Laughing or Lying … June 15, 2013


smiling sonsI do wish I would have learned it sooner.

It would have been advantageous to apply this priceless principle to all seven of my sons in the process of training them to be human beings, instead of just sporadically stumbling upon the idea.

It’s really quite simple: people are much more likely to tell the truth in an atmosphere of levity, laughter and good cheer than they are in a climate of challenge, seriousness and intimidation.

It’s a mistake every parent has made. We scare our children away from telling the truth because we walk into the room with a stern face and ask them to sit down as we explain in vivid detail how important it is to share the real story, brows furrowed.

It scares the truth right out of them.

They will do anything in the world to change that disconsolate face in front of them back into an understanding, gentle parent-visage. They want to say the right thing, so in the process they end up saying the wrong thing: a lie.

You even see it in the Garden of Eden. God made the mistake of walking in and saying, “Why are you hiding from me?” instead of joking with them about how their fig-leaf aprons were not very attractive.

People tell the truth more quickly if they’re surrounded by the reassurance that nothing is going to be taken too seriously, and redemption is possible because joy is already present.

When I was in high school, a bunch of my friends would get together to laugh, and in no time at all, we were telling deep secrets to each other. But if anyone had walked in and in an austere voice demanded that we tell our stories and become transparent about our feelings, we would have returned to the Kingdom of Lying, telling tales we believed to be pleasing to our intruder.

Can I make it this simple? When it comes to human beings, it’s a choice between laughing or lying. If you can’t get people to relax through good cheer and laughter, realizing that nothing is the end of the world, they will always resort to some sort of misrepresentation of the facts, just to try to get things back to normal and hopefully, restore the comedy.

As I said, I wish I had learned this sooner–as a parent. There were times that I actually WAS tickled by how stupid my children’s actions were, so I mocked them, getting them to laugh over their misdeeds, and in no time at all they were confessing other wrong things they had done.

But every time I walked in with that growly face of disapproval, I scared them away from being open to me. No wonder people who believe in an angry God spend their whole lives in deception. It is not surprising that folks involved in a threatening relationship are constantly lying to one another.

Laughter or lying–it’s why I always try to get my audiences to “lighten up” and chuckle at the world around them, and even the world inside them. Then a release valve permits them to unload their real feelings instead of manufacturing safe choices.

So on the eve of this Father’s Day, keep in mind that you can try to be the big boss of your household and scare your family into submission, but what you’ll end up with are words thrown your way to please you … which usually have nothing to do with the real heart of the matter.

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


 Jonathots, Jr.!

Click below for a quick daily thought from Jonathan


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

What’s So Funny? … May 9, 2013


laugh maskI made one of those classic mistakes.

Spurred on by some friends and supporters, for a season I decided to advertise myself as a comedian or a humorist. It seemed like a good idea. After all, most people like light-hearted material over crusty pages with darkened corners.

But here’s what I discovered: arriving at my first engagement, fully promoted, a gentleman ambled up to me and said, “So I hear you’re a comedian.” (I would describe his tone as a mingling of spit and vinegar, accentuated with a sneer.)

I was in trouble.

For honestly, the best way to make sure that people will NOT find joviality in your material is to suggest to them that it is meant to be giggly. We are a highly independent species, bound and determined to push forward our own opinions, even if they’re wrong.

It took about two weeks, but I caught on. I dropped the foolish title from my advertising and decided to just go in front of the audience and let the chips fall where they may. Guess what? I was suddenly funny again.

So here’s what I learned from that experience. You might find it beneficial if you are in the pursuit of offering levity to the planet.

1. Don’t TRY to be funny.

2. BE funny–by sharing your “tries.” People love to laugh at our failures. You can call it sick, or just dub it predictable.

3. Don’t make fun of people. It’s cheap and eventually there is someone out there who will get a bead on your oddities–and decimate your character.

4. Make people believe in fun. In the midst of a world of turmoil, discussing the layers of conflict rarely brings about the energy to do anything about it. We have to believe that life is fun or we’ll stop showing up.

5. Don’t lose the humor of God. I was at a church service one time and we were all laughing, having a good time before the service, when the pastor said, “Let’s all calm down and get ready for worship.” I had to object. I replied, “What are you trying to do? Scare God away?” If God does not promote joy, then He’s probably pretty grouchy. I don’t think it does us any good to believe in a grouchy God.

6. And we promote the humor of God because God saves the lost THROUGH humor. The parables of Jesus are riddled by one-liners, set-ups and little stabs of comedy. If you can’t get people to look at their lives through the prism of jubilation and with a bit of jocular nature, the pain involved in changing is just too great.

