Jesonian … February 3rd, 2018

 Jonathots Daily Blog

(3572)

Slow, stalled, passed the exit.

These are positions we find ourselves in when it comes to the progress of our lives.

Sometimes it feels like things are going too slow.

Certainly we can feel stalled.

And those who possess a pint of wisdom are fully aware that you can go so fast that you pass the exit.

The human instinct is to cover up the situation–for after all, it’s difficult to admit that you’re slow or stalled, and confessing to being oblivious and missing an opportunity is extraordinarily painful.

Jesus was human–therefore he went through this.

After all, he didn’t get started until he was thirty. Talk about a failure to launch. History is kind to him because once he got going he was rather productive. Yet had he continued to minister with the same passion he demonstrated as a carpenter, the most famous Jesus in the world would be a baseball player from the Dominican Republic.

The secret to his emergence is found in John the 2nd Chapter. It’s a seven step process–which sounds formidable, but since it is so logical, it may be fairly easy to remember.

At thirty years of age, he decided to find himself.

1. Find yourself.

Yes, don’t annoy the world around you by arriving at your dream without a map–especially absent the GPS to your own soul.

Jesus went into the wilderness, he dealt with his appetites and emerged with the correct meshing of awareness and humility. Once he discovered himself, he went out to:

2. Find some friends.

It’s usually more a mutual discovery. When you clarify your position and you’re transparent, other humans who share your convictions stumble upon you.

Sometimes we try to make relationships work. Truthfully, if they don’t, they don’t. You can have a thousand conversations and never arrive at a point of agreement.

Embracing some friends led to the next step:

3. Find your place to start.

In the case of Jesus, since he had a message, his instinct might have been to preach or teach. He wanted to lead people to a greater understanding of themselves as children of God.

Jesus knew his goals. He aspired to share a manifesto which was simple to follow.

So Jesus went to a wedding in Cana of Galilee. It was the next thing on his calendar and it was his way of expressing that those who pursued him should welcome a celebration instead of a series of seminars.

Find your place to start.

And at this point in his ministry, five disciples came along to enjoy the festivities.

Almost immediately, Jesus was in a position where, like all of us, he needed to:

4. Find your calling.

This may surprise you, but Jesus was immediately cornered by a family member. His mother.

She felt it was her obligation to steer him in the right direction. After all, she was his mama, right?

So when she heard they had run out of wine at the wedding, she came to Jesus, explained the predicament–but also prodded him to use the occasion to manifest his workings.

At this point, Jesus chose his calling over his mother. Although he loved her, probably for the first time in his life, he referred to her as “woman.” Not “mother.” Not “my dear.”

He said, “Woman, what have I to do with thee?”

In that moment, he established an adult relationship, letting her know that they would now be walking the Earth as peers, not as “Mother Mary and little Jesus.”

If you can’t break away from your family obligation enough to find your calling, you will use those binding responsibilities to excuse your lack of activity.

5. Find your time.

That’s what Jesus said to Mary. I’m looking for the right time for me. Not your right time. Not my disciples’ right time. The time that’s right for me to do what I believe I’m supposed to do.

After considering this, Jesus did the bidding of his heart.

6. Do what you do.

He had the servants fill up the ceremonial clay pots with water. Hours earlier the water within those pots had been used to cleanse dirty feet, but Jesus asked that they be put to work again. Once they were filled, the contents of the vessels should be drawn off and taken to the master of ceremonies.

Speaking of that, all of this process grants us the privilege to:

7. Do it with flair.

People weren’t turning water into wine. They certainly were not using foot-washing pots to do it. The most common phrase uttered by those who had an encounter with Jesus was, “Wow. We’ve never seen it like this before.”

Don’t expect to make a difference if you aren’t different.

If you plan on following the common grid, filling in the blanks faithfully, you will also find yourself standing in line your whole life, with no distinguishing gifts.

Jesus took a wedding feast to establish the fact that he had found himself, acquired friends, had picked the place to start, and was ready to walk away from family obligations to pursue his calling. He had selected this time to do what he was able to do, and he performed it with flair.

