Good News and Better News … February 8th, 2016

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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Good News Better News McCormick

Pictured above is a Kleenex, which I discarded yesterday when I was sitting at my book table, enjoying the blessings of being in the presence of delightful souls in McCormick, South Carolina.

I thought I was going to sneeze. I grabbed the Kleenex, and when I did not sneeze, I wadded it up and put it to the side, having never put it to use. But since it was rejected, it no longer had any purpose, even though it was not trash.

That’s the way I feel about the church.

Many people have wadded it up and cast it to the side, and it looks a little dilapidated even though it has not completed its purpose.

Yesterday, while relishing in the interaction with Paul and Kay, and the local congregation, I was inspired by the fact that they succeeded in getting people from the whole community to come out to church simply by being excited themselves over the prospect of a special event.

Here’s the question: can we get excited again about being together and celebrating the life of the church, instead of being like a used Kleenex which hasn’t even absorbed a sneeze?

Because once people get excited, they will do the work.

Once people believe that something different from the commonplace will happen, they will be prepared to rejoice, clap their hands and even hug one another.

But if you’re going to treat the Gospel message like it’s used Kleenex, don’t be surprised if people choose to ignore it.

The good news is that the citizens of McCormick, South Carolina, rallied together and had a sweet time in the spirit.

Now let me tell you some better news–you can have that same thing happen every week if you take three things into consideration. The Gospel needs:

1. Humanity

We spend too much time talking about God and not enough about how to be better people. Jesus was not interested in exploring new ways to worship God. He was concerned with how we treat the least of our brethren. This defines our belief.

2. Humor

I don’t know how the humor of Jesus escapes theologians. I suppose it’s because they read everything he said as if Jesus just finished sucking on a lemon.

But Jesus had a dry wit.

  • He told his disciples to “be of good cheer.”
  • He told them “the blind can’t lead the blind–otherwise, they’ll end up in a ditch.”
  • And tongue-in-cheek, he told them they were “worth many sparrows.”

A humorless Gospel is a discarded tissue.

3. Honesty

If we’re going to teach our congregations to approach life as if it’s a political campaign, attempting to dodge charges instead of facing realities, the church will become a sanctuary for losers.

Jesus was clear. “Let your yes be yes and your no be no.”

Stop trying to make explanations. He said anything that is not a yes or a no is usually born of evil.

So to all of my new friends in McCormick, thank you for being who you are. And I encourage you to keep the humanity, the humor and the honesty in your gathering.

It will make every Sunday a Super Sunday.

 

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Untotaled: Stepping 41 (July 14th, 1967) Needing Change… November 22, 2014

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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(Transcript)

It had never happened before.

There was going to be a carnival set up at the Westerville Shopping Center, right across the street from Redman’s Hardware.

Even though that in itself was cool, even cooler was that this cavalcade of amusements was advertising unlimited rides and midway games for five dollars for the whole day.

It was great.

The only trouble was, Randy and I didn’t have five dollars apiece, so I was ready to do my usual small-town plan of giving up and spending my carnival time complaining about missing the parade.

Randy, on the other hand, had an idea.

He went down to our local phone booth, sitting on the north corner of the Town Commons, and stuffed a bunch of Kleenex into the change return, so that when people missed a call or had money coming back their way, it would get caught and would not return to them.

I thought it was the dumbest idea I’d ever heard.

I wasn’t so concerned that it was dishonest as that I didn’t think we would ever get ten dollars out of such an adventure, with the money coming out in increments of ten cents a throw.

But Rand did it anyway, and three days later, when he pulled out the Kleenex, we ended up with a haul of $10.75.

Apparently a very popular phone booth.

We could not have been more giddy. We went to the carnival and had a fabulous time, never once feeling guilty about how we acquired the funds.

No, for me it was four days later.

I was sitting in my mother and father’s loan company, and I peered out the window and saw there was a policeman inspecting the phone booth.

It scared the crap out of me.

I had to do something–not out of guilt over my misstep, but rather, because I didn’t want to go to Juvenile Hall, where I heard they only served partially cooked pot pies.

