Jesonian … April 21st, 2018

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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44 words.

Yes, 44 words that changed the realm of faith from a God belief to a source of relief.

Standing on a hill, Jesus of Nazareth explains to his disciples that the law they had been following was being fulfilled in the lifestyle he was teaching. It is a philosophy that no longer promotes worship, praying, fasting and trying to be better than other people. Jesus transforms the message from religion to reality.

And now for the 44 words:
“Therefore…”

In other words, in conclusion. If you were wondering where we were heading, here it is. What follows will be the prophesy of the day.

“…if you’re offering your gift at the altar…”

Church should no longer be your life. If you do go, then go with a good heart, but don’t go anymore because you’re afraid. Don’t go anymore because you think it makes you a cut above the rest of humanity. And make sure when you go, you’re offering something instead of demanding.

“…and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you…”

Tune your spirit. Stop waiting to hear messages from heaven. All the messages will be coming from the Earth. And by the way, get rid of your gender bias. Don’t think the Jesonian is just for the brothers and not for the sisters, or for the sisters and not the brothers. You’re listening because you know if you’re going to hear the voice of God, it will come from those around you. Often it will be expressed as a chunk of disgruntled dissatisfaction they may have with you. In other words, be prepared to change. Don’t think you’re going to participate on Earth without being revised.

“…leave your gift there, in front of the altar.”

Get the point? It’s not about the gift. It’s not about the altar. It’s not about the worship service. It’s not about your devotion. All of that can be left when there’s a need to be a person to another person, to generate something personable.

“…first go and be reconciled to them…”

Cease insisting that this is the hard part. Stop giggling as you pretend that it’s so much easier to love God than it is your fellow-humans. If that’s the case, you’d better start practicing, because God has no intention of accepting a congregation which gathers to criticize the people He loves.

“…reconcile…”

Learn reconciliation. Reconciliation is the measuring stick of the depth of your spirituality.

“…then come and offer your gift.”

It will wait. It’s not as important as the feelings and consideration of another fellow-traveler. This is no longer a reaching for the sky, but instead, reaching out to those around you, and in doing so, finding God.

The sermon that Jesus spoke on that mountain many years ago was based upon the concept that the best way to find God is to stop looking for God, but instead, discover His creation. In doing so, you will ask, seek and knock your way into the Kingdom.

For understand clearly: God will have a people who become people to honor people by working with people–to love people.

*****

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Good News and Better News… January 2nd, 2017

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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good-news-jon-hat

Every January 1st, a preacher friend sends me an email with his prophecies for the new year.

His predictions are always pretty general–and also grim. I guess he thinks it’s a safe bet in a world of tribulation, to foretell disaster.

  • Yet there is no love without giving.
  • Faith dies without passion.
  • And hope disappears without dreams.

It’s just too easy to be upset.

It’s way too predictable to continue to complain about the circumstances.

Yesterday morning when I arrived at Carteret United Methodist Church, I was looking for people who were fed up with being depressed.

I think Pastor Frank was pretty surprised at the turnout. After all, it was New Year’s Day and a tremendous opportunity for folks to use it as an excuse not to come to church.

But they didn’t.

We gathered, we sang, we mused, we laughed, we cried, we fellowshipped and we left–believing that certain things must be honored, or honor will leave our world.

1. Love your neighbor is not optional.

Although we spend much time in diplomacy and negotiations with countries which are determined to hurt one another, the truth of the matter is, our greatest possibility lies in the souls who still insist on loving and believing in each other.

2. Be of good cheer.

Nothing is ever accomplished from a defeated position of gloom. If knowing the facts upset you, then choose the bliss of ignorance–because in the long run, it is not intelligence or education that saves us, but rather, the wisdom we garner from the data that gives us the power to believe.

I so enjoyed the congregation in Beaufort, South Carolina–and may I tell them:

The good news is that there’s a song of praise that needs to be written every day.

And the better news is that I, for one, want to meet my Creator with that song in my heart.

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Good News and Better News … May 16th, 2016

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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Good News Appomattox 2

On Sunday morning, I had the privilege, honor, joy and excitement to be with the congregation at the Memorial United Methodist Church in Appomattox, Virginia.

One hundred fifty-one years, one month and one day earlier, on April 9th, 1865, just three miles down the road, Robert E. Lee surrendered the 28,000 remaining soldiers of the Army of Northern Virginia to General Ulysses S. Grant, thus, for all intents and purposes, ending the Civil War.

