Entertaining the Monster… June 23, 2012

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The monster never leaves.

He remains.

He festers.

He alternates between a domineering profile of supremacy and a whiny fussiness of oppression. He is looking for reasons to be offended. He, himself, offends.

He fears silence. He abhors contemplation. He resists the instinct to worship. He likes things to be noisy. He relishes clutter. He enters a room suspicious of all in attendance, wondering when his perfection will be acknowledged.

He has a memory with no conscience. He has a passion with no desire. He is looking for diversion from what he has not yet determined to be unworthy.

He fears reflection. He mocks repentance. He giggles over the notion of insufficiency. He is not to be reasoned with.

He demands to be entertained.

But sometimes …

Yes, every once in a while, I am able to devise a plan to fool the monster. I step out of my lodging, stride to my van and drive to a nearby park, where I sit on a bench, mulling. The monster is appeased because he thinks we have come to bask in self-pity. He believes we will recite the lines from a script which foretells a betrayal which will leave us bereft. He has prepared for consolation.

But you see, I have private plans. I had a meeting with my own soul, without inviting the monster. I sit in silence.

The monster is disquieted by my choice, but still feels confident that self-pity will soon raise waves of resentment, which will produce tears of anger, ending in childish tantrums.

But instead … I listen. In the midst of gaining solitude, I hear the song of one single bird, high above me in the tree. I concentrate on the bird’s ongoing song. Peace settles in my spirit. I consider the sparrow.

bird at piano lesson with rock

bird at piano lesson with rock (Photo credit: Terry Bain)

I listen to its melody.

Suddenly I am aware of my own inadequacy. My monster is desperate to acquire my attention. He tries to distract me with other sounds, other dangers, other diversions. I resist.

I stay focused on the song of the bird. In no time at all, I am given a window to my own sanctuary and peer at my treasure. And then, there before me–is my own heart. It is divided. It is sliced betwixt the truth of my need and the lies of the monster.

I retrieve the truth. It’s really not that painful, because in the midst of admitting the facts of my life, I am granted freedom through the choice. All at once I am exhilarated by my discoveries.

The monster is enraged by my pursuits, having been thrust to the back of my consciousness, locked in a closet unto himself. I have such a great assurance of peace in my soul that I feel like I can speak aloud to God–and there is that amazing chance that He might just speak back.

What a sensation.

I spend ten minutes on that bench with myself, temporarily freed of my monster. I don’t want to leave. I would love to believe that my adversary is gone forever, locked in the tombs of my past. But I know that as soon as I leave the bench and drive away from the park, the monster will gradually emerge from the shadows–sheepishly at first, acting a bit surprised that I ever deemed him an enemy. He will try to wiggle his way back into my thinking and will take the everyday disappointments and attempt to turn them into signs of the apocalypse.

I will resist him. I will recognize his hovering presence as being anything but protective. I will outsmart him again.

The monster lives. The monster breathes, being granted life by traditions and apprehensions. He seeks entertainment. He wants me to escape into the world, where I lose sight of gaining my own soul.

He wants me to hate. He wishes that I would call that emotion “discretion.” He is devious. He is part of me.

I fooled the monster today. I spent some time with a bird, my own reflections, talking to the Kingdom of God within me, uncovering repentance. The monster is a little weaker.

The monster craves entertainment, like an addict on the second day of rehab. I will attempt to refuse his demands. I will persever in controlling my monster. But it all begins by never forgetting that he is there.

Yes, knowing he’s there … but not giving it a single care.

   

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

Happi-Less… May 6, 2012

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  1. Always present your best side. Be positive.
  2. Be strong and don’t let your emotions betray you.
  3. Don’t let people walk on you.
  4. Be satisfied with what you have.
  5. Don’t let people take advantage of you. Stay alert.
  6. Be careful what you share about yourself.
  7. Work for peace; prepare for war.
  8. Be gentle but always be ready to fight for yourself.
  9. Return in kind.
  10. Keep your cool–even out your emotions.

Almost any good author could take the precepts above and write a self-help book, publish it and sell thousands of copies to the American public. Those ten ideas are deeply ingrained into the fabric of our nation’s daily interactions and stitched into our philosophy. They are nearly immutable. You hear them in the movies, they are espoused on television shows–they are basically the gospel of the reality show format. They comprise the credo of the American public perception of self-esteem.

The problem? Every one of them is the opposite of what Jesus taught.

When he presented his top ten notions for life and getting along with others from The Beatitudes in Sermon on the Mount–a list which he contended would produce happiness–the American philosophy ends up being contrary to his thinking. Perhaps it’s no surprise that we are a Christian nation by belief, and a jungle jumble by philosophy. For we all know–there is a difference between believing and following.

