Distinctive … May 5, 2014

Jonathots Daily Blog

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stewAs I travel the country, each and every region advertises its uniqueness by pointing out some attribute, location, cuisine, battlefield or monument that is special to the surroundings. Everyone wants me to know what makes their province sparkle.

For there is an instinct deep inside the human race to be separated off from others, with the hope that the alienation will grant some clarity or maybe even superiority.

But this is not us at our best.

We are a fussy creation when we are either critical of others or feel self-sufficiency within the boundaries of our ineptness.

As I stood in front of the delightful congregation yesterday in Henderson, Tennessee, I wanted to give them an emotional hug and tell them that it’s all right to be a part of the common sensibility.

  • It’s good to be from the South and find reasons for interaction with those from the North.
  • It’s completely permissible to be a Republican who occasionally agrees with a Democrat.
  • It is truly holy to be a Methodist who understands fellowship with a Baptist simply because of Jesus.

There are three things that make us distinctive. I must be candid. Without these three things we begin to clump together. We glue onto those who agree with us on every point, or with those who are related by birth.

Here is what I look for in people of every region:

1. Can they be touched?

Refusing to open your heart simply because you are unfamiliar with the person in front of you or they don’t have the same clothing or accent is the best way to remain lonely and vacant.

I know it’s popular to avoid emotional connection, but if you think you’re going to “zen” your way to enlightenment in your journey without fellowship with others and emotional blessing and upheaval, you really are searching for Nirvana instead of reality.

2. Can they learn?

The smartest people I know are fully aware of when to be dumb. There is no power in presenting an opinion which is stupid. There is great energy in admitting what you lack as you offer what you have.

Learning happens when we stop complaining and confess that the additional wisdom would greatly enhance our possibility.

3. And finally, can they try?

Some people can be touched and may learn, taking notes on scraps of paper, to later be discarded when they go back and return to their same drudgery.

The bravest thing you can do as a human being is try something you’ve never done before and certainly are not sure of its workability. But the denial of trying is the absence of faith, and without faith, we just sit around hoping for love.

It doesn’t matter where I travel–I look for people who can be touched, are willing to learn and ready to try.

If you can’t do this, you find yourself tripping and falling into the soup of the ignorant. If you can, you are welcome to the great human stew.

Jump on in … and add your flavor.

 

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Sure–October 26, 2011

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Driving through the beautiful countryside of North Carolina last evening on my way to spend time with some wonderful folks, I received a phone call. It was a friend of mine, just calling to catch up with me–so he asked me what I was up to. I told him I was on my way to present a program at a little Methodist church in North Carolina. He snorted a bit. “North Carolina?” he inquired.  “What’s that like?”

I knew what he was getting at. There seems to be a universal pulse in this country that wants to pump out the heart-felt notion that we’re all so “different” and that one region of the country is ignorant while another region of the country is spewing with intelligence. So people in New York think that people in North Carolina don’t wear shoes or have indoor plumbing, while folks in North Carolina are prone to believe that individuals that live in California go to the beach all day and abort their babies, while eating a lot of tofu.

Of course, the media does little to alleviate this train of thought, because keeping people in tension towards one another is a great way to keep them tuning in and buying cars and hamburgers. Let me be flat and honest with you. It really doesn’t work out that way. I’ve traveled all over the country. The accents are different. Sometimes their ways of greeting strangers–like me–vary. But when you get past the outer skin of cultural reaction, inside is the image of God that was ushered in by His breath.

At that point it basically boils down to two different possibilities. You run across people who are sure that everything they believe should remain intact.  And them there are those folks who will listen carefully and if something is reasonable, they will say, “Sure.”

That’s really the difference.  It’s not a liberal or conservative issue. It’s not even a “religious” or “secular” difference. I find that conservatives, liberals, religious or secular people can be equally as open or closed-minded, depending on how willing they are to conceive that there might just be more.

