Good News and Better News … January 8th, 2018

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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Bethel United Methodist Church in Walterboro, South Carolina.

Although I’m not privy to your traveling plans, it does seem unlikely that you will ever make your way to darken the doors of this particular sanctuary. I did–just yesterday morning.

With a day that folks from Wisconsin would call “brisk” and those from South Carolina deemed “polar ice cap,” some very faithful locals gathered in the building to see what the weather and the road had brought to them via our humble efforts.

It started the day before, when Wally, Johnny and Collin arrived to help us set up, and all of my equipment, which had been sitting in the back of the van, tried to “fuzz out,” insisting it was Floridian. Overcoming those little missteps, we got all hooked up, and by Sunday morning, the Holy Spirit, resilient fellow that He is, arrived in a parka.

These are beautiful people. They are delightful human beings that the political parties take for granted, and the more snotty members of our society deem to be “simple.”

It’s a huge mistake. They are full of integrity; they have hearts which can be moved with the notion of a loving God, and after a considerable amount of time, they are even willing to embrace odd-looking strangers like Janet and myself.

As I sat and chatted with these adorable brothers and sisters, I was struck by a usable idea. All during my childhood and even in my adult years, I have been encouraged by society to “find my voice.”

Yes, “find your voice.”

But yesterday it struck me that this notion is the misconception that’s driving our problems into the ditch. People are trying very hard to find their own voice, and when all these individual voices speak together, what we have is” Tower of Babel II.”

Life is not about finding your voice–it’s about finding the voice.

The voice is humble, encouraging, respectful, open-minded, free of prejudice and also gentle and kind, with good cheer.

I suppose if you sat down all the people of Bethel United Methodist and had a political discussion, they might be at each other’s throats in three minutes.

That’s why we should never do that. We should take all things pertaining to government–“Caesar”–and let them stew in their own juices.

What we need to think about are the things that belong to God.

I’ve stopped trying to find my voice, and I’m looking for the voice. It is a voice that:

1. Encourages others.

2. Knows when to shut up.

3. Doesn’t repeat information unless there’s a personal experience.

4. Looks for a reason to be kind.

5. Quotes things that lift people up.

6. Refuses to accept complaining as natural.

7. Notices when things get better.

This morning I feel as joyous as a new baby colt. (They are joyous, aren’t they? I would think so.)

Because the good news is, I got to spend time with Wally, Johnny, Collin and the blessed souls of Bethel.

And the better news is, I got to practice once again finding The Voice instead of insisting on promoting mine.

 

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PoHymn: A Rustling in the Stagnant … December 27th, 2017

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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I Took This Year

I took this year

Or was it given to me?

To come way down here

Curious to see

Papa Grace was my dream

Blended blood, as a team

One can speak

Another touch

This one meek

The other giving much

Turning thoughts into actions

Joining one from the factions

You can increase

I will decrease

Both on our knees

Calm the nasty seas

But I was wrong

It must have been

Didn’t last long

Two, four, six, ten

I lost a year

Or was it stolen from me?

To cripple in fear

Never meant to be

So I will go

Without regret

The road has my show

A fisherman’s net

I will love you forever

But will always wonder

Was it my fault,

My clumsy blunder?

I release this year

To heaven’s care

With much good cheer

I’m off to share.

 

 

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Jesonian … December 23rd, 2017

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A baby being born in a sheep stall in Bethlehem of poor Palestinian parents is not difficult to believe. After all, poverty extracts much of the comfort of good cheer.

Maybe the angels seem a little far-fetched to you (but you know how it is with stories about your young’uns.)

Believing that a year-and-a-half later, a troop of astrologers made their way into town to proclaim this child the hope of the world and the King of the Jews does seem highly unlikely–yet there are always people who have their eccentric ways and live them out because they have enough money to fund them.

Comprehending that there could be a leader of a nation who was so insecure that he was frightened of any competition, and scared a young family away, fearing for their lives, does not seem improbable. Matter of fact, it could be ripped from the headlines. One more refugee family ending up in a foreign land where they have neither kin nor kind is certainly well within the grasp of reality.