As to #1, Jesus told us to be poor in spirit instead of constantly positive, blowing our own horns. He doesn’t share this because it’s noble. It’s just that if two bulls are going to be in a pen, one had better show up willing to stop locking horns–or nothing will be accomplished.

As to #2–about being strong, hiding emotions–Jesus said that it’s blessed to mourn. If we would just realize that if there isn’t a physical manifestation of grief, concern or empathy, no one around us can be sure that we even care.

His response to #3 is that people will walk on you whether you want them to or not. Your only recourse is to be meek–buy time–to give them a more metered and intelligent response instead of saying, “And you, too …” The meek inherit the earth because the earth honors temperance and repels violence.

How about #4–being satisfied? Jesus says we should be hungering and thirsting for righteousness. We’re just not very good people when we become complacent and assume that what we already are and possess is sufficient.

Number 5–the fear of being taken advantage of–prevents us from committing acts of kindness, or at least, delays it. Jesus said that the merciful will receive mercy from God as a gift.

Should we be careful about what we share with others? You can be if you want. But Jesus says the pure in heart–those who are candid about their weakness before others find out and gossip–well, those folks get to see God. It’s just hard to see God if you can’t peer into your own heart.

And even though we might believe in a strong national defense, we have to understand that every time we build a bomb, we’re stealing valuable time that could be utilized for developing better forms of diplomacy. It’s too bad that in our world, the pursuit of peace, or as Jesus called it–peace making–is perceived as weakness rather than a masterful step of “bombing people” with greater intuition.

Jesus makes it clear that all of us will be persecuted for righteousness’ sake. Good ideas get punished until they’re accepted. It’s just a fact of life. You can feel free to “fight for yourself” and make a case, but until people’s ears are tuned to reasonableness, they will react negatively against anything different, even if it’s for their own good.

Of course, there is the inevitable flow of lies and falsehoods that happen in our society when those who have become our adversaries decide to stop the debate and begin the attacks. You can return in kind. It would make you a wonderful Muslim, an acceptable Jew and maybe even an honorable Chinese. But it just makes you a lousy Christian. Insanity doesn’t stop until someone insists on restoring upright thinking.

And finally, when it’s all said and done, Jesus says the end result should be happiness. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad. In our first list of ten, the resolution is to “keep your cool.” But Jesus suggests that we revel in the success of our own endeavors and our own desire to get along. Yet, in our top ten American precepts, we tout that it’s not good to let people see you being too joyful, too sad or too involved.

There’s happiness. Boiling it down to a single sentence: happiness is a decision to be vulnerable before someone comes along and wounds you anyway.

And there is the American culture top ten, which says, “Be defensive and keep from being wounded by staying aggressive.” The end result is that you lose your peace of mind, are constantly paranoid and end up Happi-Less–less happy.

The teachings of Jesus are not an attempt to turn the world population into pacifists, at the mercy of the lions, tigers and bears (oh, my). It is a philosophy that asks each individual to take personal responsibility for their actions, desires, foibles and talents instead of blaming others. The conclusion? If enough people would do this, there wouldn’t be any need to attack another.

So what will it be? Happiness? (Which really is focusing on my own dreams without judging others.) Or Happi-Less? (Building a fort around my life to protect myself from the savages.)

Remember–it is possible to believe without actually following. And it’s possible to defend yourself and end up alone and confused … because you don’t really know the person that remains.

  

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

Stinky Jobs … December 17, 2011

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Live from Palm Coast, Florida, in A Spirited Christmas

 
 There are stinky jobs.
 
Truthfully, I’m not a great proponent of work in general. Matter of fact, I’ve been known to sit around for an hour discussing a better way to do a five-hour task in three hours, ending up with a sixty-minute savings in exertion. People who like to work sometimes scare me because generally speaking, they enjoy presenting other abnormalities like saving money and daily exercise programs–two other things I’m not particularly fond of pursuing.
 
But there certainly is some work that’s stinkier than others. For instance, I would not like to be the campaign manager for a candidate who’s running fourth in the polls in a four-person contest. You would still have to show up every day to headquarters, with doughnuts and coffee for everybody, a smile on your face, hiding newspapers from personnel and making sure the television set was off so as not to discourage the work force. You would still have to listen to all the speeches–knowing that a final selection would be a concession one. Stinky job.
 
Here’s another one: being the manager at the late night shift at a McDonald’s and having the responsibility of throwing away all the extra hamburgers not purchased during the day. I’m sorry–I would want to look at all those brave burgers and adopt them, probably stuffing them down my pants to hide it from the staff, only to drive too slowly on the way home because I was worried about my thievery, and get picked up by a policeman who notices my nervous mannerisms and asks me to step out of my vehicle, to discover during his search that I was toting beef in my shorts. (You can see, I’ve thought this through…)
 
While we’re on the subject, let me mention another stinky job. I don’t think I’d want to be a defense attorney for a serial killer who had murdered twenty-three nuns while they were kneeling in prayer. What could you say? “Come on, folks! We’ve all wanted to chop SOMEBODY up and put ’em in a burlap bag and toss ’em in a Goodwill bin for redistribution.  Haven’t you?”  (After all, genuflecting can be annoying.) Nasty business.
 