So when my parents weren’t looking, I snuck into the safe of the loan company and grabbed a roll of dimes. I quietly stepped over to the phone booth, trying to pretend like I was going to make a call, and as calmly as possible, stuffed that whole role of dimes back into the slot, one at a time, to do recompense for my sin.

Once again, it never occurred to me that I stole from my parents to cover my previous thievery.

It was nearly three weeks later, when my uncle gave me five dollars for school supplies, that my conscience finally showed up.

I determined to go to the bank, purchase a roll of dimes and slip them back into the safe, no one the wiser.

Unfortunately, my plan was foiled by the fact that my parents hung around all day long, never giving me the chance to do penance.

I decided to try again the next day, but on the way home I passed by the local five and dime, and they were advertising candy bars–six for 20 cents.

Well, the only 20 cents I had was in the roll of dimes, and I thought, what the hell? What difference would two dimes make?

The next day I forgot to return my dimes to the loan company, but I did stop off at the Dairy Queen to get a hot dog and a coke, which took another seven dimes.

Long story short, within a week I spent all the dimes I had planned to return.

I didn’t feel bad–I felt stupid.

I did make one determination, and that was to never steal from the phone booth again. And when Randy tempted me, I changed the subject and refrained from further iniquity.

From then on, I went on a personal journey in search of my own integrity.

It was ten years later, long after my dad had died.

I was visiting my mother at her home, and I walked up to her and gently placed a roll of dimes into her hand. She looked up at me, quizzically.

I patted her on the shoulder and said, “It’s a really, really long story…”

 

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The Sermon on the Mount in music and story. Click the mountain!

The Sermon on the Mount in music and story. Click the mountain!

 

Click here to get info on the "Gospel According to Common Sense" Tour

Click here to get info on the “Gospel According to Common Sense” Tour

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

Click here to listen to Spirited music

Click here to listen to Spirited music

G-Poppers… November 21, 2014

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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G-Popper

After I grew weary of abstinence, it followed in time that I eventually became the father to children. As they grew up, they were just as weary of celibacy, so they decided to procreate, forcing me into the role of “Grandpa.” Finding the term a bit offensive and arcane, I suggested that these “second generationers” refer to me as “G-Pop.”

So rather than being a mere passing fancy in their minds during holidays or a grave that they visit someday with a mixture of perplexity and tears, I send them my thoughts from time to time so they can someday check their in-box to garner my spirit.

I call them “G-Poppers.”

And if you arrive here on Fridays for the next little while, you will find some of these, hopefully for your reading enjoyment.

G-Pop on politics

My dear children, politics is the only business that depends on lying to get customers.

G-Pop on entertainment

Listen, kids, movies should move us or move out of the way for the next movement.

G-Pop, talk to us about sex

Sex is always better when two people think of it at the same moment.

Comedy?

Ugly folks are funnier, because even when the jokes fail, they are still funny-looking.

G-Pop, do you have an opinion on raising kids?

Parents teach their off-spring how to use kleenex, toilet paper, wear a coat, eat vegetables and say thank-you. Everything else is pretty much up to the kid.

 

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The Sermon on the Mount in music and story. Click the mountain!

The Sermon on the Mount in music and story. Click the mountain!

 

Click here to get info on the "Gospel According to Common Sense" Tour

Click here to get info on the “Gospel According to Common Sense” Tour

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

Click here to listen to Spirited music

Click here to listen to Spirited music

Untotaled: Stepping 18–(January 14th, 1966) On My Sleeve … June 14, 2014

Jonathots Daily Blog

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(Transcript)

Two doors down from our home were some neighbors who were quite friendly, but we only saw about six times a year and talked to maybe twice.

So imagine our surprise when they showed up at the door the day before Christmas and brought gifts. My mother was frantic, trying to figure out how to reciprocate with some sort of generosity to this surprise burst of holiday cheer.

But the most amazing thing was when I opened my present on Christmas morning from these little-known neighbors and it was a sweater.

It was beautiful for two reasons. First of all, it was a swirl of blue in a cardigan style and had brown leather buttons that looked like chocolate covered cherries.

