Mush-mellow … February 2, 2012

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It startled me.  Yesterday someone suggested that I was becoming more “mellow.”
 
God forbid. Mellow is like grits without gravy, mush without maple syrup and an apple you purchase on Tuesday afternoon, knowing you’d better eat it quickly because by morning it’ll be rotten. No, I don’t really like mellow.
 
Neither would I want to be considered confrontational. Confrontational is the equivalent of someone who orders their Mexican food with extra hot sauce and then, to prove the point, squeezes the juice of three jalapenos over the top.
 
What I would like to do is matter enough that what I am impacts the world around me. That’s tricky. Candidly, most people do not like to be taught. We just don’t. That’s why within months of leaving school, our brains immediately begin to download knowledge from our minds like it’s on a sinking ship. It’s the whole teacher-student relationship that really troubles us. Because even when we’re little toddlers–two or three years old–and someone is trying to explain how to tie our shoes, we become impatient, saying, “I know. I know. I know.” Of course, we DON’T know, but that doesn’t make taking further instruction any easier.
 
We just reach a point where we think we should know things–and to be further taught on the subject is not only annoying, but somewhat emotionally debilitating. Yet change is needed. So how can you create the necessary renewal, revival or even renaissance in our society without becoming the schoolmarm, trying to take everybody back to the classroom to rehash old subjects? Well, let me first list the things people will NOT tolerate. I gave you one already.
 
1. Being taught. I know some of you will insist that you ARE teachable, and I appreciate the idea that in some areas you may be, but we all possess a bit of “know it all” that prevents us from acquiring all the information that would benefit our lives. Part of that is because:
2. No one wants to feel inferior. That’s really not a bad thing. In some ways, feeling inferior is much more dangerous than feeling superior. Sensations of being better than other people are usually quickly alleviated in the general commerce of humanity. But inferiority can hide out as shyness, being introverted or just having a bad day. So sometimes it’s difficult for people to receive new information without feeling they’re inferior in the process.
3. And the third obstacle to enriching the lives of human beings on this planet is family. Most people will find that when truth is unveiled, parts of it will be contrary to things that were taught by their families. They are immediately put in a Catch-22. We all want to grow but we don’t want to abandon our traditions. Jesus phrased it well. He said “if you let people taste new wine, they will quickly turn to you and say the old wine is better.” It’s not. We’re just terribly frightened of stepping on the graves of our ancestors on our way to building new roads to the future.
 
So you have those three things in the way of trying to create good change. I used to believe that God had called me to change people’s minds. I got over that pretty quickly. People do not change their minds because you ask, suggest or even because it’s the right thing to do. Worse yet, you have what we might call the twenty-four-hour change–where folks will adopt a new idea, but be much more critical about its value than they are towards their old opinions, so at the first sign of difficulty, they will abandon the fresh concept as unworkable.
 
So it’s not so much that I’ve gotten mellow. It’s just that I think I’ve discovered the best approach to being a contributor to humanity without coming across as “boss man.” And here it is: I will change my own mind thoroughly and then go ahead and do it.  And I will do it well enough to make you jealous.
 
That’s right. Human beings change because they’re jealous of what other people have. Now, you can reject that assertion because it doesn’t sound pretty or nice, but nonetheless, I think you will find that if you follow it through, it’s true. If you want everybody to wear red socks, the best thing to do is convince yourself that red socks are important and start wearing them all the time with a confident heart. Pretty soon you will notice there are other folks around you buying red socks. They will be quick to let you know that it had nothing to do with YOU wearing red socks; no, it was a personal choice they made because they suddenly remembered that their favorite color was red.
 
It doesn’t matter. You can’t matter in life if folks aren’t jealous of you, and of course, if they are jealous of you, there is a chance they can become your enemies. This is why Jesus was so insistent on us loving our enemies. Because just in the process of changing your own mind, doing something and deciding to perform it well, you will make tons of friends–but also some enemies. They are not your enemies because you are wicked, evil or hard to get along with. They are just jealous and have decided to channel their jealousy into impatience instead of impersonation. It’s the risk you take.
 