This was not only the first public miracle of Jesus–this was his coming out party.

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Jesonian… April 29th, 2017

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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I’ve done enough.

Had enough, given enough, loved enough, lived enough.

Prayed, worked, cried…

ENOUGH

Laughed enough, cared enough and decided enough.

Tepid.

The temperature of America.

Ninety-eight point sick of buying, crying, lying, sighing, trying, vying…but in no hurry for dying.

Somewhere along the line, lukewarm has been presented as a virtuous temperance. Matter of fact, in our religious communities–especially Christian churches–the concept of pursuing, believing, striving and reaching has been discounted in favor of “immeasurable grace” that seems to cover a multitude of misunderstanding.

Yet the GPS of the Gospel is definitely set for the second mile.

Jesus had a disdain and dislike for anyone who was trying to glide through life without offering full commitment. From the manger in Bethlehem, where shepherds were beckoned from their work and wise men were required to travel hundreds of miles to follow a star, to the Book of Revelation, where Jesus tells one of the new churches that they were so noncommittal that they made him vomit, we see a Savior who wants us to be involved in saving ourselves.

It is the woman who touched the hem of his garment who was healed.

Another lady crawled across the floor so that she could stand upright and walk.

The blind man screamed at the top of his lungs for healing, even though the crowd thought he should shut up.

A centurian broke all protocol to ask a Jewish teacher to heal his servant, while admitting he was not worthy to have the Master come to his home.

It was the thief on the cross, who expressed faith in a “fellow criminal” hanging by his side, who achieved Paradise.

We are lying to people when we tell them that simply showing up will get them “up for the show.” The mere presence of praise songs in a church service does not promote worship–unless the people’s hearts are ablaze with gratitude.

Clever teaching of the Gospel with insightful stories falls flat unless it is heard by human beings who are looking for reasons to be energized.

The Pharisees hated Jesus because he was passionate. He ate, he drank, he fellowshipped, he interacted with all cultures, while never condemning anyone unless they condemned others or sat idly by, waiting for life to get better.

Don’t ever forget his words to the Jewish elder, Nicodemus: “You must be born again.”

And don’t ever think that you can tiptoe up to Jesus with a tepid, American attitude, feeling you’ve already done your part–and ever get his attention.

 

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Reverend Meningsbee (Part 35) A Finer Diner… January 1st, 2017

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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Reverend Meningsbee

Meningsbee was spooked.

He wasn’t exactly sure why–maybe it was being awakened by a stranger pounding on his door. Or it could be the haunting dream that Nico shared about empty boxes at Christmas time. Or maybe he was just baffled by why he was traveling through Texas, spending money to pretend he was a vagrant.

Whatever the reason, he gathered up his blankets, pillows and the few items he had brought into the motel room, threw them into the back seat of his car and headed out on the road.

He didn’t know where he was going, but he knew one thing for sure: it wasn’t Garsonville.

He wasn’t ready.

So he puttered around from little village to tiny burg for a couple of days, realizing he was going to have to call the church and have someone stand in for him on Sunday. It wouldn’t be a big deal–the congregation was practically on auto-pilot anyway. All the changes he had suggested had brought about a freedom and liberty which gave the people a delightful blending of humility and confidence.

So when he called the office to tell them he would be delayed, the secretary didn’t even question him.

He wasn’t going to Garsonville–but he did feel compelled to at least head in that direction.

So two days later, he found himself sitting in a small diner in Amarillo, Texas, when he looked up from his breakfast of two eggs, turkey sausage and toast, and saw Mercer.

At first his brain didn’t register. But after a second glance, he realized it really was Mercer, walking in the door of the diner.

Mercer was a member of the Garsonville congregation–a quiet, sturdy fellow who was so invisible that Meningsbee had never even learned his last name. He was also a little afraid of Mercer, because the fellow sometimes showed up wearing a camouflage tie.