I admire Lee for that.

Good News Appomattox 1I don’t agree with all the things that he did or set out to achieve, but I am greatly impressed by the fact that Robert recognized when the cause he was pursuing had taken a sharp left turn–and rather than being an expression of states’ rights, had become the oppression of the black race.

He could have continued to fight, hiding in the mountains and the forests which permeate Dixieland, and probably prolonged the conflict for months or even years.

He brought it to an end.

He surrendered.

He had the wisdom to know there’s a time to attack and a time to surrender.

So many lovely human beings I met on Sunday at Memorial United Methodist. Story after story, human feeling after feeling–each one deeper in its expression.

Pastored by a fellow named Russell, who seems to have discovered the correct balance of humanity and leadership, the folks have come to the same impasse as Robert E. Lee.Good News Appomattox 3

Surrounded by a religious community which continues to believe it can force its convictions on others who do not share in the faith, these people at Memorial are at a crucial crossroads.

For I will tell you, as Christians, it is time for us to surrender before we become as irrational as the extremist Muslims.

And the terms of the surrender are very easy:

“I will no longer use the Bible to attack other people.”

Instead, I will use it to help me become a better person. I will use it for encouragement. I will use it for beautiful language at a wedding or funeral. I will use it to remind me of my need for the goodness of God. But I will never use it again to attack other people.

The war between the state of human beings in this country needs to stop. There is no sign that the Republicans and Democrats will cease fighting.

No, it falls the lot of intelligent, Jesus-loving people to step in and surrender.

  • We need to live.
  • We need to learn.
  • And we need to love.

Good News Appomattox 4We need to live our lives to the fullness that we understand.

We need to learn whatever else comes from the heart of God and the truth of knowledge.

And in the meantime, we need to love without fear of it being insufficient to the need.

That’s the good news.

The better news? If more than living, learning and loving is necessary, we’re all screwed.

 

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G-Poppers … February 26th, 2016

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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Jon close up

Even though G-Pop knows that his children are smart and sharp enough to make good decisions for themselves, he is a bit concerned that the recent redefining of leadership is quite confusing.

Leadership is not an accumulation of stats and facts to place on your resume, or the ability to get people to vote for you to confirm your prowess.

Leadership is very simply an awareness. It is a two-part principle.

Anyone who is going to be a great leader:

  1. Tells the truth.
  2. Hears the truth.

Yes, there is a truth we know. It is our treasure-house, holding the contents of our understanding.

Telling the truth is essential. And even though lying has jokingly become a national pastime, everyone eventually becomes weary of a liar and unceremoniously boots the scoundrel out the door.

But we can’t stop with our truth. We can’t halt in the middle of the road, build a fort and say, “We need go no further.”

Telling the truth has to give way to hearing the truth. A leader must be submissive to listening to what he or she does not know. It requires a stillness in the soul, remaining silent for a season in order for personal truth to grow from acquiring new information.

If you cannot tell the truth and hear the truth, you will never be a good leader.

So G-Pop hopes that his children will ask four very important questions when they consider what leaders to honor:

1. Do they tell the truth?

2. Do they honor the truth?

3. Do they know there is more truth beyond themselves?

4. Are they searching for that unknown truth?

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Jesonian: F. A. A. E. … October 18th, 2015

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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Jesonian hands

In an age when Facebook has attempted to simplify relationships down to “friend” and “unfriend,” it might be of social significance to each one of us to look at the Jesonian approach to human interaction.

Contrary to popular opinion, Jesus did not love everybody with the same intensity. There were measures, concerns, confinements and meters to his affection and devotion.

Understanding that those judgments were not based upon prejudice, but rather, practicality, is the beginning of forming a way of dealing with humanity, preventing you from becoming jaded.

Jesus put human relationships into four categories:

1. Friend.

His definition of “friend” was very specific. He traveled with twelve disciples for more than three years before he referred to them as friends–and then he said he felt he could do so because he could “share his life with them.”

A true friend is a rarity because you must be willing to share the good, the bad and the ugly without fear of incrimination.

2. Acquaintances.

These are people Jesus interacted with who shared a common purpose, but not necessarily a transparency. They were the many individuals who believed on him because they encountered a miracle. But generally speaking, these acquaintances did not end up following him, but departed on their own to start a new life, or were instructed by Jesus to go back to their homes and spread the good news.

3. Adversary.

It will probably astound you when I say that most of the interaction you have with your fellow-travelers will be adversarial.

An adversary is someone you really want to grow to appreciate and love, so you’re learning to cooperate with each other, while also being fully aware of your differences. This is why Jesus told us to “reason with our adversary.” Don’t criticize them; don’t kill them. Find the areas where you concur, and interact in those ventures without forcing agreement in others.

4. Enemies.

And finally, an enemy is simply defined as someone who does not wish you good will. Enemies are not happy when you succeed.

They may not plot against you nor gossip but they do not rejoice when you rejoice, nor mourn when you mourn.

This is where the variety and intensity of Jesonian affection is put into place. So:

We love our friends because we can be completely open with them.

We honor our acquaintances because we share so much in common that it establishes a deep sense of human-hood.

We commit to our adversaries because they keep us thinking and challenge us to have a good reason for what we believe instead of stumping and stomping around about our contentions.

And we respect our enemies because that is the only way we can assure ourselves that their animosity will not easily be turned into action against us.

  • Friends are rare.
  • Acquaintances are growing.
  • Adversaries are plentiful.
  • And enemies are few.

Fortunately, the treatment for all of them is easy to remember:

A multi-faceted love.  

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I Almost Missed It … December 14, 2011

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Live from Palm Coast, Florida, in A Spirited Christmas

 
The day after Thanksgiving I woke up with a sore throat.

After many years of planet dwelling, I am well aware that a sore throat means I am coming down with a cold, and like most mortals, that is the standard formula of “three days coming, three days of snotiness with you and three days leaving.” Also, my particular viruses enjoy settling into my chest, turning my voice into a cesspool of pitches.

Here was the problem–I was about to begin a fourteen-day, thirteen-performance Christmas tour. Being the typical human being that I am, I was wondering if I could survive through the weekend before the cold overtook me, and exactly how many dates I would have to cancel due to incapacitation. It was not an issue of if dates would be canceled. No. In my mind, it was an issue of whether it would be two, four, or worst case scenario–all of them.

I made it through the weekend. But on Monday I sprouted another symptom–a stomach virus, which caused my internal organs to be visible on the outside of my body. Yet somehow I survived the Monday night presentation–kind of inching my way along like a really fat worm. By Tuesday I felt better. What was interesting was that the introduction of the stomach virus frightened my cold symptoms away. I guess it’s really true that God does not tempt us beyond what we can bear–because to be sneezing and coughing while having diarrhea may be the true definition of double-trouble.

I made it through Tuesday night, Wednesday night and by Thursday night I had completely forgotten about all infirmities and was taking for granted my good health. Now, having completed the entire tour, I realize I nearly missed a miracle. Isn’t that amazing? I didn’t miss a date. The shows were great, and I was never late. But I quickly took it for granted instead of marveling over the miracle of the Christmas tour.

Yes, I almost missed it.

That’s why I’m stopping off today to tell you amazing folks one of the greater secrets to life. (It isn’t really a secret at all. I just thought that added great flair to my writing…) Because I can tell you with certainty that miracles are what happen when our plans actually come to fruition because they were unselfish enough to include as many people as possible.

Miracles are not turning water into wine. A miracle is when you find a good, tasty cup of water. I don’t need the wine. I don’t need parlor tricks to convince me that life is good. I need to be able to use my brain while tapping my emotions and spirit to come up with ideas that meet my needs, and in the process help others–and then use all my energy to do my best to enact these notions, trusting God to be benefactor and cheerleader.

For instance, all the vegetables I had consumed during the year helped with my immune system and gave God good reason to protect me from the onslaught of my cold. I understand that the little bit of exercise that I do was also of great assistance in dispelling my stomach virus as quickly as those little boogers will depart. I now see that everything worked together to the good–because I did love the Lord, trusted Him and am trying to learn how this planet works rather than bucking the system.

I don’t know what’s going to happen to me tomorrow. But I do know that every time I get in my car and turn on the key it is possible that the car will not start. Am I saying it’s a miracle when my car starts? No. What I’m saying is this: a car starting is better than one that doesn’t–and if I’m intelligent I will appreciate my engine igniting instead of misfiring.

You see, I almost missed it. I almost missed the miracle of everything working together to the good and at the end of the process, me completing a tour that could have just as easily been canceled. So what did I learn?

Miracles are my plans with God’s nod and others included. When that happens, we can certainly welcome additional visitations by acknowledging the process.

