WE are the US of OUR Lives… May 27, 2013

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 America is not a population–it is a collision.

Yes, it is a fender-bender, accidental conglomeration of people who have ended up in the same place, searching for similar freedoms.

Our churches are not congregations. They are configurations–the makeshift, last-minute gathering of a collage of human beings who often disagree with each other but are bound by what we hope and pray is a common purpose. Our disunity and differences are what challenge us to stay together and keep working, to ferret out similarities.

We spend way too much time trying to find perfect circumstances. We even arrogantly proclaim that we’re on a quest to find a “soul mate.” Life is not a Disney cartoon. It’s not the story of a chambermaid who is secretly a princess who finds herself “slippering” her way into marrying Prince Charming.

It usually consists of two folks who hang around each other long enough that the spark of lust ignites passion one evening. Then they spend time figuring out how to take that initial encounter and turn it into domestication.

What’s wrong with that? Why does everything have to be so antiseptic? Let us be honest. One of the most obnoxious thing about human beings is when they believe they have found God’s will or they have knowledge that exceeds others.

What I saw yesterday in Mabank, Texas, was a mish-mash of humanity which decided to stay together with each other instead of becoming picky and bratty–praying for better converts. Now THAT just might be the definition of God’s will.

We ARE the “us” of our lives.

  • I don’t always agree with my children, but they are my children.
  • I don’t always get along with my friends, but they are my friends.
  • I don’t always concur with strangers, but there’s really nothing strange about them at all, is there?
  • And the United States of America is always at its best when we include all the “we’s” and embrace them as “us” to create “our.” In the process, we collect some weirdos, freaks and people who think they’re extraordinarily normal, who end up being more odd than they thought.

But we do not express the love of God by giving up on anyone. We do not become a better organization by shunning members. And we never, ever discover the beauty of heaven by finding weakness in our fellow humans and displaying it for mockery.

I give great tribute to the people of Mabank. Even though they live in a small town and might be tempted to be snooty and fussy, they’ve decided to pursue the greatest depths of true spirituality, which is: don’t give up on folks just because right now you think they’re ugly.

So on this Memorial Day, as we celebrate our nation and the sacrifice of those who have gone before, let us not forget the power of this idea: the energy of our faith is that we constantly challenge our own prejudices.

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Jonathan’s thinking–every day–in a sentence or two …

 Jonathots, Jr.!

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Good Golly, Miss Dollie … August 25, 2012

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Two score and twenty years ago, our Father, which art in Heaven, hallowed be His signature, brought forth on this continent a new lady, conceived in Kansas and dedicated to the proposition that a young woman could grow up in Harlem and as long as it was a township in Central Ohio, might still end up healthy, wealthy and prized.

Her name was Elizabeth. Her papa, not so cleverly, decided to call her “Dollie” because he thought she looked like a doll. She had a swimming pool, horses, nice duds and a credit card from Lazarus, where she raised a debt.

One day she met a fat boy who dreamed of one day being a fat man, with an additional aspiration of becoming an artisan of music, notes, composition and thoughts, with a mind to whirl the change. They were attracted. Some would say it was chemistry, but in this case, it was biology class, sophomore year.

They started to date and developed a lust, which after all, is only three letters away from love. They consummated their collision on the dew-covered grass on the night of the last prom underneath the stars, with her Arabian looking on in bewildered horse-sense.

  • She went to Europe. He went to the mailbox to retrieve no letters.
  • She went to Mexico. He went to Taco Bell to purchase some Nacho Supremes.
  • She went to college in Arizona.  He crawled into a big bird and flew out to disrupt her plans.

For you see, a baby had been conceived on that night of the last prom–a child that needed some immediate attention and was basically, at this point, being ignored. You may or may not know this, but it was against all traditions in the Buckeye nation to allow children to be pre-planted before weddings. So it was difficult to determine what to do next.

They talked, fussed and argued while eating the cheapest pizza available in Tucson. She bravely made a decision to fly back, against her parents’ wishes, and join him in the quest to find out if it was possible to live on nothing and have something.

Four children, one miscarriage, thirty-nine disasters and seven hundred and fifty thousand giggles later, she is still here. Many years ago, lust got bored, packed its bags in disgust and departed. But the love has remained.

Today is her birthday. What do you say about someone who has hung around for the better and the worse–and more frighteningly, has survived the mediocre? What do you say about someone who has shared a bed with you, rolling over in the middle of the night without commenting on who’s responsible for the aroma in the room? What do you say about an individual who has hung in there through criticisms, persecutions, prosperity and perfectly awful nothingness?

