G-Poppers … January 12th, 2018


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As a boy, G-Pop recalls how beautiful and powerful six inches of snow was in Ohio. It usually meant that school was canceled for the day and the winter wonderland was available for walking and playing.

Yet with all the potential, it was G-Pop’s profile to go outside for a few minutes, but then to come back in, pull out the Monopoly game and play, by himself, using three different pieces, so he was only competing against himself.

It was so much fun. No yelling, no arguing, no fussing and lots of surprises.

Outside it was cold, crowded and competitive. The air was frigid and the surroundings were full of children looking for a way to create mischief with the snow–and the hillsides for sliding were soon lined up with people waiting their turn to get the best “slick trip.”

G-Pop just didn’t like to take most of his glorious day and spend it waiting, freezing and sometimes arguing

G-Pop wants his children to understand that we now have the same situation in our country. People have defined the thrills and chills of our era–so everyone bundles up and goes out into the cold, where it’s crowded and competitive. Of course, it can become so cutthroat that people start getting hurt.

G-Pop recommends to his children that they slip back into the house and play a better game. It’s named “Kindness”–and it is so unusual, so ignored and so set to the side that they will find themselves succeeding by surprising everyone with the choice.

It has three parts to it:

1. Return to “courtly.”

Reinstitute phrases like, “if you don’t mind.” Or, “if you would be so kind.” And of course, “it was so nice of you to do that.”

It doesn’t matter if other people are saying the same words. It gives a sense of well-being, purpose and gentleness.

2. Lead with a smile.

The usual grimace just doesn’t cut it anymore. If everybody’s frowning at one another, the possibility for negotiation or business is nearly eliminated.

Is there a danger in leading with a smile? G-Pop supposes so–there are always con men and women who will try to play off weakness, but if you can see them coming, you can keep a nice grin, welcoming people in.

3. Set aside a blessing.

Yes, every week, put a little extra money to the rear. A little extra time. A few things no longer used, to give to somebody who would benefit from them.

We are so interested in giving to charity, but often we don’t know where that money goes. If you set aside some of your charitable funds, and place them strategically where you desire, it is so much more fulfilling.

The world is cold, crowded and competitive.

Come inside the love of God and discover your warmth.

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Good News and Better News… May 8th, 2017


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Breeders and needers

I am speaking from a spiritual sense.

Breeders are people who find personal satisfaction in joy, mission and composure, and are prepared to deal with those who come their way who may not have the correct balance of what we call normal human behavior.

They are merciful because they know the need to obtain mercy.

They are meek because they’ve already gotten their down payment on the inheritance of the Earth.

They don’t need encouragement to be gentle–the gentleness of God’s spirit has already convinced them of the wisdom of such behavior.

Needers, on the other hand, are folks who come to church with vice, variance and viciousness intact, and try to use God’s grace to cover their insufficiency rather than becoming the “light of the world and the salt of the Earth.”

It’s really simple:

Needers scare people away.

Breeders make an emotional and spiritual connection with their fellow-humans and birth fellowship.

As long as we insist that God doesn’t really care how good or bad we are, just that we have signed a salvation card and our names are written in the Book of Life, we will continue to frighten those who might find comfort in the Gospel, affronting them with members who have the maturity of a pen of pigs.

It’s time to talk realistically about Christianity.

We are on the verge of falling victim to the stereotypes that other religions have procured for themselves.

“All Jews are cheap.”

“All Muslims are terrorists.”

“All Hindus have a spot on the middle of their forehead.”

“All Buddhists eat humus.”

The Gospel of Jesus has a chance to speak a unified message to a diverse world. It is so desperately needed that writers like myself will risk being attacked by the needers in an attempt to lift up the breeders.

What are the characteristics of breeders?

They are salt. Tasteful. Sensitive.

They are light–illuminating instead of shocking the world around them.

Good works. It’s impossible to be humble without them. If you try to use humility without having good works, you just come across honestly inept.

Here’s the good news: Jesus is prepared to give instruction, permission and shortcuts to those who want to live dynamic, joyful and abundant lives.

And the better news is that needers can become breeders if they will develop the desire to connect with others instead of remaining frightened and insecure

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Ask Jonathots … December 29th, 2016


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I am so frustrated. What happened in 2016??

Well, I’m not quite certain of your particular frustration, or what crosses your mind as a grievance concerning the year.

But certainly overall, the United States abandoned its sense of “civil” rights. In pursuing rights it is essential we maintain a civil attitude.

Somewhere along the line it became more important to chase down an agenda or voice opinions of opposition than to find ways to peacefully coexist and respect one another.

In the process, we had a lot of shouting without having any real interaction.

  • It became important to be right.
  • It was essential to win.
  • It was a game to degrade your opposition.
  • And it was considered fair play to dig up dirt and heap it on your opponent.