If you try to blend in with everybody around you, they will spend one hour appreciating your presence and then you will disappear into the background. If you come in and try to take over and tell people they’re wrong, they will righteously resist you because you are robbing them of their free will. But if you focus on yourself, change your own mind, do what you know you’re supposed to do and do it well, the end result will be the energy that really does generate revolution.
 
Jealousy.
 
For instance, the Soviet Union did not fall because we threatened them with missiles from every corner of the world. They just threatened us back with the same number. The Soviet Union fell because they ran out of bread, were jealous because of our many brands, and because, for the life of them, they couldn’t hatch a rock band as good as the Beatles. They were jealous.
 
If we would just take the time to focus on what our minds should be and what duties will come out of that thinking, and then practice that to the point of excellence, we will produce a jealousy which will promote duplication–or give us a handful of enemies to love. Either way, the world is quivering in the presence of our footsteps and journey.
 
It’s not so much about being mellow as it is about being smart. Don’t chase a dog that’s running away from you. Be careful buying tomatoes if the room smells too much like tomatoes. They’re on their way out the door. Feel a little uneasy if your used car salesman is smiling during the signing of the papers. And don’t ever believe that you have the convincing power to change anyone’s mind. People change when they are jealous of what you have.
 
Now that can make you mellow. And if that’s what they mean by mellow, bring it on. But that particular style of mellow does create some adversaries.
 
And as long as we understand that not everybody is going to love us, it makes it a lot easier for us to love everybody.
 
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Jonathan wrote the gospel/blues anthem, Spent This Time, in 1985, in Guaymas, Mexico. Take a listen:

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To see books written by Jonathan, click the link below! You can peruse and order if you like!

http://www.janethan.com/tour_store.htm

This … February 1, 2012

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This threatened to be more than she could bear. Her husband was killed–struck down in the street on his motorcycle, leaving her stricken. This was life without a companion. This was life devoid of repair. This was life minus a second chance. And now she had found out, this was also life deprived of justice–for the perpetrator of the accident was granted leniency instead of responsibility. This was painful. Not that she wanted revenge, or even an accounting of deeds. This just seemed to demand a sense of direction or purpose–or at least, meaning.
 
This generated some anger in her. She was ashamed of her anger. Being a good, Christian woman, she felt the need to forgive, even though the seeds of that emotion had not found any rich soil in her heart. This left her wounded.
 
She shared with those around her, and we, as people, did what we often do in these kind of situation. We comforted. We suggested. We offered an ear. We presented the possibility of our prayers. And we even pointed to some scriptural concepts of comfort. But even as these overtures were put forth, everyone knew how lame they were in comparison to her pain.
 
Actually, how inconsiderate it can be to bring up a God who was present at the accident, and even though He is bound by His doctrine of free will, still–He stood by and allowed her loving man to die. Yes, there is a time when even God wishes to shrink back into the shadows and not be a source of further anguish to us. For after all, prayers seem vacant of possibility in the stark reality of loneliness. Scriptures are similar to giving a box of powdered milk to a man dying of thirst. Without water, the powder can’t make fluid, and if you had water, why would you need the powdered milk?
 
This is not what she needed. This was not the answer.
 
In the midst of tragedy, three steps have to be achieved, and each one of them seems more impossible than the other:
 
1. Find yourself. Life will, unfortunately, go on–and the most valuable thing you can do is find out who you are and where you are in accordance with what you’ve done, and place yourself on the map of the landscape of life. This is hard. It demands that we envision ourselves without someone we love.
2. Find people who will let you grieve and who will listen without commenting. Grief was never meant to be alleviated by spiritual counseling or prayer. It is a process by which we replace our anger, frustration and disbelief–first with reality and then with a willingness to move on.
3. And finally, don’t stop doing what keeps you sane. The worst mistake in the world is to “take time off” to try to find yourself. The only way you truly find yourself is to use your time to make your gifts work for you.
 
This is often the “this” we have in life. We do not choose it. We would certainly select to escape it. But being forbidden any choice and finding no way of escape, we must take our emotions and let them run their course and find ourselves in the end.
 
She was a lovely woman with years of service to mankind. She wept as she told her story. At first I wanted to be a savior –a comforter to her soul. But as the moments passed, I realized I was needed only to listen and to remain still. Like watching a deer in the forest, this dear creature of God needed her moment to run wild. I will pray for her–privately. I will think of her for many days to come. But the best I can do for her personally is give her room to be human.
 