But then, all of a sudden, in the middle of Amarillo, Texas, Mercer had appeared, with a little smile on his face.

Meningsbee could not disguise his shock, and as Mercer made his way to the table and sat down, he said, “Are you surprised, Reverend?”

“More than surprised,” said Meningsbee. “How did you find me?”

Mercer leaned back in his chair, peered at the Reverend and replied, “Well, I don’t know if I ever told you this, but I worked in Army Intelligence, and it didn’t take me long to follow the paper trail you left with your credit cards.”

Meningsbee frowned. Mercer continued, “Oh, don’t be upset. You can find anybody anytime you want as long as they’re willing to sign on the dotted line.”

“What are you doing here?” whispered Meningsbee.

“Well, I came to find you,” said Mercer. “Seems like I did a pretty good job.”

“Okay…” Meningsbee was not sure what else to say.

There was a slight pause and then Mercer filled in the silence. “What seems to be the problem, Pastor? Are you addicted to pills?”

Startled, Meningsbee replied, “Pills? No. Why would you think that?’

“Oh, it’s just that sometimes you have that pasty-white face of a heroin user.”

Meningsbee shook his head. “No, I’m not addicted to pills. Just pasty white.”

“Hookers?” asked Mercer.

“Again–no,” punctuated Meningsbee.

“Then it must be gambling.”

“Listen, Mercer. I don’t gamble.” Meningsbee realized if he didn’t speak up, Mercer would continue his probing. “If you must know, I’m very upset about what’s happening in our town with the broadcast, and also the intrusion they’ve made into my personal life.”

“You mean how they stole your computer?” asked Mercer.

“How’d you know that?”

“Once again–I was in Army Intelligence. If I want to know it, I can pretty well find out. What was on your computer?”

Meningsbee sat quietly. He didn’t know what to share with Mercer. He didn’t know anything about him. So he decided to be evasive.

“Personal things,” Meningsbee said flatly.

“Like pornography, you mean?” asked Mercer, leaning forward and lowering his voice.

“Maybe like that,” said Meningsbee, relenting.

Mercer chuckled. “Listen, Reverend. Nobody thinks you’re perfect. Lots of people don’t even think you’re good. There are even some folks who think you’re pretty bad. So here’s how it works–the people who know you aren’t perfect will forgive you. The people who think you’re kind of good will be alarmed that you made a mistake but they’ll get over it. And the people who think you’re bad will just think worse about you. You can’t win people. God’s been working on their hearts for thousands and thousands of years. Isn’t that what you preach? But you also can’t run. That’s somewhere in the Bible, isn’t it? So I came out here on my own to find you and let you know that our little town needs you. We’ve made some stupid mistakes trusting these big-town phonies. Now we look pretty ridiculous. We could sure use someone to help us get out of this. What do you say?”

“Are you gonna tell anybody about our conversation?”

“Well, I’ll tell you this, Parson. You got no business lookin’ at that trash. But it really ain’t my affair. Do I disrespect you for doing it? A little. But I’ll get over it. The point is–will you? Because pictures on the Internet will never replace the wife you lost.”

Maybe it was the tenderness of the statement.

Maybe it was too many days on the road in Texas.

Or maybe it was just dissatisfaction with his turkey sausage.

But Meningsbee broke down in tears.

Mercer stood to his feet and patted him on the shoulder. “Do you need me to follow you home, or do you know the way?”

Meningsbee chuckled. “I got my GPS set.” He looked up. “Thank you, Mercer.”

Mercer sprouted a big smile. “You don’t know my last name, do you?”

“I’m sorry, I don’t.”

“Well, good. That’ll make it harder for you to track me down.”

Mercer turned and walked out of the diner as Meningsbee stared straight ahead.

It was time to go back.

It was time to take on his responsibility.

And it was time to stop being afraid.

 

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Ask Jonathots … November 24th, 2016

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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How do you keep politics and religion from ruining a family gathering?

Life is truly about giving–but not merely in the sense of being generous. Rather, it’s about learning early and permanently when to give effort and when to give up.

