A System, Not a Plan… October 10, 2013

Jonathots Daily Blog

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fourGod has a wonderful plan for your life.”

I’m sorry. Just not so.

After a billion years of pursuing human free will and “raining on the just and the unjust,” God has no intention of revising His perfect system by forfeiting His authority to a small group of contemporary theologians, filmmakers, greeting card producers and novelists.

It is impossible for God to be “no respecter of persons” and then turn around and delegate mission, talent, ability and position to specific human beings. What He came up with is brilliant.

It’s a system. A climate. An energy in which we all live, to rise and fall on the merit of our abilities and attitudes.

“As long as you shall live, there shall be seed-time and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night.”

I refer to this conglomeration as The Natural Order.

It’s what we all share in common–and because we do, we can share in common. OR we can try to express our supremacy over one another by insisting that the Universal Creator has singled us out above all others for some unique posture which sets us apart from the rest of humanity via our traveling orders.

Ridiculous.

1. Seed time and harvest.

In other words, we have the same soil, so it’s important that we get the right seed. For instance, this is not a great time in the history of mankind to stubbornly pursue intolerance. It is also fairly foolish to follow the bandwagon as it marches down the road repeating old tunes, old ideas and old arrangements instead of creating new music. Get the right seed. That’s how you gain your personal advantage in this life.

2. Cold and heat.

Set the temperature. Sometimes it’s important to be hot and passionate. On other occasions, wisdom tells you to cool your heels–relax and trust what you’ve already planted to grow, instead of becoming impatient. Setting the temperature for your endeavors grants you the insight of surviving the wait without feeling the weight.

3. Summer and winter.

Learn the seasons. As Ecclesiastes says, “to everything there is a season.” What does that mean? It means you should not be harvesting when you haven’t planted and you shouldn’t insist on pursuing ideas which have proven to be ineffective simply because they favor your party line. Study the world. Study the faces of the people around you. See what is conducive to change. See what change is conducive to the people.

4. Day and night.

One of the ways we know that young humans have actually grown up is that they stop feeling the need to stay up all night in order to prove their independence. The human experience requires compartments of time. I believe there are two things you should do every day to create faithfulness, two things you should do every day to generate adventure, and two things you should do every day to remind you to be merciful. Work the clock.

This Natural Order is the four-part system given to every human being, and NoOne is better than anyone else. Learn it, use it, expand with it and honor it. You will succeed.

  • Get the right seed
  • Set the temperature
  • Learn the seasons
  • And work the clock

The producers of jonathots would humbly request a yearly subscription donation of $10 for this wonderful, inspirational opportunity

Please contact Jonathan’s agent, Jackie Barnett, at (615) 481-1474, for information about personal appearances or scheduling an event

Graceful Effort … May 1, 2013

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birdsI love believing. It’s so much more fulfilling than being cynical, doubting the power of virtue and the possibilities that lie within the human family.

On the other hand, I don’t always LIKE being a believer. What I mean is, the stigma placed upon spirituality by relegating it to the status of mere “religion” often annoys me to the point of pulling out my hair (thus explaining my baldness).

What is the difference between believing and being the common believer who follows the rhetoric of religion? I think it lies somewhere in discovering the balance between grace and works.

If you’re on of those believers who thinks that God has a wonderful plan for your life,” or that everything is written in the stars, or that the future is pre-determined and you’re just finding your place in the great scheme of destiny, you usually find yourself in a bit of despair, inept and impatient with your lot.

If you happen to be one of those individuals who is minus a spiritual direction and believe that you forge your own path with no help from a divine friend, you can also become disheartened and angry at the complexity of what you hoped would be simple.

I think it would do us good to become bird brains. For some reason or another in our pursuit of human superiority, we have deemed the bird to be stupid, when the Bible actually tells us that the birds have it figured out better than us. For instance, I woke up this morning to the sounds of chattering, singing, flying feathered folks right outside my window. I didn’t pick up any aggravation in their song; no disgruntled soul complaining about the early hour or off-key brothers and sisters. They just seemed to get it.

“We’re birds. We sing. It’s morning. Sing loudly. Sun came up. Go get worms. Bring them back to the nest. And fly around … until something kills you.”

But in our pursuit of some deep hidden meaning to life, we refuse to accept the fact that even though Jesus said we are worth “many sparrow,” he DID compare us to sparrows. You may want to believe that you, personally, are of more value than all the sparrows in the world, but in heaven your actual rate of exchange is merely MANY sparrows.

So what is the perfect balance between grace and works?

Graceful effort: pursuing what life has set in front of you, working on the excellence of your humanity, perfecting your craft, keeping a good sense of humor, while all the time understanding that this humility permits God to extend His grace to you.

God does not give grace to the prideful–and it is certainly prideful to proclaim our sanctity and purity without producing any evidence of works and effort.

So what creates humility?

  1. “Like the sparrow, I will sing my song.”
  2. “Like the sparrow, I will hunt my worms, knowing that they feed me.”
  3. “Like the sparrow, I will build a nest and find my peace within it.”
  4. “Like the sparrow, I will know that life is brief and my time, limited.”
  5. “Like the sparrow, I will leave the rest to God’s grace.”

No sparrow ever dies in its nest of natural causes. Sparrows don’t get Alzheimer’s. They live their life full-throttle until their lives are no more. Often it’s a tragic end–but quick. Knowing this, they never miss a morning to sing.