I know the normal procedure is to insist that when two people have been together, then ergo, everything has been terrific and no problems of any significance have ever cropped up. Of course, that is not only a lie, but would also be extremely boring. Every relationship is full of mistakes and regrets–because without doubt we would not have faith. Without some anger, we have no reconciliation. And without fear, we never really learn to appreciate the contentment of love.

What do I know about my little Harlem Township girl? She likes to have fun. That comes in handy. A stick-in-the-mud, after all, is just a broken piece of wood positioning itself in a nasty place. She likes to laugh. Fortunately for me, I have learned how to manufacture silly. She’s scared of responsibility. That can be rather endearing if you catch it in time. She’s drawn to her family. Blessedly, she extends that same courtesy to the other human beings she meets. She’s kind of lazy, which, as long as we don’t both do it at the same time, can be a source of delightful motivation.

And she has stayed. There is a lot to be said for remaining. Although people extol the great value of contribution, such blessing is impossible if you’ve already given up on the idea. She didn’t give up on the idea. I’ve been with her for forty-two years. There is no year that has ever been the same. We have been the subject of praise; we have been the target of criticism. But even though they tell you that marriages by teenagers cannot work, especially when they begin with a baby out of wedlock, we are the exception and we ignore the rule.

So I say, “Happy birthday.” You know, maybe that’s a very bad term. Because our real birthday is when we take the morning of our present existence and believe that God’s blessings are fresh daily.

So to you, my dear, I send this greeting. Happy Earth Day. This is your day. So we will rejoice and be glad in it.

Good golly, Miss Dollie. Two score and twenty years. Who ever would’ve thunk we would get this far? Certainly not that suspicious United Methodist minister who reluctantly married us in Sparta, North Carolina.

But he was wrong.

Thank you for staying on for the entire mission–looking for more trips to the moon.

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

Thinks-giving … November 19, 2011

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Live, outdoors in Ambler, PA

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No, it’s not a typo. The title of today’s essay is Thinksgiving. Because once again we have come to the time of year when we are supposed to be celebrating the gratitude of our journey and the great hope of the birth of the Prince of Peace, but instead, we’re surrounded by organizations and individuals who want to bring us down by reminding us how tough it is for some people during Thanksgiving and Christmas.

I have never met or seen a generation in my entire life that spends so much time thinking without ever becoming thoughtful. Let me ask you a simple question. What makes this particular holiday more depressing than others? Wouldn’t you think that Easter would be equally as challenging to folks who are under a cloud of despair? I mean, think about it—one man raising from the dead when our graveyards are full? How about July 4th? Firecrackers and marching bands in full blaze and array, when I’m stuck here with my fizzled activities, unable to toot my own horn? Even Arbor Day would make you mad if you were depressed—because the trees dare to keep blooming while you are drooping.

But these great thinkers of our generation don’t spend any time attacking any other holidays. Just Thanksgiving and Christmas. It is during these two occasions that we are to reflect upon the plight of humanity and be sensitive not to flaunt our thankfulness lest we “offend one of these little ones.”

Now, I am not a great conspiracy buff, but I find it a bit suspicious that these two celebrations in particular are targeted by these ever-so-concerned souls. We certainly do not suggest that Labor Day be kept under the hat because the unemployment rate is at 9%.

No, I think there is a nasty streak in all of us—we actually resents the hell out of being thankful and are equally frightened of becoming so giddy with joy that we regain our childlike faith. We’re just grumpy—and the idea of escaping our grumpiness for about thirty-one days during the year is so galling that we decide to use the excuse of other people’s depression as a reason for why the turkey plucking and tree trimming should calm down, if not cease altogether.

But it is because we, as a people, are depressed, frustrated, hurt, damaged and faithless that Thanksgiving and Christmas need to be taken out of the realm of just thinking—and pressed mightily into the action of participation.

Therefore, when you hear people complaining about the holidays, do yourself and them a favor. Quietly walk away. This season is a treasure-chest of blessing cast down from the heavens for us, if we’re just willing to unlock the secret and find the gift.

I am not thinkful. I am thankful—unabashedly, unapologetically and undeterred. I am NOT sensitive to other people’s beliefs during Christmas because my belief in the birth of brotherhood, peace on earth and good will toward men MUST be celebrated—or truly we are requiring that the elves come and rebuke us for our lack and put us on the naughty list.

Here’s a suggestion. You have about five or six days until Thanksgiving. Every day before you begin your journey into the human soup of life, sit down and write five quick emails to friends. Those emails should consist of this: “You make me …” Then tell the person what his or her presence, friendship and humanity means to you.

  • “You make me better.”
  • “You make me loving.”
  • “You make me think.”
  • “You make me believe in God.”
  • “You make me richer.”

Tell them what they do that makes your “thanks” bell ring.  Then close it with thanks and sign your name. It won’t take you even a minute-and-a-half to do it—and at the end of the six-day period, thirty people who are being inundated with an overly zealous reminder of despair and destitution will be uplifted to be thankful instead of thinkful.

I will tell each and every one of you during this blessed time that you make me … valuable.  Thanks. 

Jonathan

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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!

Transitions … November 18, 2011

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Live, outdoors in Ambler, PA

 
I met a young woman.

When I was a kid, that phrase conjured images of the first day of school, discovering I had a new teacher to deal with who didn’t seem young at all to me, but rather, old and stern, reeking of musty books, with a diabolical stare. I remember praying, “I hope my new young-woman-teacher is pretty … or even nice.” Unfortunately, the normal was just … pretty nice.

I met a young woman.

Time progresses and I’m twelve years old. Why is it that God has us discover the greater potentials of our body below the waist before we uncover the mysteries and intricacies of what lies above the neck? I would assume, for His amusement. Anyway, I’m only twelve years old, but those girls of sixteen and seventeen sure look good. But all I can get them to do is ruffle my hair, pat me on the back and treat me like a little brother. Still, the touch of their fingertips registers in areas that I shan’t share. But none of them notice me. I’m too young.

I met a young woman.

Time marches on. I am no longer theorizing, but am in the midst of full evolution and those wonderfully gorgeous young girls are now my age, but because I have a bit of the look of the predator, they’re afraid of me and I must find ways to flirt with them without being overtly obvious about my intentions. Dating. Oh, how I wish it were as easy as shimmying up a palm tree to acquire fruit. There’s nothing easy about it–and the payoff is often not worth the effort. But that doesn’t stop me from pursuing it.

I met a young woman.

Actually, I ended up marrying her. I was engorged with passion, overwhelmed with anticipation and greedy for the pleasures of what relationship could bring. Even sometimes, conversation. I am a young, married man who suddenly notices that all the women around me are all at once attracted my way because I am “taken” and seemingly, no longer a threat. They are all my age, all of them beautiful, it seems, and of course … all of them forbidden. My turmoiled consciousness presses on, desperately trying to keep myself out of situations where I might slip and “fall on purpose” and have to come up with a reason why it was accidental.

I met a young woman.

Older now, settled. Lost some of my hair, but not my vigor, if you know what I mean. All those luscious women are now about ten years younger than me and they think I’m an old man, but I know differently. I want to wink and flirt, but such overtures are met with uncomfortable silences or giddy laughs from the lasses, saying things like, “Oh, sir … you’re so silly.”  Yes, I am silly. I am an aging, silly young man who has not yet discovered that I’m getting gradually decrepit. It is depressing but still well worth living–and viewing. All of these young women have become temptresses. (Gee whiz. I didn’t even know there was a plural for temptress.) But there sure is in my consciouness. I have become too old to be considered, too young to retire, too vibrant to give up and too many birthdays to still keep my candle lit.

I met a young woman. 

Just yesterday. I am so glad that age has afforded me the benefit of looking at this human being before me as a person–really, a daughter. I don’t even notice her physical virtues because I’ve grown old enough now that I actually see through her eyes, down into her soul that is so confused because she is looking for a knight in shining armor, riding a Harley Davidson, chewing tobacco, stopping every fifteen or twenty minutes to read a poem by Shelley or Keats underneath a juniper tree. (My God, he also might be a vampire.) Obviously, such a creature does not exist, but in her innocence, she still dreams.  I am glad to be free of such foolishness.  I am glad I am still viable, but not under the spell of the variable of lustfulness. We talked. I was her father and she was my daughter.  So much more pleasant. So much easier.

I met a young woman.

It will not be long before all the fair maidens of the land will be my granddaughters, running up to assist me to rise from my chair, to come as quickly as I can to see their new cars or their new boyfriends, or to give my wise and seasoned opinion on the materials for a wedding dress. I will be the sage who survived all age to turn a new page to be the oracle for all wisdom.  Will it even cross their minds that I was once as young as they are, filled with the vim, vigor and vitality of pure insanity?

I met a young woman.

Yes, she is coming this morning to anoint my body with spices and ointments for burial. It is over.

Wait! … perhaps I have one bit of magic still left in me.  Maybe I can surprise her … and resurrect.

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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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