Jesonian: The Rule of the School … November 15th, 2015

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The latest piece of pseudo-intellectual drivel seems to be the jaded proclamation, “People don’t change.”

It’s especially disheartening when coming from the mouth of a prison warden, a psychiatrist or a minister.

I suppose we could take this entire essay to discuss the validity or over-simplification of such a decree. Matter of fact, as Christians we could cite that even though the disciples spent at least 38 months with Jesus of Nazareth, the amount of personality and ethical change inside each one of them was questionable.

Peter may have confessed his faith, but he was still prone to over-exaggeration and eventually, denial.

James and John may have ceased to be fishermen, but maintained much of their prejudice, wanting to kill a group of Samaritans.

Thomas certainly had a conversion experience, which he often chose to doubt.

And Judas was elected treasurer, only to betray his position… and his friend.

So it is obvious to me that Jesus was the Christ, but not necessarily able to completely change goats into sheep. No, it seems that we get lost in that process and end up basically being asses.

Yet I must tell you, if I thought that change was impossible, I would not be able to tolerate the mediocrity of the world around me.

So what is the truth?

Actually the truth is a coagulation of two principles. Whatever you are, whatever you were, whatever your inklings or whatever your genetics, you can be transformed by a pair of unchanging and necessary conclusions.

We call the first one the Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

Yet I must tell you, that single concept becomes merely idealistic if you don’t take the “rule to school.”

In other words, if you do not allow the truth of the Golden Rule to enter your daily activities, you will worship the premise as you simultaneously defile it.

There has to be an application for the cleansing power of “love your neighbor.” This is found in John the 8th Chapter, verse 15. Jesus makes a simple statement.

He says, “You judge according to the flesh. I judge no man.”

We do become different people when we realize that “loving our neighbor as ourself” is the survival mode for human interaction, and that the only way to apply it is to never judge anyone.

You may feel an inclination towards a lifestyle, a genetic predisposition, or have just developed habits which seem to cling to you like feathers in the wind, but you can still be completely reborn by realizing that loving your neighbor is refusing to participate in any judgment about him or her.

Are you ready for some truth?

  • Jesus did not believe in adultery, but he forgave an adulterous woman.
  • At no point in the Gospels will you find a situation when Jesus supported gay marriage, yet I guarantee you–he would never condemn a homosexual.
  • It would be difficult to make a case for Jesus being pro-choice, but it would be equally as difficult to think that he would forbid a woman the right to choose.

I am often confused why we think it is necessary to hold a conviction and then force others to comply.

For instance, I do not like alcohol and never have. Yet I would be completely against Prohibition.

I think smoking marijuana is granting yourself a license to be inept in the name of recreational drugs, but by the same nature, I think it’s wrong to condemn and incarcerate those who want to puff.

An obvious way we can all change is to admit that “do unto others as you would have them do unto you” is the essential chemical compound of life, but the only way to take that rule to school is to refuse to judge anyone.

It is never all right, and certainly is never God-ordained.

Even though the Apostle Paul had his experience on the road to Damascus, by the time he got on the road to Corinth, he had somewhat turned back into an officious, overly opinionated Pharisee.

But there is one thing he never lost: the realization that we are to love one another … which means expressing mercy instead of judgment.

 

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Ask Jonathots… August 27th, 2015

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My friend Rob is the smartest man in our workplace. He happens to be quite overweight. Recently I found myself in a discussion about who would get an upcoming promotion. I said that Rob would probably get the job, and was surprised when another man in the room said he wouldn’t because of his weight. I told the guy he was not only wrong, but also bigoted. He argued with me, and said that you can’t be bigoted against people who are overweight because it’s a condition they choose. I completely disagreed. What do you think?

It is a difficult path to negotiate when you start insisting that one group of people was born with a certain predilection, but this other group over there has made a choice instead of finding themselves genetically wired.

So to be honest with you, I prefer, for the sake of sanity and the purposes of having more personal control in my life, to choose to believe that even though there are certain features that may come with our human package, that we don’t necessarily need to use them.

Otherwise, we’re going to begin to contend that each and every weakness or strength in the human body is beyond our control and that we’re destined to become something rather than having the free will to guide our own direction.

That said, let me tell you that obesity is close to my heart. Literally.

I was born at 12 1/2 pounds, so I have a very strong case for believing that I was put together to be a fat man.

It doesn’t help me.

I don’t improve my life or increase my longevity by insisting that I’m cursed with an oddity which, as it turns out, could also be lethal.

