Catchy (Sitting Two)This Young Man … June 18th, 2017

Matthew Ransley was an advertising agent but fancied himself an executive. He was a founding partner in a company called S.E.E.D.S.–an annoying, elongated acronym: “Selling Everything Everywhere, Delivering Success.”

Matthew was very good at what he did. He worked at being congenial but if sufficiently aggravated, could launch into a rampage to defend one of his well-guarded opinions.

It was Tuesday when the phone rang and Mariel, his secretary (though she preferred “executive assistant”) was not yet at work to answer, so Matthew found himself taking the call. It was from Marcus Tomlinson, an attorney—an attorney for the estate of Arthur Harts.

Matthew knew who Arthur Harts was, and had even heard that the old man had died. He listened carefully as Mr. Tomlinson explained about the recent reading of the will and the revelation of the “Make Jesus Popular” addition.

It did cross Matthew’s mind that it might be a crank call. But the attorney established credibility because he seemed to know what he was talking about, including an abundance of information about Matthew and his agency.

“The reason we called you is that we thought that your agency’s name, S.E.E.D.S., sounded a little religious, and in doing a background check on you, we also discovered that you had some interest in matters of faith and such when you were a student back in college.”

Matthew smiled. He remembered. College–a chance to plan your future while simultaneously ruining your life. After graduation he had included every piece of resume-worthy material possible on his application to gain employment.

He had begun a club during his college years, launching a fledgling organization initially called the “Son of One” (he being the only member at the time.) His vision was to create a para-religious/party-motivated/pseudo-intellectual club, which would attract both thinkers and drinkers.

Before too long he achieved a member and they became the “Crew of Two.” Then came another and they became the “Tree of Three.” When a fourth joined, they dubbed themselves the “Core of Four.” A fifth inductee created the “Hive of Five,” and a sixth, the “Mix of Six.” When a seventh young lady cast her lot with the organization, they became the “Leaven of Seven,” where they remained throughout their university years, garnering no new converts.

Matthew assumed this was what the attorney was referring to when he mentioned “some interest in matters of faith.” Honestly, the seven young folk liked to talk about God and politics until the wee hours of the morning while indulging in “the beer and bong.” It was hardly a consecrated conclave, but rather, dedicated to the proposition that all men–and women–are created equally arrogant.

“What is it you want?” Matthew asked. It was too early to chat–or reminisce.

Mr. Tomlinson proceeded to explain that one of Arthur Harts’ dying wishes was to give two hundred fifty million dollars towards increasing the popularity of Jesus.

“How popular does he need to be?” asked Matthew. “I mean, they named a religion after him, and, if I’m not mistaken, doesn’t our entire calendar run by the date of his birth?”

There was a moment of silence. Then Lawyer Tomlinson spoke in metered tones. “Let me just say that I don’t know much about religion, or God for that matter. I am merely performing the literal last request of a very wealthy man.”

“So what do you want me to do?” inquired Matthew.

“What do I want you to do? I guess I want you to tell me that your agency will take two hundred and fifty million dollars and at least try to make Jesus more popular.”

“We could start a rumor that he and Elvis are going to get together and cut an album.”

A pause. “Sounds fine with me,” replied Tomlinson.

Matthew chuckled. It was becoming quite evident that this lawyer was merely going through the motions of fulfilling a contractual oddity. On the other hand, as unusual as the request sounded, the two hundred and fifty million dollars did offer a bit of sparkle. As a founding partner in his business, did he have the right to reject such a lucrative offer simply because it was weird?

The lawyer piped up, uncomfortable with the delay. “Perhaps you could suggest someone else.”

Matthew laughed nervously. “No, I don’t really think I could suggest anyone else. I’m not familiar with any All Saints Agency or God Almighty, Inc.”

“It is two hundred and fifty million dollars. I mean, can’t you do something?”

“Yes,” said Matthew. (He figured it was always better to say yes to two hundred and fifty million dollars. You can revise your answer later, but in the meantime, well, it’s two hundred and fifty million dollars.)

Matthew punctuated his acceptance by adding, “Maybe we could get Jesus to date a supermodel.”

“I think he’s dead,” said Tomlinson, without inflection.

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Jesonian… May 20th, 2017

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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“A certain lawyer.”

This is how the King James Version of the Good Book describes a chap who comes to hear Jesus teach. We do not know his real name, but we are made aware of his agenda.

So was he “a certain lawyer” because he was identical to the other lawyers around him, or was he referred to as “a certain lawyer” because he had a legal mind–already made up and sure of itself?

As the story unfolds, we find that actually he’s a bit of both. He’s on a mission. His job is to take his intellect, his knowledge of Mosaic law and his wit, and trip up the bumpkin would-be prophet from Nazareth.

He crafts a plan. It’s the classic trap. He asks Jesus “how to gain eternal life.” He figures this will cause the over-wrought preacher to launch into a series of crazed statements which are easily contradicted by existing spiritual philosophy. Imagine how astounded he is when Jesus defers to him.

