PoHymn: A Rustling in the Stagnant…April 22, 2015

 

  Jonathots Daily Blog

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Pohymn April 22

Just Ten

I found myself with ten

While waiting for my friend

So instead of getting weary

And thinking something dreary

I conjure up the good

Where should meets would and could

To celebrate a blessed day

Which is beamed to me along the way

For I am the great partaker

When I deny my inner faker

And decide to be real

Risking the pain to feel

For joy is never far

Even sitting in my car

Discovering a reason to create

An excellence to emulate

It’s just too easy to give up

While you’re waiting to fill your cup

And conclude there is no more

Thus life is such a bore

So rejoice, O Soul of mine

While waiting for a sign

Wonders will never cease

And miracles always increase

When I show up believing

The doors open to receiving

So I will be on my way

But this ten made it a better day.

 

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G-30: Pouting … June 27, 2014

Jonathots Daily Blog

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Izzy PoutA monkey is normally satisfied with a banana.

A monkey-angel, on the other hand, requires a banana split.

From the understanding we gain from what we have dubbed The Good Book, the Creator experienced an adjustment period in trying to comprehend the mingled mess put together with the formation of the human race.

It was a rocky start.

Even though the Book dubbed Good has 1,189 chapters, within the first eight, the Father:

  • makes humans
  • places them in a Garden of Utopia
  • gives them a rule
  • catches them breaking the rule
  • kicks them out of the Garden
  • punishes them
  • sees one of their children murdered and another exiled
  • regrets that He made them
  • kills them with a flood
  • and finally, regrets killing them.

Not a stellar beginning.

So after the waters subsided, a mistrust grew between the heavens and the earth. It was actually more like an adolescent pout, where a child of a household who was once enamored with his or her parents lives long enough to discover inconsistencies, and along with the natural rebellion churning in his or her soul, decides to become non-communicative with the elders.

A quiet war started between God and man. (And by man, of course, I mean the female part as well.)

For thousands of years, attempts were made to repair the breach by using commandments, prophets, edicts, covenants, patriarchs, escape plans, and even miracles.

Nothing seemed to work.

Human beings were caught between a distaste for the jungle and a dislike for the heavens.

We pouted.

How could we trust a Creator who made us and then decided to break us? What could be done?

Yes … what could be done?

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Peter Thomas … April 21, 2013

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I speak boldly in the shadows and whisper in the light

I proclaim the goodness of God, yet pout when it rains

I am a fisher of men, trapped in my own net

I pray for miracles while growing weary in well-doing

I am a voice crying in the wilderness, complaining of a sore throat

I hurl rocks at the castle and quickly run away before the giant eats me

I love my neighbor in theory as I challenge him on the facts

I am outraged by the atheist while frequently ignoring God

I believe in the whole Bible and dust it off each month

I am the beckoned explainer who arrives confused

I am the singer of the hymn and the doubter of Him

I am an insecure expression of belief

I am a concession of faith

I am Peter, the preacher

And Thomas, the tongue-tied

I am both, as ordained to be

For too much faith makes me obnoxious

And an abundance of doubt renders me powerless

I am as God would have me

Sentenced to be an exclamation point

Sitting next to a question mark

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The First Valentine … February 14, 2013

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I wake up this morning terribly curious about what miracles St. Valentine would have performed to gain his station in the Mother Church. It is required in the Catholic experience, that each saint have two confirmed miracles. What would they be for Val? Maybe he lived in Hollywood–and was able to stay married for more than seven months. Perhaps instead of just saying that women are equals to men, he believed it and followed through. Maybe he enjoyed shopping and cooking with his spouse.

I’m not sure. But what I know about love, romance, women and the interaction between the sexes, I learned elsewhere. I learned it from a man who never treated a woman any differently from the dudes hanging around.

  • He didn’t create a separate message for men and another one for women, pretending they were at odds with each other.
  • Simultaneously, he demanded that women be human instead of following the darker parts of the internal nature.
  • He called them on their lies, not winking and pretending like it is a female prerogative.
  • He welcomed and blessed their children.
  • He forgave them when they fell.
  • He honored them when they made a good point that he hadn’t considered.
  • He included them without exception.
  • He never separated them off into women’s meetings.
  • He made them apostles and messengers of what was dear in his heart.
  • He was not ashamed to accept their financial help, citing some sort of macho philosophy of only men being bread winners.
  • He praised their faith.
  • At no time did he ever make them the butt of a joke, even when he was alone in a testosterone-driven circle.
  • He protected them against religion, politics and culture, which wanted to relegate them to being “birthers” instead of fellow-laborers.

