3 Things … May 2nd, 2019

Jonathots Daily Blog

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That Just Can’t Be Beat

1. Having a smorgasbord of life with a side order of humor

 

2. Possessing a twinge more humility than talent

 

3.  Ohio State when it plays Michigan

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Good News and Better News … August 29th, 2016

Jonathots Daily Blog

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Dividing people is easy.

Just get them to focus on their differences, and their prejudices will do the rest.

But uniting people is equally simple.

Turn the conversation toward our common humanity and let our sense of humor draw us closer.

Ebensburg Penn State highway signAs I finished up eleven weeks in Central Pennsylvania, I headed off to Ebensburg en route to begin my tour in Michigan.

Every little community in America touts some piece of uniqueness, or sometimes even insists that it has a personality unto itself. I have absolutely no idea why we want to distinguish ourselves by our quirks and profiles.

But once you break through that initial crustiness, what you find are human beings. As human beings, they have three basic natures:

1. They are concerned for themselves.

2. They are concerned for what is directly around them.

3. But it doesn’t take a whole lot for them to realize that in order to get Numbers 1 and 2 means they need to be concerned about others.Ebensburg set with Jan

I loved my time in Ebensburg, Pennsylvania.

The audiences were not easy. Having an insulated sense of community, they wanted to look on Janet and myself as strangers, but we popped out of that box and offered big hugs.

So by the time we got to the end of our programs and were ready to pack up, they invited us to a luncheon. We shared with them that we needed to hit the road, because we had a two-hour drive to Youngstown, Ohio. dividing people, prejudices, uniting people, sense of humor, commonality,

They sweetly accepted our explanation, but then they came back a second time and invited us again. Why? I suppose if I were bratty, I could say they were being pushy. But that wasn’t the case.

Ebensburg pianoIn the three hours we were with them, a connection was made–and they just wanted us to know that they were fully aware of it and treasured it.

We gently declined again, and all at once one of the sweet Ebensburg souls said, “Why don’t we make you some plates to go? You have to eat. What is it you want?”

It was so moving. Perseverant love.

They wanted us to eat their food, and we needed to eat food, even though we could not stay–so they came up with a plan.

They bagged us up dinners, complete with two cold bottles of water.

As I drove down the highway enjoying my salad with just the right dressing and all the little choices they put on my plate, I considered perseverant love.

The church is in a position to become the only resource in America that has an open door policy and offers perseverant love. It will begin when we stop studying the Bible in abstract, but instead, study human life, find out what’s really going on with people, and then come back to the Gospels to unearth what Jesus says about it.

That’s the good news.

The better news is that when we have this perseverant love, it’s a lot easier to comprehend that somebody could feel that way toward us, too.

Ebensburg empty piano bench

 

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Jonathan’s Latest Book Release!

PoHymn: A Rustling in the Stagnant

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What I Learned on my Summer Vacation … September 2, 2013

Jonathots Daily Blog

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first day of school

It’s just about time for the bell to ring.

The first day of school is nearly over when the teacher lifts her hand, commanding silence, and informs the classroom that the only homework required for that evening is to write a 250-word essay on, “What I learned over my summer vacation.” She tells the class that the little journals will be read aloud.

So in the spirit of that memory, I will tell YOU what I learned over my summer vacation.

Candidly, I didn’t vacate anything. In other words, I didn’t go on vacation. I continued my occupation, which includes enough travel that one might think I WAS in the midst of some sort of leisurely activity.

Actually, I signed up for the TMMMIII package: Texas-Missouri-Minnesota-Michigan-IowaIllinoisIndiana.

It’s what most people would refer to as “The Heartland,” even though I’m sure the Lone Star State would object in being included with such Yankee stock.

What I learned was very simple:

1. People are everywhere. They are not going away. They are not here to aggravate us, nor necessarily bless us. You can call them self-involved, but really, what they possess is the natural need for survival.

2. People are the adventure. I somewhat pity individuals who need to get on a roller-coaster ride to convince themselves they are acquiring excitement. For me, I can perch on a bench in a mall and watch humanity walking by, and within moments find plots and subplots for movies, plays and certainly, jonathots. Yes, people are underrated as a source of entertainment and inspiration. Also:

3. People don’t charge admission. On the other hand, if you take a trip to Disney World, you can spend $200 a day–easily. But besides my grits, gravy and well-positioned pillows, my odyssey doesn’t cost much as long as I’m willing to accept the show provided. The danger in life is becoming so stuck in your ways that you need everybody around you to be a certain style or you can’t find joy in them. I’m only human. There ARE people I prefer over others, but I do find all of them intriguing, and I’m very grateful that they don’t try to tap me for funds to participate in their three-ring circus. Which leads to:

4. Enjoy the show. I am thoroughly convinced that our earth journey is about learning to enjoy what comes our way, who comes our way, how it comes our way and even why it comes our way. Too much philosophy makes you grumpy. Too much religion makes you prejudiced. And too much knowledge puts you on a search to uncover the ignorant. I enjoy easing up a bit and allowing myself the chance to take in the main stage of everybody’s life, and let them make their case.

It’s been a fantastic summer, and as I sit here on this Labor Day, I can barely call what I do hard work. To some it would probably seem arduous, but I guess I’m just having too much fun … taking in the scenery.

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Poor Coverage … August 9, 2013

Jonathots Daily Blog

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For two-and-a-half years I shared and ministered with the poor, disenfranchised and homeless folks in Shreveport, Louisiana.

I would not trade that experience for any amount of gold or prestige. Yet I have to tell you that even though it was peppered with great blessing, it was also salted with revelation and discovery.

I learned first-hand what Jesus meant when he said that “the poor you have with you always.”

It never stops. A bag of groceries does not alleviate aching hunger. Paying an electric bill fattens the purse of the local utility, but frustrates the recipients, who realize that next month they will find themselves in the same predicament.

There is a misrepresentation about spirituality–that those who pursue deeper understanding of the heart of God are meant to be propagators of generosity to the destitute. Why the misconception? Because it sounds good.

I observed it last night during my visit to a church in Michigan. These wonderful congregants had put together a system of providing paper goods and needful supplies to members of their community suffering under the rigors of financial depression. I watched as the people came in to receive their bag of goodies and observed as they departed. There was no joy, no sense of appreciation, no discovery of a deep truth etching its way across their features. They were resigned. Or maybe they HAD resigned. I don’t know which one.

But even though they possessed goods which they did not previously count in their storehouses, the realization that it was a “temporary fix” burdened their souls.

Discussing poverty is probably one of the most difficult subjects to broach. You will find yourself becoming either encompassed with the festering futility of the ongoing epidemic, or trying to distance yourself–coming across as a calloused, uncaring goofball.

What SHOULD be our position?

Jesus said they’re not going to go away, so you should “do what you can.”

I think that’s what the generous folks WERE accomplishing at last night’s church. But simultaneously, I must alert them that Jesus fed the five thousand … until he discovered they were following him JUST for the food.

  • Jesus healed the lepers but never visited a leper colony. He instead required that these diseased souls track him down and bring their faith.
  • And Jesus, when confronted by Judas about being uncaring toward the poor by wasting ointment on his head and feet, replied that Judas was out of the flow and didn’t realize that there are more important things than a temporary band-aid on a gaping wound.

What DID Jesus do?

1.  He energized the working class and the rich to appreciate what they had and realize that more of them was required.

2.  He kept his ears open to those who broke out of the pack of self-pity and made their way to his side for transformation.

3. He taught people how to be industrious instead of dependent on luck or divine intervention for their provision, telling them that they were “the salt of the earth” and that  “the Kingdom of God was within them.”

4. And in more than one parable, he told them that seed needed to be sown even when it seemed like there was no possibility for it to take root.

I learned during my two-and-a-half years that caring for the poor is something that has to be done in stride rather than being an actual walk in and of itself. And ultimately, the best way to solve poverty is to take the ten per cent who are ready to pursue personal and financial excellence and ask them to look out for the needs … of nine of their neighbors.

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

Just One More… November 17, 2012

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Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, California, Nevada, Utah, Colorado, Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia.

All of these places have been my home this year. I have established a temporary address in each one in an attempt to achieve some permanent results. It has been Tour 2012–and it finishes off tomorrow morning in New Albany, Indiana. You will probably never visit New Albany, Indiana. You don’t have to go … because I’ll take you with me.

At one of my stop-offs in Grand Junction, Colorado, a man asked me what my favorite scripture was. I thought he was just trying to make conversation, so I turned the tables on him and asked him to tell me his favorite passage. He said it was a toss-up between for God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son” and “nothing can separate us from the love of God.”

I told him I thought those were excellent choices. He pursued. “But what’s your favorite one?”

“My favorite one is found in the gospels,where it reads, ‘and Jesus went to another village.’

He looked at me, perplexed. I didn’t expect him to totally understand. For you see, the power of the gospel does not lie in the establishment of a church–the organization of religion into practices and rituals. The power of the gospel is that it travels well and is best expressed when it’s moving. It’s why Jesus said, “Foxes have holes but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.”

My traveling enables me to come into a town and love people, bring some incentives, make a few suggestions and exhort the areas where they are pursuing better paths–and then leave, allowing them, as mature people, to assimilate the message into their lives as they deem powerful. The danger of remaining in one community and believing that you can make a difference is that we all have a tendency to settle…and meddle. We “settle” into a series of repetitive actions determined to be normal, and then, when other people don’t follow our structure, we have a tendency to “meddle” in their affairs, taking away their freedom to be who God has made them to be.

Sometimes we use politics, sometimes we use corporations, but usually we use religious conviction as a club, attempting to hammer people into submission to the will of our local village.

It is most unfortunate.

Traveling as I do, I don’t have to “settle” for anything. I can live my life as I choose and share my discoveries with others without feeling the need for them to either condemn or affirm my purposes. Therefore, I don’t hang around long enough to meddle in their affairs or critique their concerns when those particular selections are not to my favor.

So you might ask me how you can do the same thing–to escape “settling and meddling”–and still maintain the integrity of a local post office box. That’s really easy. God gives every one of us a “tour schedule.” The beauty for most of you is that you don’t ever have to leave your own home. That tour schedule is called Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

Yes, all of you can be on a tour–as long as everything that happens on Monday is not carried over to your next stop, on Tuesday. So you have your Monday tour and then you climb into your wonderful tour bus of sleep to journey onto your next gig, which is called Tuesday. Now, if you take along the problems of Monday or celebrate too many of the victories, without being fully aware that the next tour stop will have its own conflicts, then you make a huge mistake. But as long as you live within the day, not worrying about tomorrow, and you don’t fuss over the affairs of the last performance from the day before, you can find yourself in the same position I do–touring.

For after all, we’re all just visiting this place anyway. And those who put down their roots too deeply become very dissatisfied, disillusioned and discontented at the brevity of the visitation.

So I have one more stop tomorrow–but actually, I never stop. Because even as I go on to Nashville, Tennessee, to eat Thanksgiving with my family, and then climb back into my van to tour for ten days with a Christmas presentation, to finally, arrive in Miami to spend the holidays with all my kin, I am always moving on. Sometimes it’s just from Monday to Tuesday; sometimes it’s from New Albany, Indiana to Knoxville, Tennessee. The gospel works best when you don’t try to make your location concrete, but instead, understand that we’re all just passing through–one day at a time.

“And Jesus went to another village…”

A lady recently told Janet that she had come to the conclusion that we were homeless. I guess in some people’s minds it might appear that way. Of course, for fifty years now, I have been a follower of a homeless man who ended up traveling around–and in so doing, changed the whole world. I guess I rather admire his choices, and pattern some of mine after them.

So you will find me, for the rest of my life, going to another village. You may follow suit by keeping your favorite pillow but permitting yourself the blessing of traveling from Monday to Tuesday without feeling the need to worry about the former day or be too concerned about the next one.

Just remember one of the great rules of the road: it’s not polite to steal towels from your last lodging.

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Wicked Imaginations … September 12, 2012

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She had heard it was a cut-throat business. It didn’t matter. Sandra Collier was determined to be a writer.

She’d possessed the aspiration ever since she was a small child and read her first Dr. Seuss book. She gained impetus pouring through the pages of Black Beauty, Red Badge of Courage, Moby Dick and even to some extent, the works of Faulkner. She loved to put pen to paper and ideas to stories.

She had one. A story, that is. She’d even taken it further than that–she had turned it into a manuscript, perhaps a novella. It was the tale of a young girl seeking love, who gave up on her hometown possibilities and flew to Paris to find romance and adventure, falling in love with a man who ended up being from her home town and grew up just two blocks away.

She let all of her friends and family read the story and everyone raved about the beauty, tenderness and joy of the unfoldings. There was one professor at a local community college who told her that the idea and concept seemed “generic.” Or maybe he said “derivative.” But she chalked his comments up to the disgruntled mumblings of a frustrated artist who ended up in academia.

Sandra Collier was determined to be a famous writer. So she sent her manuscript off to five different publishers, and approximately six weeks later received five rejection slips, only two containing personal notes, which cited that her offering was naive, childish and non-marketable. She was discouraged. Even though she didn’t expect immediate acceptance, she required it.

In one note, the publisher suggested that she pursue finding an agent to help her proliferate her talent in the New York publishing field, so she decided to take the advice, and in the process came across an agent who expressed some interest in her story. He invited her to come to his cabin in the woods in the upper peninsula of Michigan, to discuss possibilities on presenting her “prose to the pros.”

She was a bit hesitant. Her mother warned her of “wolves in sheep’s clothing.” Not certain what that meant in the modern-day world of business, Sandra decided she was old enough to handle herself and set off to meet with her new comrade in arms.

Things went well. He made suggestions and they punched the story up a little bit while having great conversations about angles, advertising and even photo shoots. She was enamored. She began to feel like the heroine in her own story, who had gone off seeking romance–and found it.

So after a couple of days, when the agent made a slight advance her way, she put up no resistance. A love affair ensued.

Even though Sandra was not inexperienced, she was certainly ill-prepared. She fell head over heels, deep with infatuation for this knight in shining armor who was going to help her become the fair maiden of the book selling world. They left each other with a tender kiss and a promise that soon he would contact her with the first fruits of his labors in seeking out publication.

Two months passed. She placed calls. At first he cautioned her to be patient, but eventually he stopped returning her overtures. It was on the third Tuesday of the third month that she received a note in the mail. It was from him.  She was so excited. She opened up and read the words:

“Good-bye. Now that you’re disappointed, go write something true.”

Sandra couldn’t believe it. Literally, she felt that somebody was playing a joke on her, so she tried to call him. The number was changed and unlisted.

Sandra stopped pursuing writing. She decided that it was a childish dream of such unrealistic proportions that she was embarrassed to even admit she had ever pursued it. She met a man, she got married, she had two children. She took a job. Every once in a while, people would bring up a movie or book they had seen or read. She made a practice of leaving the room, refusing to participate in such creative nonsense.

She felt she was healed from her previous novice error. She felt mature. She felt wise. She thought the true essence of gaining knowledge was admitting that dreams were best kept in our nighttime beds. She was an advocate of realism. She was a person who refused to take risks and embrace any new idea that might offer the option of disappointment. She took the profile of a human being who had swallowed up life as it is, while rejecting happiness. After all, she mused, happiness is what we decide it should be.

Sandra Collier never became a writer. The world will survive. The problem is that Sandra never became happy.

In our time there is much talk about good and evil–a back and forth, see-saw discussion, rife with contradictions, accusations and half-truths. But identifying evil is not as difficult as it is made out to be in the movies, with priests chasing the demon-possessed through the darkened halls of castles. Evil is much simpler. Evil has only one goal–to convince disbelievers of its importance and equality, because it is much more realistic. Once the populace has nodded and assented, evil triumphs.

It is the essence of the fourth thing that God hates–a heart that devises wicked imaginations. When we feel that life has only having dismal possibilities, dark corners ormorose conclusions, we become useless to ourselves and a stumbling block to anyone who would love to progress a great idea.

God hates this particular surrender to the inevitability of failure, because it is a proclamation thatI am better than happy.” Evil is the proud stomping ground for the earth native who wants to pound the drum and scream that life is devoid of meaning. Evil is giving up before we even have considered whether any option might be fruitful. Evil is allowing our hearts to be filled with despair, and therefore our jaded consciousness determining our passion.

In the quest for realism, we have locked ourselves into a tomb of doom, where we nervously scratch our arms, stare off into the distance and lament the fate of humanity.

Sandra gave up. She didn’t kill herself, she didn’t become an alcoholic, she didn’t put the heroin needle in her arm, and she didn’t climb into a 1962 Chevy Impala and go around the country indiscriminately killing people. She didn’t even curse God.

She continued to be a mother, a wife, a church-goer, a worker and a member of her community–who just didn’t believe anymore. She became a victim, with a heart continually devising wicked imaginations. She believed she was better than happy. And because of that, she never found the stamina to succeed.

For it is the joy of the Lord that is our primal source of strength.

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Bologna with a Ring … August 24, 2012

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Bologna with a ring.

It is not a marriage ceremony for piglets. It is a delightful application of a delectable American treat propagated and promoted in the Great Lake States.

I am in Michigan. They know their bologna. First, they recognize that it is spelled b-o-l-o-g-n-a rather than b-a-l-o-n-e-y. Of course, one of my friends back in high school thought it was” ball-only,” so named for the part of the bull extracted to make the stuff. He was greatly relieved when I told him that bologna was just an accumulation of hooves, belly fat and ear wax, forcibly removed from Missouri male cows.

Michigan is a land of bologna. (I mean that well.) Fried, seared, “jalapeno’d,” grilled, barbecued and of course, breaded. But for me, the most flavorful incarnation is bologna in a ring. Ring bologna–stuffed into a tube and folded over into the shape of a horseshoe and then tied at the bottom to create a psychedelic “O.” Ring bologna. The original YouTube–sometimes in flavors, but best left alone: sweet, firm, a little garlic, squeezed into a casing, plump and ready for slicing. (Sounds like my junior prom date…)

It is right that ring bologna is a regional product of these Nordic Northmen. For we are Vikings. We eat slabs of meat without apology. And when necessary, we can use our large ring bologna as a weapon against our tofu-eating enemies.

Anyway, I like the taste.

I have one dilemma–how can you eat as much of the ring of the bologna as you want and still keep it around for a respectable length of time so that you aren’t viewed by spectators as a glutton? This is important. Fat people like me have to think about such things. For instance, I can’t sit in a restaurant and enjoy a piece of pie. Everyone around me is thinking, “Oh, that’s how he got so fat.” I am not alone. It is the same situation for the black man. He cannot eat watermelon in public at the Mississippi State Fair. Likewise, a Japanese person can’t cut you off in traffic or wear a camera around his neck. Chinese people can’t shop at Wal-mart without hearing a drone of complaints about the products. Those of a Middle-Eastern descent find it difficult to stop off and pick up a couple bags of fertilizer at Ace Hardware. Native Americans don’t hang around outside the cigar store, and Mexicans stay away from 7-11’s, unless they’re looking for work. It’s just the way things played out.

A fat guy with a ring of bologna needs to make it last long enough that those who are watching determine it to be a normal consumption rate for the delicacy. It’s tough.

So I bought my ring bologna on Monday at 11:00 A.M. and finished the last piece on Wednesday at 10:12 A.M. Nearly forty-eight hours. Such control. Unbelievable discipline. I am humbled and proud. I wish I could tell you it was easy. It wasn’t. I even dreamed about my ring. One of my visions was a little sexy, so I won’t get into it here.

Soon I will leave Michigan and return to the world where bologna is sliced, stuffed into a package, stacked neatly and forced to be Oscar Meyer. I weep for my trapped comrades. How they wish to be in a ring, hanging out in Michigan, waiting for some Spartan or Wolverine to purchase them for game day. Alas!

So here’s to ring bologna–the Super Bowl Ring of high fat, enormous calories, immense cholesterol luncheon food products. If it is a sin, I pray for God’s grace–or hope the Creator Himself has had a fling with the ring.

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