Last night the people didn’t know me so they took a few minutes to get acquainted. I don’t care. Some people have to confirm that you’ve had your shots before they’ll give you a good hug. It’s immaterial.  What matters is whether they are sure of themselves and therefore impenetrable to the introduction of better ideas, OR if they possess a child-like heart and say, “Sure. Sounds good.”

You may want to ask, “Are there any signs to tell you which group you’re dealing with?”

The answer is no–because truthfully, some of the coldest and frowniest people I’ve ever met have turned, within a thirty-minute period, into some of the most generous souls I have ever left behind. And some individuals I have encountered who seemed to have a lot of enthusiasm, personality and what they would deem to be openness, will just as often dig their heels in and insist that their IQ prohibits them from receiving additional information.

But I will tell you this–there seems to be a little chain of events in human thinking which transcends us from being overly sure about our opinions into having a willingness to hear something fresh and become excited enough to say, “Sure.”  It is a three-step process:

1.  Do we really believe that people have free will? If you don’t understand that free will is sacred above anything else in the universe, you will start getting aggravated because people won’t do what you want them to. The minute you are aggravated with your fellow humans, you start putting them in boxes and categorizing them, which is the beginning of all prejudice. So a belief in free will, to me, is equivalent to a belief in God. And by the way, if God has no intention of crossing the free will of human beings, who am I to question if they have the right to pursue their own paths?

2.  Human beings are God’s top dogs. And I put the word “dog” in there for a reason–people who like animals equally, or even better, than humans, usually end up being quite anti-people. Let me tell you right now, humans are not animals. Now, that does not mean I deny an evolution in the environment.  I just don’t believe humans were a part of it. If God started evolution, He was also completely able to stop it after the chimpanzee. For instance, I have had a dog in my life, but he is not equivalent to my son. There are many reasons. I was able to teach my son not to lick his behind in public. (Most of the time.) Not so with my pooch. And if I got hit by a tree during a storm and was bleeding and dying on the ground, my son would call an ambulance.  My dog would lick the blood off my face. It’s what dogs do. To me, that’s the end of the discussion. It doesn’t mean we shouldn’t care for animals–it just means there is no equivalency between the creatures of the jungle and the forest and the creation that possesses the soul of God.  Thinking of human beings as “just part of the ecosystem” is liberal gobbledygook, which eliminates the precious fact that human beings are God’s favorite workmanship.

3.  And finally, if you’re going to be a person who isn’t sure of everything and is willing to say, “sure,” you also must have an understanding that your family is not JUST those people who look like you, share your name or were birthed through your genetic essence. Human beings are all related to each other, with a common Father called God. If you don’t believe this, you’re going to think that some folks are better than others. Matter of fact, many intellectual bigots in the late 1800’s used Darwin’s Origin of the Species to prove that black men and women were the “missing link” between monkeys and men. Funny, isn’t it, that now the theory of evolution is affiliated with liberalism, when at one time it was the justification for treating a whole race of people as inferior? 

 I guess you can use anything to prove everything that you want to be sure of.

But if you believe that mankind has free will, that man is above animals in importance and that everyone human is linked to a common father–God–you will loosen your grip on your inflexible commandments and allow for the freshness of God-sent ideas.

If, on the other hand, you contend that people should do what you think, or what a black leather-bound book requires, or that animals have the same rights as humans, or that the only people you are responsible to love are those who eat Thanksgiving turkey with you, you just might end up being too sure that you know everything already … and miss a blessing.

So what would I tell my friend about North Carolina? Some people there are like everybody else in the country. They are sure they know everything. There are others who live in the Tar Heel State who are willing to hear anointed ideas from the Spirit and say: “Sure.”

Is that going to change? Not until we realize that life is a journey and not a destination. Being a journey, we will travel, sight-see and learn–until we’re taken to another place.

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Jonathan sings “Let”

Jonathan Sings “Spent This Time”

Jonathan and his partner, Janet Clazzy, play “The Call”

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