5:02 A.M. … August 15, 2012

  • Loser — Part 2
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Death stinks–the smell of dried blood, perspiration and urine, scents that rattle the consciousness to a new awareness of mortality.

Fifty-seven minutes to complete the job. For after all, if we’re going to be good little Jewish boys and girls, we must get this body off the cross, wrap it up and place it in the tomb before six o’clock or somebody will be mad. It seems that the religious system is not satisfied to merely, try, convict, condemn and execute. They also want to make sure there’s not enough time for a decent burial.

A decent burial–what does that mean?

He’s dead. How? Why does the healer lose to the executioner?

It took us thirty minutes to get the nails out of his hands and feet. Even though he was stone cold, respect for his body made us do the labor gingerly, so as to not further tear the flesh. So broken. Nearly drained of blood, yet still his legs are purple and bruised. Wrapped in a cloth, to be thrown in a tomb for future consideration.

I just don’t understand. Why didn’t “love your neighbor” work? Why did it all come down to the masses, who benefited so much from his love, and the disciples, who were so enriched by his life, standing up for him instead of proclaiming openly that “they didn’t know him?”

Sitting here thinking about “blessed are the meek” when it is so obvious that the strong, willful and arrogant have won the day. He warned us not to judge others, yet he, himself, was judged and killed. He proclaimed that he was Lord of the Sabbath. Now he is “lorded over” by the approaching Sabbath, crowding out any moments for reflection and dignity.

Is it wrong of me to say I didn’t want to lose? Can I tell you that I’m disappointed? That I thought I had backed a winner? And now here I am, covered in his blood.

But I have no place to go. I have nothing to believe in. You see, what I have is a God who appears to be without love. I have a religion without mercy, a country without a leader and I am a follower … without a friend.

I try to remember better times in Galilee. I think about the conversations we had while fishing. It was so rich with humanity and tenderness, and now it’s relegated to a thirty-minute race to drop the body off in a cave and head back home–supposedly to honor Jehovah.

But I do remember he told us that a prophet “has no honor in his own country and amongst his own kindred.” Just last night he told us he was going “to prepare a place for us.” And even though our ears were not tuned to the message, on many occasions he warned that he would be delivered into the hands of evil men, but on the third day…

The third day. When would that be? Was he counting today? Or does it begin with the morning? What did he say would happen on the third day?

He would rise again. A quick glance down at the corpse removes any inkling of that possibility.

So who am I without him? Are we all losers? Is losing inevitable? Can I afford to give three more days to find out what his message might have meant?

Interesting. Maybe I could use the time wisely.

So what is this loser from Capernaum supposed to do when his best friend, Jesus,  is brutally murdered and jeered at–as a loser?

I guess, on Day One, I should just sit and heal. What does that mean? Healing is always when we cease to consider our pain and we start to believe in our restitution.

Day Two. Maybe I could just take time to rediscover my vision. If Jesus is dead forever and I am still alive, what can I take of Jesus into my life? Do I just want to go back to fishing? Or am I curious enough to find out what he meant by me becoming a “fisher of men?”

And on Day Three, it will either be disappointment or perhaps … resurrection. Why do they spend so much time in life instructing us on how to win when most of the time we need to know what to do with a losing situation–to turn it around to better ends?  Am I prepared to go to Day Three if it holds disappointment instead of resurrection?

Yes. Because even having the blessing of believing for two days that there might be more to come is well worth surviving the disappointment.

When did we become losers? For a brief time it seemed like we were going to rule the world. And now we don’t even have enough control to bury the dead.

Loser. I never associated that word with my friend. But maybe if he didn’t make himself vulnerable enough to be cast away from success, he would never have truly been one of us.

  • I will heal.
  • I will restore my vision.
  • And I will prepare for resurrection.

My name is John. And I have decided–believing is always preferable to self-pity.

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Where do we go from here?… July 6, 2012

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She crinkled up her nose like she had just sniffed a basket full of sweaty socks at the Y.M.C.A. I could tell by her scrunched-up countenance that I was about to receive a little piece of nasty criticism. She asked, “Why don’t you go to bigger places where you could do more good and help more people instead of coming to small towns with congregations with so little attendance?”