Having that young boy return to his alleged home town at age seven, carrying all the trappings and mannerisms of the heathen, would certainly make growing up difficult, not to mention the colliding wills of an every-growing collection of siblings.

Thinking that this boy would have no interest in carpentry, but instead, a precocious passion for humanity and the things of Spirit, is not implausible. After all, he’s the ugly duckling, whom we assume might one day become a swan. He grew in wisdom and stature, and even though he was a foreigner, gradually gained the favor of his neighbors.

It’s not difficult to believe that he lost his Papa, his only real connection with the village of Nazareth, and like many young men, launched out to find some purpose, ending up at the Jordan River, interacting with a wild and wooly cousin named John.

You can certainly believe he got baptized, and probably went out into the wilderness for a while, just to find himself, coming back with claims of interfacing with the devil. You might even forgive his youthful explanation, knowing that to some degree, we all wrestle with our demons.

But the story stalls.

He is rejected by his home town, moves to Capernaum next to the Sea of Galilee, encompassed by a sea of apathy, picks up some friends and followers, and starts traveling the countryside. It is hit-and-miss at best.

It is at this point that many folks who consider themselves to be intelligent and reasonable become cynical about a miracle-worker who calms the waves and casts out demons. But to a certain degree, even those sardonic souls might be able to explain away this and that, but still maintain their interest in the story–especially since he begins to hammer away at religion, loses the favor of the crowd and opens the door of the hierarchy to plot against him, find a betrayer, try him, beat him, nail him to a cross and kill him.

If the story ended there, the baby born in Bethlehem had a life that was a complete failure. His friends are scattered in every direction, his movement was about to become a joke–a piece of farcical history.

So this is where faith comes in. That’s right–you don’t really have to use much to this point. You can just glide along with the story, picking and choosing at will.

But the tale that unfolds, spoken of by those who claimed to be eyewitnesses, is that this baby of Bethlehem rose from the dead.

Now … faith is in full function and also full demand.

Did Jesus of Bethlehem, Egypt, Nazareth, Jordan River, wilderness, Capernaum and Mesopotamia end his life as a failure, beaten down by his critics?

Or did God, the power of the Ethos and the Spirit of the Universe, choose to resurrect him to give the message one more chance?

It’s a very important decision.

It changes this story from a baby shower to a heaven-ordained miracle.

For as we know, several weeks later, a hundred and twenty people in an Upper Room believed it was true. Twelve disciples gave their lives as martyrs, insisting they had witnessed a resurrection.

And at last count, 2.2 billion humans still living two thousand years later have taken their faith beyond the crib, past the crypt … and placed it in the Christ.

 

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Good News and Better News… November 27th, 2017

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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Upon arriving at the Immanuel Lutheran Church in Palm City, Florida, we were greeted by Pastor Roy and John, who graciously agreed to carry in our equipment and assist us in any way possible. It is magnificent to run across human souls who welcome strangers–no matter how strange they may appear to be.

Pastor Roy is a congenial fellow who, like Matthew of old, was called from his trade to come and share the Gospel. Courteous, gentle, kind, inventive and helpful. During the time of our set-up, and also our whole visitation, this dear brother became and remained, our right arm.

I am humbled by such an active service.

I had one mission in Palm City–an attempt to escort beautiful children of God’s kingdom from fear to good cheer.

Fear grips us.

Good cheer greets us: Greets us with the awareness that all is well, God is with us and we have resource.

Being good Lutherans, they were naturally afraid of any show of spontaneous emotion. After all, we’re not positive that God isn’t a solemn and austere figure. (Of course, if He is, we’re in a world of trouble.)

Good cheer is what Jesus suggests we use to survive while he overcomes the world, which is full of tribulation.

I explained to these dear brothers and sisters that there’s a difference between clapping your hands and applause. Applause is often deemed an expression of appreciation or even praise for an artist. Clapping your hands is the most authentic evidence of the presence of joy.