This … is my mission.
 
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Jonathan wrote the gospel/blues anthem, Spent This Time, in 1985, in Guaymas, Mexico. Take a listen:

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To see books written by Jonathan, click the link below! You can peruse and order if you like!

http://www.janethan.com/tour_store.htm

Location, location, and, oh, yes… location … January 31, 2012

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I have had the pleasure of attending a meeting of the Chamber of Commerce where inspiring speeches were given on the glories of capitalism and business, as people dismissed to pass out their cards and inform others of a booming possibility with their rendition of the American Dream.
 
I have sat at the fireside of a gathering of homeless individuals, sharing a platter of beans with two pieces of day-old white bread purchased from the Dolly Madison Store, as all those surrounding the warmth discussed their day’s activities.
 
I have been at a rock concert with screaming fans leaping to their feet, hoping the next tune would be their favorite one.
 
I have attended a family reunion where aunts and uncles barely of my acquaintance have insisted that I knew some old relative who had since passed on, as we conversed about names unfamiliar, while munching on delectable potato salad.
 
Out of curiosity, I have actually gone to political party meetings of both sides and been inundated with pamphlets, propaganda and platforms, encouraging me to make a good American stands against the opposing party’s irrelevant views.
 
Being a father of children, I have also sat through a PTA meeting, often out-numbered, lacking members of my particular gender, as speaker after speaker lamented the lack of something or other in the educational system.
 
Stupidly, I was lured into an investment party because it promised something free and ended up being a ploy to get me to take the little money I had and drop it into a hole, hoping that the crevice would spew back profits.
 
I have been in many a counseling session–mainly as the counselor–listening patiently as each party made his or her case against the other, well-organized, well-rehearsed and well-entrenched.
 
I have done these things and many others in the pursuit of discovering the best of my human family, only to realize that when we herd together, we normally want to make sure that we’re with cattle of our own kind.
 
It limits us. It retards us (if I may use the word in its correct form without being politically incorrect). It inhibits us from using the two greatest possessions we have–a mirror and a brain. Because in all those conclaves I listed, at no time at all was I asked to examine myself, nor was it necessary for me to think–because the mental agenda was provided.
 
Which brings me to last night in Clinton, Louisiana, where forty-six people emerged from the community–from different paths, walks, theologies and political persuasions. They huddled into one building to consider a message and how they measured up to its intensity. It’s called a church. And even though I will rail against a religious system which tries to turn the true church into something that blends the Chamber of Commerce with a political party meeting with overtones of a counseling session, I am a firm believer that the church is the only place where the possibility of looking in the mirror at oneself and actually tapping the brain that God has given you is plausible.
 
Oh, yes–I am not naive.  I realize that the present religious system would love to mimic the Chamber of Commerce.  Poorer congregations would like to react like the homeless, making fun of the rich. There are those “hip” congregations, which think the church is just a rock concert, cheering on Jesus and the Spirit of God. Smaller groups of church folks actually become nothing more than a family reunion, discussing the week’s activities, dead parishioners and the weather. Too many religious institutions have become the harlot for political parties, pushing a social agenda more than salvation.
 
But when it’s done right, there is nothing in our society like the church–because it asks us to look in the mirror and to use our brains.
 
How do you know if you’re in a real church or just a religious system trying to parrot the world around it? The real church has seven important ingredients:
 
1. Be prepared for the unpredictable. For after all, repetition has always been the agenda of hell.
2. Stop complaining. No one ever learns in the midst of a lament.
3. Love somebody new. If we aren’t expanding the family of man around us to include more and more people, we are shrinking the vision of God.
4. Cry until you laugh. There are people in churches still in pain after many years of suffering, who should have had a nighttime of weeping and allowed joy to come in their morning.
5. Think for yourself about yourself to improve yourself. Don’t use God’s house as a way to confirm your inadequacy.
6. Be thankful. Sounds simple, doesn’t it? But thankfulness is missing from our society. It has been bumped out of the way by expectation. We need some place to go where we actually express gratitude.
7. And finally, leave changed. The Chamber of Commerce didn’t ask me to do that; nor did the homeless, the rock singer, Aunt Mabel, the Republicans and Democrats, the teacher’s conference, the investment firm or even those attending the counseling session. We all basically came into those events with one mind-set and left with a little bit more cement added. The true church is a place where we leave changed every time we are there, or we must question  the gospel which is supposed to give us the truth that makes us free.
 
Yes, it’s all about location, location, location. And if you’re looking for a place to go that will renew you and allow you to look in the mirror without fear and think instead of merely react, I recommend a good church which understands the seven things I just stated.
 
I was at one last night. It was a good time … although I did miss my beans and day-old bread.
 
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Jonathan wrote the gospel/blues anthem, Spent This Time, in 1985, in Guaymas, Mexico. Take a listen:

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To see books written by Jonathan, click the link below! You can peruse and order if you like!

http://www.janethan.com/tour_store.htm

The Theory of Revolution… January 30, 2012

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Ignorance is the belief that anything can truly become better without us changing our approach or behavior.
 
We have now had two American generations over the past thirty years which have set in motion a pattern of action which has led us to our present state of confusion. For the first fifteen years, we were pummeled with the notion of our differences, uniqueness and individuality. We were told that everybody has a solitary personality and that each of us has our own little space in the great warehouse of life. Then for the past fifteen years, we have been inundated with the gospel of self-esteem, which insists that people cannot  find value in their journey unless they completely believe in themselves and avoid the danger of too much critique of their person.
 
Let’s blend the two approaches: we’re all individuals and we should take our differences into a corner and protect them as sacred against the onslaughts of other people who might want to force us to adapt. It is a formula for class warfare. It is a set-up for alienation. It is a devious plan to separate us off from one another, creating mistrust, which lends itself to suspicion, which welcomes antagonism, ending in war.
 
We have sat idly by like sheep on our way to the slaughter, looking at the tail of the creature ahead of us, marching in step to the drumming of repetition. Now we lament our economic situation. We are suddenly concerned about the needs of the poor and the excesses of the rich. No one stopped thirty years ago to question the antics of a society that was trying to differentiate personality types and box us all up into units for storage. No one objected to the doctrine of self-esteem, which placed each one of us as lord and master of our own perception.
 
So what do we have? We have a generation of people thoroughly convinced that they are so unique that they must fight and argue to maintain their self-worth because others are certainly out to nab their value. It’s pathetic. It will take Muslim, Christian, Jew, Hindu, Buddhist, agnostic and atheist getting together on one principle, although they may disagree on many others, to shake us out of this lethargy of self-indulgence. Yes, we need to make a call to the whole world to submit to a singular purpose: NoOne is better than anyone else.
 
Let the cynics find the contradictions in the concept. Let the jaded mock such simplicity. And let the religionists attempt to segregate us into camps of “saved” and “unsaved.” NoOne is better than anyone else.
 
It requires the embracing of three precepts:
 
1. God is no respecter of persons. I didn’t make that up. It’s in the Bible. It means that whatever used to be the foundational philosophy of the universe, or if there was a time when there notion of “chosen people” was acceptable, that era has gone the way of the dodo bird. It’s over. God does not prefer anyone over anyone else. Which means:
2. I can love my neighbor as myself without looking like a jackass. At a recent rally, a public speaker, who brought up the concept of the golden rule, was booed by the crowd. Why? Because we have taught that love is weakness. It is not. I am not out of the loop when I keep my feelings on the highway of compassion. If I like to be free, it only seems right that others enjoy the same. If I like to escape the judgment of others, certainly they might desire the same treatment. If God is no respecter of persons, I can go ahead and love my neighbor as myself and know that I have the Creator anointing my efforts. Therefore:
3. My family is the entire human family. It doesn’t detract from my immediate loved ones that I expand my vision to include all Homo Sapiens. This is not an attempt to reject the animal kingdom–but it is much easier to love a bear when you can bear loving a human. Until the religions, non-religions, organizations, politicians, preachers and business people of our world accept these three principles–if only in theory–then we will languish in this mediocrity of self-deception.
 
