Sit Down Comedy … May 22nd, 2020

Jonathots Daily Blog

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Sit Down Comedy

I was a fully grown, on-my-own 34-year-old man before I held three thousand dollars in my hands that was mine and mine alone.

I mean, ours and ours alone. For the entire family had traveled for a year all across the nation—sharing our talent, our hearts and our simple message of common sense, to land in the month of December with a nest egg which we were about to crack open and turn into individual omelets.

But before we did, I decided to take my young sons to a halfway house for recovering alcoholics, where those whose “down and out” had finally brought them to the point that they needed human care.

I let my kids sit with these gentlemen and listen to their stories, messages of redemption. I was hoping my sons would understand how blessed they were to surpass survival and be granted bounty. It was an amazing experience.

Everyone was thrilled because one of the occupants, who had been hooked on liquor for years, was finally going to get to go home to Mississippi to see his family. It had been five years.

His name was Herbie.

He was mentally challenged—but still able to maintain a conversation and make sense.

I shared. I told the whole room about our magnificent year and how much God had sustained us and endowed us.

Unfortunately, I was carrying our whole financial bonanza in my wallet, simply because it made me feel good and I was obviously not cleared for prosperity.

So when I went to the bathroom, my wallet slipped out the back end of my pants, and one of the inhabitants of the house found it and brought it back to me. He was praised for his honesty, and I gave him twenty dollars for retrieving my wallet.

That was before I counted the money inside.

I knew exactly how much money I had. So when I counted it, and it was $810 light, I faced a problem. Aggravating the situation was that my nine-year-old son overheard a conversation between Herbie and his buddy, in which it was made clear that Herbie was our thief.  My boy had found a corner where he was unnoticed and happened to listen in on Herbie bragging to his bunk-mate.

I didn’t know what to do. I am much more comfortable being human than trying for sainthood.

I was pissed off that I had been pilfered.

I didn’t want to attack Herbie or hurt him in any way. He had much work to do on his journey, escaping addiction. I didn’t want to be the reason he returned to the bottle, but I also didn’t want this fellow to think he could receive kindness and give back evil.

So I asked Herbie to join me in a room—just the two of us. I talked to him for a good half-hour, opening the door for him to admit what he had done. I even offered to pay for his bus ticket to Mississippi and give him a hundred dollars to buy presents for his family.

Never have I seen a man so totally divided between purity and holding onto what he had stolen.

By the end of the half-hour, he had wiggled and squirmed all the way down into the “hog-squaller,” where repentance usually brings about mercy.

But he just couldn’t do it.

I have heard rumors that in hours of confusion, God will provide the grace to be gracious. Apparently, this applies to everyone but me.

I was infuriated. I was defensive.

I took every one of my childhood prejudices against the poor and spilled them out in my heart, trying to decide what accusation to pursue next.

The worst part? $2,160 is not $3,000.

Yes—the numbers bothered me. I was enraged that this fellow was going to get away with his crime simply because he appeared to be helpless, weak and beaten up.

We finished our visit at the mission by singing a song. Before we sang, I commented, “This was an amazing day. Amazing because I got to meet all of you. But also amazing because one of you stole money from me.”

There was a gasp. The chaplain of all the chaps turned white in horror.

It was a cruel thing I did.

It could have been done differently, and I suppose the next time (or at least the time after) when I have eight hundred dollars snatched, I will be more polished and organized.

But on this day, I was deflated and out to hurt someone.

It was three days later, when I was wrapping presents for my children, that I realized how much we had and how comfortable we were. I finally gave myself permission to consider a different ending for my story.

For the truth is, having good cheer means sometimes maintaining the cheer when the good runs away.

I’ve told this tale many times.

I’ve never lied and said I believed it was God’s will or that there was some good done with the money that was better than what our family would have chosen to pursue.

I don’t believe any of that.

But each time I’ve shared, the spirit of hope lights up a different part of the tale, making me think deeper about myself, money and Herbie.

Today’s revelation was that my son, who must have been terrified to hear the man confess to the thievery, trusted me enough to report instead of nervously hiding the truth for fear of being wrong.

Everything doesn’t work out.

Everything certainly doesn’t work out to the good.

But everything, in its own way, does work out.

Good News and Better News … October 5th, 2015

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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Good News Cross Plains

Yesterday I had the chance to share at a Lutheran church in Cross Plains, Wisconsin.

Lutherans believe in grace. I have to admit, I do favor that particular favoring. Grace seems to be a cool drink of water on a hot day.

But I must tell you, I do think grace requires a bit of confirmation.

Just as kind is bolstered by a bit of kindness, and love is greatly enhanced by loving, grace waits patiently for the arrival of gracious.

Yes, those who have been bestowed grace are given the opportunity of being gracious. It is an opportunity that certainly should be embraced as an expectation. And what is gracious?

Gracious is when we wink our eye at our brothers and sisters and laughingly say, “You think you’re bad? You should know me!”

  • It’s endearing.
  • It’s humble.
  • It’s human.
  • It’s funny.
  • It’s relaxed.
  • And it is the definition, in human form, of good cheer.

I looked for the presence of gracious in my Cross Plains hosts.

Wow. They did good.

They welcomed us. They listened, They were helpful. They shared their own hearts without fear. And most importantly, rather than standing at a distance in piety, they learned.

It was amazing.

So what is my contribution to this lovely group of people I met in Cross Plains? Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that you’re either too young or too old.

The church is losing its power by eliminating the youth, and assuming that those who have reached retirement are incapable of transformation. If you’re going to stunt the growth of a congregation by thinking people are too young or too old, you’ll put your faith in those in the middle, who are completely encompassed with raising children and having their mortgage growl at them every month. These are not the people to lead your church–these are the folks who desperately need the ministry of the church.

But getting your younger members to be excited about church again, and your older folks to put their work boots back on instead of setting them in the corner, is what will transform all churches–including the Lutheran souls in Cross Plains–into a force of gracious effort.

I so enjoyed all the people I met.

I was greeted with warm handshakes, smiles, tears, hugs and one dear lady even kissed me.

But good Lutherans that you are, please remember, grace is much easier to understand when it is acted out by those who are gracious.

And it will be the young who will see visions ,,, and your older folks who will hatch new dreams.

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