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

If You Knew … January 26, 2012

(1,405) 

From Miami, Florida

 

If you knew taking a ten-minute walk every day would lengthen your life by five years, would you do it?

If you knew the person of your greatest affection was truly the very best you ever could have done, would you decide to be more appreciative of their presence?

If you knew that pickled beets, when eaten with Brussel sprouts, promoted longevity, would you adjust your palate accordingly?

If you knew there was basically no difference between men and women except a couple of obvious physical ones, would you reject society’s bigotry, or continue to join in the misguided laughter and fantasy?

If you knew your religion was incorrect and through some miracle, were given the true revelation, which ended up being from another religion’s hearth and home, would you change your affiliation to gain greater insight?

If you knew your car was being made in a foreign country at the expense of people who were suffering under the management of the manufacturer, would you switch to another vehicle to make a stand against tyranny?

If you knew the political party of your choice was actually detrimental at this time to the nation’s better interest, would you abandon your affiliation and change your vote?

If you found out that Santa Claus really did live at the North Pole, and during all these years, there’s been a vast conspiracy to disprove his existence, would you be willing to go back to a childlike heart on Christmas morning?

If you knew there was no difference between the races, would you still insist on keeping them separate?

If you knew money was important to give you the confidence to become a giver, would you work harder to get it, so that you could become more generous?

If you knew there was no God, would you still decide to love your neighbor as yourself?

If you knew that interfering in other people’s lives was the main cause of most of the disruption in our society, could you learn to keep your nose out of other people’s business?

If you knew chocolate chip cookies caused cancer, would you stop eating them, or gamble with the risk?

If you knew that “thank you” were the two most important words in the world, would you swallow your pride and say them more often?

If you knew that hoping for things was unfortunately a convenient way of not doing what you know to do, would you exchange your hopes for action?

If you knew that your mother and father were good people but had human flaws that caused them to teach you faulty logic, could you still love them as people but reject their philosophy?

If you knew more than you know now, would you be glad you knew it, or wish it wasn’t known?

Life is about one major decision. Actually, it’s an answer to a simple question.

Am I looking for answers, or do I want confirmation?

Because the truth of the matter is, if you seek you WILL find. If it’s confirmation of all your feelings, including your prejudices, you will certainly discover enough ammunition to fuel your war.

But if you’re seeking answers, you must be prepared for some of your pre-conceptions to be ravaged so that the landscape can be cleared for beautiful improvement.

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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

Avoiding … January 25, 2012

(1,404) 
 
Live in Philadelphia, PA

Wouldn’t it just be a kick in the pants if the Judgment Day–that breathless, final exam–ended up being an assessment of what we avoided? I’m not talking about refraining from being a “potty mouth,” refusing to attend PG-13 movies, repressing our sexuality or even staying away from controversy for fear of being out of the loop. I’m talking about avoiding things that need to be avoided in order to make human life sensible, productive…and awesome. There are probably a bunch of them, but three immediately pop to my mind. Maybe it’s because I work on these three the most, because I find them so annoying in the DNA of our emotional riboflavin.

The first one is hiding. It is so frustrating to everyone–including yourself–if you spend any time whatsoever hiding from reality, a calling, truth or possibilities. It’s one of the first questions that God asked a human being in the Garden of Eden. “Why are you hiding from me?” Well, we know why Adam was hiding. He did something wrong, along with his wife, Eve, and they felt the best way to handle it was to hide from it. But let’s look at it realistically. If we’re playing a game of hide and seek and everyone is in the same house, then the game actually has some merit. But if the game is being played in the house but the person you’re hiding from is living in the heavens above and has the full view of everything below, where do you really think you’re going to go? In other words, for a season we may be able to hide from others, but never from ourselves and certainly not from God. Hiding is the ultimate repression–the notion that denying who and what we are will somehow put off the inevitable evaluation of the world around us concerning our character. What astounds people is when you DON’T hide and you pop out information about yourself before they have a chance to put on their thinking caps and over-process your personage.