Because we humans are susceptible to selfishness, once we realized that our leaders were participating in playground antics, we felt the freedom to lessen our general toleration while increasing our volume.

It created a caustic environment.

So all the political parties, all the religions, and all the intellectuals who were supposed to guide us in ways of structured sensibility, instead became armed forts, where rocks were thrown across the chasm.

This will only change when we return to civil ways to establish our rights.

So what is civility?

1. It is impossible for me to completely be right.

I am human and therefore not only capable, but susceptible to error.

2. Listening means shutting up.

There is no such thing as listening with one ear as you prepare your speech to contradict your enemy.

3. Treat every human with the respect and reverence you would give to God.

If you don’t believe in God, treat every human like you would your mother.

4. Be fully aware that in a democracy you will need to include other people who have lifestyles and ideas which are completely opposed to your own.

If it isn’t killing anyone, you will have to learn to adapt.

5. Practice kindness whenever you can.

In other words, if there are going to be conflicts, we need to also have many moments of gentleness in between, or we will start bashing each other instead of learning to enjoy one another.

In 2016, rights became more important than civility.

It was not merely a liberal problem nor a conservative problem. It became universal.

Help change 2017 by making sure that the way you express your opinion is just as respectful as the passion with which you proclaim it.

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Good News and Better News… December 26th, 2016


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good-news-christmas-morning

 

My Christmas morning:

  • Four tiny little ones
  • One twelve-year-old
  • A teenager
  • Eighteen adults
  • And six dogs marauding about, sniffing at presents.

It was all held in a lovely, but somewhat square-footage-impaired house in East Nashville.

Although most people consider Christmas to be a holiday season which they either enjoy or complain about trying to get through, I contend that Christmas is a microcosm of life as it should be. It’s a collision of giving and receiving, organizing and finding yourself surprised by a slip-up, and having a crunch of humanity around you which requires you to be open-minded and willing to adapt.

For instance, in the course of our morning, well over a hundred presents were opened.

Also, one of the young men decided to use it as an occasion to propose marriage to his girlfriend–an amazing precedent.

And there were moments of silliness followed by junctures of tenderness, concluding with decisions to stay energetic enough to survive the gauntlet.

The adults made themselves flexible to appreciate toys opened by Santa believers and the subtleties of certain gifts which needed to be explained because they only had significance to the recipient.

Then, in the midst of the festivities and the brunch following, we discovered that one of the guests just lost his grandma. She had passed away in her sleep.

Quiet–and amazing it was how quickly it settled on the room, even among the children. A time to feel and consider the magnitude of such a departure.

Tears.

Gentleness.

Allowing ourselves to transition from one emotion to another without trauma or drama, to return to eating and enjoying one another as life insisted on pushing forward. I heard one person declare the day a “miracle,” but actually, it’s the way our lives are meant to be lived: in abundance.

Abundant opportunities

Abundant problems

Abundant relationships

Abundant attempts

Abundant failures

Abundant successes

And abundant gratitude

The good news is that Christmas is a time for abundance.

The better news is that the baby in the manger came to give us life, and it more abundantly.

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Ask Jonathots … December 8th, 2016


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What do you think about the idea that people get depressed during the holidays? Do you believe in “Blue Christmas?”

The diagnosis of depression is applied to everything from copouts to extreme physiological disorders. It is a shame that such a legitimate concern is rendered questionable by people who simply want to feel sorry for themselves.

So when we talk about depression, we’re referring to three different regions of human behavior:

  1. Fear of the afar
  2. Fear of our surroundings
  3. Fear borne from a chemical imbalance within

So when dear hearts come to us and say they’re in no mood to celebrate Christmas because it leaves them sad, it is important that we listen to them and decide if they’re expressing some apprehension about the world around them, some feeling of a lack of appreciation by those they interact with, or whether the recent concern about the holidays is aggravating what seems to be an ongoing thread in their lives.

Those who are involved in conspiracy theories or worry about what’s going on in our world can often be comforted with good cheer, a sense of well-being and the knowledge that someone cares for them.

Others who are disappointed by their surroundings or who have been subjected to mistreatment are often healed right before our eyes by a spirit of gentleness and kindness.

And those who have physiological roots for their depression need our encouragement to see a doctor so they can feel better.

So during this holiday season, when you run across people who are expressing misgivings, start with some good cheer and give them a listening ear, and see if that doesn’t lift their spirits.

If it does, you are like the angels on high, who declared “peace on Earth, good will toward men.”

But if your attempts at healing still leave them feeling empty, you might use your holiday joy to encourage them to seek an answer and find out the source of their depression within.

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Mr. Kringle’s Tales …26 Stories ‘Til Christmas

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An advent calendar of stories, designed to enchant readers of all ages

“Quite literally the best Christmas stories I have ever read.” — Arthur Holland, Shelby, North Carolina

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Good News and Better News … October 17th, 2016


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good-news-essexville-window

An explosion.

