Salient … May 21st, 2018


 Jonathots Daily Blog

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There are matters that are too important to ignore or leave to chance. These are salient moments.

There is no escape.

No value in running.

Certainly no place to hide.

There are nearly a billion eyeballs staring at you and tens of millions of I-Phones trained on your every move.

Privacy is a concept but never a reality. You are being viewed, and often critically. Even individuals who do not speak to you are still noting your temperament, actions, generosity or lack of compassion.

Perhaps the greatest irony in the human experience is the notion that each one of us should carry a certain amount of overwrought self-esteem, even though simultaneously, you will not tolerate it in any other mortal.

Common sense should kick in. You and I should realize that since we are a species that respects the hell out of humility, pushing our self-worth too far guarantees a backlash from those who feel we are overbearing.

You must realize that kindness, mercy, grace and gentleness are not virtues but rather, precautions–used by intelligent people to protect them from the galling scrutiny of bystanders who draw conclusions from very little evidence.

And from those conclusions they decide how they will treat you.

Case in point:

Sometimes they don’t even know why they don’t like you, but they remember how you cut someone off in traffic, and it pissed them off.

They recall being in the room when you lied to your wife or your family.

They watch as, for the fourteenth time, you walk by a homeless person who is seeking a buck.

They burn with anger over your lack of consideration, caused by your perpetual boredom with your own life. Even though they themselves wouldn’t have done anything differently, you are not permitted indiscretion. You are not allowed to be obnoxious.

Courtesy is not an adventure of the meek, trying to keep the world civil. It is a coat of armor to protect against the slings and arrows which come from the probing public, always ready to indict, prosecute and convict.

And that doesn’t even take into consideration that there may be an Eternal Creator, also watching, who happens to know the number of “glares in your head.”

If you decide to be surly, always realize that there are people who saw it. They will take that encounter and use it against you in a time and place which you do not know.

So now for our salient moment. May I keep it simple?

Be mean, be seen.

Be kind, clear mind.

 

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Good News and Better News … March 5th, 2018


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A Jesus mask: Putting the face of Jesus on things we have decided are nice, easy, positive or comfortable.

In doing this, we attempt to transform the Gospel into a social message which is palatable for our chosen lifestyle, never really asking ourselves if it has a universal flavor.

Honestly, I almost didn’t write about this today–there are so many examples that I didn’t know how to isolate them off to the number of paragraphs you would be willing to read–but I trust that you might be willing to do some investigation on your own. So let’s look at three of the masks:

1. If you work real hard, you can get whatever you want.

You hear this on every talk show. During the Olympics it became a mantra. The variations, like “dream big, get big” pepper the common dialogue of the average day.

We put Jesus’ face on it. We decide it sounds like Jesus. But Jesus spoke a startling phrase: “To those who have, more shall be given, and to those who have not, even the little they have will be taken away from them.”

2. Giving to the poor is the highest form of charity.

It makes for a great nightly news story–some individual or organization passing sandwiches out to the homeless, complete with a hygiene kit of toothbrush, toothpaste and a small washcloth.

We’re moved to tears. We put a Jesus mask on it.

But Jesus said “the poor you have with you always.” They’re not going to go away. “Do for them what you can” but don’t make it an all-encompassing mission.

Poverty is more than a lack of things. It is often a lack of understanding.

3. God has a wonderful plan for your life.

Now we’re really crying, because even though we’re going through these huge problems, in the long run God will pluck us out of our pain and place us on higher ground. Unfortunately, although we put the Jesus mask onto this concept, his message was quite different.

Jesus said, “Except ye repent, you will perish.” In other words, ladies and gentlemen, you are in the middle of an evolving situation and an evolving planet, so you’d better evolve or you will dissolve.

Jesus is not against positive thinking. Jesus just wants us to understand that thinking good thoughts and clinging to them by faith is not the same as “letting your light so shine before men that they will see your good works and glorify the Father in heaven.”

The good news is that the Gospel is meant for humans.

The better news is, the Gospel makes us better, not things better.

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Catchy (Sitting 17) Come and See … October 8th, 2017


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Matthew stared at his computer screen which had a heading of “International Federated Mercantile Institution”–a fancy name for “bank.” He had been peering at the same page for nearly a half an hour. Actually, the same number. It read, “Balance: $248,798,565.38.

It was hard to fathom. He had mixed feelings. There was joy over having that much capital to play with, but also a responsibility to turn it into somewhat of a completed vision for what Old Man Harts had desired.

What was originally 250 million had been eaten away by legal fees, surveys, transportation and just the transactions that happen when legal and business minds collide. It was still a hell of a lot of money. A hell of a lot of money for a heavenly purpose.