“Hello, there. My name is Jonathan Richard Cring. I’ve been married for 41 years and had the pleasure of parenting seven children. I never went to college, am extraordinarily fat, but I do have some talents and have worked very hard at multiplying them and have had the privilege of seeing those abilities provide my livelihood and bless people around me. I have average intelligence, which means that in some ways, I am an overachiever. I am not naturally gregarious, but I have learned that it is necessary to be so to be of any use to anyone around me. I’m working very hard to not hide from myself, others and God–because the danger is that I may eventually find a hole to crawl into that I can’t escape.”

You see? It’s not that hard.

Which kind of leads me to the second thing I like to avoid: lying. See, this one is tricky–because lying, if purely defined, is anything that is absent truthfulness. Shoot, I”m like the next guy–I embellish; I over-explain. I create scenarios in my mind that are only partially true, and I offer polite compliments which are not completely on point with my actual feelings. Lying is something that I will work to avoid for the rest of my life, as I am sure all of my fellow-travelers will also have occasion to do. But the more you have truth on the inward parts, the easier it is to take a breath of fresh air without fear of being attacked from the rear by some falsehood that you’ve spread. Lying is what we do when we really think that who we are, what we believe and who we believe in is insufficient enough to cover our circumstances. It is the ultimate insecurity–the admission that we weren’t given enough, so we must come up with a story about ourselves that sounds better than the real one. How sad.

And finally, the third activity to avoid, in my mind, is judging. I have been working on this one all my life. I think it’s why we have so many shows on television now that have judges, critics and audience voting. We’re all just a bunch of frustrated grumps who have no intention of doing much of excellence ourselves and would like to just sit in a chair and evaluate the progress of others. Here’s what I know: I will never offer an opinion on anything that I have not personally done and had some measure of success in performing. Can you see how this immediately limits my potentials? It is a beautiful measuring stick. For example, if you have actually baked a cake, put on the icing and served it to the delight of your consumers, then feel free to comment on MY baked cake. If you haven’t, then please, just have your cake–and eat it, too.

But the truth of the matter is, the people who judge the most are the people who do the least. Anyone who has actually had to display their wares for consideration is not quite as “peppy” to jump in and ravage someone else’s efforts. That’s why there are pockets of gossips and judges–and some of the worst ones are in church. Because church, rather than being a seminar to produce victorious people, has become a sanitarium for debilitated patients, hacking and coughing up their disappointments and anger. But Jesus makes it clear that the judgment we put out to others will come back to us. Wow. So even though I do have enough experience in writing, music, movies and the arts to give a really intelligent view on the projects I see, over the years I have learned to spend more time admiring than reviewing.

Just stop judging. It’s exhausting–and not particularly fulfilling, either–because the only fellowship you have is with people who like to judge (and YOU are probably their next target).

So without being too presumptuous, I can tell you that if there is some final evaluation of our lives, the fact that you avoided eating meat will probably not make nearly as much difference as learning to avoid hiding, lying and judging.

Of course, I could be wrong. But I know this–I didn’t hide anything from you, and in my essay I did not lie, and if you disagree, I certainly will not judge you.

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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

Tootsie Pop Logic … January 24, 2012

(1,403) 
 
Live in Philadelphia, PA

A sucker is a sucker is a sucker.

This became the common theme–and lamentation–of all manufacturers in the lollipop industry. As delicious as the first few licks may be, enduring to the end was often difficult for young tykes, leaving behind sticky, half-eaten globs of goo all over the house.

Something needed to be done, so as always, two extremes were pursued. First was the dum dum–a decision to make the lollipop smaller and offer a variety of flavors. It was, and is, very successful, but still suffers from the redundancy of the common lick.

The other extreme was to insist that MORE lapping and sucking was necessary, so the all-day sucker was created, which was a humongous amount of sugar-candy, which was supposed to be consumed over a 24-hour period. Dedication did not exist for such a project, and you ended up with an even larger sticky object to avoid.