So to answer the question “what’s so funny?” — it would be me, when I don’t TRY to be funny. And it would be you AND me when we realize that “be of good cheer” is the only way to overcome the world’s tribulation.



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

God, Father … August 18, 2012

  • (1,611)

It was 1976, I was twenty-four years old and was blessedly invited to be the keynote speaker at a Christian Business Men’s Meeting in Mt. Clemens, Michigan. There were approximately two hundred people in attendance, some of them female, most of them very successful in business, but nearly all of them of Italian descent.

Now understand, I was old enough to be there but young enough to be very nervous about conversation with a bunch of folks who were making lots of money and were, well … Italian. I think what spooked me was that I didn’t want to be the first one to bring up some subject that might accidentally be offensive, so when I was back in my motel room, I practiced avoiding certain words: spaghetti, meatballs, the mob and the recent hit movie, The Godfather. I know it sounds stupid, but remember–I was twenty-four, and although I had discovered my feet and that they were under me, I didn’t always know exactly where to walk.

Fortunately for me, I was seated at the head table with the president of this Christian organization, who was named Dominick. He was a lovely man–free and easy. He immediately broached all the subjects I was afraid of, drew me into the conversation and let me know that a Pennsylvania Dutch boy from Ohio was welcome at their meeting (even though I didn’t exactly know what oregano was).

Right before the actual program was to begin, Dominick took me aside and explained that he was terrified because it was his job to open the evening with an invocation of prayer. It was really kind of comical. Standing before me was a guy with a two-thousand-dollar suit who made business deals every week, but wasn’t quite sure how to close the deal with the Almighty.

So I explained to him that the best thing to do in public prayer is to be as natural as possible–conversational if you could manage it–brief, and to use language with which he was accustomed. He seemed very appreciative and greatly relieved.

So when it was time to begin, Dominick rose to his feet, strode to the podium and said, “Let us pray.”

Then there was a delay. I began to wonder if maybe Dominick had lost his nerve on his way to the throne of grace, but then suddenly, he spoke–strongly and confidently.

“You are our God…”

Once again, another pause. It wasn’t a pregnant one or protruding, but still present. So he started again.

“You are our God … Father.”

With the close proximity of the two words–God and Father–it sounded as you might expect. “Godfather.”

The whole room burst into uproarious laughter. It must have gone on for a minute and a half. Dominick was embarrassed, but soon joined in with the giggles.

I loved it. He was never able to actually regain the attention of the gathered souls to finish his prayer, so after the laughter finally died down, he leaned into the microphone and said, “You know what I mean. Amen.”

This brought another burst of levity throughout the entire banquet hall. So by the time I got up to speak and share, the audience was relaxed, joyous and in a mood to receive. Believe you me, I didn’t waste any time to make hay off of the “Godfather prayer.” All through my little presentation and discourse, people would occasionally giggle, remembering the misplaced wording of Dominick’s prayer. It was delightful–free of pretense. The pressure was relieved from the room concerning our differences and we were just a bunch of folks enjoying chicken cordon bleu (look at me…I was expecting lasagna) and opening up our hearts to a God who truly was our Father.

The vulnerability possessed by Dominick led to some human exposure, which brought about some needed laughter, causing everyone present to be excited about receiving and allowing for the end of the evening to be consecrated in healing. Yes, when it was time to ask people to share their needs, fears and illnesses, the front of the banquet hall filled with human beings who were hurting, but willing to be made better.

Just like in the movie, we came to our God, Father, and made a request–one that He had no intention of refusing.

Being in Michigan, I thought about that event this week. I wondered if the same ingredients are still floating in the air in our society, just not landing in any obvious configuration.

Are we still willing to be vulnerable? The word means “capable of being wounded.” For after all, if we’re not willing to expose ourselves, the areas that require attention will continue to decay.

Can we laugh anymore? Would an audience today allow itself to interrupt the holiness of prayer with a burst of joy?

Can we take the healing that comes from that good cheer and allow ourselves to believe that we need to receive newness of life?

And then, can we actually step out of the crowd to accept the healing that our hearts, souls, minds and bodies often crave?

I hope so. I hope there are business men and women, workers and even young humans who can escape the monotony and repetition of a society which is self-deluded with its own importance, and just relax in being with one another in the presence of their Creator.

I wouldn’t want to be twenty-four years old again. I wouldn’t want to go back to 1976. I wouldn’t want to eat bland-tasting chicken at a banquet hall in Mt. Clemens, Michigan. But I would like to meet once again with people and sit at the feet of our Godfather”and believe that He has the power and strength to chase all our problems away.

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

%d bloggers like this: