Good News and Better News… July 24th, 2017

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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Sunday morning, bright and early, I headed off with my buddy, Janet, to St. Timothy Lutheran Church in Melbourne (even though the words “bright and early” should never appear in the same sentence.)

Over the years, Ms. Clazzy and I have learned a very important lesson: those who have gathered in a church are not there to see us, no matter how much we’ve been advertised. And they’re not necessarily there to learn about God, either.

They are accustomed to gathering. It is a tradition. Each one has his or her reasons for being there–ranging from preparing the coffee to loving the organ music, to appreciating communion, to getting stuck with usher duty.

So it is ridiculous for the two of us to think that we will come in and move mountains, or even rearrange dirt piles. Our job is simple–and made easier by the kindness of those who assisted us with our equipment and by the tender spirit of Pastor Blaine Johnson.

We are to be grateful for those who’ve attended, encourage what we see that’s positive, and gently address what’s missing.

Without the initial burst of gratitude for what is available, you immediately becomes the eternal brat who is never satisfied unless you get your own way.

Do I wish there were more people at St. Timothy Lutheran Church? I don’t give it a second thought, since there aren’t.

Do I wish I was going to larger churches than St. Timothy Lutheran Church? I don’t give it a second thought, because I’m not.

I am grateful for all the souls before me.

Then there are things that come out which are delightful and positive. There are people who greet you even though they have never seen you before. There is a sense of organization that lends itself to progress instead of chaos. Opportunities.

Yet in the midst of Jan and myself being grateful and reveling in the positives set before us, some missing spaces are obvious. Shall we refer to these as an absence of the presence?

  • An absence of the presence of jubilation.
  • An absence of the presence of radiant joy.
  • An absence of the presence of personalizing the message of Jesus to our own endeavors.
  • An absence of the presence of giggling.
  • An absence of the presence of the hand clapping which symbolizes confirmation of inner glee.

Just quietly ask the question, what’s missing?–and then allow the Spirit of God to offer suggestions.

So while grateful for the congregated and my celebration of the positives, I talked to them about passion–the ability for the heart to stimulate praise instead of relying on the memory.

Did we make progress? Will next Sunday’s service at St. Timothy reflect any of the energy of the visitation?

It’s a foolish question; irrelevant.

Because the good news is that Pastor Blaine and the fine folks of St. Timothy found it in their hearts to invite us to come and share our talents.

And the better news is that God, in His infinite wisdom, leaves it up to each individual soul to determine what he or she will do with what has been seen and heard.Donate Button

 

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Jesonian… June 17th, 2017

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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Leprosy is a loser.

You lose feeling. You lose your fingers and your toes; you lose your friends. You lose interaction with the world around you. You lose control of your life. At least, that’s the way it was in Jesus’ day.

That is why it’s so remarkable that ten lepers got together and overlooked their angst to come up with a plan. They decided to go see Jesus.

I’m not so sure lepers do a whole lot together. I suppose there would be the fear that the infection in your brother or sister might even be worse than yours.

But ten of them planned a road trip. They even included one Samaritan, which all the Jews hated. I guess they gave him a free pass since they shared dying in common.

Ten lepers traveling together caused quite a stir. Everyone was frightened of the disease. Multiply that fear by ten. Therefore, getting anywhere near Jesus must have been a feat, and being granted an audience–the first miracle.

So when Jesus tells all ten lepers to go and show themselves to their priest, they launch off together on a mission of questionable potential. They are not immediately healed, nothing is changed and they’re on their way to see an aged rabbi who certainly possessed no remedy..

But along the way, suddenly each one of them is restored to wholeness, with beautiful pink flesh (or whatever color they originally had). We don’t know how long it took.

But being faithful, and even more aggressive to achieve their mission because of their restoration, they plunged ahead to come in contact with what would surely be a dumbfounded clergyman.

All except one.

The Samaritan–that renegade outsider–decides to turn back to see Jesus and thank him for the miracle. The other nine shake their heads in disbelief. They view themselves “the good ones”–the souls being obedient. They trudge on, praying for their errant companion as he races back to express his gratitude.