Then came the Tootsie pop. Here was the premise: give people a sucker, but reward them at the end by providing a center of chocolate–a Tootsie roll. How ingenious.

You see, I feel this way about the 2012 election. We are offered a myriad of suckers for our perusal. It is wearisome. It is sticky business. But if you want to be successful at picking a leader of anything, find out what is at the CENTER of their sugar-coated presentation. What IS the Tootsie pop logic of the conservatives and the liberals?That demands that we produce a criteria for what is important and what needs to be said.

Honestly, dear folks, there are only two things that are immutable:  People and money. What are the conservatives going to do about people and money? What is the plan of the liberals regarding people and money?

Let’s start with people.  They require three things:

1. Freedom. If you’re going to call yourself a “free country,” it’s a good idea to back it up with freedom for everyone.

2. Opportunity. This means creating an even playing field as much as possible, so that excellence can truly have a chance to win the day.

3. And finally, rules.  You should have just enough rules in a democracy to maintain the integrity of freedom and opportunity.

That brings us to money. The philosophy on money should be equally as simple:  first, we need to motivate business, industry and personal desire enough to comfortably fund our freedoms, promote opportunities and maintain the necessary offices for the rules which guard these ideas. Secondly, we should have enough money that after we’ve taken care of our own personal needs to a satisfactory position, we can give to others who are less fortunate, so we don’t end up being a bunch of greedy gas-bags.

I know people want to worship the conservative approach or bow their knee to liberalism. I do not join them. I don’t care whether it’s a restaurant, a church, a synagogue, a bistro or the federal government. Are you going to give people equal freedom to pursue opportunity and maintain just enough rules to make sure that everyone has freedom and opportunity? AND will you motivate the raising of money to protect those rights and provide a comfortable living for as many people as possible, while initiating a philanthropic thrust with the remaining funds?

Anything short of that is short-sighted. I don’t care what you’re running, I don’t care what you’re promoting and I don’t care what flag you are waving. People require freedom, opportunity and a set of rules to ensure they will honor the same for all their fellow-travelers. And money must be raised to guarantee that these rights are cushioned by financial blessing and that there is enough left over to instill generosity.

So as I listen to the political candidates, I peruse their mentality on these two issues–people and money. It is what I call the Tootsie pop logic. If you’re going to make me spend all of my time licking away at debates and discussions, you’d better provide me with a chocolate center that lets me know you understand what to do with people and money. Otherwise, it just sucks.

Do I have an opinion on the present crop of candidates? I have many opinions–but honestly it’s difficult to assess either party, because neither one of them has come to terms with the intricate nature and balance of these two necessities. Most of them are more concerned about trouble from outsiders or merely conquering the opposing party in the voting booth. But after the election comes governing–and governing anything is about dealing with people and providing money.

So here’s my Tootsie pop logic. After you get done wading through my numerous clumps of letters forming words, I want you to find a sweet treat in the center, and I always want that center of my writing to give you greater insight on people and money.  Because he who understands what to do with his fellow-humans AND when and how to release the purse strings, basically has total understanding of everything.

What a wild statement.

Tootsie pop logic. What’s at the center of the conservative movement? What is at the center of the liberal take on things? What will they do with people and what do they think about money?

Just some thoughts on this day–and to return to a common phrase in the world of confections:

Try it. You’ll like it.

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

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

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 Year of the Draggin’ … January 23, 2012

(1,402) 
 
Live in Philadelphia, PA

     

Happy Chinese New Year! And in honor of the occasion—and also to make a little coin off of a phrase—what DO a billion Chinamen care about? Actually, the same thing as three hundred million Americans:

Themselves.  It’s not a bad thing. It is fascinating to me that we think the best way to teach people to be more expansive is to enter them into some crucible of self-denial. We’re just not very good at it.  What we can do is question what parts of us are working and what units have closed down shop and ceased production.

Yes, it is the year of finding out what is draggin’ us down.

