Good News and Better News… December 11th, 2017

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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Pictured are my wife, my granddaughter and my son, standing in a bandshell, Weston Park, Florida.

Jerrod, my son, produced an outdoor concert with the cooperation of three churches and invited two of their praise bands, while putting together a dramatic reenactment of the Nativity tradition.

It was cold.

Usually in Florida, when it’s cold, people escape into their homes and pull out blankets they purchased twenty years ago, which are still in plastic wrappers. But for some reason, a respectable, decent and nearly surprising gathering braved the chill to come, sit in a park and listen to music that was jubilant, if not pitch-perfect.

They perched patiently as the story of Christmas unfolded before their eyes with deliberation, dodging a few technical gaffes. I was among them, along with my comrade-in-tunefulness, Janet Clazzy.

I was struck with the beauty of the evening.

It was not all drenched in serendipity. The audience was tribal, and much too linked to their own concerns to homogenize into a spiritual sweet butter, but setting that aside, it was proof positive that the Christmas story still has wheels.

Honestly, as they told the tale in front of me, I giggled a little bit. If I were hearing this fantabulous explanation for the first time, I wondered if I would shake my head in disbelief.

But you see, it’s not about what happened in a manger two thousand years ago. It’s about what transpired in a park last night in Weston, Florida.

If an idea that appeared two thousand years ago can put a chill down your spine, (and not just because the thermometer dipped) and still has real human emotion, then you’ve discovered magic.

Christians are not better people. We have our share of sinners, assholes, pedophiles and fruitcakes. But we have a great back-story.

Our Savior doesn’t kill people.

Our Savior doesn’t want to hurt women and children.

Our Savior is humble.

Our Savior sets people free instead of locking them up in bondage.

Our Savior isn’t religious.

Our Savior was one of us.

I left warmed. (Well, at least warm enough to get to my car and turn on the heater.)

Congratulations to my son, my daughter-in-law, my granddaughter and my wife for having the courage to test the message of the angels one more time.

The good news is, when “Oh Come, All Ye Faithful” get together, the better news is, it brings “Joy to the World.”

 

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G-Poppers … June 2nd, 2017

 

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Tomorrow evening, G-Pop’s granddaughter is graduating from high school. It has given him some pause for reflection.

His major concern is that she’s going to be confronted with two domineering monster philosophies, each demanding recognition as the sole means of human operation.

Religion and reality.

Unfortunately, both continually change shape and form, making it nearly impossible to determine validity. But does it really boil down to that?

Is it God or no God?

Is it belief or science?

Or is it possible to believe in science?

Or have a scientific belief?

Or even follow a God who is aware of His own limitations?

True faith is not the absence of human involvement–it is the perfecting of it. After all, Jesus himself told us that when we give, we will be given back to–but not by God. He said men will give to us.

Giving is such an important part of life that every human understands its power, and rewards those who follow the idea. Not everything comes from God, and not everything is unearthed from the pages of a science book.

G-Pop wants his granddaughter to know the beautiful balance–and it revolves around four questions, and the order of these inquiries is essential:

1. What do I have?

Nothing in life happens until you know what you have. Otherwise, you’re convinced that you don’t have enough, or worse, nothing. It’s amazing how many problems are solved simply by taking inventory on what is actually in our available cupboard.

2. What do I need?

Often we overestimate our requirements, and simply by cutting a corner here or getting a good deal on something, or coming up with a better idea, we find out we don’t need nearly as much as we thought. As you can see, so far there’s no need for anyone else but you and your own integrity.

3. What can I believe?

Faith needs some substance. It needs to be birthed from your own soul–not because someone tells you they believe you should believe. What can you believe for yourself, about yourself, with yourself?

4. And finally, what belongs to God?

We do fall short. There are times that we just don’t have enough, can’t decrease our need or maybe cannot muster the faith to cover the situation. At that point, a willingness to allow a prayer to invite the Spirit of God to join us becomes effective, fervent righteousness.

How can G-Pop convince his granddaughter that it’s not a choice between religion and reality?

Rather, it is simply understanding that some things we already have, other things we don’t really need, on other occasions our faith is sufficient, and when it isn’t, God’s grace covers a multitude of inaccuracies.

 

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G-Poppers … January 27th, 2017

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18 years of age.