“What does the law say? How do you read it?”

The lawyer was not expecting this response, but seeing the crowd of people, he thought it would be unwise to be absent a reply. He grabs a safe answer. (That’s what “certain people” do. Even “certain lawyers.” They grab safe answers.)

He said, “You should love the Lord your God and love your neighbor as yourself.”

To which Jesus replied, “Fantastic! Go do that.”

The certain lawyer is embarrassed. He has been out-maneuvered by a former carpenter. He has been managed. He has been handled. He gained no additional information, and made the audience think he was completely in tune with the teachings of Jesus.

So he does something truly dastardly–he tries to justify himself. Every lasting malady happens when we come across a reality and explain why we’re already doing something else.

The certain lawyer (who is losing certainty by the moment) asks, “Who is my neighbor?”

In other words, there must be some restriction. Jesus is not talking about Gentiles, is he? He’s not referring to nasty whores and thieves?

“I need you to clarify. And in the clarification, it is my hope that you will foul up, so I can go back to those who hired me, and have a good laugh concerning me bettering the Galilean.”

Jesus doesn’t miss a beat.

He tells a story about a man who fell into a situation where he was robbed and beaten. He immediately establishes that those who “the certain lawyer” respected–a priest and a Levite–passed by and did not help the bleeding fellow. Instead, he offers a hero. He introduces a Samaritan–which by the way, to that “certain lawyer” was even worse than a Gentile–who comes to the aid of the gentleman, binds his wounds, takes him to an inn and then leaves real money behind to make sure he’s cared for until he recuperates.

Jesus directs the story. In politics, they refer to it as “controlling the narrative.”

A lawyer who thought he was so smart was side-stepped; trapped by question from Jesus which could only evoke one logical response. Upon finishing the narrative, Jesus asks the certain lawyer, “Who was neighbor to the damaged man?”

The lawyer was surrounded by people, and the answer was so obvious that any hem-hawing or parsing of words would make him look foolish, not thoughtful. So he splurted out:

“The neighbor was the one who showed mercy to the wounded man.”

And even though the “certain lawyer” had hoped that the end of his dialogue with Jesus would leave the Master speechless and him dominating, instead Jesus turns and as he walked away, says, “Go and do thou likewise.”

There must have been a chuckle throughout the crowd.

The humiliated, foiled, aggravated and convicted lawyer left to go lick his wounds.

Over the next few weeks, he devises his own story–a retort he should have given to Jesus. Why do I feel that? Because the Gospel writer never told us his name.

The “certain lawyer” didn’t matter. He was a prop–a vehicle to share wisdom.

A story for the ages: The Good Samaritan.

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Jesonian: The Finisher (Part II)… June 21st, 2015

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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hands woodworking

Jesus of Nazareth arrived on the scene in a cluttered atmosphere of laws that he characterized as restrictions “that were grievous to bear” and that those who made the rules “didn’t lift a finger” to aid people in fulfilling them.

There was a need for an edit.

The document, the commandments and all the interpretations needed to be trimmed.

So just as there was a need for an author, now came the time for a finisher.

It all came to a head one day when a lawyer asked a question of Jesus, trying to make himself look extremely profound, and also in an attempt to trick the Nazarene into saying something renegade.

“What is the greatest commandment?” he asked, feigning sincerity.

Here it was–the opportunity to take thousands of years of legalism and brush it away to discover the hidden meaning, powerful and applicable.

Jesus responded, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength, and the second is like unto it: love your neighbor as yourself.”

Even though Jesus insisted he came to fulfill the law, the definition of fulfillment in this case was to simplify it down to a lifestyle instead of packaging it in a religion.

When we continue to insist that the Torah and the Talmud, and even the Epistles of Jesus’ disciples carry the same significance as these two simple commandments of Jesus, we force people into primitive spiritual caves, from which they seldom emerge, just sitting around cuddling by the fire, frightened of the outside world.

We have an edit. The author of our faith came to be the finisher.

So what is the message?

God wants to be loved:

First with our heart–our emotions.

Then with our soul–the part of us that lives on.

But also our mind–having the warmth and tenderness of His mercy affect our thinking.

And finally, our strength–taking words and turning them into actions.

Jesus’ message was profoundly clear. The way we prove we actually love God is by loving people.

To the average Jew, Jesus was a law-breaker:

  • He did not honor the Sabbath.
  • He did not cleanse his utensils.
  • He did not fast enough to meet the qualifications.
  • And he certainly did not believe that the Jews were special because they were the “children of Abraham.”

This is what got him crucified.

The Jewish Council did not trump up charges to present to Pilate. They believed that Jesus was a heretic, a criminal and a threat to Israel.

Actually, the Author came to finish His work.