When the grateful, healed man from Samaria arrived and worshipped Jesus for giving him back his life, Jesus had a very interesting response.

First, let’s look at what he did not say. Jesus didn’t say, “Why are you here? I told you to go to the priest. Just like you Samaritans to not follow the rules.”

Or, “Because you didn’t do what I said, here’s your leprosy again.”

No–Jesus says something surprising. “Where are the other nine?”

This strikes me as a bit hypocritical, since Jesus sent them on a specific task to show themselves to a religious fellow to confirm their healing. But Jesus not only asks where they are–he mocks the nine for not having the gumption of the Samaritan, to return and express appreciation.

I view this as a warning–a gunshot in the air for all the righteous rowdies in our world who think because they follow some verse of scripture or some isolated command that they are viewed by the heavens as supernally superior. They tell you everything they are sure God finds unfavorable, and cite verses to prove their point.

They are wrong.

Jesus makes it clear–there is something greater than the written or spoken Word of God. It’s called “being led of the Spirit.”

And when the Spirit confirms to you that you’re healed and no priest had anything to do with it, and that the most valuable thing in life is to be grateful, you will bypass the initial command in order to follow the greater calling.

You don’t have to look very far in the life of Jesus to see that the scribes and Pharisees constantly reminded him that he was breaking Jewish law. His response was always basically the same: “You pursue the traditions of men instead of the heart of God.”

A Samaritan former leper broke a rule to fulfill a promise. Because he did, he was praised. And those who did everything by the book were mocked.

If you’re not prepared to go against the rules to fulfill the righteousness of where the Spirit is leading, don’t call yourself a follower of Jesus.

 

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G-Poppers … February 17th, 2017

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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Feelings.

They normally travel around with a forlorn adjective: hurt. Hurt feelings.

It is the most common malady of humans–even more prevalent than the cold.

Feelings are hurt for one simple reason: each one of us feels that we are more important and valuable than what others may feel at any given moment.

99% of the conflicts between nations are based on hurt feelings. Some of those painful emotions go back generations.

And even though we try to use education and religion to tamp down our need for recognition, deep within our hearts, we want to be treasured instead of trashed.

So we fight.

We argue.

We struggle.

We promote our value in comparison to the worth of others.

So we start grasping at subtle differences like skin color, sexual orientation and even gender.

  • “You can’t be as good as me because you’re a woman.”
  • You aren’t my equal because you’re black.”
  • “I’m more important because I’m an American.”

G-Pop wonders if his readers might want to become part of the solution instead of clogging up the train station heading to confusion.

It’s really simple: walk into your heart and fire apathy–as you hire appreciation.

Everyone needs the grace of gratitude.

The amount we receive determines how much fuel we have to fire up our engines toward success–or crash down in revenge.

G-Pop thinks it boils down to a sip, a cup and a bucket.

1. A sip: “Thanks.”

That just cools the dry, complaining, achy throat of anyone who is tired of being unappreciated.

2. A cup: “Thanks, we could not have done this without you.”

Not only cooled, but a quenching of the aggravation over a history of being used.

3. A bucket: “Thanks. You are just so freakin’ awesome.”

Now you’re tying generosity into the power of their character. It drenches them in joy.

Of course, you can overdo the bucket and you can under-do the sip. But if you’re wondering why human relationships don’t work, it’s because the fluid of thankfulness that should be flowing among us has dried up in favor of the desert of distance and ignorance.

G-Pop will tell you that most of us humans need at least a cup of appreciation a day. That’s a lot of sips–but certainly can be handled with one bucket.

The next person you meet will be parched from the lack of gratitude. He or she feels they’re important.

God has not given you the job to humble others, but instead, to moisten their feelings with legitimate appreciation.