But truthfully, one of the most difficult employments–a stinky job–would be the promotion of the word “tinsel.” First of all, it’s a seasonal occupation, since no one really uses the stuff any time other than Christmas. Tinsel is out of the question at a Bar-Mitzvah. Immediately you would have the needful goal of separating the word “tinsel” from its two inferior cousins–“glitter” and “glamour.” Am I right? Because whenever anyone wants to refer to something shallow, they cite “tinsel and glamor” or “tinsel and glitter.” Yes,”tinsel” would have to create more profound relationships. I mean, if you’re going to sell this to the public, you would have to try something like “tinsel and prayer.” How about “tinsel and debate?” One of my favorites would be “tinsel and charity.” If you think about it, it’s really unfair. Because even though we associate tinsel with triviality, we all have it as a guilty pleasure during holiday times and use it to decorate our trees and surroundings.
 
Here’s another quandary. There are those who become confused about whether tinsel is the garland that goes around the trees or if it’s the icesickles that are strewn upon the boughs.  (Yes, the beginning of all prejudice is falce perception …)
 
How could you promote “tinsel” when it is used so fervently by the faithful but in moments of weakness is betrayed and cast aside as meaningless drivel? Yes–that would be a stinky job.
 
Yet I will tell you this–even if a Jehovah’s Witness who did not celebrate Christmas was to suddenly pick ONE thing to commemorate the birth of a savior, it just might be tinsel. Flashing lights would be out of the question. Manger scenes? Graven images. But tinsel would be pretty, while still maintaining some purity.
 
What WOULD be the correct way to improve the popularity of tinsel? I men, as an idea, not merely as a product. Do you agree with me? It would be a stinky job.
 
It would almost be as difficult as trying to promote a daily column on the Internet by a bizarre writer who actually thinks about stuffing Big Macs down his trousers.

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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!

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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

I Almost Missed It … December 14, 2011

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Live from Palm Coast, Florida, in A Spirited Christmas

 
The day after Thanksgiving I woke up with a sore throat.

After many years of planet dwelling, I am well aware that a sore throat means I am coming down with a cold, and like most mortals, that is the standard formula of “three days coming, three days of snotiness with you and three days leaving.” Also, my particular viruses enjoy settling into my chest, turning my voice into a cesspool of pitches.

Here was the problem–I was about to begin a fourteen-day, thirteen-performance Christmas tour. Being the typical human being that I am, I was wondering if I could survive through the weekend before the cold overtook me, and exactly how many dates I would have to cancel due to incapacitation. It was not an issue of if dates would be canceled. No. In my mind, it was an issue of whether it would be two, four, or worst case scenario–all of them.

I made it through the weekend. But on Monday I sprouted another symptom–a stomach virus, which caused my internal organs to be visible on the outside of my body. Yet somehow I survived the Monday night presentation–kind of inching my way along like a really fat worm. By Tuesday I felt better. What was interesting was that the introduction of the stomach virus frightened my cold symptoms away. I guess it’s really true that God does not tempt us beyond what we can bear–because to be sneezing and coughing while having diarrhea may be the true definition of double-trouble.

I made it through Tuesday night, Wednesday night and by Thursday night I had completely forgotten about all infirmities and was taking for granted my good health. Now, having completed the entire tour, I realize I nearly missed a miracle. Isn’t that amazing? I didn’t miss a date. The shows were great, and I was never late. But I quickly took it for granted instead of marveling over the miracle of the Christmas tour.

Yes, I almost missed it.

That’s why I’m stopping off today to tell you amazing folks one of the greater secrets to life. (It isn’t really a secret at all. I just thought that added great flair to my writing…) Because I can tell you with certainty that miracles are what happen when our plans actually come to fruition because they were unselfish enough to include as many people as possible.

Miracles are not turning water into wine. A miracle is when you find a good, tasty cup of water. I don’t need the wine. I don’t need parlor tricks to convince me that life is good. I need to be able to use my brain while tapping my emotions and spirit to come up with ideas that meet my needs, and in the process help others–and then use all my energy to do my best to enact these notions, trusting God to be benefactor and cheerleader.

For instance, all the vegetables I had consumed during the year helped with my immune system and gave God good reason to protect me from the onslaught of my cold. I understand that the little bit of exercise that I do was also of great assistance in dispelling my stomach virus as quickly as those little boogers will depart. I now see that everything worked together to the good–because I did love the Lord, trusted Him and am trying to learn how this planet works rather than bucking the system.