So you have to make up your mind. Are we at the mercy of our genetics and destined to be a certain way from our birth? Or can we be born again and find a path divergent from the genetic pool?

It isn’t split down the middle, it’s one way or another.

So the truth of the matter is that since obesity is such an obvious visual impairment, the bigotry against it will never go away. Someone can be gay and not visually appear to be a part of the homosexual community.

Not true with fat.

So since human beings look on the outward appearance instead of the heart, it will be impossible to avoid the bigotry, but not impossible to dodge the people who are bigoted.

With that in mind, here’s what I suggest for your friend, Rob. Without mentioning the name of the acquaintance who said he was not going to get the promotion, ask Rob what he, himself, thinks about his chances and if they are hindered by his size.

He knows your heart; he knows you’re not bigoted.

But the question will get Rob thinking, which is what Rob needs to do.

Obesity has three terrible aspects to its pain:

  1. You can’t ever act or not look fat.
  2. There are so many stigmas put upon the fat person that whether you like it or not, they will be placed upon you.
  3. Obesity always leads to some sort of health issue, which might not have come to play without it.

So it is your job to both communicate love to Rob, but also make him aware that there’s a portion of society which is silently killing off his possibilities through its prejudice. He is strong enough to handle it–and you never know what will be a wake-up call to someone.

I do not believe we are born any particular way.

We have free will  and choice.

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Confessing… July 4th, 2015

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IX.

I confess so I can heal.

If I deny, I remain sick.

Mack was gay.

Actually, in 1980, such a term did not exist. The nicest word we had for people who pursued that lifestyle was “homosexual.”

Mack never told me he preferred men. I never asked him.

Mack was my friend but also my benefactor. He believed in my ability to be creative, and thought the things I came up with were worth promoting.

So when I wrote the musical, “Mountain,” Mack got right behind it, insisted we put together a cast to tour across the country, and on his own, raised $10,000 to fund it.

After the tour we parted our ways but not our affection.

A few months after we had finished our business, he called me and told me he had a lead on someone who wanted to sign my musical and publish it.

He only required one thing from me. The publishing company wanted a score of the music. In other words, they wanted all the music written down on staff paper in a fashion that could be read by musicians and performed.

It was at that point that I should have told Mack that even though I was able to compose music, I had no idea how to score it.

I didn’t. I didn’t tell him.

Oh, I had my reasons.

Since I had last seen Mack, I had moved away and was working in a terrible situation. One of my children had been hit and run by a car, and I was in the midst of moving to another community to acquire a new job.

It’s the classic situation–when we transform our circumstances into excuses, which we turn into reasons. But the reasons soon lose their power and have to be fortified by lies.

So at first I just cited my circumstances to Mack. He was understanding, but persistent. So I made promises.

But then when I failed to meet my deadlines, I had to move to excuses and then try to manipulate them into reasons, and ultimately ended up lying.

And of course, the greatest lie was when I sat down and tried to write the score of the music with my limited ability, and ended up with the manuscript equivalent of manure.

I sent it off anyway.

Mack trusted me, so he forwarded my work to the publisher, and ended up humiliated because the material made no sense whatsoever.

Mack forgave me–but we never did business together ever again.

I tried to justify it. I remembered the few occasions that I told him I didn’t know what I was doing instead of recalling how I insisted I would do it anyway.

I owe this fine person a huge apology.

I also need to realize that every time I’m tempted to pretend I’m something I’m not just so everyone in the room will feel that I am “hip” or part of “the gang in the know,” that I do much more damage than I ever thought possible.

The truth is, God has blessed me.

If I don’t think His blessing is enough, my exaggerations and lies will not make it any better.

 

Mountain Music

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My Favorite Jim… May 17, 2012

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In the late winter and early spring of 1980, I found myself in a recording studio, spending one hundred hours laying down the tracks for a Broadway-style musical I had written called Mountain. It was the Sermon on the Mount, set to music. Even though the tunefulness of it gained much appreciation and buzz, my expertise in putting together such a monumental project was based more on presumption than actual knowledge.

So I was quite grateful when two friends came to join me in the process, to enlightened me where I was in darkness and give energy to my bulb of inspiration. It happened that both of them were named Jim. One of them was a pastor of a church who looked like a male model and had a burning passion to share the gospel, but also a secondary agenda of trying to remove all pornography from our community. The other Jim was an entertainment promoter with a delightful sense of humor, an interest in the gospel’s ability to enhance the brotherhood of man, with a very private lifestyle which he rarely shared with anyone. (To avoid confusion, let me call the minister “P. Jim”–for either Preacher or Pastor.)

