G-Poppers … October 6th, 2017

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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G-Pop wants his children to understand about the sliding scale.

Although the human tribe insists on believing that goals are set and achieved, most of the time, we all fall short of the original aspiration, and end up settling for something a little bit different, if not lesser.

At that point, it is our nature to explain that what we attained is “just as good,” and if we’re smart, turn it into something of value.

So when Jesus told his disciples in the Sermon on the Mount to be merciful because it was the only way to guarantee mercy coming back in their direction, he was pointing out that if we do not set our minds to be merciful, we will never offer kindness.

Yes, kindness is about the best human beings can muster in dealing with one another. But to generate kindness, you’ve got to try for mercy–and mercy is that sense that it’s really none of our business, and we step away without judging whatsoever.

Kindness is the empathy that comes into our souls when we see someone fail and we recall our own sensations in failure.

Yet if you set your goal to be kind, you’ll probably end up with considerate. That means if someone is right in front of you and in need, you more than likely will put yourself out a little bit and lend a helping hand.

There are those who think that mercy and kindness are much too tender. So they try for considerate, and on the sliding scale, end up with tolerance. Yes, they patiently “put up” with foibles and attributes of other human beings while internally they harbor some hidden resentment.

Those who try for toleration eventually end up with indifference. Why? Because as you can imagine, toleration requires quite an effort, and sometimes it’s just better to stand at a distance and not get involved.

There are travelers who live a life of indifference, and suddenly find themselves plagued by complaining. Because even though we distance ourselves from other people, they don’t go away, and because they hang around with notable nagging nonsense, we are left complaining about them to other people.

Dare I say there are even human beings who start their day as complainers, and by the end of their morning and afternoon, as evening settles, they simmer in anger. Since no one really listens to their complaining, and what they complain about has not changed, they feel justified in being completely angry with the situation.

Would you believe there are people who live in anger, and as they look at the world around them, confirming their dark visions, they are suddenly engorged in a spirit of rage. They are the ticking time bombs–too sensitive to touch and ready to go off when least expected. And unfortunately, those souls who awaken in rage, on the sliding scale, eventually find themselves murderous.

There is a sliding scale.

So as we contemplate what causes a brother to fire thousands of bullets into a crowd, we must realize that maybe at one time, he wanted to be considerate, but the scale slid, and as it did, he did nothing to correct his course.

 

 

 

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G-Poppers … September 22nd, 2017

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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She wanted to make sure G-Pop knew the story.

Even though she had messed up her life to the extent that most of her friends had abandoned her, leaving her to her own explanations and tales of woe, she still needed confirmation from G-Pop that he found some good in her bad.

Always looking for a way to find some good in our bad.

It’s why we come up with a story, a rendition, a plot line, and worst of all, an explanation.

When she started to offer excuses about what happened, G-Pop stopped her. She was a bit surprised and thought he was being judgmental. She immediately became defensive and challenged his Christianity and his charity. He explained that he had no judgment for her whatsoever–just some sage advice:

A story is useless.

When ignorance, stupidity or carelessness invade our lives with some form of mishap, what we need to give is a report. Not a story. A simple report.

It’s not that different from what we did in high school, when we stood in front of the class to cite our discoveries upon reading a book. We weren’t allowed to elaborate on the tale, or make up things the author might have chosen to do. Rather, we were told to showcase the actual events and offer some feelings on what they meant to us.

Here is a powerful thought–our story will not take away our responsibility, even if we enhance it into a Hollywood production with props and special effects. What garners the attention of our fellow-humans is when we have the audacity and tenacity to give a factual report. Here’s how it should go:

  1. This is what I did.
  2. This is why it was wrong.
  3. This is what I could have done.
  4. This is what I would like to do to make things better.
  5. What do you think? I value your opinion.

This five-step process places us within the ranks of human beings trying to move forward through change, instead of merely sporting a nasty attitude.

Give a report.

It’s a little piece of wisdom G-Pop offers to his children on this Friday.

 

 

 

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Good News and Better News… May 1st, 2017

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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I spent the weekend with the “Life of Brian”–once again reminded to “always look on the bright side of life.”

Yes, Brian is the pastor of the First United Methodist Church in Frostproof, Florida. Aside from being personable, gentle and caring, he has intelligently chosen to embrace the work that is set before him and enjoy it instead of complaining about the difficulties or lamenting its limitations.
That is remarkable. (So therefore, I did.)

Because of this spirit which radiates from him, the congregation allows itself to believe that they are not boxed in to either a social or a religious format that makes them run around in circles like gerbils looking for a wheel.

I must tell you–any church that advertises that it is presently on the path of righteous pursuits may very well be deluded. We are all intoxicated by an environment which challenges us to be rough and tumble instead of kind and merciful.

Very simply stated, that must change or nothing will happen.

