Three Things … June 10, 2013

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According to the present opinion of our news pundits, politicians and even those we deem to be cultural experts, Little Rock, Arkansas and Carlyle, Illinois would have very little in common.

That assertion is maintained so as to keep us separated, at odds and hopefully placed in unique demographics, making marketing more profitable to those who want us to “cherry pick” with each other and hopefully, purchase their items. Yes, they like us to be fighting–then they can play off of that aggravation to market their cause.

To hell with that.

I hope that doesn’t offend your sensibilities, and if it does, please understand that I mean it literally. There are certain things that need to be cast into the pit of hell, with the door slammed shut quickly so that the backdraft from the fire and stink won’t blow us all away. One of those is the prejudice promoted in our country in order to keep us from embracing one another as brothers and sisters.

Here’s the truth. Clayton would like Keith. Lisa would enjoy Jo Ann. Jonathan would really appreciate Michael. Rachel would have great conversations with Terry. Lucius would chatter for hours with Miguel. As long as they didn’t remind themselves that they were from different parts of the country, and maybe politically a bit variant from each other, they could have the time of their lives fellowshipping.

‘We are desperately in need of leaders who are committed to uniting us. But uniting us over what?

I think three things are necessary in order to have a spiritual, cultural and emotional revolution in this country. If we could agree over this trio of precepts, we could tackle many of our difficulties without ever producing a battle of human egos.

1. NoOne is better than anyone else. Of course, we don’t really believe that. We have all been raised to be prejudiced in some way. Most of us contend that looking down over one’s nose is just another way of saying, “Hold you head up high.” But if we can catch ourselves in those moments when we prefer one group over another or we begin to posture in our self-righteousness, we are on the road to renewal and revival

2. God is our Father. Any attempt to portray God as anything other than a parallel to a really good earthly father is a waste of time. Making God “Almighty,” or turning Him into the Infinite Spirit only creates an intimidating presence or an ill-defined personage. Jesus lived his life and even died for the purpose of showing us that God is a Father.

Matter of fact, he said, “No one comes unto the Father but by me.” I don’t know if there are other paths to the  God of the Universe. But the only way to embrace our sonship and daughterhood is to accept our Father. We waste our time when we study Old Testament theology to find a God who would really just like to be our daddy.

3. And finally, Jesus was human. Once we escape the parlor tricks of theologically attempting to make Jesus BOTH divine and human, we arrive at Jesus of Nazareth–who was filled with the holy spirit but lived a completely human life, “tempted as we are in every way.” This means that just like us, Jesus carried his cross by faith. He didn’t have an unseen advantage and God did not “false advertise” his humanity by inserting magic tricks inside him. The same spirit that dwelled in Jesus can live in us. When we try to make Jesus too hip or too old, we lose Jesus. He was our elder brother, who came to show us how to be human–not a God-replacement, trying to help us become more godly.

I saw no difference between the people I relished in Little Rock, Arkansas and those I so ferociously enjoyed in Carlyle, Illinois. When we get tired of being victims of a society determined to keep us at odds, we can decide for ourselves what we agree upon and begin to launch on those ideas. We can once and for all know that:

  • NoOne is better than anyone else
  • God is our Father
  • And Jesus was human–just like us.

It will give us the balance we need–the wonderful blending of power and humility.

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 Jonathots, Jr.!

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Encouraged… January 4, 2012

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Jonathan in Miami

One does not normally go to the service center at the local Ford dealership in Fort Myers, Florida, to be edified. No, it is normally considered to be an event taxing both patience and pocketbook.

I found myself there yesterday, with the back door of my van refusing to open, at the mercy of technicians who certainly had the capability of turning my mechanical hangnail into a terminal cancer. So I was a little apprehensive–especially when I walked into the waiting room and it was packed to the gills. Figuring that I would not be there long, since it was just a door lock being repaired, I perched myself in the midst of the teeming humanity to endure the surroundings.

What was I expecting? God forgive me, I have joined the carnival of human negativity that marches down the street looking for doom and disaster instead of peering into the gathered crowd for a bit of good cheer. I don’t want to be that way–but with my upbringing, influenced by a media that tells me how horrible things are–and a little bit of grumpy over having to repair my vehicle–I was primed to be fussy.

But I was alone. The room was filled with folks just like myself who were there  to get something fixed and certainly knew, just as I did, that patience would be required and money demanded. They didn’t seem to care. Matter of fact, I would say there was an air of near-jubilation in the room. People greeted one another, politely asked permission to sit down; one man offered a cough drop to a lady who was hacking away and another gentleman suggested to a mother who was trying to handle three rambunctious young ‘uns that there were some chocolate chip cookies over there that she might avail herself of to negotiate better behavior. People talked, laughed and they got along.

I was delighted, shocked, incredulous, rejoicing–all at the same time. Where ARE these depressed American people whom the 24-hour news cycle keeps telling us are being afflicted by economic woes that are rendering them immobilized? It reminds me of the comical statement, “Maybe all of us would get less sick if there were fewer doctors.” Maybe America would be better off without politicians and self-righteous religionists. Maybe our problem is that we’re always being told how miserable we should be instead of being patted on the back for choosing to get along with one another in tight quarters.

I watched for four hours. Yes, it took ’em four hours to figure out how much money they could get out of my wallet. Matter of fact, I was one of the last people in the room when they finally relented to give me back my van and let me go.

I felt paroled. But I also felt encouraged. I was in a room populated with patrons who possibly had good cause to be a little aggravated–inconvenienced. Instead, they put together a four-step process that I studied and am going to pursue more faithfully on my own:

1. “It ain’t so bad.” Complaining about life only stalls the decision to try to resolve the conflict. It does not eliminate it.

2. “You ain’t so bad.” I think the more you put people in situations where they have to solve problems together, the less bigotry and alienation we actually experience.

3. “We ain’t so bad.” I think the whole room had the sensation that I felt–that we, as a gathered host at this particular season in this particular environment, were doing pretty doggone good getting along with each other and succeeding. I do not know why politics thinks it has to find a villain to get a vote, or why religion needs a devil to make God look better. We ain’t so bad, folks. It doesn’t mean there’s no need for improvement; it certainly isn’t a case of escaping repentance. But the fact of the matter is, when we put our minds to it, we’re pretty good at repenting and we’re even better at fellowshipping. Which leads to:

4. “God ain’t so bad.” I do not know whether we can continue to promote love for a God who scares the crap out of us. There is something seriously wrong with contending that God loves us so much that if we decide not to accept Him, He will retaliate by burning us in hell. That would be similar to me asking a girl out to the prom in high school because I thought she was absolutely lovely, and upon receiving her rejection, I decide to blow up her house. I might expect to spend some time in jail for that. And if God is really so insecure that He must punish us for not loving Him, then maybe He should spend some time in some sort of divine jail also.

But God ain’t so bad when we realize that we ain’t so bad and you ain’t so bad and it ain’t so bad.

I was encouraged. I was so enthralled with the blessing of my fellow-man that I decided to avoid watching too much television to discourage my onslaught of faith. It was a good choice.

So thank you, people–and may we all learn that:

  • It ain’t so bad
  • And you ain’t so bad
  • Which means that we ain’t so bad
  • Which gives us the confidence to believe that God ain’t so bad

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Jonathan wrote the gospel/blues anthem, Spent This Time, in 1985, in Guaymas, Mexico. Take a listen:

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