Matthew remained uncertain about why he had decided to take on the project. Even a week ago his inclinations had been negative. But something happened in Vegas that didn’t stay in Vegas.

He’d had an awakening. Not so much a religious eruption, but rather, a clarity of thought. When he met Jubal Carlos, who was working frantically to assist the homeless, Matthew asked himself what was he doing to make the world just a little less crazy?

He didn’t want to be overly analytical. He was certainly basically a good person. He tried not to purposely do harm to anyone and on occasion his generosity was worthy of note.

But was it possible to do more? Especially if you were granted hundreds of millions of dollars to try?

So after the awkwardness with Jo-Jay and Soos in the suite at the casino, he decided to meet with Tomlinson, and see if he could change the attorney’s mood into a positive direction instead of the grumpiness that had ensued.

He stopped off at headquarters and picked up Sister Rolinda and Prophet Morgan, realizing that the uptight attorney with the bow tie, Tomlinson, would have no counter for such creatures.

Sure enough, when Prophet began to preach salvation to Tomlinson and Sister Rolinda recited promises and possibilities for inner healing, the barrister couldn’t wait to transfer the money and get the crazies out of the room.

It seemed strange to Matthew that in a world of emotional agnosticism, Prophet Morgan and Sister Rolinda carried the day with their passion.

But what finally sealed the deal, causing Tomlinson to loose the purse strings, was the plan. Matthew was going to get Jubal Carlos to travel the country, playing the part of Jesus–in character, in appearance, in wisdom, in knowledge and in pungency.

Jubal already had the look. He had the intensity. And he certainly had the inclination to be a helper of mankind. Keeping him out of churches and just in public arenas–colleges and even rock festivals–would create the adequate controversy that could simulate the upheaval which occurred two thousand years before in Israel, when the real guy walked the earth.

It was a plan that needed tuning, clever applications, great press releases, You Tubes and even maybe a short movie. But once again people could come and see Jesus–even though it wasn’t the actual one, but another human being, carefully crafting an image that was sensitive and faithful to the original.

The slogan for the campaign would be “Come and See.”

Prophet Morgan was ecstatic.

Sister Rolinda thought it had potential, but she wanted to meet Jubal to see if he had the goods.

All systems seemed an outrageously wonderful “go.” There was only one problem:

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Reverend Meningsbee (Part 37) Baby Talk… January 15th, 2017


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Reverend Meningsbee

Silos went high.

At least they did for Cam Collier, a gentleman in his late forties, born and bred in Quincy, Illinois.

Ten years earlier, he took a risk and purchased nearly all the silos in a four-state area, setting the price on storage and care of the farmers’ wheat and corn.

Everybody needs food. And the most important part of that process is knowing how to store and distribute it.

So Mr. Collier quickly became a millionaire.

Three months ago, he was floating down the muddy Mississippi on a riverboat, gambling away some of his hard-earned dollars, when his eye fell upon a young girl who was working bar-back on the cruise. It was a hot night. She was dressed in a little tank top with sweat pouring down her arms.

She was lonely, lookin’ for a daddy–and Cam was lookin’ for a whole lot more.

They struck up a friendship and in a whirlwind romance of nineteen days, were married and on a quest to find mystical bliss.

So today, in her glorious financial splendor, Kitty, our fortunate recently-married lass, returned to Garsonville to retrieve her little daughter. Anticipating a struggle to regain custody, she came loaded with well-purchased court orders and ten thousand dollars to sprinkle in donations throughout the community, to sweeten everybody’s will in her direction–although as often was the case with Kitty, she had no real comprehension of the situation.

Matrisse had not taken Hapsy into her home so that she could criticize Kitty, or replace her. Matrisse was like a great collector of art, who stumbled upon a precious piece, purchased it, took it home, cleaned it up and placed it on her wall, giving it the honor it deserved.

And Hapsy was deserving.

When the sweet girl had first come to Garsonville, she possessed a frenetic giddiness brought on by any introduction of gifts or sweets. But now she was just happy to sit in a corner with a box of crayons and draw pictures.

Meningsbee found himself cast into the role of the arbiter. Kitty was sure she would need him to convince Matrisse to give up rights to the child. Of course, Matrisse had no rights to the child, and knew it.

So that morning, when Meningsbee stepped out, saw Kitty and retired with her to his office for half an hour, listening to her story, he realized he had only one job: give Hapsy the best chance possible.

“Listen, Rick,” said Kitty, continuing her spiel. “You don’t mind me calling you Rick, do you?”