She thought she had invented the wheel. She believed she had discovered a weakness in my effort and had uncovered a fragment of stupidity in my planning. I asked her a simple question.

“My dear, what’s working?”

It stumped her. Because even though she was bound and determined to prove her point, there doesn’t seem to be much in our society that is heavily promoted which is accomplishing anything resembling resolution.

If you turn to the world of politics, there is just too much to prove to produce any power. My dear Lord, you have to convince everybody that you’re a reputable Republican or a distinguished Democrat before you are able to step into the ring and do something to improve the circus. By the time you get done being a pundit for all the platforms of your particular political persuasion, you have used up all the time granted you on the stage of opportunity. Neither one of the political parties have all the answers, and worse, neither are even asking the right questions.

You can feel free to go to religion if you want to, but then you find yourself in the unenviable position of having too much to defend. I will tell you, my dear friends, that I am a person of faith and spirituality, but I have absolutely no intention of trying to explain the Bible. Greater men than me have attempted that feat, and have ended up looking overly pious or have been disproven by the flow of knowledge. I am not going to defend anything. If it can’t stand on its own, then it should suffer from its inadequacy. So I can’t participate in religious ceremony because it just has too much to prove.

Corporations are equally as inhibited and waterlogged. There’s just too much profit to be made. When your latest business meeting is about finding ways to cut employees in order to increase your bottom line, more than likely you will never be considered top of the line. Just too much to profit to have the vision for people and better products.

And I have no intentions of leaping into the forefront of the entertainment industry, which is basically occupied by many pseudo-intellectuals who are more historians than history-makers. They would much rather discuss the subtleties of a scene than risk producing new art that challenges and awakens the audience. Just too much to posture. I never like to be around a group of people who believe they prove their worth by how much they know instead of how much they do.

This is the same position Jesus found himself in when he came out of the wilderness and decided it was time to start his work. There were many, many large towns and countless affluent people looming the horizon. He picked Capernaum. It would probably be the last choice of most individuals who were trying to get a pulse on first-century society. It was tiny, behind the times and certainly out of the flow of the general direction of politics, religion, commerce and entertainment.

So why did he do it? Was it just an attempt to be humble? Or did he know something that other people failed to recognize? Let’s take a look at it from his perspective. If the Jewish religion was going to be decimated in the next seventy years and the Roman Empire would cease to exist within four centuries, there was no wisdom in planting the seeds of your ideas in the format of those who were doomed to be left in the history books. It was necessary to find an environment where the elements of renewal would be received because they were viable to everyday life–not because they were trendy.

Here are the keys to making a difference:

1. Find people who still believe in their talent, but want more. Capernaum was a fishing village. They pulled the sustenance to keep them alive out of the nearby water, and they knew they were at the mercy of nature. These people were prepared to learn more about earth and God. If your coffers are full, it’s hard to believe you lack anything.

2. Find people who use their abilities but aren’t stubborn about tradition, and still seek ways to do it better. One morning, Jesus happened upon Peter and his fishing companions and asked them how they had done during their night’s fishing expedition. They had caught nothing. He told them to cast their net on the other side of the boat. At his word, they did–and pulled in the most fish they had seen in years. Had they been conceited, overly frustrated, pious about their knowledge of the sea, or just aggravated with the turns of life, they would have missed out on pulling in 153 fish. That’s right. We get a count.

3. Learn from people who do it better than you. No one is able to swallow pride, so you might want to spit it out instead. But after you spit it out, realize that it’s not nearly as painful to learn and improve as it is to repeat and fail. Check around. See if there’s anyone who knows more than you do and quietly acquire their storehouse of information.

4. Find people who are willing to stop critiquing. America is obsessed with judging things. Having an opinion is dangerously like stopping on the freeway in the middle of seventy-mile-an-hour traffic. You may know why you did it, but it won’t keep people from wanting to smack you. Keep driving, but learn as you go. Don’t criticize. It makes you look arrogant and stupid.

5. And finally, get somewhere with people who understand that they need to be happy. None of us like grouchy folks. We try to be tolerant but they really do tick us off, the thought being: “We’ve got just as much reason to be grouchy as they do. Why don’t they shut up?” If you can find people who understand that happiness is everything, so therefore, choosing to even fake it from time to time while you’re waiting for it to reappear is the safest way to live, you will find yourself in an environment where God feels like He can show up without having to dodging too many complaints.

So–to give a final answer to my lady who thought she was enlightening me with the need to be more famous, I tell her this:

Nothing is going to happen in this country unless the people who live in the grass roots, who don’t have too much to prove, too much to defend, too much to profit and too much to posture, step forward, use their happiness and learn better ways to love the world and use what they’ve got.

Where do we go from here?

One by one, to the next person who selects a smile instead of frowning at all the choices available.

   

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

Jesus Was a Communist… June 24, 2012

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Jesus was a communist.

I know that’s quite a shocking opening statement. I was equally as surprised as I perused the Gospel accounts and realized that Jesus traveled with his disciples, living off the land and sharing all things in common. Thus, a communist.

Upon additional research, I realized that my first assertion of a Communist Jesus was totally erroneous. As it turns out, Jesus is a capitalist. For he said, “He that has shall more be given, and he that has not, even the little he has shall be taken away from him.” Capitalism.

I also discovered through my readings that Jesus would be very upsetting to the NRA, because he was anti-gun, proclaiming that “they that live by the sword shall die by the sword.”

Yet ironically, he did support the troops, because he praised the Centurion who was in charge of one hundred Roman Legionnaires, by saying, “Never have I seen so great a faith—no, not in Israel.”

A bit befuddled, I pressed on with my project. Turns out that Jesus is in favor of gay rights. He said we should not judge, lest we all be judged, for “the measure that is measured out by us to others will be measured back to us.”

I was about to unveil this revelation to some acquaintances, when, with further perusal, I realized that Jesus was also in favor of the Defense of Marriage Act, and might even be a homophobe, because he explained to the Pharisees quite clearly that God made male and female and that from the beginning that this was called true marriage—“that a man should leave his mother and a woman leave her home, and the two would be one flesh.”

By this point, I was fully intrigued, yet a bit shocked when I uncovered that Jesus was an Anti-Semite. Speaking to the women of Jerusalem on the day of his crucifixion, he told them that their “house was left to them desolate.”

So imagine how perplexed I was when I also read that he was a Zionist. Giving a partial rebuke to a Syro-phoenician foreigner, he told her it was not good to “give the children’s bread to the dogs.” That’s right—he called her a “Gentile dog.”

Now my curiosity was really piqued, so I started reading indiscriminately, trying to keep an open mind.

Jesus was a party animal. People referred to him as a “wine-bibber, a glutton and a friend of sinners.” Yet, bewildering, he was also a “refrainer.” For after all, he went into the wilderness and fasted for forty days and forty nights, and was hungry.

I then ascertained that Jesus HAD to be a Republican, because he bluntly said that “every good tree brings forth good fruit and every evil tree brings forth evil fruit.” So I was about to make my proclamation on the political nature of his message, when I determined that he was a Democrat, because he strongly believed in the separation of church and state.Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and unto God the things that are God’s.”

I then realized that some women might find him to be a chauvinist, because arriving at a well in Samaria, he ordered a woman to bring him something to drink. But this was quickly dispelled by viewing the narrative about the day of his resurrection, when he turned to Mary Magdalene and told her to go and tell the other disciples that he was risen from the dead. Yes. He made a woman his first apostle.

Did you know he was pro-life? He told the surrounding audience that if they “offended one of these little ones, it would be better that a millstone be hung around their neck and that they be cast into the sea.”

Of course, a case could be made that he was pro-choice. He said, “If your right eye offend you, pluck it out.” And we certainly know that some women would find an unwanted pregnancy much more disturbing than bad vision.

Was he a saint? Pontius Pilate, a completely neutral bystander, claimed that he found no fault in him.

Was he evil? The religious leaders claimed that he was “a sinner, a Galilean.”

I pressed on. With my additional readings, I discovered that he was a religionist. He advocated that we fast, that we pray, that we give alms, and even mentioned that we should continue our tithing. So you can imagine how I was a little bit astonished to comprehend that he was a revolutionary, standing toe-to-toe with the religious system. He told them that “he was the Lord of the Sabbath.”