I don’t know what’s going to happen to me tomorrow. But I do know that every time I get in my car and turn on the key it is possible that the car will not start. Am I saying it’s a miracle when my car starts? No. What I’m saying is this: a car starting is better than one that doesn’t–and if I’m intelligent I will appreciate my engine igniting instead of misfiring.

You see, I almost missed it. I almost missed the miracle of everything working together to the good and at the end of the process, me completing a tour that could have just as easily been canceled. So what did I learn?

Miracles are my plans with God’s nod and others included. When that happens, we can certainly welcome additional visitations by acknowledging the process.

So I’m about to leave and go out to my car. If I expect my car to start, I will be infuriated if it doesn’t. If I’m grateful for my car starting, I may be willing to grant my vehicle absolution for those times it fails to spark.

I know it sounds child-like. It is. Every good thing in life comes from learning to appreciate what is provided, as if it were a Christmas toy instead of a demanded paycheck.

If you can keep that simplicity, you can rule the world … or at least the part that you have planned.

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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!

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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

Ho, Ho, Hope… December 13, 2011

In Melbourne, Florida

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Hope makes me nervous.

Maybe it’s because those who extol the virtue of hope outwardly appear to be confident but inwardly seem to be shaking like a leaf. Hope is a spirit, desperately searching for a body of work.

I love Christmas because it is a season of hope–but our jaded society dispels the notion as childish–and those who still insist on propagating the precept are often ill-prepared for disappointment and end up looking naive.

How can we have Ho-Ho-Hope? In other words, blending the beauty of the Christmas story with the realities of our world to bring about a functional plan of action to improve our circumstances instead of merely enduring them? I think it comes down to a very simple verse of scripture which has now become part of the American lexicon:

“You shall know the truth and the truth will make you free.”

Yes–it is a message of hope, but it has two parts. First of all, I have to be willing to know the truth–not ignore it, not embellish upon it, not pretend it is a passing fancy which will soon change because of the goodness of God, but to really KNOW the truth. That’s the first stage of unveiled hope.

We work with honor. Let me give you a quick definition of honor: “I have enough confidence that I am loved that I am not afraid to speak the truth about myself.”

That’s honor. Every attempt to cover up, gloss over, spread disinformation, lie or cheat is an admission that we really do not believe we are loved. I know God loves me. God loves me so much that even when I act like an ass, I can still have confidence that I will be able to sleep in the barn tonight.

Most of us fail because we insert hope where we should be speaking truth.

  • I hope I can do well.
  • I hope things work out.
  • I hope I’ll come up with an idea.
  • I hope I can quit smoking.
  • I hope I can lose weight.
  • I hope I can do better.

This kind of hope leaves us destitute when just average temptation comes along and kicks the props out from under our makeshift house of faith. “You shall KNOW the truth …”

We work with honor. When I turn to an audience and tell them that I’m not very good-looking, I am not throwing a fishing line out, hoping that someone will disagree and find me attractive. Instead, I am praising my heavenly Father for taking such a homely physical specimen and making him of such great value to the planet.

Likewise, I could never vote for a politician who lies–which is why I don’t vote. They all feel it is their job to put their best foot forward–and end up with that same foot stuck in their mouth. The beginning of all valuable hope is knowing the truth–and to do that, we work with honor–which leads to the next step. What will knowing the truth do? Make us free. And once we work with honor, we gain power and energy because–we honor what works.

Sometimes my ideas are crap. If I persist in them because they are MY ideas, I end up looking like crap. But if I’m willing to forsake my flawed concepts and honor what works, I can benefit from the journey of others and in no time at all, there is no one who remembers who had the idea in the first place, because we all end up enjoying the fruit.

America is flailing today because we do not honor what works. We have become obsessed with names, like “conservative” and “liberal,” instead of ideas which supersede the barriers created by mankind and minister to the heart of the matter. It’s impossible to be made free without learning to honor what works.

About half the time I agree with the Republicans and about half the time I agree with the Democrats.  And the other half, I disagree with both of them. (As you can see, math is not my strongest suit…)

Hope bears forth its joy when we work with honor and we honor what works. At that point, we have the capacity for knowing the truth, which will make us free. And as wonderful as freedom is, it is merely the doorway to the greater possibility of liberty. And liberty is when I can trust myself to be honest so that my freedom won’t hurt anyone else.

So Merry Christmas, and Ho-Ho-Hope. But keep in mind that hope which is merely a fleeting thought–wishful thinking–will always make you emotionally ill.

True hope is when we work with honor and we honor what works. It grants us the ability to know the truth that makes us free.

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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!

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