“Kitty, I don’t care what you call me. I just want you to understand I’m not a fool.”

“I didn’t say you were, Rick.”

Meningsbee pulled his chair closer to her and lowered his voice. “You see, right now you’re high. I don’t know what you’re on, but you’re in the clouds.”

Kitty smiled. “No, sir. I am not high. Crack whores get high. Homeless people–well, they might get high. I, on the other hand, am well-medicated. I have one doctor in Quincy, Illinois, who does nothing but provide me with needed–shall we say “pilling?”–for my various moods. It’s all legal. And it’s all stamped and approved by my local pharmacist.”

Meningsbee just stared at her. Kitty was the worst kind of dangerous. She thought everything was a game, but she didn’t know the rules.

He continued. “Call it what you wish, but I want to make sure that Hapsy has a future.”

“We got money, Rick. Matter of fact, I’ve been authorized by my husband to give your church a thousand dollar donation. Just think what you could do with a thousand dollars.”

“Just think what Hapsy could do with a mother who could walk a straight line…”

Meningsbee made sure there was no condemnation in his voice, but that his message was clear.

“You see, Rick, you’ve got no say here. When I met you in that motel, I was looking for a sugar daddy. I ain’t gonna lie to you. I quickly realized you had no money. But I thought if I followed my latest lead, it might eventually take me to a pot of gold. That was you. Now, you can’t argue with me. My little plan worked. So I’m here to collect what’s mine and blow this town once and for all.”

Meningsbee paused, took a deep breath and replied, “I haven’t talked to Matrisse about this. Honestly, Kitty, it seemed cruel to consider the fate of the little girl. But I don’t believe Matrisse is going to stand in your way. She knows you’re the mother.”

Kitty leaped to her feet, clapped her hands and said, “Well, good. Then let’s go get my sweetie.”

“Is he a good man?” asked Meningsbee.

“Who?” Kitty replied.

“Your husband. Cam, is it?”

“A good man?” She paused, musing. “Well, he’s never hurt me. He’s always willing to help me. And he doesn’t bother me too often. Honestly, Reverend, he’s in his late forties and working too hard and has heart palpitations. Need I say more?”

Meningsbee sat thinking. Kitty got impatient.

“Are we gonna go get my kid?” she finally demanded.

“Well, when we came in here to talk I wasn’t sure what you wanted, but…well, I kind of knew. So I asked Matrisse and Hapsy to stay in the vestibule just in case we needed them.”

Kitty grabbed her purse and said, “Let’s go.”

They went into the foyer, where Hapsy was perched, playing quietly with some blocks. Matrisse was sitting nearby with her purse in her lap and a small smile on her face.

As soon as Kitty came in the room, Matrisse spoke. “So good to see you, Kitty. You’re looking well. Hapsy is waiting for you.”

When the little girl heard her name she peered up from her toys, squinting her eyes as she gazed at Mama Kitty. Then, in an amazing transition of facial expressions, she went from bewildered to aware to a smile to looking over with sadness at Matrisse.

The little girl knew.

She had traveled with her Mama for years.

So she rose to her feet, walked four or five steps over to Matrisse and gave her a long hug and a kiss. She shook Meningsbee’s hand and stepped over to Kitty, saying, “Hi, Mama. Is it time to go?”

Meningsbee fought back tears. He realized that Hapsy was more aware of her mother’s wild ways than any little girl should be.

Meningsbee put his arm around Matrisse and they walked to the front door of the church, watching Kitty clumsily load Hapsy into a car seat in a huge SUV and then hop into the passenger side, close the door and zoom away.

Matrisse stared at the car as it left and said under her breath, “God bless you, Hapsy. I sent angels with you.”

 

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Ask Jonathots … November 24th, 2016


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ask jonathots bigger

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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Good News and Better News … April 18th, 2016


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Good News Antioch

Yesterday it was my joy to share my heart with dear souls in Antioch, Tennessee.

In the Book of Acts, it informs us that Antioch was the first city where the new believers in Jesus were referred to as “Christians.” It was meant to be a derogatory term, thrown at this new movement by the arrogant Greeks, who were trying to connote that the people who believed in the Nazarene were just a bunch of “little Jesuses.”

In other words, they had no mind of their own.

I didn’t talk about this to the people yesterday because I figured that over the years they have probably grown weary of the reference. But it did help me realize that the term “Christian” has become synonymous with going to church, or being religious, instead of being like Jesus.

Jesus frustrated religious people. After a while they got tired of being frustrated, so they decided to murder him.

Even though your average church-going people will admit that attendance is dwindling and that people seem to be “leaving the steeple,” they still insist that there’s basically nothing errant with what’s going on behind the stained glass windows.