But the greatest blessing was that it fit. I was a big fat boy, and in that era, no one made provision for such creatures. I don’t know where our neighbors found it, but it was made of Angora–that material that looks like it should be on a goat or a really pretty rabbit.

I loved it. I wore it every day. I pretended it was my winter coat. Maybe because of that, I picked up a cold.

I hate colds.

I guess everybody does, but the main reason I despise getting the common flu bug is that I had no intention in my young teen years of doing anything about it except enduring it with much complaint.

So I was sitting in the study hall while wearing my beautiful blue Angora sweater with the chocolate buttons. It was a very cold day and they had turned up the heat, and the mixture of the other students in the room with the air of the furnace blowing started my nose running.

Now, I was a young man who had little care for anything that looked frilly, so I certainly did not carry Kleenex. (I don’t know what kind of fellow you would have to be in 1966 to have a Kleenex on you.) And I was also too macho to ask a nearby girl if I could use one of her tissues. That was forbidden territory.

So at first I just tried to sniff it back into my nose. Of course, this was loud, sounded gross and caused a cheerleader next to me to crinkle her nose and turn away.

I did not know what to do. I had already used up all my bathroom privileges with the study hall monitor, and was quite sure I would not be allowed to leave the premises. And sure enough, when I raised my hand, he just looked at me and shook his head.

Meanwhile, my nose was reaching avalanche proportions. I don’t know what it looked like, but it felt like Niagara Falls was running down my lip. It had to be gross. I tried to duck my head down, but that made the gravity of the situation worse.

I thought about running my hand under my nose, but then I would have it on my hand.

Suddenly, without thinking, fearing that I was about to embarrass myself in front of the entire class with my river of snot, I reached up with the sleeve of my sweater and ran it across my face two or three times.

Fortunately, at that point my nose loosened up and I was able to have one huge sniff and the running went away.

But my beautiful Angora sweater had been slimed by my drippy nose dropping.

I took off the sweater, folded it up, and when I got home that night tried to wipe the goop out of the fur–but it wouldn’t go away.

I wore the sweater a couple more times, but people kept asking me why the sleeve was matted.

I loved that sweater so much.

But about four days later, I quietly went out into the back yard, dug a hole, and buried it.

I realized there would be no way to ever fix it. My family knew nothing about dry cleaning, and I was in no mood to try to explain why it was rumpled and stiff.

I know it sounds strange, but I cried. Actually, I cried more at the grave of my sweater than I did for a couple of aunts who passed away.

Of course, they never looked nearly as good or kept me nearly as warm.

 

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Arizona morning

After an appearance earlier this year in Surprise, Arizona, Janet and I were blessed to receive a “surprise” ourselves. Click on the beautiful Arizona picture above to share it with us!

Click here to get info on the "Gospel According to Common Sense" Tour

Click here to get info on the “Gospel According to Common Sense” Tour

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

Click here to listen to Spirited music

Click here to listen to Spirited music

 

 

More Angels… April 6, 2013

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angelMattie loved me. I loved her, too.

It really was not a romantic thing, although if it was confirmed that we were marooned on a desert island, after three or four days of restraint, we certainly would have done our part to repopulate our new earth.

I really liked her voice. She had one of those folksy, husky alto tones, with a bit of available soprano-melodia. I used to love to sit in a room with her and listen to her share one of her original songs as I sipped tea and crunched on some Trisquits. That was really her best atmosphere. The sound she had selected for her style was not conducive to the recording studio or public arenas. It was simple and intimate. So Nashville producers were not busting down her door to procure the rights to her material.

Therefore, it was really sweet of her to be so supportive of me and my group when we did get signed. Matter of fact, on the day of our session, she showed up at the studio with Rice Krispie treats for everybody, which we gobbled down quickly (even though it did cross my mind that they could be poisoned).

Most of the time she was the brave little warrior, but one day I walked in and found her sitting in a puddle of her own tears.

“What’s wrong, Mattie?” I asked, moving to her side and putting an arm around her.

“I suck,” she replied, releasing a fresh gusher.