It is my joy as I travel to meet the most delightful people God could ever have hatched from a mere fanciful notion of “let there be …”  I have no complaints about them whatsoever, but I do have one lamentation. Many of them are burdened by the amount of baggage they carry when what they want to do is fly off to pursue their dreams. Each one of us has three compartments to our thinking:

1. What we were taught. This is a mixture of conversations with our parents, Sunday School classes in our small towns and dialogue we had with our friends growing up in our close-knit environments. Much of what we were taught was good, and even universal. But there are portions of what each one of us was instructed in that are prejudiced, errant and even destructive. Identifying the dangerous chemicals in our cupboards can keep us from ingesting the poison.

2. What we believe. Our beliefs are those thing that we’ve taken from what we were taught, the prayers and sermons that dented the armor of our resistance and the general consensus of our feelings about what has happened to us and those we love. Belief is a good thing—unless you believe in something that is harmful, restrictive, selfish or foolish.

3. What we’ve personally experienced. This is the living we have done on this orb we call earth, free of parental interference—flying solo, away from merely believing. Many young people lose all of their training and spirituality the first time they walk into a college classroom and someone begins to recite different experiences which contradict their own earlier training. That’s too bad—not because I think we should hold fast to our “village precepts,” but rather, because I contend that experience should enhance our belief and reinforce the portions of our upbringing that were truly grounded in common sense.

But as we begin this Chinese New Year (understanding that most of us aren’t Chinese) how can you take this moment and make sure it’s a year where you’re not “draggin’ yourself down?”

A. Trust your experience. The Bible says “that which we have seen and heard we declare unto you.” Honestly, my friends, I was not there when the Red Sea parted nor when Jonah was belched out of the mouth of the big fish. It’s not that I’m denying that these things happened, nor am I feverishly defending them. My faith has to be MINE—a collaboration of my own personal discoveries, as God and I together reinvent Christianity just for me. If your experiences are not primal in your life, you will fall back on beliefs that you end up defending, and training that is more parroting than lionizing. You’ve got to trust your experience. The reason most people don’t change is because they do not allow experience to reform their patterns of behavior, but instead, deny their own encounters in favor of belief and local, small-town thinking. If your experience is primal, you will find that your beliefs will be fewer, but more realistic and strong, and your respect for the parts of your childhood memories that were rich—with good tradition—will not only be upheld, but glorified.

B. Don’t try so hard to believe. There’s no magic number on the things that we hold close to our hearts and insist are true. There are a lot of things in the Bible that I don’t understand. I don’t deny them. I don’t discuss them. They are not part of my experience; they are not relevant to my life and therefore, I choose to ignore them. If people want to argue about them, I will listen in for a few minutes, but will not participate in the debate because the irrelevance the material has to my experience would make me hypocritical if I were to voice a concern in the matter.

For instance, I don’t know why the New Testament talks so much about hell. To make coin off of another phrase, I honestly don’t give a hell about hell. It doesn’t make me doubt the New Testament; it doesn’t make me believe less in Jesus. I just don’t need a hell to get to heaven. Heavenly things attract me, joy seduces me and the act of loving people entices my soul towards excellence. I don’t know—maybe some folks need the bottom to get to the top. It is not part of my experience.

When I was a teenager, I probably believed two hundred different things but now that I have become a man, it has really boiled down to one factor: “NoOne is better than anyone else.” So relax and love everybody who will let you do it, and move on from the ones who won’t.

C. And finally, honor your father and mother by doing them a big favor and ignoring all the stupid things they said because they didn’t have the information we now possess. I’m not mad at my parents because they weren’t God. I am grateful to them for so many things and I choose to focus on those instead of clinging to misconceptions and accidental bigotry that they passed along my way simply because they lacked one trip to the library or were one decade short of revelation.

So in conclusion, the Chinese say it’s the Year of the Dragon. But may I suggest that we make this the Year of the Draggin’? Identify those parts of our upbringing and belief system that are repressing us and dragging us down and instead, push to the forefront the personal experience that grants us an amendment to our constitution—that we are loved, and therefore are capable of the same.

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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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