every week. I don’t want to judge her. Should I say anything?

Your question is fascinating.

First, let’s start with some facts.

Every one of us has three different parts: the person we are born with, the person we are trained to be, and the person we decide to be.

You must understand, your girlfriend’s birth and circumstances are not the same as yours. And more than likely, her training does not duplicate the training you received.

I found some contradictions in your explanation. The truth of the matter is, your girlfriend is not on a diet if she’s ordering huge meals and extravagant desserts.

So I guess your question to me is, what do I do with a person who thinks she’s dieting, but who’s really acting out the elements of her birth and training?

The answer is really simple. You can do nothing.

Because until she decides to kick in the third part–her contribution–what she decides she wants to be–then all of your prodding, which you may deem to be encouragement, will only come across as criticism.

So you really need to ask yourself three questions:

  1. If my girlfriend has a metabolism which is going to keep her pretty plump, am I all right with that?
  2. If I’m not all right with that, am I prepared to walk away from the relationship to keep from harming her soul by my continual disapproval?
  3. And finally, if I decide to walk away, am I going to be able to find the attributes that drew me to this young lady with someone else in a thinner package?

Here are some of the stark realities regarding weight loss:

95% of the people who lose weight put it back on, usually with some additional. This should tell you that we do not have it figured out. When you take into account metabolism, digestion, training, appetite, and the human brain’s tendency to occasionally push things too far, we are probably a full generation away from a solution to obesity.

Will power only works for Will.

So what should you do in the moment?

Easy. Get a quiet space of time when you know her heart is open, and let her tell you what she feels about her weight instead of you telling her how much better she would be if she were smaller.

Once you hear her explanation, make a decision to stay with her if you can help, and leave her if you can’t.

Got a question for Jonathots? Send it to jacquelinebarnett76@gmail.com.

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If Jesus Were in Charge… January 4, 2015

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  • Religion wants to worship God.
  • Hope wants to find God.
  • Faith wants to see God.
  • Love wants to share God.

Church is becoming an exercise in futility because man was not created to worship. Worship was created so man could revel with the joy, love, faith and hope that pulsate within. It is a chance to express the hope to find God, the faith to see God and the love to share God.

But how do we do it? What would a church service be with Pastor Jesus?

If you read the Gospels closely, the answers are pretty clear, at least to this pilgrim. Every time Jesus got together with people, there was some sort of transformation, victory or healing which occurred. People felt they could come with their illnesses, insufficiencies, questions and frustrations and not have to wait through an entire service to have them addressed.

Yes, I believe church should begin with prayer, hugs, words of encouragement or even just a good cup of coffee. We begin with a season of healing–heart, soul, mind and strength.

I think if Jesus were pastor of a church, next would come testifying. Those who have been blessed, healed or rejuvenated get a chance to share their hearts. Others who have had dynamic weeks can express gratitude for intervention.

So once people have been healed and given a chance to speak out as part of the family of God, then it’s time to teach. Instruction is motivated at this point. Healing and testifying have been accomplished, so we have the opportunity to explain the mind of our heavenly Father, and offer better ways for us to get along with each other.

Healed, testified and taught, we are anxious to celebrate. Let the music begin. I don’t know why we expect people to sing their way into a good mood. Music was meant to produce emotion and praise–which normally follows an experience.

And finally, after celebration, we give. We close out the service providing finance–as each one has prospered throughout the week.

It was the style of Jesus to heal, open the door to testifying, teach the masses, celebrate the message and then allow them to give of their substance so the work could continue in the next village.

Church has become a commemoration, when it was meant to be a combustion–stoking the fire of belief so it can burn brilliantly.

If Jesus were in charge, church would be about people instead of causes, concerns, committees or even communion. Will we ever see such an opportunity come our way?

I guess when we finally grow weary of being pious and become wary of being godless.

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