When an atomic bomb strikes Earth, those within a 25-mile radius are annihilated. The other folks who survive the initial blast are left behind as victims of a radioactive fallout that drifts from the skies, absorbed into the bloodstream, producing a delayed, miserable demise.

On November 9th, all the “bombing” that has been done by this Presidential election will be completed and we will have a new leader. There will be some cynical laughter from pundits about how “nasty” the campaign was and how good it will be to get back to normal

But it won’t be normal.

good-news-essexville-jon-mouthThe fallout from this mayhem will follow us and haunt us, creating tiny little tombs in our consciousness and interactions.

This was heavy on my mind yesterday–as I became the blessed soul allowed to share his heart at St. Luke’s United Methodist Church in Essexville, Michigan. Being the beneficiary of a warm embrace of welcome from Pastor Eric and the congregation, I realized that very soon these precious human beings will have to emerge from the bomb shelter of this contentious season of politics, and try to resume mission as followers of Jesus.

I hope they will be aware enough to notice the symptoms from the poison that remains after such a cataclysmic event. Because our country will struggle for some time–to regain gentleness, kindness, awareness and love.

All of these necessary virtues have been challenged during this back-and-forth exchange between the political parties, taunting us into believing that such tenderness is a thing of the past, insufficient for achieving modern goals.good-news-essexville-piano

So knowing that we’re going to have a couple more weeks of the bombardment, let us start protecting ourselves–making sure that the fallout does not poison our hopes.

1. Let’s be gentle.

“I think about how it feels for other people before I do it.”

2. Don’t forget kind.

“I’m always looking for a way to bless.”

3. Awareness.

“I’m not alone on this planet, so it’s a good idea to bring two of something–just in case my neighbor forgot.”

4. Loving

“I take the time, energy and intuition to rid myself of the fear that makes me ill-prepared to be a contributor to the common good.”

good-news-essexville-janMuch thanks to the folks in Essexville.

But like your namesake, Dr. Luke, you need to be prepared to be healers.

So the good news is, the strafing is nearly over.

The better news is: we will survive the fallout through gentleness, kindness, awareness and love.

 

 

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Jesonian: Reverend Meningsbee (Part 3) Go Before You Come … May 15th, 2016


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Reverend Meningsbee

Monday, between 10:00 A. M. and 2:00 P. M., twenty-three calls came into the Garsonville church.

Two were positive.

The other twenty-one fell into three categories:

  1. “Our family has sat on that same pew for three generations.”
  2. “I don’t think it’s good for us to sit so close together, especially during flu season.”
  3. “It’s a free country. No one’s gonna tell me where I can sit.”

So it was no big surprise when the next Sunday rolled around and fifteen less faithful attended the worship service.

Once again, they were handed a half-sheet as a bulletin, and the information was much the same, except that this week’s thought was taken from Matthew the 5th Chapter, verses 23-24.

After the requested hymn, “Stand Up for Jesus,” was sung, the pastor pulled up a chair, sat down, and addressed the congregated.

“Thank you all for being here. Thank you all for being faithful. Thank you all for remaining close. God wants His house full. From where we’re sitting, it looks pretty stuffed. There’s plenty of room to the rear, but that is a matter for the leading of the Spirit and time.

But the next thing that makes us a ‘Jesus church’ is found in Matthew 5:23-24.

We have to stop believing that coming here is about worshipping God instead of honoring God by how we fellowship, enjoy each other and how we treat our brothers and sisters.

In this little piece from the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus makes a very simple point. He says don’t smugly come to church if you know there’s somebody who’s angry with you.

He doesn’t say it’s about us being angry with them. But sometimes other folks get mad at us. We don’t always understand why, so we hope it blows over, or even pray that they’ll grow up.

Church is not about God. It’s about people.

So in a few moments we’re going to have a season of silence with our heads bowed. I want you to do something for me–actually, for yourself. If you know there’s somebody who’s upset with you or if you have an unresolved conflict, or you’ve heard that someone is offended, I want you to get up from your seat, and before you go home, stop off, see them and make your peace, so when you come back here next week you will be reconciled with them and you’ll have a great story to share.”

It would be difficult to describe the collective expression on the faces of the gathered. Although they comprehended Meningsbee’s message, application seemed a little awkward, or maybe even intrusive.

Yet when silence ensued and heads were bowed, twelve people rose to their feet and departed the sanctuary to find the soul that was miffed.

When the rest of the folks opened their eyes, Reverend Meningsbee asked if anyone had a testimony of how reconciliation had already been achieved.

There were four shining examples, a closing prayer, and everyone was on their way.

Although it was a very tiny group that still remained, there was a warmth, gentleness and simplicity in the hearts of each one–with a tear or two in view.

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