I am not different. I am so similar to the people I meet that it’s frightening. I do not gain self-esteem by making a stand, but rather, define my created being by standing up for others.
 
This is the theory of revolution.
 
I could not vote for anyone who did not believe in it–not because I hate him or her. It is because the lack of a philosophy of inclusion makes them “haters in training.” Humans do not becomes more loving by thinking they are different and by insisting on their own self-worth. That is the formula for paranoia and frustration.
 
So I am thirty days into my Six Words Tour: NoOne is Better Than Anyone Else.
 
What have I learned so far? I have discovered that when you speak the words out loud, people at first embrace the sentiment–until it sinks into them that they lose their bubble of difference and their sword of self-esteem. It scares them. So I will tell you–it will take brave people to relinquish the stupidity of two generations and inhale the freedom of not needing to be superior or unique.
 
Because God is no respecter of persons, I can love my neighbor as myself, opening the door to all of humanity being my family.
 
I welcome your input–but make sure that what you think and feel is universal rather than just fits of discouragement. Nothing becomes easy until we accept that it’s needed. This is needed.
 
Welcome to the revolution … right now, only a theory.
 
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Jonathan wrote the gospel/blues anthem, Spent This Time, in 1985, in Guaymas, Mexico. Take a listen:

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To see books written by Jonathan, click the link below! You can peruse and order if you like!

http://www.janethan.com/tour_store.htm

A Certain Amount… January 29, 2012

(1,408) 
From Miami, Florida
It takes a certain amount of doubt to allow faith to achieve its full potential. Without adding the element of searching, our quest for belief will often stagnate in repetition, making our attempts at worship pure vanity.
 
There must be a portion of sadness in order to achieve joy–for until we drain ourselves of tears in the nighttime hours, allowing ourselves the needful luxury of lamentation, we will speckle all of our efforts with flecks of unintentional intimidation, removing the possibility for liberating abundance.
 
We even need hate to bring love to fruition. Without teaching ourselves to despise the fear that holds us back from our true power, we will compromise with less affection, meager commitment and tepid embraces.
 
Dare I say, though, a certain amount of fear is necessary to usher in true bravery. Knowing when to stand and when to move–when to express your sentiments and on what occasions to remain silent–is the true wisdom of courage. For after all, ignoring “Goliaths” is usually the better life choice for “Davids.”
 
You will discover that “taking” is also the initiator of a lifestyle of “giving.” Because wishing that you had more does not provide the sustenance for those in need. There certainly is a season in our lives when we need to acquire so that we can truly express greater heights of generosity.
 
There is a certain amount of asking that leads to receiving, a certain amount of seeking rewarded by finding and a certain amount of persistent knocking that finally causes the doors to be opened.
 
For, my dear friends, every emotion is like a vitamin. Each vitamin can serve as a medication. But a medication, if improperly prescribed and ingested, can become a poison. How can we know what to do? What gives us the wisdom to determine the dosage?
 
Ah, you see?  It takes a certain amount of spirit . . . to create life.

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Jonathan wrote the gospel/blues anthem, Spent This Time, in 1985, in Guaymas, Mexico. Take a listen:

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To see books written by Jonathan, click the link below! You can peruse and order if you like!

http://www.janethan.com/tour_store.htm

Dirty Bowl… January 28, 2012

(1,407) 

From Miami, Florida

I had a hankerin’ for some oatmeal. (I don’t normally say “hankerin’,” but since it’s an election year I thought I’d follow the leading of the political candidates and try to “rural up” my language.)
 
As I was saying, I wanted some oatmeal. I don’t buy my oatmeal in those round containers with the picture of the austere Quaker, with a bit of a grimace on his face. I get the pre-packaged kind, usually in flavors, so I can just pour it into a bowl, add some hot water, and let the magic begin. So I did just that. I grabbed a bowl, poured my package into it, dumped in water, stirred it up and started to eat. It was delicious. I was more than halfway through my delicacy when I noticed there was something black at the bottom of the bowl. So I pushed the remaining oatmeal to the side and discovered a huge dirty spot.
 