So those who criticze people’s choices, personalities, doctrines, predilections and lifestyles … well, they always refer back to material which has already been edited out of the final manuscript.

What remains are two simple opportunities and responsibilities:

Love God.

And love people.

Anyone who does this is living out the dream of Jesus.

Anyone who doesn’t is trapped in a legalism…which has already been deemed worthless. 

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Abe-bull … August 2, 2012

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Of the forty-four men who have held the position of the highest office in our land, Abraham Lincoln may be one of the few who actually understood the job.

Being President of the United States demands that you comprehend the magnitude of the mission while having a mind for the messiness. You must deal with the threat of your time, keep the nation at peace in its heart, while finding a way to disregard the many voices in Congress which would steer the ship toward the rocks. Of course, being the best at something does mean you’re going to be the most criticized. For after all, everybody has an opinion on everything, which they will gladly share with everyone, and it always ends up being a little wrong every time.

Abraham Lincoln, Republican candidate for the ...

Abraham Lincoln, Republican candidate for the presidency, 1860 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So if the name of Abraham Lincoln is brought up, you just might hear:

  • a tyrant (for after all, he did suspend many personal rights in the pursuit of keeping the country together)
  • a racist (the point being that he never really wanted to free the slaves, just scare away the English and French from assisting the South)
  • a hick (certainly reaching for his napkin instead of using his sleeve was not Abe’s first instinct)
  • a lousy husband (there are those who felt the problems with Mary Todd were due to Lincoln’s insensitivity)
  • an abused husband (in contrast, some felt that Mary Todd’s insanity held Lincoln back from even greater conclusions)
  • a Yankee (anyone south of the Mason Dixon line certainly had no problem voicing this thought)
  • stubborn (well, if you consider that he stood against almost everybody at some time or another)
  • honest (that was his campaign slogan, you know–Honest Abe)
  • a lawyer (he was licensed to do so, though didn’t spend a tremendous amount of time in that pursuit)
  • had a girl’s voice (he was known for his whiney tone and high pitch)
  • a failure (by the way, if you’re keeping score, he actually lost that Lincoln-Douglas debate)
  • awkward (what’s the old saying? He was too tall for his feet)
  • an abolitionist (the average plantation owner didn’t see any reason for sticking up for black people unless they were trying to woo one late at night in the slave quarters)
  • a gay man (yes, there is some sort of report that he shared his bed on cold nights with a male traveling companion) and most recently…
  • a vampire hunter (no idea on that one)

There you go. Obviously, all of these things can’t be true and what is true is probably lost in antiquity. So most of the opinions of people nowadays would just be what I call Abe-bull.

Here’s what we do know–of the two most important questions posed to Abraham Lincoln, he answered them in such a way that it brought dignity to his memory. And those two questions are simple: what is the best of my understanding of the present situation? So therefore, looking at myself and my abilities, what can I do?

There were many people who lived in Abraham Lincoln’s day who had a grasp of the problem but were frightened of the solution. To Lincoln, it was easy. His understanding of the situation was that the United States was a union of people who believed that all men are created equal. So therefore, he decided to maintain the integrity of that union at all cost, and in the process, set in motion a mission to make us equal.

Now, Richard Nixon came along at a time when the country was embroiled in a never-ending war, social upheaval and confusion, with our sons being returned in body bags every single day. His response to that was to elongate the war, increase the bombing and lie to the American people about his actions, culminating in a cover-up that nearly emotionally destroyed this country.

Judas Iscariot lived in a day when his nation was being occupied by the Roman Empire, and he believed there was a need for a leader to come along and save them, allowing them the freedom to be themselves in worship. But when he met a man who had a message of love for the entire world, he opted to reject him and betray him because the solution was not totally on point with his own thinking.

Franklin Roosevelt came along at a time when the country was in a depression and eventually involved in a war, and rather than following previously policy or even reasonable thinking, he created jobs (often made up) and generated a pathway which eventually led us out of the financial ruin, mainly due to our involvement in a war to destroy fascism.

Jesus of Nazareth came to the earth when some of the worst domination and violence that ever existed was in full swing, and instead of feeding the frenzy of revenge, he asked men to seek out their own talents to make the world a better place. And because they decided to remain vicious, he was willing to become their savior instead of just their teacher.

Can I tell you folks, I have been called fat, generous, stubborn, liberal, conservative, a heretic, a preacher, a singer, a squawker, a musician, a hack, a husband, a meanie, a saint, a sinner, a lover, a fumbler, a Yankee, a Rebel, and most recently, a gypsy troubadour (I assume similar to being a vampire hunter).

I ignore all of these assertions. I follow the philosophy of Abraham Lincoln, so I take a look at the world around me and I come up with this: to the best of my understanding, God loves people and wants them to expand and succeed. So therefore, I think I should let them know of this great opportunity in as many ways as possible.

There are two ways to live in this world. You can listen to all the news reports or you can go out and make some good news.

It’s up to you.

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