So when we come into God’s house and we sit tight in our seats, afraid to move, waiting for the Eucharist, we miss the point of our gathering.

We should be there for three reasons: to strengthen one another, to care for one another and to confirm that the Gospel continues to be “good news.” All of our other traditions are delightful, but have little to do with what actually constitutes praise and worship.

So I told my new friends that I personally need no applause–but that God loves to hear them clap their hands.

So if you hear something good, see something good, feel tingly and warm in the Spirit or are overcome with joy: “Clap your hands, all ye people. Shout unto God with a voice of triumph.”

The good news is that when these Lutherans did so, the building reverberated with the power of love.

The better news is, if they will continue to release that Spirit through clapping their hands, many prayers for miracles will come their way.

 

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PoHymn: A Rustling in the Stagnant … November 22nd, 2017

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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We Gather

We gather with chatter

To make ourselves fatter

While tastin’ we bastin’

In dreams of a tender bird

Cornbread messing

Oyster dressing

With memories we cry

And celebrate with pie

The punch we are sipping

The gravy made from drippings

Butter up the bread

The table is now spread

Little ones crowd to see

Grandpa has to pee

Who will give the grace

Do it quick with praise

Our cake is angel food

The eggs, a bedeviled brood

The beans are green and onion clad

No one’s favorite scene

But still, all in all, not that bad

‘Taters are creamy

Desserts are dreamy

Coffee is hot

And always a lot

An embarrassing feast

Feeding the humble and least

We gather together

Being thankful for what matters

 

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Good News and Better News… November 20th, 2017

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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As we drove to our weekend gig, we crossed Tampa Bay, and Janet was able to quickly snap a fuzzy picture of a fish jumping out of the water.

A moment in time.

The truth is, in the climate of our present social insurrection, human souls everywhere are attempting to leap out of the murky waters of despair. It just isn’t very fun…being unhappy. Even when other folks around you insist that they,too, are miserable, that particular form of fellowship is quite unfulfilling.

The problem is, we think the Bible has all the answers, and if we pass it along to lost souls, they will be able to find their way to salvation.

It’s similar to being hired by a corporation and having the rule book passed to you, thinking that the regulations which have been jotted down should be able to guide you through the daily activities of your workplace.

Everybody knows the company manual has nothing to do with the success of enjoying your job. It’s all about your manager and how he or she uses the rules to generate a friendly, human, creative environment.

Here’s a simple statement: Christianity is just a bag full of beliefs until we come along and agree together on a philosophical approach and implement the
ideas.

So you see, I placed in today’s article a picture of an empty church. I think that’s where we need to start.

Our churches may not be full of people, but they are full of religion, practices, traditions, and preferred culture. Most of this has nothing to do with the teachings and lifestyle of Jesus.

We would do better to imagine our churches empty–and start from scratch to build an environment of people who are accepting, understanding, filled with good cheer and ready for both evolution and revolution.

The fish are jumpin’–but there’s no one there to catch ’em.

We’re too busy maintaining our traditions and our worship style. We want people to become “church folks”–so they have to accept the culture to fit in.

It is time for the church to ‘manage’ itself better, and create an atmosphere which I shall dub “compassionate chaos”–where mercy is revered much more than sacrifice.

The good news is that Jesus gave us a lifestyle, not a religion.

The better news is, if we will empty our church of too many pre-conceived religious practices, we can fill it with actual living human beings.

 

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PoHymn: A Rustling in the Stagnant … November 15th, 2017

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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He Forgot

He forgot to say thanks

Accused of misuse

She ignored subtle pranks

Suffered wicked abuse

He slept through the dream

And lost a better chance

She sat on the hay

And missed the next dance

He laughed at the warning

And drowned in defeat

She snoozed through the morning

And gave up her seat

He prayed for the sinner

Rejecting the single one

She mocked the latest winner

And never birthed her son

He shouted in the hallway

And left without learning

She heeded the bitcher’s say

The world just kept turning

He forgot

She ignored

Many were shot

I implored

For wisdom is everywhere

For those who watch

And dare to care

 

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