Here is something I have learned:

If it’s not working, it’s probably not going to get better just because you keep doing it. And if it’s not working, the first step is to admit it’s broken, and then commit to getting it fixed.

The problem in the church is simple–it is a body of believers working under a false premise. The false premise is that we please God by gathering to worship Him.

Jesus made it clear that we please God by being the salt of the Earth and the light of the world.

Can you see the difference?

So as I leave Antioch, having had a tremendous morning of fellowship with these dear friends, I can offer them a simple suggestion:

Do one thing.

Yes–just start pursuing one thing that’s different from what you’re doing now. And make sure it doesn’t resemble anything like the present menu offered in church.

Maybe you could adopt one family in the community every week, take $150 and buy them groceries and shoes for the kids. Put a committee in charge of this endeavor.

Then on Sunday morning you can share, having something for prayer time other than weddings, funerals, births and sicknesses.

How about challenging twenty people from your congregation to volunteer just one hour a week in area nursing homes, food banks or homeless shelters–and then have them testify of their encounters.

Maybe the pastor could do the same thing–or take a small part-time job to increase his or her humanity in the community. Play guitar? Start a cover band and play at the local bar on Saturday nights prior to the Sunday services.

Take something that is non-church but filled with Jesus and act it out in your community every week, and see if something doesn’t bloom.

It’s not complicated. I could probably sit here for another twenty minutes and pop off more ideas.

But the notions have to come from the congregation and be a source of excitement to them to make it work.

If we don’t develop a sense of mission about bringing the heart of Jesus to our community, we will gradually implode from over-reverence or bickering from the choir about which anthem should be used for the Introit.

Jesus was simple:

Find a way to be loving, and then go act it out.

So as I leave Antioch, filled with a spirit of joy from encountering these delightful “little Jesuses,” I tell you that your good news is that all you need is one thing to do that is not religious, and that will bring real people into your presence.

The better news is that you’re not responsible for the fruit.

Just the seed.

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G-Poppers … September 18th, 2015


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Jon close up

She came into the room angry and frustrated. G-Pop asked her what was troubling her so.

She explained that she was really pissed off about how the Syrian refugees were being treated by the Europeans. G-Pop sat quietly listening, allowing her to vent for a few minutes until she ran out of steam.

When a few seconds of stillness had settled into the room, he said, “Let’s say you had just finished your dinner and you were sitting down in your chair getting ready to watch some television. Suddenly there was a knock at the door. You rise to your feet, open your door and discover a stranger standing in front of you, obviously distressed. You ask what you can do to help him, and he explains that his home has just burned to the ground and he has no place to go and needs some assistance. The first thing that crosses your mind is that you’ve never met this person before. Is the story true? How would you be able to find out? So you cautiously invite him inside the door while you consider your options. Before you can gather all your thoughts, he explains that he just needs someplace to stay until he can get on his feet and find out what he really wants to accomplish. You ask him if he has family in the area who could assist and he explains in vivid detail that he is from far away and doesn’t know anybody. So while you’re trying to figure out what you want to do, he informs you that he also has a wife and two children.

So now there are four people involved. He goes on to share that as frightened and taken aback as he is, they are completely devastated. Then in passing he mentions that his wife is also pregnant.  You have to make a decision. Trying to be wise, you inquire if he has checked with the local shelters and food banks for possible emergency intervention. He looks at you with a blank stare, not aware of how to go about such a maneuver, and still wishing that you would do something to help. So you agree to invite the family in to sit down while you make some sort of plan to help out. As the wife and two children enter the door, the man goes on to say that his cousin had been staying with them and also has a wife and one child, and is equally as abandoned by the disaster.

“Now you have seven people to deal with. What started as a quiet evening in your home, watching television, has now become an invasion of needy people who seem to be growing in numbers every minute. What should you do?

She looked at G-Pop, wanting to object, even to suggest that the scenario was not the same, but then realized that they were identical.

G-Pop continued. “We are really foolish when we think other people should do what we would not do ourselves. Honestly, there’s not much that I can do about the people who have run away from Syria. Any money sent in that direction would be a drop in the bucket and would take months to reach its destination. So my only recourse is to go into my own community and find the refugees–people without homes, seemingly unwanted humans, rejected souls and struggling families–and before their world utterly falls apart, forcing them to my doorstep, I will seek them out and do what I can.”

G-Pop finished the story and she seemed to understand.

You see, Jesus was absolutely right: the poor will always be with us.

The only thing we can do is share from our bounty before they end up on our porch–and we feel compelled to turn them away.

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