Good News and Better News … February 12th, 2018

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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You are not a farmer.

You are not called to plow, plant, kill weeds and fuss about the weather.

You are a sower.

Your parents were wrong–life is not about “being careful” so you won’t accidentally reap some undesirable result. As long as you’re not starving to death, hurting yourself or interfering with others, get out there and sow.

Your caution only hurts you.

Your intimidation robs you of the experience for which you yearn, and if you fail to achieve, makes you grumpy, old and judgmental. “How dare other people have fun in my presence?”

The story goes, “A sower went forth to sow seed.”

The end result of the process is as follows: Once you drop, you end up with a flop or a crop.

That’s how easy it is. And according to this tale, most of the time it is a flop. Yes, we sustain enthusiasm through many a disappointment, reveling in the sweetness of pleasure.

Some seed will just miss. It won’t get anywhere near soil. Forgive yourself. Laugh it off. “Okay, it landed by the wayside.” Maybe you can aim better next time. It didn’t do anything you wanted it to do. Get over it. Keep in mind, when you refuse to partake of life, you sit in your own sediment until you stink.

Some of the “drop” lands on stony ground. Yeah, the idea started out good, but it didn’t have sustaining power. This doesn’t mean you don’t get joy out of the undertaking. It’s the power of knowing when to walk away. And here’s a clue–when it stops being fun, you should start looking for your shoes.

Some of the seed you drop lands in the middle of thistles. Now, this is soil that’ll grow anything–good and bad. The trouble is, sometimes the bad eats up the good, so it’s not the greatest climate to maintain a cherished mission. Keep sowing.

And some seed miraculously lands right in the middle of rich soil, grows and gives you a crop. This is why we celebrate. It’s why we praise. It’s why we reflect. Why we testify.

We do all of these because success doesn’t happen as often as failure, and if you refuse to try because “doom is more likely than bloom,” you will only guarantee yourself the failure of nothingness.

And if you’re surprised that things don’t work out the way you planned, you may just hang up your bag of seed and pout.

The good news is, we are not farmers–we are sowers.

The better news is, every once in a while we sow into the right soil, and the meaning of life grows right in front of our eyes.

 

 

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Good News and Better News … February 5th, 2018

 Jonathots Daily Blog

(3574)

Jesus challenged his followers to “seek first the Kingdom of God (and His righteousness.)” For a long time this has been misinterpreted by professional religionists who feel the need to promote practice and ritual over personal responsibility.

Jesus said, “The Kingdom of God is within you.”

  • It is not in Jerusalem.
  • It is not in the Bible.
  • It is not in church services.

So I would like to introduce you to a phrase:

“Take care of your 80.”

About 80% of your life is in your control–not subject to destiny, luck or even divine intervention. It is yours and yours alone. Not only is the devil unable to make you do anything, but God, Himself, doesn’t tempt anyone.

The Earth is the Earth. You habitate the Earth. So the more you learn about the Earth and yourself, the better off you are.

After traveling for nearly four decades, I can tell you that the organism of belief–the church–has borrowed entirely too much from mysticism, astrology, mythology and even the Druids. The church now promotes a theology which is personally irresponsible, allowing all sorts of angels and devils to manhandle the helm of the Good Ship Human.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

80% of who I am, what I do, how I feel, how much I eat, how much I exercise, whom I love and the way I carry myself is totally in my own control.

Nothing of quality happens in your life until you understand this.

The other 20% is time, chance and genetics. There’s not much you can do about these three, but if your 80% is solid, you are quite prepared to weather the storms. And Jesus gives the reassurance that if you take care of your 80, the other 20 will be “added unto you.”

What a promise.

What is missing in our religious system is the authority Jesus placed in each of us, to motivate our lives toward excellence.

It is a journey that acknowledges the necessity of the first mile by introducing a second one.

It is a belief that we will acquire enemies, and the best way to deter them is to love them.

If you take care of your 80, Jesus said he would take care of your 20.

If we do not teach people to take care of their 80, we cripple them in false promises and biblical witchcraft.

The good news is that 80% of your life is in your control.

The better news is, when you do what you are supposed to do in a righteous pursuit of understanding yourself, all the “uncontrollables” are handled for you.

 

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Good News and Better News … January 22nd, 2018

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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She stopped for five minutes to listen to the young teenage girl lament over the fussiness of a budding love life.

Arriving in the kitchen, he found a mess, but rather than complaining about it, he hummed a song while he cleaned it up, telling no one of his deeds.

She noticed that one of the pages of the hymn book was ripped. Rather than bothering anyone in leadership, she found some invisible scotch tape and repaired it–nearly good as new.

One of the older ladies was on her way to complain to an usher about a stopped-up toilet when he intercepted her, followed her to the restroom and successfully unclogged her need.

Realizing that the young preacher was very insecure in his new position, she was careful to take notes and ask him questions to further stimulate his study and bolster his ego.