If we truly go into a deeper study of the Word, we will end up as Paul did, proclaiming that the only commandment that’s necessary is “love your neighbor as yourself.”

If we pursue an existence of prayer, we will find, as Jesus taught, that our best supplications are done in the closet, without letting anyone know that we are seeking divine guidance.

It really comes down to a simple back-and-forth:

What should we slow?

What should become quick?

I use the word “slow” because none of us are without silliness and foolish iniquity, so we will occasionally slip up. Right now we are obsessed with the notion to be quick to judgment and slow to love. For some reason, we insist that this is a sign of maturity, caution or caring for our loved ones. Because of this, the people in our society sometimes look like they’re sniffing the room for nasty odors instead of including the inhabitants of the room.

We are quick to judge yet slow to love.

And no matter how much you learn about the Tabernacle of David, the death of Christ or the Apocalypse, you will make no progress in the Kingdom of God until you become quick to love and slow to judge.

Matter of fact, if I were pastoring a church, I would teach on that subject for at least six months–until everybody in the congregation, including the toddlers, was fully aware that the mantra of our mission was “quick to love and slow to judge.”

This does not mean that prayer, worship, fasting, giving and study have no merit–it just means they have no muscle. They do not bust through the cement of the walls we are building between each other. The only thing that will do that is love and a refusal on our part to judge others.

So the good news is this: if we can learn to be quick to love, even if it seems a little awkward at first, at least we will be stumbling in the right direction.

And the better news is, if we are slow to judgment, we can begin to tear down the dark image of the Christian faith, which has turned us into prudes instead of proof.

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Two That Make One … January 20, 2014

Jonathots Daily Blog

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Angy and ClintWhen I found out he died, it was the first thing that came to my mind.

I suppose if I were a more traditional fellow, I would have taken a moment or two to conjure images of his face, life and interactions with him. But honestly, the best thing this fellow ever did with his life was to marry a woman–whom he eventually divorced–and have a daughter, who now continues to overcome her culture, becoming a dynamic force within her own family, with personal aspirations.

Often, two people make one. Matter of fact, it is a biological imperative. But even though historically, the two that made the one may leave behind no other heritage or footprint, the one who was birthed can still honor the memory by living a life that has joy over precious memories, but also an eye toward exceeding the training.

It was a startling fact. A young woman I know quite well, who is doing her best to bless the world, has recently lost both of her parents–and the determination of society and history on their lives will be evaluated by how this dear woman conducts her journey.

My parents, too, made five. I place no judgment on their lives, but I will tell you that their legacy is held in scrutiny by those around them who view their offspring.

It is a solemn affair.

If we don’t create art, share a great idea, chase windmills or speak against injustice, our lineage becomes our sole eulogy.

It made me very happy for this gentleman that passed away. Although in a critical moment, I might suggest that some of his choices were terribly introspective, he does have the advantage of giving life to a missionary who is doing a much better job at propelling beauty to the earth.

So I guess in a sense we get two cracks–one opportunity with our own lives, to say something, be something, feel something and do something that causes the world to be a better place. But then, when our time is finished, we have those we have brought into the world who can offer a new and improved product.

So even though I weep for this gentleman who has passed on, simultaneously a smile comes to my face because I realize that the woman he left behind, carrying his DNA, is intent on making a massive difference.

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Click for details on the SpirTed 2014 presentation

Click for details on the SpirTed 2014 presentation

Please contact Jonathan’s agent, Jackie Barnett, at (615) 481-1474, for information about scheduling SpiriTed in 2014.

click to hear music from Spirited 2014

click to hear music from Spirited 2014

The Absence of Presence… August 22, 2013

Jonathots Daily Blog

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jonlolAs for me, I like my fireworks to be explosive, lighting up the night sky with beautiful colors. I am not interested in any kind of firework that has been diffused of explosion and can only muster muted tones of brown.

In our attempt to make everything safe, common, accessible and equal, we gradually have taken all the “presence” from the institutions and outreaches that make human life rich with experience.

Chief among them, to me, is the church.janlol

An organism that should exude life, energy, jubilance and spiritual unpredictability has been disemboweled by caution, tradition, suspicion and  judmentalism. It has become a Petrie dish for the study of prejudice or, at times, a sure cure for insomnia.

It is disappointing to hear those who have chosen a path of disbelief to win the day simply because the individuals who were meant to prosper and live abundantly under spiritual energy have decided to entomb their faith in the grave of repetition.

It is equally as disheartening to see a government that is “for the people, by the people and of the people” brought to a screeching halt, or maybe better phrased, a grinding cessation, by political stubbornness and arrogant posturing.

There are things that are meant to have a presence.

The word “church” should bring a smile to our faces and evoke memories of joy. And the utterance of the United States of America should put a chill of hope down our spines–for a world that struggles in tyranny and poverty.

Instead, we have surgically removed all the aspiration from our faith and our country, to whittle ourselves to a futile fussiness which we interpret as “adult debate.”

Jesus warned the Pharisees that they were concerned about the money and the organization of their religion, but had forgotten the weightier matters of judgment, mercy and faith.

Judgment: a decision to honor what is truly valuable instead of coins that can be counted.

Mercy: packaging what we evangelize to be appealing to human beings–our market.

Faith: being prepared to evolve toward greater understanding of God instead of diverse interpretations of scripture.

Until we put the presence back into our spirituality and our government, the absence will leave behind the anarchy of loneliness.

I am hopeful.

I refuse to be defeated.

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

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

Did She? — November 16, 2011

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The story is clear. (I must give props to the Bible for always being fairly candid about its characters and not trying to make them look better than they are to promote the idea of righteousness.) In the story we are told that a woman was brought to Jesus who was caught in the act of adultery.  In other words, there is no possibility that she was framed, was part of a ploy to trick Jesus or even that she was merely necking behind the stable. No, this was a really nasty situation about “doing the nasty.”

You know the rest of the story. The scribes and Pharisees wanted to stone her because that’s what the law of Moses commanded. Actually, if you understand the history of the period, the Romans had forbidden the Jewish populace to execute anyone without permission from the state. But there was still the possibility that some vigilantes might grab an errant soul, take him or her out behind the Mount of Olives and rock their world. So this woman was in some danger from this group of religious fanatics who were determined to achieve two goals: (a) prove that they were willing to kill a woman to honor God; and (b) tempt Jesus by making him side with the woman and end up looking soft on theology and maybe even too weak towards females.

I repeat. Nasty business.

Jesus takes a moment and tells the scribes and Pharisees that if they want to stone the woman, that they should do so only if they, themselves, had no sin. Long story made shorter–they all leave and Jesus is left alone with this woman who was caught in adultery.

But what happens next? Jesus asks her if anybody has condemned her.  She says, “No man, Lord.” His reply? “I don’t condemn you either, but go and sin no more.” It is a statement that satisfies neither conservatives or liberals. Conservatives would like a little bit more edge of rebuke and liberals may not be quite pleased that Jesus brings  any judgment whatsoever to her by asking her to stop her sinning.

But what I’d like you to focus on is this: did she? Did she walk away from that near-death experience, only saved by the gracious cleverness of Jesus of Nazareth, and swear off immoral affairs? Was that her determination? Well, here’s what I am sure of:

1.  The laws of religion would kill her, giving her no pathway to repentance.

2. Those who believe in intervention would insist that such a traumatic encounter as this near-stoning would be enough to stimulate change.

3. The zealous Christians of our day would put forth the notion that merely coming into the presence of Jesus transformed the woman into a new creature.

4. Common-sense individuals would say that she, having been scared to death, would refrain from her activities for a season, only to resume them again when the impact of the event had faded from her consciousness.

Now, here’s what I think Jesus believed–I think Jesus believed that the law, without mercy, always ends up killing people–emotionally, mentally, spiritually or physically. I think he also felt that condoning sin was not an attack on God, but rather, giving people license to commit suicide. And I believe Jesus knew that God, social pressure, intervention or even knowledge do not prevent people from being nuts. It is a decision they must come to on their own.

Jesus gave this woman a chance to have her moment with herself. Religion would have robbed her of this moment, destroying her on the spot. Jesus weighed in by saying that her lifestyle was sinful–but that there was no condemnation in his heart for her.  Yet she was destroying herself in the process.

If you want to know how to help people, you must be willing to take away the sting of judgment and replace it with the commonsense of human growth. Then it’s up to them.

There are many things I do not believe in and don’t like. Many of my family members and friends still participate in these activities at will. There are two things they do know–I love them and do not condemn them, but I feel that they are doing harm to themselves. Is that enough evangelizing on my point to create change in them? It is irrelevant.  I do not create change in people. It is my job, through mercy, to save them from judgment and to challenge them to excellence.

Did the woman go and sin no more? Well, it wouldn’t have been because she was afraid.  Fear passes.  It wouldn’t be because she had an encounter with God, because her face-to-face with the Divine was based upon grace, not self-realization. And it wouldn’t be because Jesus gave her some mystical stare that translated her into a new woman, because Jesus was just a man, filled with the Spirit and no more. It would have to be because this woman came to herself and decided to stop the foolishness.

So here’s what you do with all your friends who really distress your soul with their activities: take away the judgment, give them mercy, but let them know how you stand on the issue. 

And then say that wonderful prayer: “Into your hands, Father, I commend their spirit.”

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Here comes Christmas! For your listening pleasure, below is Manger Medley, Jonathan’s arrangement of Away in the Manger, which closes with him singing his gorgeous song, Messiah.  Looking forward to the holidays with you!

 

Jonathan sings “Let”

 

Jonathan Sings “Spent This Time”

 

Jonathan and his partner, Janet Clazzy, play “The Call”

It’s All About Me — September 30, 2011

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We shouldn’t judge.

This is one of those universally offered mantra/slogan/sound byte/bumper sticker sayings that infests our society with notions which generates an assenting  nod from the horde–but little actual agreement in real time.

For after all, we all judge. Most of the television shows now have panels of experts who evaluate and critique everything from songs to appearance to dancing to even how a meal is cooked. We judge. I’ve even been known to sniff a cantaloupe in a grocery store to determine whether it was worthy for my cart.

So what did Jesus mean when he said, “Don’t judge–because you’ll be judged.” To understand that statement you have to comprehend the core of everything Jesus taught, which was, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

Let’s start with God.  God has grace.  God makes decisions to extend gentleness in areas that we don’t understand–simply because He decides to do so. I am not geared to do that. Bluntly, I am not capable of unconditional love, so I wouldn’t  insult you by telling you that I offer it to you. I am a human being and my love is based upon whether or not I can extend mercy.  Mercy is my imitation of God’s grace.  It is only possible for me to do this when I am able to put my face on every person and mentally place my body in every situation. If I can’t do that, I will cease to be merciful and therefore my judgment will be harsher on you than I would render on myself.

So in the religious system, we teach that God’s grace is a given; a gift to mankind.  Now, if you happen to be a fundamentalist, you think that grace is based on faith, belief and good deed–good deeds in the sense of following the laws of God.  As a fundamentalist, you feel it is your responsibility to judge others who refuse to fall under God’s scrutiny and restrictions. You believe that you’re just being true to the word of God and not really judging anyone–just trying to remain faithful, keeping yourself in the literal good graces of the Almighty.

Now, if you’re a more liberal, mainline denominational person, you perceive that God’s grace is a free offering to everyone and is the essence of His being, desiring that all of his children be happy individuals and find their own paths to salvation. You bite your lip to the point of bleeding to keep from criticizing others because you feel that judgmentalism is the ultimate sin, but deep in your heart you have just as many misgivings about the actions of your fellow-humans as the fundamentalists.  You just have different language.

Let me simplify it.  Baptist: God’s grace is everlasting if you follow the rules of the Bible.   Methodist: the rules of the Bible are best followed by believing in God’s eternal grace.

Got it? It is pretzel logic, twisted in on itself. I find both paths to be absolutely devoid of practical application.   Here’s my insight: God has His grace. I don’t know what the limits of His grace are or when or how he decides to extend or retract them. I don’t care.  Grace is not my concern. My purpose is mercy–and mercy is what I grant to others as I teach myself to see my face in their countenance and my life in their actions. 

  • If I were a black man, how would I want to be treated?  There.  I have my marching orders.
  • If I were gay, what profile would I want others to take towards me? Clear as a bell.
  • If I were a fat man, bald and not very handsome…wait a second! That one’s easy.

It’s all about ME.  And the minute I begin to believe that I am magnanimous enough to afford God’s grace to others–or righteous enough to impart His wrath on the surrounding hapless masses, I have lost all contact with reality. Mercy is my imitation of God’s grace–a  decision to make everything “about me” before I decide my verdict.

I don’t reference the scriptures on the issue because I will not stand before God holding a Bible. I will be measured at the Judgment Day based upon the yardstick I have already selected for myself. I can show mercy without condoning people’s actions. I can give mercy without having to coddle individuals in their sin. Mercy is my decision to treat people the way I would want to be treated until it all plays out.

So you may ask, “What is the purpose for the Bible warning people about sin if we’re not supposed to preach against evil?” 

Well, there is a difference between generic judgment and personal judgment.  Some things are easy for me.  For instance, I think killing is wrong.  Period. I don’t favor war, I’m against abortion and I also oppose the death penalty. These are generic evaluations on my part. But if I meet a soldier who has been called to fight for freedom, I individualize the situation by placing myself in his boots.  If I meet a young woman in her teens who has an unwanted pregnancy, I place myself both in her mind and her womb. And if I meet a family who has a child who has been murdered by some maniac, I pause and reflect on the depth of their loss.

If God is not a God of individual circumstances, then what is the point of salvation? If God can’t separate one person from another and make specific releases of grace, then what is the reason for Him being all-knowing?

“Don’t judge.” Absolutely ridiculous.  We all judge. But our judgment should be true.  It should be based upon what it would feel like to us to be in the same situation and be under scrutiny. 

Mercy is my imitation of God’s grace. Jesus said that if I am merciful, then I obtain mercy.  If I can’t put my face on every face, then I should not be expecting to receive of God’s grace.

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