P. Jim was an interesting blend of rock and roll with rock of ages. We don’t have many people like him around nowadays–because the sixties and the Jesus movement made him desirous of being open-minded, even though his theology sometimes wanted to “corral” that horse sense. Jim, on the other hand, grew up in a very religious home and was doing his very best to distance himself from such godly frugality.

Both of them came to planning sessions for the work on Mountain.  P. Jim would usually steer the conversations towards evangelism and the potential the musical had to “reach the lost.” And Jim nodded his head as he sat with a pencil, adding up how much this proposed evangelism was going to cost. The combination was perfect. I got to play the part of the artist who was not concerned with mere Bible verses nor touched by the insensitivity of money matters. The project was finished, the results were amazing, the casting was completed and two debut performances were scheduled–when a problem arose.

P. Jim called me out to a local restaurant for a cup of coffee. He was nearly in tears. He had found out through the spiritual sour-grape line that our other Jim was a homosexual. (If I may take a moment, this was a time in our country when there was no such thing as “gay.” Those of the more generous inclination in the heterosexual community referred to the “others”  outside their righteous world as homosexuals. If they were NOT generous, the words “queer” and “faggot” fell off their lips.)

P. Jim was a generous soul–but he was certain that he would not be able to continue his support for the Mountain project if Jim was going to be involved. He finished his speech, dried his eyes with a napkin and looked at me, waiting for my response.

I said, “Is that it?” He nodded.

“Okay,” I replied. I got up and started to walk out of the restaurant. Shocked, he grabbed my arm and pulled me back into the booth. He wanted to know what I was going to do.

I said, “Well, I guess I’m going to figure out how to do this project without your support.”

P. Jim was bewildered. No–beyond bewilderment. Actually, he was doubly baffled–first, that I was ignoring the potential judgment of God on our endeavor by allowing this sodomist to continue to participate. And secondly, he was bruised that I felt that he could so easily be cast away without it making any difference.

I explained my feelings. I wanted to have both of them. I wanted to have P. Jim, with his passion for God and love for humanity, and Jim, with his knowledge of the business and ability to raise funds so that the idea could get off the drawing board and into construction. But if P. Jim was going to make an issue over something that was really none of my business in the first place, I would go find the spiritual passion elsewhere and stay with what was working.

To say that P. Jim was flabbergasted would be the classic understatement. He began to throw scriptures at me–and I had a parcel of my own. Scripturally, we came to a dead-even draw. He tried to intimidate me with what would happen when people found out there was a homosexual involved in the planning. I told him it was America. There was no such thing as bad publicity, just ways to further entice people to come out to appease their curiosity. P. Jim wondered how I could do a mission on the Sermon on the Mount while still promoting evil.

I said, “Jim whether it’s evil is for God to decide when He finally closes the door on this little pawn shop of earth He’s put together. I know two things–I don’t have the right to judge and God looks on the heart and not the outward appearance. And Reverend Jim, our mutual friend, Jim, has more heart for this project that maybe the both of us put together.”

P. Jim frowned. He told me he would go think about it. Honestly, I never expected to hear from him again. And if you moved ahead thirty years in time, that WOULD have been the end of P. Jim’s involvement in my life. But you see, P. Jim grew up during the Civil Rights era, Viet Nam, Watergate, Woodstock and disco. His brain was not buried in cement, but rather, sloshing around in the quagmire of a Biblical swamp.

About five hours later, my phone rang and it was P. Jim. (I had already told Jim that we were going to lose the pastor and his church. Jim was devastated by the news and offered to resign. I explained to him that I wouldn’t have made a stand just so I could lose BOTH of them.) But anyway, back to my phone call, as I said, it was P. Jim. He was once again in tears. He apologized for interfering in the progress of what was truly an inspirational notion to bicker over the finer parts of religious law. He told me that if I had a belief in Jim, then he had the faith to stand behind my belief.

We had an amazing premiere, with P. Jim and gay Jim standing backstage together, applauding and hugging.

I lost contact with these two fellows shortly after that. I heard that P. Jim’s church eventually shut down and the porn stores he had been trying to get rid of in the community not only didn’t fold, but multiplied. Jim left the entertainment field and returned to a more normal life, becoming an accountant and a man discovering more about his identity.

But I will never forget that season, when the preference of two individuals–one for and one against–was set aside to pursue common passion.

Well, I entitled this particular essay My Favorite Jim, so you might ask, which one IS my favorite Jim? To answer that, I think I’ll fall back on the wisdom of Jesus. “Anyone who does the will of my Father …”

 

   

 

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