G-Pop’s granddaughter is celebrating today.

She is so excited. She has waited a lifetime for it–at least, her lifetime.

She is ready to be a person instead of a passenger.

A participant rather than a daughter.

A mover and not just a child.

G-Pop could share many superlatives about this young woman and bore you to tears.

She is intelligent to the point of being sharp.

She is clever and creative.

She is tender-hearted and allows tears to flow without shame.

Even though her life has been peppered with missteps, she went back, corrected them and took responsibility for the stumbles.

She is talented, she can sing, and dear Lord, she even plays the ukulele.

The canvas set before her is prepared for the beautiful colorations of her dreams.

But she is still plagued by one concern:

She doesn’t want to miss anything.

She doesn’t want to be considered an “also ran.”

She does not want people to believe she’s just a preacher’s daughter who cushioned herself from the realities of human life.

She wants to do it all.

She is frightened of becoming a “goody-two-shoes.”

It is a sensation that jolts the heart of every person who dares to pursue goodness. Can you chase the star of purity and still enjoy the cosmic journey?

But here’s the reality: nothing bad ever made anything good.

No vice ever actually promoted a versa.

No inhalation stimulated respiration.

No liquid spirit ever conjured a Holy Spirit.

Side-tracks. That’s what all those are–little temptations to distraction that we’ve convinced ourselves are necessary to add to our diary to make our lives seem plausible instead of merely a fairy tale.

What G-Pop would like to tell his granddaughter on this glorious day is that good is the only thing worth living for.

But you must never preach it.

Preaching good always leads to self-righteousness, selfishness and anger over missing out over some sort of sinful delicacy.

The more the reverend reverberates against iniquity, the more he is drawn to it. It is a historical fact.

God never gave us permission to preach good–thus the warning, “Don’t judge other people.”

G-Pop would also tell his granddaughter that being good is the curse of a thousand yearnings.

None of us are good. No, not one.

So every time we try to be good, we punish ourselves, incriminate our hearts and tear down our confidence. It’s why the phrase, “I’m sorry” needs to be at our tongue-tip, prepared to be uttered at any moment.

We’re just not good.

And those who try to be good often end up either lying or preaching. (I’m not sure if there’s a difference there.)

What G-Pop wants to wish to his beautiful, creative, gentle, comical granddaughter is the mission of doing good.

Good becomes very obvious because it’s always the thing that includes somebody besides yourself. It’s not hard to find–and even though you’re not going to preach against evil nor claim to be pure, the least you can do for a battered, bewildered and betrayed mankind is grant them the touch of grace brought by a moment of goodness.

I’m always enamored by the story that comes out of the 1969 music festival, Woodstock. Even though all the parents were critical of their young ones who went off to this “den of iniquity”–and perhaps there was a farm-load of sin being perpetuated in every field–when it was discovered that the purple acid was hurting people, they interrupted the concert and got on the microphone to warn their brothers and sisters to stay away from it.

They did good.

I suppose some pious parents might suggest that if the children were not taking acid in the first place, there would be no reason to avoid the purple.

But you see, that’s not life.

Life is realizing that wherever you are, whoever you’re working with, and whatever the rules for that environment, there is still a way to do good.

It does not make you a goody-two-shoes.

It means that you walk with feet of blessing.

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G-Poppers … July 1st, 2016

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G-Pop’s granddaughter called, very sad because she had just finished reading the story of the sinking of the Titanic.

Since she was fresh from the pages of the book and deeply touched by the loss of over fifteen hundred human lives, G-Pop comforted her. On another day, he decided, he would share with her the “Titanic Thinking” that brought about much of the calamity.

Matter of fact, most of that Titanic Thinking exists in our society today, as we thumb our noses at common sense, deeming ourselves invincible.

So many people could have been salvaged from that doomed situation if there had been a willingness to admit mistakes and seek reasonable and equitable solutions.

The first problem with all Titanic Thinking is:

1. We’re too big to fail.

Having constructed the largest, the best, the fastest and the brightest, we are completely intoxicated by the power of our own might.

  • Therefore, the Titanic did not have enough life boats. After all, why would they need them?
  • They didn’t have enough spotters looking for icebergs.
  • And with a sense of devil-may-care, they scooted at full throttle through what ended up being treacherous waters.

2. Don’t alarm the people.

Considering that the Titanic took several hours to sink, and there were masterful men and women of business, finance and commerce aboard ship, not to mention hardworking folk in steerage below–if these forces could have been united in a common goal, many more lives would have been retrieved.

But the captain and crew decided not to alarm the passengers.

There were many things on the Titanic that could float. How many make-shift rafts could have been put together? How many lifeboats could have been filled to capacity and beyond?

Not even an option. The reason they weren’t?

3. Some folks are better than others.

Because the Titanic was divided into first, second and third class, there was no ability for the passengers to interact and pool their information and strength, to assist in the salvation of their own lives.

You will take a toll if you believe that people are less than you–because the law of averages seems to play out that you eventually need them.

And finally:

4. It will work out.

This abiding foolishness, which some people call faith, was ill-placed in a man-made object which was at the mercy of a God-created sea. Yet deep in the hearts of most of the crew was the belief that the “good old boat would stay afloat” until help arrived.

Somewhere between a sense of dependence and independence lies truth. And when we are honest about our concerns and fears instead of hiding them behind the false bravado that “everything will work out,” we have a much better chance to survive.

Even though these thoughts came to G-Pop’s mind, he chose not to share this vivid detail with his young granddaughter. He was just pleased that her heart was touched by the loss of so many, so long ago.

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G-Poppers … October 16th, 2015

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Grandson and Granddaughter came running into the room under a great cloud of bickering.

Grandson had obviously had a tiff with a friend because he was proclaiming, “People are bad,” while Granddaughter was defending the race, saying that “people are good.”

G-Pop sat quietly listening, allowing the smoke to clear from their battle.

At length, Granddaughter asked, “What do you think, G-Pop? Are people bad? Or good?”

G-Pop smiled and said, “People are like really smart, well-trained dogs. They have learned that if they don’t pee on the carpet, they get more treats. If they stay out of the closet and refrain from chewing shoes, they receive more freedom on the leash. And if they learn when to bark, and certainly never bite, they are considered a treasure.”

“But when they’re not smart, and they’re poorly trained, they tend to run in packs, attacking anyone who’s weak. But let me tell you–it does not matter if the dog is smart or well-trained. You still must keep it away from cats and garbage cans–because every dog, when it gets around its enemy–the cat–turns into a scrapper. And every canine becomes nothing less than an animal when it hangs around the garbage.”

When G-Pop finished his little comparative narrative, he realized he was dealing with a split audience.

His grandson seemed delighted, having his faith restored that new tricks were possible from a “dogged” populace. But G-Pop’s granddaughter–well, she seemed disgusted, displaying a “screw the pooch” face.

“People aren’t dogs,” she snarled as she scampered out of the room.

G-Pop giggled. Turning to his grandson, he concluded, “She’s right, you know. People aren’t really dogs. Yet getting smarter and better trained may still be our best path to guarding our houses, while still remaining man’s best friend.”

 

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G-Poppers… May 29th, 2015

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G-Popper

He yelled at her.

Yes, G-Pop rebuked his teenage granddaughter because she failed to attend one of his performances when he was passing through the area.

She was offended.

To a certain degree, that made him even more angry, though he understood her predicament. From her perspective, she was young and he was old.

There was a danger that the “old” would link up with “fashioned” to make him completely unacceptable to her lifestyle.

Old-fashioned.

Why would she want to go out and see something old-fashioned or invite her friends to it? He understood.

It is the fear of every generation–that on their journey they would accidentally haul along pieces of their parents, which might classify them as completely out of step with new-fangled conclusions. She did not understand that G-Pop was fully aware of the dangers of being old-fashioned.

The true definition of old-fashioned is clinging to things you used to do even though they have proven to be ineffective, simply because you’ve grown accustomed to a certain way.

But in the world of reality, a prophet is a wise soul who studies history, then carefully predicts when it will repeat itself.

To always be current is to understand and deal with five important questions:

1. Does it take away freedom?

If it does, it won’t last very long.

2. Does it take away life?

Whatever kills eventually assassinates. In other words, if you limit or destroy life, you will be the final victim.

3. Does it take away faith?

As intriguing as it may be to shake your fist at the heavens, events will come your way which produce the need to lift your hands.

4. Does it take away equality?

Yes, it’s cute to talk about how men and women are ill-suited to one another, but since we share a planet, eventually we will have to learn to get along.

5. Does it take away motivation?

Listening to an interview with Howard Stern and the comedian, Louis C. K., both of them pointed out that smoking marijuana leaves people dull and disconnected. So even though there may be a rallying cry to legalize weed, it can never catch on, because the human race is–as advertised–actually a race.

G-Pop wished he could make his granddaughter understand, but popular ideas always show up in new, shiny boxes, failing to reveal … that they are recycled.

 

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G-Poppers… April 17, 2015

 

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G-Popper

G-Pop settled into a comfortable chair, grabbed the remote and readied himself to watch a movie that had been recommended to him by his son.

Granddaughter came in and struck up a conversation.

Granddaughter: What’cha watching?

G-Pop: It’s a movie your dad said was really good.

Granddaughter: Cool. Can I watch it with you?

G-Pop: Uh…no, I don’t think so. It’s a grown-up thing.

Granddaughter: Why do people always say that? What do they mean by “a grown-up thing?”

G-Pop: Well, it means that there are parts in the movie that are very grown-up and should only be seen by adults.

Granddaughter: Why is that? What would those be?

G-Pop: Just things that you don’t need to see right now because you’re not ready for them, and adults might find interesting or entertaining.

Granddaughter: Like what?

G-Pop: Well, like a murder mystery where they show you the murder and it can be pretty violent.

Granddaughter: Yeah, I get that, but is it interesting or entertaining to you–to see somebody murdered?

G-Pop: It’s not that the murder is entertaining. But the story that goes along with it can sometimes be intriguing…

Granddaughter: What does intriguing mean?

G-Pop: Well, it’s another word for interesting.

Granddaughter: So what else? Because I’ve seen people killed in movies.

G-Pop: I understand that. But sometimes the way they’re killed is pretty, well.. you know. Bloody.

Granddaughter: So do you like blood?

G-Pop: Once again, it’s not that I like the blood. But sometimes that scene, being really strong, makes the story more interesting.

Granddaughter: I don’t understand.

G-Pop: Exactly. That’s why you shouldn’t be watching it. Because you don’t understand.

Granddaughter: So you watch it because it’s interesting, and even though you don’t like the bloody scenes, you watch them anyway because you want to follow the story. Is that right?

G-Pop: Kind of. But it also has other grown-up things in it.

Granddaughter: Like what?

G-Pop: Somehow I knew you were gonna ask that. Well, bluntly, like romance.

Granddaughter: You mean kissing and stuff?

G-Pop: And lots of stuff. Stuff you don’t need to see right now because you need to be living the life of a girl instead of a woman.

Granddaughter: Do you like the kissing and stuff?

G-Pop: I suppose so. But it is grown-up kissing and stuff. It’s not the kind of kissing you have in your Disney movies. And before you ask, I would not know how to explain to you what grown-up kissing and stuff is. You have to talk to your mom and dad about that.

Granddaughter: I’m not trying to interrupt you, G-Pop, but are you saying that you watch the movies with the violence and the kissing and stuff and you kind of don’t look at that stuff very much and only put up with it so you can get the story. Is that right?

G-Pop: Sorta.

Granddaughter: So do you like some of the violence and the kissing and stuff?

G-Pop: Well, I filter some of the stuff out and I take some of the stuff in.

Granddaughter: How do you do that? Doesn’t it all get in your brain?

G-Pop: I suppose it does, but then I kind of push the stuff out that I don’t want and let the other stuff stay.

Granddaughter: You can really do that? I can’t. If I see something bad it sticks in my mind. It must be part of getting to be a grown-up–figuring out how to chase bad stuff out of your head.

G-Pop: I suppose.

Granddaughter: Well, thanks for talking to me. I won’t bother you any longer. Enjoy your movie.

Granddaughter left the room.

G-Pop sat for a long time. He thought about his movie. Then he began to wonder if he really needed it. He was watching it to kind of prove to his son that he was still cool.

So did he want to see it?

Did he want more violence in his life?

Did he want additional images that he had to kick out, that tried to hang onto his memory?

He couldn’t decide. But time had passed and other things needed to be done.

G-Pop left the room.

 

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