Graceful effort: when I realize that life has conditions, direction and purpose, and rather than fighting it, I eagerly join in with my portion. In doing so, I humbly offer my melody to my Creator

The producers of jonathots would humbly request a yearly subscription donation of $10 for this wonderful, inspirational opportunity

*****

Please contact Jonathan’s agent, Jackie Barnett, at (615) 481-1474, for information about personal appearances or scheduling an event

Dump the Tub … September 8, 2012

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Everyone was so nervous.

We had come to Columbus, Ohio, from diverse points all over the eastern part of the United States to join in a rehearsal camp for a musical I had written, culminating in a twenty-five-city tour.

I was young–some people would say too young to be in charge of such an overwhelming undertaking–but I learned pretty early in my life that if you wait too long to accumulate the years, the years will keep you from accumulating success.

So I ventured. I was smart enough to know three things–a trio of needs necessary to maintain the integrity of such an endeavor:  the cast would need sleep, practice and lots to drink.

Now, this was before the day of bottled water, and also prior to the general public acceptance that something clear, colorless and drawn from the tap was actually a beverage. So I located two gigantic tubs. In one I made fruit punch and in the other, by the request of the cast, iced tea.

We finished our first session and everybody was thirsty, so they headed over to my display of beverage choices–and we immediately had a problem. Those who preferred fruit punch seemed quite happy–because if they thought it was too sweet, they just added some water. But those whose taste moved towards tea were disgruntled because some liked it sweet, some liked it lemony and there was even one guy who pouted a bit because we didn’t have limes.

The tea was a failure.

One of the young cast members stepped forward and made a suggestion. “So we don’t have to lose the tea, why don’t we just pour the tea into the fruit punch tub and mix them? Therefore we won’t lose our investment. It’s just like my mama says. You take the good with the bad and mix it all together and you get your life, so go out there and live it.”

Even though it sounds corny, the words were so inspiring in the moment that the cast burst into a cheer, and I believe one young lady from Birmingham, Alabama, sprouted a tear.

I saw no problem with it. After all, I was young and willing to try almost anything to move forward or keep peace. So we mingled the two containers, and at the next break, we ran headlong, at sixty miles an hour, into a wall of confusion.

It tasted terrible. The tea made the fruit punch flat and as one fellow said, the fruit punch made the tea taste “creepy.”

The producer of the show, in an attempt to save money, suggested that the cast endure this particular batch of distaste, and that next time we would get just fruit punch. Once again, being very young, I complied through one additional rehearsal session, which was unfortunately followed by a complaint convention. When everybody refused to drink the concoction and just sat there sweating, gasping for air, I walked over, grabbed the tub, went outside and dumped it.

Even greater cheers. Because contrary to what the cast member said, quoting his mother, life is really NOT about trying to stir together the good and the bad to come up with some unsatisfying concoction. It’s really about identifying what truly IS good, and as quickly as possible, abandoning the bad in favor of more pleasurable results.

I am often amused when people extol the virtue of patience. I know it seems noble to talk about it; I know we often feel grown-up when we consider pursuing it. But patience is something that makes you feel mature inside, as it completely rattles every other part of you. Patience is over-rated. I know there are those who will quote verses of scripture or bits of wisdom on the subject, but I must warn you–they are the same folks who will growl at you for using their parking space because they’re too busy to be nice, as they are trying to be patient … about something else.

Here is what I use as a determination of whether to continue to chase a dream or let it go and “dump the tub:”

1. Is it tasteful? Life should have flavor. If the choice you have made has created a blandness, a sense of repetition, or a feeling of meaningless activity, you might have just arrived for a visit with the Great Uncle in the family of Mediocrity. Life should have a zing to our palette and a sense of challenge.

2. Is it enlightening? What do I mean by “enlightening?”  Anything that includes as many people as possible instead of creating barriers, which human beings have great difficulty in overcoming, is born of the light of God instead of being snuffed out by the traditions and prejudices of men.

There are many thing I do not understand; there are things I do not agree with. I don’t care. What I’m looking for is a way to enlighten myself and the world around me towards God’s love and finding a way to create equality of appreciation for every human being.

3. And finally, is it productive? I remember when I was working at a college in Louisiana, they were planning an event. On the budget was the printing of five thousand flyers to hand out for advertising. I posed the question, “Do the flyers work? Has anyone ever come in because they saw a flyer?” The candid response from the room was no. So I asked them why they were still printing them. They immediately had two reasons: (a) “we always do: and (b) “we don’t want to hurt our printer’s feelings.”

You see, we cannot make decisions in our lives based on what we have always done or fear of hurting some proprietor’s feelings. Is it productive? Will it take us forward to our goals, or is it a repetition of a practice which has proven to be less than effective?

For verily I say unto you, a perfect example of an oxymoron is the phrase, “stagnation in progress.” If you’re willing to take a look at these three exercises, you can escape a treadmill of meaningless exertion, creating more sweat than muscle.

I dumped the tub. It changed the dynamic of our whole camp from a sluggish reluctance to a sense of anticipation that we were pursuing a better way instead of settling for fruity tea … with no punch. It takes a bit of courage. It takes a Godly impatience with unnecessary lack. And until our Father in heaven sees us desiring that His will be done on earth, He will not be impressed that we are patiently waiting for heaven.

Dump the tub. Start over again. It makes you feel smart.

It makes you feel like you have a life.

The producers of jonathots would humbly request a yearly subscription donation of $10 for this wonderful, inspirational opportunity

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