Not Long Tales … September 3rd, 2019

Jonathots Daily Blog

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The Great Debate.

As the critics and advocates tumbled and tussled over the issue of gun control, an innovation quietly made its way onto the world stage. It silenced the controversy about guns because it was not considered a weapon. It was touted as beneficial and given a clever, almost cute name: The Blaster.

Privately, for years the American government had been working on a nuclear hand-held device. Though it was initially considered impossible to control a fission reaction held in the human hand, the well-funded research nevertheless persisted, energized by much money.

It was unveiled as a simple climate-friendly way to dispose of waste, clean up after a hurricane or even quickly eliminate unwanted foliage in building of new communities.

It had a companion device called “Clean Boy.” Even though The Blaster itself emitted low-level radiation within the acceptable range of human exposure, Clean Boy was manufactured to make sure that any work done with The Blaster would leave the region free of the fear from radiation sickness.

The Blaster seemed ideal for disposing trash from an area since it only covered a twelve-foot radius, leaving whatever was in its path a pile of ash and dust. As often is the case, for a brief season it was used exactly for what it was conceived to address.

That was, until the Holy City Massacre.

Blasters, which were supposed to be highly regulated and kept out of the hands of criminals or the uninformed were suddenly used at a mass shooting in Jerusalem, killing over four thousand pilgrims and annihilating several of the holy sites.

Of course it was a shock to everyone’s system. But over the years there had been so many mass shootings that no one considered The Blaster, with its nuclear implications, to be that much worse than other atrocities.

What was once considered an American problem had, over the years, been translated into every language and culture. Even though the United States wished to export democracy and freedom, it ended up transporting death and mayhem. So the debate about The Blaster was similar to the arguments over assault weapons.

But there was a man who lived in Winesca, Iowa, named Dylan Cavanaugh. Fifteen years before The Blaster came onto the scene, Dylan and his wife realized that the thirst to kill and the appetite to hear about it on the nightly news was too strong to stop the insanity.

When the ban on assault weapons was lifted, Dylan and his wife journeyed to Wyoming, where they found a parcel of land with a mountain and purchased it, using some inheritance money Dylan had acquired from his mother and father.

The couple set off to change their world. Every summer (and actually, every chance they got to get away) they prepared a way of escape. Even when four daughters arrived, Dylan and his wife, Crenslo (whom he called Crennie) went to Wyoming to their dreamscape and made plans—intricate plans.

Dylan was a licensed electrician, but he also was an inventor. He had manufactured a special battery for an electric minibus which had solar panels in its roof and large storage spaces in the sides. It seated eleven counting the driver.

Shortly after the Holy City Massacre, Dylan gathered his family together and explained his plan. “I do not want to scare you, or maybe I should say I don’t want to scare myself, but because of the atrocity in Jerusalem, it seems to me that half the world is anticipating the wrath of God and the other half is ready to bring it. I’m going to ask you to trust me. For the time being, and for further notice, we are going to our property in Wyoming, which we have prepared as a living space, until I am certain that I can offer you a safe home here in Iowa.”

The girls stared at him in disbelief. Each one had a life in the small Hawkeye town. But Dylan had succeeded, both as a human being and as a father, to build trust with his children. So Clancy, age fifteen, Roberta, thirteen, Sharon, eleven, and Caroline, nine, climbed into the electric minibus and made the journey with their parents to Wyoming. There was sadness, intrigue and just enough distraction along the way from trying various treats at gas stops to keep them engaged and hopeful.

Upon arriving, the young ladies got to see their mother and father’s vision. Carved into the mountain were a series of caves, fully lit and even decorated—enough openings and rooms to house fifty people. On the mountain itself were thousands of solar panels, providing enough energy—especially with Dylan’s new battery technology—to keep them warmed or cooled for months.

They spent the whole first month learning how to shoot a bow and arrow. No guns were allowed, but there was a need to gather food. Dylan had brought a computer, and also a ham radio setup so he could stay in contact with society. Still, the rest of Earth seemed far away from the Wyoming outpost.

About two months in, the Internet disappeared, and the radio went silent. The girls watched as their father cried and their mother joined him. They weren’t certain what the tears were for, but they contributed a few of their own.

At that point, Papa Dylan began going off in the minibus for days at a time. Upon returning, he always had one, two, and once, five people along with him. Each one had a story, each story more terrifying than the one before.

Dylan made his journeys for about six months. He ceased them once he stopped coming back with human folk. All in all, there were 43 people who found refuge in the vision of Dylan and Crennie.