I sat for a moment, thinking about what the correct response or encouragement should be to such a proclamation. Merely saying “you don’t suck” seemed insufficient.

“What happened?” I inquired.

She handed over a piece of paper containing her latest rejection from a publishing house in Music City. Not only had they spurned her tunes, but had also misspelled her name. It was rather depressing.

She continued. “I’m ready to give up. I’m no good and will never be any good.”

Once again, as you can see, she didn’t leave me a lot of room to leap in.

“You know what the problem is?” I asked.

She paused, and then said, “Yes. I suck.”

“No,” I replied. “You don’t suck. You just feel like you suck because you’ve forgotten that you have more angels than demons.”

She crinkled her brow at me as she often did when I offered some piece of wisdom that she found to be too heavenly and not very practical. I quickly continued.

“All of us, Mattie, have more angels than demons. It just feels like we’ve got more of the bad guys because we chase the angels away. We don’t do it on purpose, it’s just that angels are more mannerly and less pushy than demons, and if we get in a mood to be negative, we scurry them out of our lives and they stay away until we invite them back in. Meanwhile the demons remain because they have no sense of fair play, and sit around laughing at us–moving the box of Kleenex so we can’t even comfort ourselves.”

She sat for a moment, then asked, “How did I chase the angels away?”

“The same way we all do. When we become convinced that what we have is not enough and we insult ourselves so strongly and meanly that the angels scatter.”

“How do I get ’em back?” she inquired.

I didn’t answer at first. Sometimes I think there’s a danger in being too wordy or overly spiritual with someone who’s hurting. Because I gave that space of time, she answered her own question.

‘”I guess the angels would feel more like returning if I stopped feeling sorry for myself.”

“That’s good,” I said.

She did. Matter of fact, she doubled her efforts, and three weeks later signed a contract with a national adoption agency, which used one of her songs to promote placing unwanted children into new families.

Mattie never became a star, but I know there may be people reading this who were welcomed into a new home because of her efforts.

Everybody has more angels than demons. Everybody chases the angels away from time to time and forgets how to welcome them back home. The key to life is avoiding the temptation to destroy your demons. Instead, outnumber them with your angels.

Good news–we have more angels than demons.

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Lame Excuses… October 25, 2012

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Live from October 1st filming

Woosies, wimps and weenies.

Truthfully, we all probably take our turn donning one of these unfortunate personas. As human beings, we aspire to be sympathetic toward the weaknesses of others, but privately, we really desire that people suffer quietly and find their own means of overcoming. When they don’t, at first we muster a reserve portion of compassion that we save for such an occasion, and then, after an hour or so, we want to either excuse ourselves before we blow our brains out with a gun out of boredom, or accidentally say something mean.

You may not feel as strongly about this as I just stated, but overall, most of us do admire bravery and kind of shrink back from cowardice.

This is why, when I have pulled up lame recently, I have been careful to share–both on jonathots and in my personal life–a sense of well-being along with my candor about my exploits. So I went into my performance last night feeling quite brave and filled with a shield of valor over mixing the joy of honesty with the power of faith.

But you see, somewhere in the cosmos there is a little creature. I envision this booger to be about two feet tall, with fuzzy blond hair sticking straight up, a turned-up nose, a silly grin and big feet, similar in appearance to those of a rabbit. This being seems to have one function–to run into our lives in the midst of what we consider to be an outstanding presentation of balanced living and intelligent choices, and to hop up and down on everything around us, destroying all of our plans while giggling hilariously at his own antics.

I have even given this creature a name. He is a jeeber. His job is to take human beings who have become self-righteous, self-involved, self-piteous or self-aggrandizing about their own efforts, and expose the woosie, wimp and weenie lying beneath. He is so annoying that some people have actually referred to him as the devil, but in reality he possesses no Satanic attributes whatsoever–just a naughty predilection for disruption. Let me give you an example based upon last night.

I was feeling very self-assured that I was handling my current situation with my legs with fortitude. Now, I did have a set-back earlier in the week, when I got my emotional cart before my physical horse and tried to do too much, and ended up falling down in the parking lot of my motel, wallowing for a few moments in the left-over grease of a 1996 Ford Escort. But I was able to recover from that little piece of embarrassment, make better choices and literally regain my footing.