Knowing that the choir director was employed to work with the existing talent to provide anthems for the church on Sunday mornings, he was very careful to encourage the conductor for his efforts instead of wondering why the altos were always just a little off-key.

And she–well, she noticed there was a young woman who took several extra pieces of cake off the hospitality tray every week, tucking them into her purse, with her little girl in tow. Coming to the conclusion that there might be some hunger need there, the following week she brought a cake just for them–fresh, sweet and theirs alone.

Church happens all the time. We just don’t call it church. We call it mercy, compassion, tenderness and concern.

Somehow or another we’ve convinced ourselves that true church is a worshipful atmosphere of massaging God’s ego.

The good news is that Jesus was a humanist.

The better news is, when we love one another and care for each other’s needs, we become the best friend of the Master.

 

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Good News and Better News … January 8th, 2018

 Jonathots Daily Blog

(3546)

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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Good News and Better News … December 25th, 2017

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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I went to church today.

There was no choir. There were no pews. There was no sermon. There was no invocation, except the squealing delight of children. There was no real benediction, but for the promises of those who had gathered to stay more in contact.

There was no threat of damnation, nor promise of streets of gold. There was so much contentment in being together that intimidation was unnecessary, and coercion, meaningless.

You see, I’m a father.

As a father, I do not evaluate my children by how much they adore me or praise my name. I determine the health of my children by how much they love each other–because it would be easy for them to despise their siblings so as to gain my favor, and perhaps, secure a sweeter inheritance.

So praising Daddy does not mean nearly as much as honoring one another.

In the church service this morning, there was respect for humanity. There was anticipation in the eyes of those who were giving, and a nervous jubilance twitching in the fingertips of those who were preparing to receive. An electricity filled the air that could only be adequately fueled by a perpetual flow of sweets and treats.

It was a worship of the Christ child–a salute to a simple birth, which simply ushered in the possibility of “peace on Earth, good will toward men.”

It was an intergenerational feast day of emotion and anticipation, culminating in the removal of all vexation, curses and grudges.

It was the kind of meeting of souls that causes the angels to sit back in awe, pricked in the heart with a bit of jealousy over not being human.

For we do everything best just as we do everything worst. We are God’s creation, who knows both the knowledge of good and the depths of evil.

Oh, but when we want to be good…we can be amazing.

We can bring tears to our Heavenly Father’s eyes when we tenderly take our human flesh and extend it from His mind and soul to reach into the hearts and lives of others.

Today I went to church. Some people would call it Christmas morning.

The good news is that Christmas morning is church.

The better news is, the more we take every church service and make it like Christmas morning, the more blessed the world would be.

 

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Good News and Better News… December 4th, 2017

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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Somewhere along the line, we have convinced ourselves that church is supposed to be a service–a program put together with songs, testimonies and a sermon, where those in attendance can worship God.

There is no Biblical basis for this kind of thrown-together event. It is a by-product of Catholicism, which borrowed many of its ideas from the Roman hierarchy or the other religions of ancient times, which were ceremonially based.

In pursuing this piety, we have removed two of the basic powerful principles that provide the righteous realization for coming together: including and using.

Yes–church is supposed to include me and you, and find ways for us to discover our usefulness. When you remove a sense of inclusion and the possibility of a person being useful, the motivation for merely gathering in order to revere is not enough to keep the pews filled.

It was the heart of the Master to include people and then make them useful–or maybe not make them useful–just find out where they were useful.

Whether a prostitute or demon-possessed man, Jesus surrounded them with a sense of inclusion and then put in place a purpose and use for their presence.

So a woman at the well became his advertising agent for a revival.

A man who had been possessed by a thousand demons became his public spokesman for a whole region.

And Mary of Magdala, who herself was possessed by seven demons, became one of his right-hand people.

We have lost the power of inclusion. Matter of fact, the church is notorious for disincluding certain groups of the community because of their wickedness or weakness.

So when you walk in the door, you’re handed a program–or not, for those churches which think they are free-wheeling and fancy-free–and you listen to an eight- or nine-piece praise band, which has over-practiced facial expressions while under performing musically, and stare at a screen to sing songs of repetition, waiting for the hour to creep by.

“Not my church!” you say.

But the reality is, just because you have grown accustomed to your surroundings and are accepted within the cave of understanding does not mean a stranger could come in and access the same gentleness.

Here is our new truth:

How big is your congregation? Eight billion and growing, because we include the whole world. But every week we have about two hundred people who attend who are so useful we couldn’t do without them.

Now, that’s church.

Until we abandon a fear of God which has us stuck at the beginning of wisdom, unable to progress, we will gradually see people trickle away because they don’t feel included, and they certainly do not sense they are useful.

The good news is, “whosoever will may come.”

The better news is, we sure hope you show up, because we could sure use you.

 

 

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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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