So I’m about to leave and go out to my car. If I expect my car to start, I will be infuriated if it doesn’t. If I’m grateful for my car starting, I may be willing to grant my vehicle absolution for those times it fails to spark.

I know it sounds child-like. It is. Every good thing in life comes from learning to appreciate what is provided, as if it were a Christmas toy instead of a demanded paycheck.

If you can keep that simplicity, you can rule the world … or at least the part that you have planned.

***************

Here comes Christmas! For your listening pleasure, below is Manger Medley, Jonathan’s arrangement of Away in the Manger, which closes with him singing his gorgeous song, Messiah.  Looking forward to the holidays with you!

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Ho, Ho, Hope… December 13, 2011

In Melbourne, Florida

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Hope makes me nervous.

Maybe it’s because those who extol the virtue of hope outwardly appear to be confident but inwardly seem to be shaking like a leaf. Hope is a spirit, desperately searching for a body of work.

I love Christmas because it is a season of hope–but our jaded society dispels the notion as childish–and those who still insist on propagating the precept are often ill-prepared for disappointment and end up looking naive.

How can we have Ho-Ho-Hope? In other words, blending the beauty of the Christmas story with the realities of our world to bring about a functional plan of action to improve our circumstances instead of merely enduring them? I think it comes down to a very simple verse of scripture which has now become part of the American lexicon:

“You shall know the truth and the truth will make you free.”

Yes–it is a message of hope, but it has two parts. First of all, I have to be willing to know the truth–not ignore it, not embellish upon it, not pretend it is a passing fancy which will soon change because of the goodness of God, but to really KNOW the truth. That’s the first stage of unveiled hope.

We work with honor. Let me give you a quick definition of honor: “I have enough confidence that I am loved that I am not afraid to speak the truth about myself.”

That’s honor. Every attempt to cover up, gloss over, spread disinformation, lie or cheat is an admission that we really do not believe we are loved. I know God loves me. God loves me so much that even when I act like an ass, I can still have confidence that I will be able to sleep in the barn tonight.

Most of us fail because we insert hope where we should be speaking truth.

  • I hope I can do well.
  • I hope things work out.
  • I hope I’ll come up with an idea.
  • I hope I can quit smoking.
  • I hope I can lose weight.
  • I hope I can do better.

This kind of hope leaves us destitute when just average temptation comes along and kicks the props out from under our makeshift house of faith. “You shall KNOW the truth …”

We work with honor. When I turn to an audience and tell them that I’m not very good-looking, I am not throwing a fishing line out, hoping that someone will disagree and find me attractive. Instead, I am praising my heavenly Father for taking such a homely physical specimen and making him of such great value to the planet.

Likewise, I could never vote for a politician who lies–which is why I don’t vote. They all feel it is their job to put their best foot forward–and end up with that same foot stuck in their mouth. The beginning of all valuable hope is knowing the truth–and to do that, we work with honor–which leads to the next step. What will knowing the truth do? Make us free. And once we work with honor, we gain power and energy because–we honor what works.

Sometimes my ideas are crap. If I persist in them because they are MY ideas, I end up looking like crap. But if I’m willing to forsake my flawed concepts and honor what works, I can benefit from the journey of others and in no time at all, there is no one who remembers who had the idea in the first place, because we all end up enjoying the fruit.

America is flailing today because we do not honor what works. We have become obsessed with names, like “conservative” and “liberal,” instead of ideas which supersede the barriers created by mankind and minister to the heart of the matter. It’s impossible to be made free without learning to honor what works.

About half the time I agree with the Republicans and about half the time I agree with the Democrats.  And the other half, I disagree with both of them. (As you can see, math is not my strongest suit…)

Hope bears forth its joy when we work with honor and we honor what works. At that point, we have the capacity for knowing the truth, which will make us free. And as wonderful as freedom is, it is merely the doorway to the greater possibility of liberty. And liberty is when I can trust myself to be honest so that my freedom won’t hurt anyone else.

So Merry Christmas, and Ho-Ho-Hope. But keep in mind that hope which is merely a fleeting thought–wishful thinking–will always make you emotionally ill.

True hope is when we work with honor and we honor what works. It grants us the ability to know the truth that makes us free.

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Here comes Christmas! For your listening pleasure, below is Manger Medley, Jonathan’s arrangement of Away in the Manger, which closes with him singing his gorgeous song, Messiah.  Looking forward to the holidays with you!

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