A strong case could be made that Jesus was a humanist, for he told his followers that the”Kingdom of God was within them.” Yet, he did not leave out the presence and power of the Almighty, because he spoke clearly and said that “you should love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength.”

Did he favor men? Well, he did have twelve disciples, all circumcised. Yet you might have the inkling that his heart went out to women, because Mary Magdalene, Joanna and Susanna, members of his troupe, gave “of their substance” to make sure the work went on. (You’ve got to love contributors.)

Are you tired yet? Because honestly, I found out he was a liberal. Defending a woman caught in adultery, he turned to a gathered audience of those who assumed they were righteous and said, “Let he that hath no sin cast the first stone.”

Yet I have to tell you, he could just as easily have been a conservative. Because in his Sermon on the Mount, he warned his followers that “he had not come to destroy the Law, but to fulfill it—and not one jot or tittle of the Law would be cast aside until all was completed.”

Well, you can see—I’ve had quite a journey. But there were still a couple more that jumped out at me.

I had always believed that Jesus was forgiving, because even hanging from the cross, he insisted, “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.” But also, he was a bit vindictive—because he warned that the individuals who did not stand with him were against him.

An environmentalist? Well, certainly a case can be made, because he said that “not one sparrow falls from the sky without God being fully aware of the loss.” But also a pragmatist, because he claimed that nature is fickle and unpredictable, with “the rain falling on the just and the unjust.”

So finally I asked myself the supreme question. Was he a savior? He made it clear that he laid down his life and it wasn’t taken from him. But you have to ask yourself whether he was perhaps a victim, because in the Garden of Gethsemane, he prayed in great anguish, “Father, let this cup pass from me.”

I finished my pursuit of finding the true nature of who Jesus was. And I ended up, as you see, with so many representations that it is no wonder why we have denominations aplenty, and nearly incomprehensible that we don’t have more.

Jesus can be just about whoever you want him to be. That is why over the years he has become the champion for many causes, some noble and others destructive. So my dear friends, how do we know who he really is? How do we know the best way to represent him? It didn’t take much more investigative reporting on my part to come up with a very simple outline—a prism, if you will—which we shine the light of Jesus through to determine his true colors. Because he makes it clear on three occasions why he came to this earth:

1.”I have come give you life and it more abundantly.”

2.”I have come that your joy might be full.”

3.”I have come to show you the Father.”

So as I looked over my thirty-two insights on the life of Jesus based upon fragments of his filibustering, I passed them through the acid test of these three obvious callings.

I decided not to teach anything that did not bring life to people in abundance.

No matter how many times it is shouted, I will not take partial theology to teach anything that does not encourage full joy.

And finally, it is ridiculous to pursue any path that does not show us a glimpse of God the Father.

  • Full joy.
  • Abundant life.
  • Revelation of the Father.

It’s what human beings need.  Therefore, it’s what Jesus is.

   

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

She Got It… March 26, 2012

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It nearly took my breath away.

Yesterday a woman came up to my book table, having carefully waited for a personal moment. With tears in her eyes, she said, “When you shared the messageNoOne is better than anyone else–I realized that I thought I was better than people at work. It really touched me, opened my eyes and made me realize that I’m not–and that this attitude is my problem.”

It was  a marvelous, miraculous moment–similar to Jesus walking on the water, the resurrection and the second coming of Christ. What I was seeing was the birth of faith. I was looking into the eyes of the woman with the issue of blood, who realized that touching the hem of Jesus’ garment might be her last opportunity for restoration. I just sat quietly and listened to her, afraid to breathe, afraid that one little eyelash lifted on my face would steal the moment of spiritual purity. She didn’t stay long; she was there and she was gone.

Shortly after this encounter, I overheard another woman leaving the sanctuary, speaking to the pastor.  In sullen tones she said, “Well, it was different.”

Of course, you and I know that in our society, the word “different” is synonymous with the word “crap.” Now, here was a woman who sat through the message and refused to let it in because it was out of the bounds she was accustomed to.

Beautiful.