Giving up can actually be one of the more noble steps of submission to overwhelming evidence. And giving effort is essential to achieve progress.

I bring this up in relationship to your question, because in order to have a good family gathering, you must know when to give effort and when to give up.

First of all, give up on changing people. You can’t, you won’t and you shouldn’t.

If Uncle Fred is a Republican, he will probably leave Thanksgiving evening equally as convinced. If Aunt Margaret is a Democrat, she will likewise ride her donkey out the door. And if any of your relatives claim to be atheists or insist that “all baptism must be by immersion or you’re not saved,” it is always a Godless pursuit to change those who are “all wet.”

So what can you do during a family gathering to be productive, but faithful to your own ideals? There is one simple, easy step:

Never speak in the abstract.

  • Don’t talk about doctrine.
  • Don’t talk about beliefs.
  • Don’t talk about Vladimir Putin.

Talk about your own life–your own goals, your own anecdotes–and in so doing, you gently confirm your beliefs.

In other words, if someone says “the homeless are a blight on the conscience of America,” wait until the conversation changes, and then double back and say, “I was waiting at a light at Wal-Mart, and a fellow was there with a sign, looking for money, so I rolled down my window with two dollars and I gave it to him, and he was so appreciative that it nearly made me cry.”

Then leave it alone.

When it comes to religion, humor is always your best vehicle:

“Well, I was driving down the road and I was nearly out of gas in a country setting and I wasn’t sure I would find a station. So I kept my eyes open, checked my GPS, but also–call me crazy–I said a little prayer. I’m not sure which one worked, or whether they worked together, but three minutes later I was at a gas station getting fueled up.”

Since you can’t change people, give up on that and instead, give effort into what you can change: your attitude toward people.

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G-Poppers … June 24th, 2016

 Jonathots Daily Blog

(2982)

Jon close up

All of G-Pop’s children want to be successful.

They like the sound of it.

They like the feel of it.

And certainly, they enjoy the benefits that come from being considered one of the “top dogs.”

Yet even though the willingness of each generation changes, the path to success remains the same. Matter of fact, no success can ever be acquired without understanding three undeniable realities:

1. The effort you are willing to give will always be insufficient.

2. The passion you bring will continually fall short.

3. The plan you have conceived will be found wanting.

It isn’t mean-spirited. It’s just a system that makes sure that the lazy, gluttonous, selfish cheaters don’t soak up all the treasures of the Earth.

So what is necessary to be successful? A two-word philosophy:

One more.

That’s it. It always takes one more. Whenever you think you have sufficiently addressed a situation, take the precaution of doing one more.

If someone asks you for two bottles of water, bring three. When you arrive, there will always be somebody who changed his or her mind and now wants one. You will look like a genius.

If you check your GPS, and it says a trip is going to take three hours and forty-five minutes, allot four hours and thirty minutes, just in case life throws you that normal curve in the road.

You never find success in the first mile.

  • It’s too crowded.
  • It’s too competitive.
  • It’s jammed up with people who think they have some sort of new angle on the present angle.

But along about the first mile mark, the competition lessens as the travelers lose heart or begin to pout because things were not as easy as they anticipated.

Anyone who is willing to go the second mile will find the journey simpler, less congested and a private pathway to their heart’s desire.

It always takes one more.

Sometimes it’s one more prayer.

Oftentimes it’s one additional follow-up instead of walking away and throwing in the towel.

Life is not out to get you–but life is also not out to help you,

G-Pop wants his children to know that the only way you aid your cause is to look at what you can bring–and then find one more to offer.

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Good News and Better News … May 2nd, 2016

 Jonathots Daily Blog

(2922)

Konnoak Hills UMC Good News

Our clothes get dirty.

When this happens, we check our GPS and head off toward a local laundromat.

It is always an adventure–we certainly encounter some intriguing human beings.

Jan met a woman who was frail, lying on a bench, who told her that she had spent the night in a hospital ward, taking chemotherapy. She explained that she needed to eat something but was not really hungry.