One day, when it was pretty certain who was who and what was what, Dylan made a short speech. “I have not given up on the Earth. But right now, I want to make sure that we don’t give up on each other. I know each one of us saw lots of movies about the Apocalypse and the destruction of the Earth. In those flicks, the survivors always ended up killing each other.” He looked around, then joked, “Maybe it was because they were all zombies.” Everyone laughed. It was good to laugh.

He continued. “There are going to be three jobs in our little home. Those who gather the food, those who cook the food and those who clean up. Each one of us will learn how to do all the jobs. We’ll alternate. There will only be three—well, I guess we can call ’em rules. Love your neighbor, do your work, learn something new every day.”

The other 42 people who had gathered for the little speech smiled, shed a quick tear over loss and then turned to one another and embraced. Dylan found Crennie and kissed her lovingly on the lips.

Clancy, the oldest daughter, looked across the room at a boy named Zach.

She thought he was cute.

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Cracked 5 … February 2nd, 2016

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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 The End Result of the Iowa Caucus

 

A. The prospect of watered-down hot chocolate and unfulfilling arguments can still draw a crowd

 

B. Iowa has three vowels in its name. Go figure.

 

C. It is possible to add injury to insult.

 

D. Evangelicals are always good at spotting the devil–and even following him.

 

E. We are very adept at lining up dishonest people in a particular pecking order.

 

Cracked 5 Iowa

 

 

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Cracked 5 … December 29th, 2015

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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New Year’s Resolutions of Presidential Candidates

A. Remember the things you say that get applause.

 

B. Feel super about your “PACs.”

 

C. Don’t cry unless you are talking to a veteran and a camera is rolling

 

D. Look sharp. Talk tough. Deny rumors. Eat corn in Iowa.

 

E. Don’t lie unless you really have to.

Cracked 5 New Year's Resolutions

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What I Learned on my Summer Vacation … September 2, 2013

Jonathots Daily Blog

(1994)

first day of school

It’s just about time for the bell to ring.

The first day of school is nearly over when the teacher lifts her hand, commanding silence, and informs the classroom that the only homework required for that evening is to write a 250-word essay on, “What I learned over my summer vacation.” She tells the class that the little journals will be read aloud.

So in the spirit of that memory, I will tell YOU what I learned over my summer vacation.

Candidly, I didn’t vacate anything. In other words, I didn’t go on vacation. I continued my occupation, which includes enough travel that one might think I WAS in the midst of some sort of leisurely activity.

Actually, I signed up for the TMMMIII package: Texas-Missouri-Minnesota-Michigan-IowaIllinoisIndiana.

It’s what most people would refer to as “The Heartland,” even though I’m sure the Lone Star State would object in being included with such Yankee stock.

What I learned was very simple:

1. People are everywhere. They are not going away. They are not here to aggravate us, nor necessarily bless us. You can call them self-involved, but really, what they possess is the natural need for survival.

2. People are the adventure. I somewhat pity individuals who need to get on a roller-coaster ride to convince themselves they are acquiring excitement. For me, I can perch on a bench in a mall and watch humanity walking by, and within moments find plots and subplots for movies, plays and certainly, jonathots. Yes, people are underrated as a source of entertainment and inspiration. Also:

3. People don’t charge admission. On the other hand, if you take a trip to Disney World, you can spend $200 a day–easily. But besides my grits, gravy and well-positioned pillows, my odyssey doesn’t cost much as long as I’m willing to accept the show provided. The danger in life is becoming so stuck in your ways that you need everybody around you to be a certain style or you can’t find joy in them. I’m only human. There ARE people I prefer over others, but I do find all of them intriguing, and I’m very grateful that they don’t try to tap me for funds to participate in their three-ring circus. Which leads to:

4. Enjoy the show. I am thoroughly convinced that our earth journey is about learning to enjoy what comes our way, who comes our way, how it comes our way and even why it comes our way. Too much philosophy makes you grumpy. Too much religion makes you prejudiced. And too much knowledge puts you on a search to uncover the ignorant. I enjoy easing up a bit and allowing myself the chance to take in the main stage of everybody’s life, and let them make their case.

It’s been a fantastic summer, and as I sit here on this Labor Day, I can barely call what I do hard work. To some it would probably seem arduous, but I guess I’m just having too much fun … taking in the scenery.

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Iowa Lot… July 24, 2013

Jonathots Daily Blog

(1953)

Iowa cornIowa lot to fruits and vegetables. They have prevented me from killing myself with fats and carbs.

Iowa lot to my parents. They could have fought instead of having sex.

Iowa lot to my third grade teacher. She got me interested in history, and the rest is … well, my life.

Iowa lot to my enemies. Trying to destroy me, they accidentally alerted me to dangerous flaws.

Iowa lot to good tires. They make my engine usable.

Iowa lot to mistakes. They are the potholes that teach me how to be road-worthy.

Iowa lot to my family. Learning my virtues while ignoring my vices, they continue to make me look good.

Iowa lot to Gloria, who came down from her highest and accepted our kin and has gone to her hallelujah moment.

Iowa lot to my voice. It keeps working, sometimes without the assistance of my brain.

Iowa lot to faith, hope and love – these three. But the greatest is remembering to use them.

Iowa lot to God. He gives me free will and then bravely rides shotgun on the bumpy ride.

Iowa lot to my fat body. Without it, I just might have leaped on anyone wearing perfume.

Iowa lot to Iowa. She has welcomed me to share my talent and heart.

I owe a lot.

I am debtor to all.

I will spend the rest of my life attempting to repay the loan…with interest.

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Last Stop in the Lone Star … June 2, 2013

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HoustonTex Mex. I love it.

I’m not just speaking of the cuisine offered in this great state of Texas, which is a blending of Mexican food and Southern cooking. I’m speaking more specifically of the fact that the folks of Texas were smart enough to realize that there were Mexicans already living there when they arrived and also Native Americans, and rather than fighting them, they joined with them, starting in the kitchen and including the living room.

Texas always feels like what you might call America, Part II. When the Pilgrims landed on Plymouth Rock, they began the arduous process of assimilating with other cultures and people to form a great union of many nations, merging behind a central idea–freedom.

We had to repeat the process in Texas. People from all over the continent came there seeking a new way of life, but discovered there were already natives and folks from other countries, and rather than killing ’em off or segregating them, they married, interacted and created a cultural Tex-Mex.

It wasn’t always perfect. But it is certainly why Sam Houston, who was governor, refused to leave the Union when the Confederacy seceded. It was the independent nature in Mr. Houston which told him that treating other people as lessers makes for neither good neighbors nor good government. While some people may look to Washington, D.C.,  Hollywood, New York City or the state of California for inspiration in reviving the grass-roots of our national treasure, I think we need much of that birthing spirit found in the original Lone Star State of Texas, which instead of arguing and fussing with their neighbors, made a good attempt at blending.

This is why Texas is different from Alabama, and what makes Texas unique from Iowa. And it is what makes Texas distinct from California and New York. Texans can be stubborn, but after they get their cowboy hats knocked off a few times by reality, they learn pretty quickly, adapt and move toward solutions.

I have spent four months touring across this state and I’m not trying to portray myself as an expert on the state. But I will tell you–the people I met have strong virtues and ideals, but have not buried their heads in the sand or their feet in cement. They realize that time marches on. And what may have been a tradition twenty years ago is now subject to amending. It’s very simple–any idea that alienates us from our brothers and sisters in the family of humankind is useless and therefore needs to be changed.

I am optimistic. While liberals think conservatives are hilariously stupid and conservatives are sure that the liberals are headed for a devil’s hell, I am wondering if it’s possible to take a moment, look into our own hearts, and like true Texans, avoid both ignorance and Dante’s Inferno.

Tex Mex. What a great, simple idea that exemplifies the willingness to at least attempt to blend our flavors.

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The Garden of Gethsame (Lutheran) … July 2nd, 2012

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Right there in the middle.

Yes–stuck directly in the center of the word “tradition” is “it.”

I don’t mind people who honor tradition. Matter of fact, yesterday morning I was honored and privileged to be granted an audience in front of a traditional Lutheran congregation. Such confinements and constrictions don’t concern me at all–that is, as long as they get “it.”

Yes, if people will admit that their preferences in style, music and procedure have very little to do with truth and they are still able to unearth the true mission of the heart of Jesus, I couldn’t care less if they do it with a tambourine or a pipe organ.

But you have to get “it.” First of all, you have to understand that if you name your church Gethsemane Lutheran, you are acknowledging that your particular work is built on the concept of one of the greatest conflicts between mankind’s ignorance and God’s mercy. The Garden of Gethsemane was where tradition that DIDN’T get “it” decided to arrest, try and kill the messenger of the ultimate expression of love. It is also the location where miraculously and most wonderfully, a human being stepped away from convenience and humbly prayed, “Not my will, Lord. Yours be done.”

So the name itself–Gethsemane Lutheran–carries with it a tremendous responsibility. We need to understand that we must not crucify Christ again, like the stubborn religious leaders of the past, and instead learn from him the simplicity of seeking out an ultimate good in the midst of present chaos.

I saw great hope for that yesterday–people coming out of the service having the wisdom and intuitive power to distinguish between liturgical practice and down-to-earth, Godly commonsense.