It was a little disgusting. I’m not prissy, but eating out of a dirty bowl isn’t my idea of macho fare. So I dumped out my oatmeal and discovered the black splotch, stuck it under the faucet and tried to clean it. I was strangely relieved to discover that it wouldn’t dislodge itself and actually was not able to be scrubbed away. It was a permanent blotch. Matter of fact, you couldn’t even refer to it as a dirty bowl anymore. Perhaps you could call it stained. Scorched. Burnt. Discolored. Marred.
 
But I was no longer ill at ease, thinking I was consuming some sort of bacteria experiment from the depths of my oatmeal. I no longer felt like the guy who, having eaten half of his apple, suddenly discovers a half-eaten worm. Or like that one time when I reached in a package of luncheon meat and pulled out a slice that had green around the edges, foretelling of mold. (Unfortunately, I had already consumed two previous slices from the same package.)
 
No, this was different. This was a bowl which, in the process of doing bowl-like activities, had encountered some injury. My bowl was wounded. Its particular infection was not contagious, but rather, a lasting reminder of a poorly chosen activity. It was an amazing transition. I was happy that I could finish the remainder of my oatmeal without too much intimidation (though I was a little squeamish). There was really only one task that remained. Well, not really a task. More a decision.
 
Do I take my marred, discolored, stained, burnt, scorched bowl and throw it away–or keep it? I probably don’t want to eat oatmeal out of it again, but I could put a paper towel in the bottom and serve some grapes or potato chips. It is still able to encircle a food product, holding it in one place. It has not outlasted its complete usefulness. Honestly, it was too much for me to think about, having merely consumed a bowl of oatmeal. So I put it on the shelf, where it remains today.
 
I did not cast it away. I did not reject it. I did not try to make it totally clean by bleaching it and utilizing every cleanser known to man. I realized that sometimes, if you’re a bowl, and you’re in the midst of action of the kitchen sort, you just might get damaged. And if you were able to speak, you certainly would desire mercy.
 
Now, I know this is a little too much thought to give to the rights and privileges of a cheaply manufactured plastic unit. But still, it’s just nice to know that the bowl wasn’t dirty. 
 
Just … well-traveled.

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Jonathan wrote the gospel/blues anthem, Spent This Time, in 1985, in Guaymas, Mexico. Take a listen:

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To see books written by Jonathan, click the link below! You can peruse and order if you like!

http://www.janethan.com/tour_store.htm

Sufficiency… January 27, 2012

(1,406) 

From Miami, Florida

 “There’s nothing you can do.”
 
To the human, there are no words more chilling than these. If you heard them from your doctor concerning your diagnosis, you would be frantic–pleading for alternatives. Probably the same sensation if the phrase came off the lips of your mechanic. It is not the natural state of mortals–to be abandoned without alternative. It is not clever; it is not meaningful. It is not submissive and it certainly is not spiritual.
 
When you remove the ability to affect one’s own life from the equation, then liberties are taken by that same person to affect life in SOME way. So religious people, who believe in grace and consider themselves to be at the mercy of God, will take their theology and decide who goes to heaven, who gets communion, who gets considered righteous and who gets included on the registry of the faithful. Of course, those jobs really aren’t their business and are in the hands of the Almighty, but when you remove possibility from people’s lives and replace it with hopeless, hapless and helpless, they will initially become lethargic, and then end up vindictive.
 
This could not possibly have been the plan of a Creator who understands the emotional, spiritual, mental and physical make-up of His creation.
 
What we’re actually trying to eliminate is worry. Of course, everyone knows that worry has nothing to do with being involved or participating in solving your problem. Worry is what we do when we stop believing in grace–and grace is what people select when they’re trying to escape worry and mask it with the smirk of faith.
 
What IS the right thing to do when we are presented with the day-to-day difficulties which sometimes seem to overwhelm us? Because removing your own personal responsibility and involvement in your life does not promote mental health. It allows for deception, frustration and laziness to co-exist with each other, creating an atmosphere of desperation. Here’s the truth, friends. I have never seen anyone succeed who is desperate. Certainly we all believe that God’s grace is sufficient for us–but when does God’s grace kick in, when am I supposed to be involved and when does the combination of the two create the necessary energy for resolution?
 