As it should be. For I don’t need everybody to come out of my presentations convinced I’m cute or even viable. It just won’t happen. But my dear friends, when you encounter faith–the power of it–you understand why God accepts it as the measure of pleasing Him. Here are the four steps to faith–and this is what that dear woman who confessed at my table achieved to receive the cleaning in her heart that washed her eyes with tears and freed her mind from confusion:

1. She heard the message. The Bible says that “faith comes by hearing.” And Jesus admonished, “He who has an ear, let him hear.” When we set too many restrictions on what is acceptable, we close the door for God ever speaking to us. The message will never come with the voice we expect. The message will never resound with our familiar liturgy. The message will never be ushered in by ritual or repetition. It is always fresh–to the point of being alarming–and if you are not open to it your ears will be closed and your soul will suffer from malnutrition. She heard the message. It may have been bizarre to her eyes and unfamiliar to her taste. But the words were salvation to her heart.

2. She believed the message. What makes something believable? When we allow our heart, which has heard the message, to be softened by understanding instead of being hardened by trepidation. It is so much easier to believe when you remove the obstacles from the process. What are the obstacles?

  • “I never heard it that way.”
  • “I don’t understand.”
  • “It’s not my style.”
  • “He doesn’t look the part.”
  • “I’m uncomfortable with the implications.”

All of that vanished because her ears heard and her heart understood. so the process found root in her soul.

3. She applied the message. Nothing spiritual ever occurs until we OWN it. Verses of scripture and scraps of inspiration have absolutely no value until we prescribe to them and allow the medication to heal our wounds. This lady did not walk to my table and tell me how powerful she thought the message was for others. Often I will get that. People will say that “NoOne is better than anyone else” is needed in the church and for me to keep up the good work. This woman stepped out of the “Amen” crowd and into the solitude of  “I am.”  Somewhere along the line, truth has to be our provision–even if no one else hears. She absorbed the impact and allowed the magnitude for change. Which allowed for the fourth and final step in the process of faith:

4. She IS the message. Just as “the word became flesh and dwelt among us” when Jesus was incarnate on earth, the only confirmation we ever have that true spirituality is at work is when people embody the concepts through their actions and lives. She became the message. She took words and was determined to cause them to become flesh through her efforts.

You can continue to extol the notion that some passages of holy writ exist as divinely inspired without human application, but what you will have is a form of godliness which really denies the power of it. She IS the message. From this point on, the words, “NoOne is better than anyone else,” will be extolled by her actions.

I left the church yesterday exhilarated by the experience of eyeballing the process of faith through the life of another human being. Facts are, I love both women. I love the woman who came showing that she had heard the message, believed the message, applied the message and is the message.

I also love the woman who left, desiring to return next week to a more customary fare. The difference lies in the progress of their journeys. Because faith is measured out by the fruit that is born through human lives. 

And until we allow ourselves to hear, believe, apply and become, we will be creatures of repetition instead of dynamic forces … through repentance.

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Sitting One

 I died today. 

I didn’t expect it to happen.  Then again, I did—well, not really.

No, I certainly didn’t expect it.

I’ve had moments of clarity in my life.  Amazingly enough, many of them were in the midst of a dream. For a brief second I would know the meaning of life or the missing treatment to cure cancer.  And then as quickly as it popped into my mind it was gone. I really don’t recollect dying.  Just this unbelievable sense of clear headedness—like walking into a room newly painted and knowing by the odor and brightness that the color on the wall is so splattering new that you should be careful not to touch it for fear of smearing the design. The greatest revelation of all? 

Twenty-five miles in the sky time ceases to exist.

The planet Pluto takes two hundred and forty-eight years to circle the sun. It doesn’t give a damn. 

The day of my death was the day I became free of the only burden I really ever had.  TIME.

Useless.

Time is fussy.  Time is worry. 

Time is fear.  Time is the culprit causing human-types to recoil from pending generosity. 

There just was never enough time. 

Time would not allow it.  Remember—“if time permits …”

Why if time permits?  Why not if I permit?  Why not if I dream?  Why not if I want?  Why does time get to dictate to me my passage? 

It was time that robbed me of my soulful nature.    It was time that convinced me that my selfishness was needed. 

I didn’t die. The clock in me died, leaving spirit to tick on.  

So why don’t we see the farce of time?  Why do we allow ourselves to fall under the power of the cruel despot?  Yes, time is a relentless master—very little wage for much demand.

I died today. 

Actually … a piece of time named after me was cast away.

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