So as I headed off to the church last night to do my show, Janet revealed to me that this particular building had no ramps, so I would be required to roll in and then climb up five or six steps on my ailing limbs. This would also have to be accomplished in front of a few strangers, so I sucked it up, thinking that I was being extraordinarily broad-minded in expressing supernatural willingness.

The the jeeber showed up. The jeeber had all sorts of things planned for me last night in an attempt to expose all of my woosie, weenie and wimp. The steps were not easy, and then, arriving at the top and preparing to do our sound check, I discovered that the power amp for our public address system was not working. Reaching over to try to pick up the amp to do some repair, I jammed my thumb into the piano and began to bleed. No Kleenex could be found to help staunch my bloodiness, so I took a piece of paper to cover up my leakage.

We took the amp back into a room, where I planned to rewire the plug, and the knife I was working with to achieve this purpose slipped from my grasp and I cut the thumb on my left hand. Now I was bleeding in two places. It wasn’t a great loss of blood, just a continual reminder.

I could hear the jeeber laughing.

So I worked on this power amp for about fifteen minutes, realizing the true depth of my intelligence and the full extent of my ignorance. In other words, I couldn’t fix it. So I had to humbly ask our sponsor if we could use one microphone from their system, and Janet procured an amplifier from our car to play her wind machine and we quickly glanced over our program to see which songs would sound just short of horrible without our own security blanket of sound system.

Meanwhile, people were arriving and I was trying to hide my blood flow from the masses, which I think is always an act of extreme courtesy. It was obvious that we were not going to be able to make any kind of normal entrance onto the stage, as most performers are permitted to do, but instead, we remained in the front of the auditorium, trying to piece together a program, resembling janitors cleaning up confetti after a political convention.

While I was trying to figure out how to sop up some of the excess blood from my thumbs, I looked up and suddenly there was a woman standing in front of me, greeting me with the frightening statement: “Do you remember me?”

I could hear the jeeber laughing.

I don’t know how I did it, but I was able to retrieve her name. She was one of my comrades forty years ago in high school. She looked absolutely lovely, and was filled with great spirit, and I looked beleaguered, and perhaps in need, at this point, of a blood transfusion.

I had no idea what was going to happen.

“Woosie Jonathan” wanted to show up and make excuses. He is very good at that, especially when there is so much material available to justify the reasoning. I resisted him.

“Wimpy Jonathan” suggested that we make some sort of joke about the cuts on the hands to gain both sympathy and possibly make an adequate diversion from the lacking of equipment and sound. I dodged him.

Meanwhile, I could hear the giggling of my jeeber from the corner of the room.

Then “Weenie Jonathan” made an appearance. He’s the one that always makes the point that things “aren’t fair.” He wonders why God has allowed additional hassle to arrive when there seemed to be a sufficient arsenal of the weaponry of pain already stockpiled. After all, I was battling my legs, I climbed the stairs … My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken me?

It was a bit of a struggle, but I finally defeated Weenie Jonathan. For here’s the truth. Here is why jeebers exist. They are life’s way of reminding us that we are not as weak as we think we are. If everything actually went according to our aspiring notions, we would never experience any scenario that puts our abilities and talents to a complete test.

The evening was beautiful. The people were luscious. And woosie, wimp and weenie were shuttled off–exit, stage right. I think, around nine o’clock, I saw jeeber stomp out the front door with his big feet flopping, disappointed that he had not gotten more ha-ha’s out of my flaw-flaws.

Anybody can make an excuse, especially when you’re lame. Thus the name: lame excuses. But even though we think we have a case for being a woosie, a wimp and a weenie, there are no feelings of accomplishment when we give into the jeebers. All we feel is typical.

So jeebers, creepers–where’d you get those … well, I’m not sure. But I know this. Because we’re never tempted beyond what we can bear, when it seems that extra hassle arrives, it is one of those rare opportunities to find out if our talent has enough water … to get us through the desert.

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