Let me give you a quick four-step process that I hope will help you and certainly does help me in discovering the balance between “doing” and “trusting.”  When any problem or situation arises:
 
1. Understand it. I mean really understand it. Not what you fear it is or what you think it is. And if you’re too close to the situation, get a second and third opinion. Don’t lean to your own understanding when your butt’s on the line. Make sure you comprehend what your dilemma truly is instead of what you might perceive it to be, or even sometimes how it’s presented to you. This is the first step, often ignored because we think our quandary is obvious and does not require us to reflect on the elements of the problem. If the doctor has given me a diagnosis, I need to leave the doctor’s office and go read up on what he has told me. It’s not that I think he’s stupid–it’s that I know he is human and limited by his own education on any given subject. Understand. If you get a bill in the mail from the electric company and it seems large, don’t immediately leap to figuring out how to pay it. Make some calls. Find out why it’s so large. Track down the elements and understand them before you proceed any further. Understanding is like an ointment on a sore wound. It gives you time to escape the pain, to allow healing to begin.
 
2. Evaluate. What are we evaluating? We are taking what we now understand and cross-secting it over to what we know we presently have. Jesus referred to it as “counting the cost.” It is the step necessary in order for human beings to maintain sanity in the midst of adversity. If you receive a charge on your credit card for $500 and you look in your checking account and you see $210, you no longer have a $500 need. You have a $290 need. Subtracting what you are able to do from the problem that you now understand is also part of the healing process for your emotions–which gives you the energy and willingness to pursue. For I will tell you, it is impossible to be successful in life without calming yourself down enough to receive the healing information that “everything’s going to be all right.”
 
3. Provide. Isn’t it interesting that sometimes, after we understand what the problem truly is, and we have evaluated what we have for any given proposition, we sometimes fail to have the energy to provide and give it up? What would have happened if the disciples had not brought the five loaves and two fishes for the five thousand hungry people? What if they had decided on their own that it was completely insufficient, so why even bring it up in conversation? Or what if they concluded that five loaves and two fishes would at least give the twelve of them a little snack? I’ll tell you what would happen. Nothing. And that’s what happens in each of our lives when we fail to provide what we have, convinced that it’s useless–or selfishly trying to save it just in case everything falls apart. There is no feeding of the five thousand without the five loaves and two fishes. God is not going to move without people moving first. You must provide. It’s where faith comes in. Faith is when we take the last cup of what we have and pour it into the bucket of need, giving us a sensation of participation and also leaving plenty of room for God’s contribution.
 
4. And finally–relax. If you truly understand what the situation is, you’ve evaluated your own resources and you’ve provided them into the chasm in front of you by faith, then you can relax–that God’s grace is sufficient to you. For the Bible says that God “will supply all of our NEED.” It does not say NEEDS. It is the singular of the word. We only have one need–and that is the deficit that’s left in our particular piece of difficulty that is still hanging around after we understand, evaluate and provide.
 
The word “covenant” means to be joined together in a common cause. I cannot be in covenant with God and refuse to understand, evaluate and provide. Nor can God be in covenant with me if He does not see my faithfulness and step in to foot the balance of the responsibility. It is a beautiful system if it’s handled correctly. But grace is not believing that we are depraved, desperate and helpless. Grace is when we believe that God has given us the ability to understand, the capacity to evaluate, the desire to provide and then–having done all that–the opportunity to relax in His mercy.
 
You will find many theologians who will disagree with my formula. But dare I say that they have raised up congregations filled with insecure, flinching, judgmental people who are so exasperated by their lack of input in life that they’ve begun to turn the sword of frustration on the world around them. God is smart enough to know how we work. Actually, you and I are smart enough to know to some degree how we function.
 
So take a moment. Understand your true situation. Evaluate the inventory of your potentials. Joyfully provide what you have into the equation, and then relax–knowing that you’re in covenant with a God who can supply your need–that gap between your  provision and your solution.
 
It’s a wonderful system. And in all cases it WILL provide sufficiency, because grace is when we accept what we have, give it over to God and believe that the combination will work.

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Jonathan wrote the gospel/blues anthem, Spent This Time, in 1985, in Guaymas, Mexico. Take a listen:

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To see books written by Jonathan, click the link below! You can peruse and order if you like!

http://www.janethan.com/tour_store.htm

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