For instance, I love the man who walked up to me and said that he wrote a letter to the editor of the newspaper, citing that in America there is no absence of jobs, it’s just that people often don’t want to take the employment because the positions available have not been given value, and therefore they know that they, themselves, will be disrespected for faithfully working. It was an inspired notion. It caused me to think about the motel maids, the waiters and waitresses and the maintenance men that I meet every week. What would I do without them? What tremendous service they offer to us! Yet they are often relegated to the status of secondary citizens and taken for granted as being merely “common laborers.” How brilliant, my brother. Yes, we need to learn to value what people do–and in that action, create and continue an ongoing value for one another.

I listened as men and women came to my table and shared their stories–one having a background in theater, desiring to bring that creative essence into the worship experience; another, a transplant from the Eastern seaboard, who possessed a wealth of history, knowledge and humor in his pursuit of the Christ walk; a leader of the worship service, who came with an open heart instead of feeling the need to sprout some suspicion over the newly arrived strangers; a musician who gave us place and honor to present our own tunefulness with her support; a wonderful, caring woman who presented us with delicious fruit to refresh us between the programs; teenagers, sparked with enthusiasm, picking up our pieces of equipment and carryuing them to our van, lightening our load; and a lady whose heart had been broken many times, but still brought the pieces to Janet, with the aspiration of receiving restoration.

I had no problem with the tradition of Gethsemane, because they get “it.” And what IS “it?”

1. You can’t follow Jesus without occasionally offending some Pharisees. If every stiff-necked, religious fanatic bound by church stuffiness is pleased with you, you probably aren’t doing enough. Truth offends liars. There’s nothing you can do about it. You can be gentle; you can be caring and you can be open, but if you’re going to share Jesus, you will offend some Pharisees.

2. If you’re going to follow Jesus and get “it,” you’re going to believe that NoOne is better than anyone else. “Whosoever will may come” does not allow for secondary prejudice. Even in our cynical world, which would deem such innocent doctrine impractical, we must continue to believe that “NoOne is better than anyone else.”

3. The only thing sacred in churches are the people. As Jesus so eloquently stated it,Man was not made for the Sabbath; the Sabbath was made for man.” We’re not having church if everyone is going through the motions and no one’s being touched in the emotions.

4. To follow Jesus is to understand that the spirit blows where it wants to blow, and nothing will be identical from week to week. You may feel free to have a favorite hymn, but you also must be prepared, if you’re going to walk in the Kingdom of God, to hear a new song.

5. Jesus is not here to please the righteous, but to call sinners to repentance. By the way, that’s HIS quote. If we find ourselves trying to appease those who are already in the rank and file, we will also find ourselves displeasing to the one who was interested in seeking the lost.

6. Nothing is done without good cheer and the pursuit of happiness. Jesus gave us one mission–to be of good cheer. He also told us that our goal is happiness. If your belief is that your faith is going to produce more pain than joy, then you probably should shift teams. It is our job to find good cheer in everything we do, and always be on the lookout for reasons to inspire happiness in ourselves and others. It’s just part of getting “it.”

7. And finally, if you’re going to follow Jesus, you’ll understand that the Kingdom of God is within people, not institutions, ideas, dogmas or rituals. In other words, if what we’re doing is actually making people more cheerful, happy and enriching their lives, then continue. If it isn’t, revise the plan until some “joy comes in the morning.”

After having the delectable experience of being with my Gethsemane brothers and sisters, who were traditional but still got “it,”, I ended my day back at my motel, taking a dip in the swimming pool. I was surrounded by other folks who were trying to escape the St. Louis heat wave. There was a family from Iowa and two young men from Honduras. The young men were a little suspicious of Janet and myself when we got into the pool, because, I guess, we look a little older–and very white. But I flashed them a smile, and moments later they leapt into the pool and struck up a conversation with us. After finishing my first encounter with these two fine, young gents, I then talked to the family from Iowa. Lo and behold, when I finished that conversation, I was once again engaged by my two Honduran brothers, who explained how overjoyed they were that Janet and I were so friendly, because they had been working construction in town and had been “cussed out” by some of the locals because of their Hispanic roots. They worked very hard to understand my accent, as I did due diligence for theirs–but the end result was giddy communication, tenderness and the knowledge that “NoOne is better than anyone else.”

My family from Iowa peered over at us curiously as we conversed with Carlo and Jose. I often think that the problem is not that people are prejudiced–just that they’re afraid. I noticed moments later that the Iowa daddy made an attempt to talk to one of the Honduran workers. It was beautiful. It was what Jesus would want.

Shoot, forget Jesus for a minute. It’s what I wanted. I don’t want to be someone stuck in my “white bread tradition,” unable to carry on a conversation with two hardworking Honduran boys. I also want to be able to communicate with the good friends from Iowa. I want it all. And the only person who gives me the ability to do that is my mentor.

His name is Jesus. And he was the first one to get “it.”

   

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