Jan pressed the point and offered to buy her a meal. The lady described in detail a certain entrée just down the road at Bojangles that she might be able to choke down–mentioning that she would want the selection with extra hot sauce.

So Jan and I trekked to Bojangles to procure the treat.

Why? Did we do it because we thought the woman was in need of nourishment? Were we convinced that this little action of mercy was a way to convey love and affection to this frail child of God?

Absolutely not. We did it for us. For after all, to do anything else makes you feel like crap.

Let’s understand something–people who are lost are horrible.

That’s why they’re lost. They’re not “partly good and partly bad.” They aren’t following five of the Ten Commandments. They are often selfish, liars and wiling to do almost anything to get their way.

The truth is, you have a choice in life: you can work or you can con. If you don’t want to work, you’ll probably end up conning.

Anyway, back to the story: we brought the chicken, gave it to the lady and left her alone to enjoy her delicacy. A few minutes later she was gone. (I asked Jan to do a sketch of her just so we would have the memory. See below.)

We have to remember what the purpose is for hope, faith and love.

We’re not hoping the world becomes a better place, that our faith will produce miracles, or love will change the planet.

Hope, faith and love abide. That’s what the Good Book says. They abide because they really don’t solve problems–they just prevent us from becoming part of the mess.

Hope gives me the confidence to get up every morning thinking I can actually accomplish my mission.

Faith embraces me with the belief that I am not alone–what I do and say matters.

And love is my doorway to escape hate because hate sucks.

When I went to the church on Sunday morning–Konnoak Hills United Methodist in Winston-Salem, North Carolina–this was fresh on my mind.

Such beautiful people with wonderful stories, who are constantly being bombarded with the concept that the world is changing at a breakneck pace, so they’d better grab onto the caboose or be left at the station.

Hogwash.

Right now in our country, “crazy” thinks it is the boss. It’s time for us to rise up and share the good news:

  • Shouting is loud, not smart.
  • Popular is advertised, not quality.
  • Anger is mean, not strong.
  • Cynical is frustrated, not clever.
  • And atheism is the absence of hope, not evidence of intellect.

I gave my faith, hope and love to the folks yesterday morning at Konnoak Hills. That’s the good news.

The better news is that I hope they’re smart enough to realize that the lost we are trying to reach can never be virtuous enough to please us.

It’s up to us to bring the heart, soul and patience to the matter.

 

Good News Winston Salem

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Good News and Better News … November 2nd, 2015

 Jonathots Daily Blog

(2741)

Good news Better news Columbus

I drove to Columbus, Ohio, to assist one soul. 483 miles round trip.

It was a decision:

  • If I go, then I’ll know I went.
  • If I don’t, I leave all circumstances to time and chance.
  • If I come up with a good excuse to stay and not go, then I will need evidence I tried–some extraordinary measure that expresses my concern. More than “I’m praying for you.”
  • If I make the journey, I risk expense and exhaustion.

“If, then.”

It got me thinking.

If there is a God, then there is a heaven.

Cool. Covered. Taken care of.

If there is no God, we really still need a heaven.

What is heavenly?

That which promotes life instead of death.

That which allows for my happiness and the happiness of others.

“Love your neighbor” jumps out as an essential ingredient.

How about being “the salt of the earth and the light of the world?”

And let us not forget, “don’t judge people”–or become your neighborhood ass.

Makes sense.

If there is no government to help the poor, then my two dollars, given to the guy on the street, becomes the safety net.

If there is a safety net, I can use my two dollars to help someone who can’t find it.

If there is no solution, then we will need really good diversions to keep us happy.

If there are solutions, then perhaps our task is to make big, easy-to-read signs so people can find the possibilities more easily.

I am not a destination; I am a GPS.

“Where do you want to go?”

That’s what I ask.

“Let’s find a good route.”

If there is no eternity, then it is all happening now.

So perhaps we should just “enjoy the heaven” out of it.

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