 

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PoHymn: A Rustling in the Stagnant … February 1st, 2017

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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pohymn-what-is-kind

What Is Kind

Today I viewed a kindness

Which healed me of a blindness

For the lies make me weary

My soul dark and dreary

Drowning in the carnal swill

Cynical, angry, had my fill

When there it was before my eyes

The reason for learning, the essence of wise

All it was–opening a door

An insignificant, meaningless chore

Patient he was, allowing her to pass

Grateful she seemed, this aged lass

A smile passed between the two

“As unto others” is what we do

I stood and peered at the holy place

Where new friends came, face to face

And yearned to join their heavenly band

Find my place to lend a hand

I noticed a man with a cardboard sign

“Will work for food” read the line

I pulled a five from my stash

He popped a grin–so little cash

I nodded to him and sealed my mind

The only cure for crazy

Is to discover what is kind

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Good News and Better News… December 26th, 2016

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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My Christmas morning:

  • Four tiny little ones
  • One twelve-year-old
  • A teenager
  • Eighteen adults
  • And six dogs marauding about, sniffing at presents.

It was all held in a lovely, but somewhat square-footage-impaired house in East Nashville.

Although most people consider Christmas to be a holiday season which they either enjoy or complain about trying to get through, I contend that Christmas is a microcosm of life as it should be. It’s a collision of giving and receiving, organizing and finding yourself surprised by a slip-up, and having a crunch of humanity around you which requires you to be open-minded and willing to adapt.

For instance, in the course of our morning, well over a hundred presents were opened.

Also, one of the young men decided to use it as an occasion to propose marriage to his girlfriend–an amazing precedent.

And there were moments of silliness followed by junctures of tenderness, concluding with decisions to stay energetic enough to survive the gauntlet.

The adults made themselves flexible to appreciate toys opened by Santa believers and the subtleties of certain gifts which needed to be explained because they only had significance to the recipient.

Then, in the midst of the festivities and the brunch following, we discovered that one of the guests just lost his grandma. She had passed away in her sleep.

Quiet–and amazing it was how quickly it settled on the room, even among the children. A time to feel and consider the magnitude of such a departure.

Tears.

Gentleness.

Allowing ourselves to transition from one emotion to another without trauma or drama, to return to eating and enjoying one another as life insisted on pushing forward. I heard one person declare the day a “miracle,” but actually, it’s the way our lives are meant to be lived: in abundance.

Abundant opportunities

Abundant problems

Abundant relationships

Abundant attempts

Abundant failures

Abundant successes

And abundant gratitude

The good news is that Christmas is a time for abundance.

The better news is that the baby in the manger came to give us life, and it more abundantly.

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Good News and Better News … October 3rd, 2016

Jonathots Daily Blog

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good-news-frankenmuthUnderrated:

The cheese on a pizza.

Sliding on a pair of socks which just came out of the dryer.

A plate of nachos when you’re really, really hungry.

An evening of television without politics.

The Frankenmuth United Methodist Church.

Yes, to the outside observer, the congregation meeting in Frankenmuth seems to be a small, middle-America United Methodist Church. As a society, we’ve nearly given up on such institutions.

I totally disagree.

From the minute I stepped in the door and met Pastor Scott, with his warm, inviting, gentle ways, to when I walked out to climb in my van, I was awarded the opportunity to be in the presence of untapped miracles.

By no means am I trying to tell you that the emotional environment of the Frankenmuth United Methodist Church is suited to the taste of the common person. To him or her it would still reek of religion and provincial thinking.good-news-frankdnmuth-sign

But the potential is there to do great things for mankind. What is missing?

Joy.

Joy is the unity of confidence and gratitude: A confidence based on the fact that we feel valuable, and a gratitude because we know a bit about our own unworthiness.

  • Too much confidence appears to be arrogance.
  • Too much gratitude creates a timid soul.

How do we generate joy?

Joy is when our “face shows our place.”

In other words, it bubbles out. Peter, in the Epistle, declared it “a joy unspeakable and full of glory.”

The folks in Frankenmuth still believe that their “Father, which art in Heaven” is a hard-ass. It’s just difficult to look at Him as “Daddy” when you find His demands unrelenting.

It causes them to be cautious–more fearful than appreciative–and it makes them reluctant to invite others to church because they’re pretty sure their friends would be unimpressed.

The good news is, if the Frankenmuth United Methodist Church would allow for more emotion in their worship experience, they would begin to realize why they meet together.

The better news is: when they are more certain of the reasons for their gathering, others will want to gather around their reasons.

 

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