I didn’t learn much from St. Valentine. Everything I learned about how to treat, love, labor and interact with a woman was imparted to me at the feet of the Master.

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The “When” Win … September 13, 2012

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He insisted that he didn’t believe in miracles. I think he thought he was going to rile up some ire in me on the subject. He didn’t.

It actually reminded me of a time when I attended a very expensive banquet where lobster was served. I found myself seated next to a gentleman who did not like lobster and proceeded to tell me that he found it distasteful, not only in flavor but also in the cruelty involved in acquiring them. I listened intently and then asked him if he would like me to remove the nasty presence from his plate. He agreed–and I ended up eating a double portion.

I was very grateful to be seated next to a non-believer.

I do believe in miracles. But my particular form of faith about them may be a bit disconcerting to some of you. I don’t think that miracles are the direct intervention of the spirit of God in our lives, but rather, that miracles happen when we finally awaken our own spirits to provide benefit, insight, guidance and treasure to ourselves.

Truthfully, human beings are not as complicated as we make them out to be. We are a collision of three forces, melting into a fourth: they are what we feel, what we know, and what we want that actually congeal into what we believe.

I know religionists would hope that what we believe would actually change what we feel, know and want, but honestly, I don’t think our Creator made us that way. This is why so many people have so many different beliefs about varying things. Their particular rendition of feeling, knowing and wanting generates a somewhat unique belief system.

So it is important to realize that the end result of our process of feeling, knowing and wanting is a spiritual force–or else a weak, dormant, empty cave. In other worsds, if we don’t feel much, refuse to learn and lose our desire, it’s rather doubtful that some sort of spiritual renaissance is going on inside us.

I believe that miracles happen when we have purified our emotions by speaking them aloud instead of hiding them; we have included science, technology and wisdom in learning what is available for our time, and we have challenged our wants and whittled them down to our real desires instead of our passing infatuations.

What this reveals is a spirit that we can trust. That spirit will begin to come to life within us and produce gentle nudgings to pursue certain activities, projects and ideas.

Trust the gentle nudgings.

Yes, when I purify my emotions by sharing them, I learn instead of assuming that I know everything, and in the process I come up with real needs in my life instead of copying what everybody else is doing, I can begin to believe that those inclinations that come to me are my spirit leading me to miraculous horizons.

Some people call it “following your gut.” Others refer to it as “divine inspiration.” There are those who contend it is actually “hearing the voice of God.” But it is rarely as dramatic as all that. It is truly a still, small voice inside us, whispering a possibility that we may wish to pursue. I have learned to listen to those gentle nudgings.

This is what I call the “when” of being spiritual. We spend too much time discussing “why.” It is ridiculous to have great debates on the “what” of spirituality, when none of us have ever been beyond the grave. “How” is even more comical.

But “when?” Now there is spirituality.

  • When I feel the need to give to a stranger … just do it.
  • When friends comes to mind … pick up the phone and call them.
  • When I’m trying to remember a song … the words must be important.
  • When I nearly have an accident … it could be a heads up, a warning about my lack of attention.
  • When I find an extra ten dollars in my pants pocket … be prepared to bless someone.
  • When I have a dream that touches my heart … share it, use it or make contact with someone who was included.
  • When I hear a great idea … write it down.
  • When I see someone do something magnificent … tell somebody else about it so it doesn’t die,
  • When I realize I’m watching something on television that’s boring or drawing energy from my being … turn it off.
  • When I feel compelled to give someone a hug … embrace him.
  • When I feel like laughing … don’t restrain.
  • When I feel like crying … let it flow.
  • When I see that someone is left in a corner by himself … find him.
  • When I wonder if something could be done … find something to do.
  • When I am nudged … move forward.

These are the miracles of life. Desiring God to heal a cancerous tumor is well worth using our faith, and a great reason for prayer. But four years earlier, following the gentle nudgings of the spirit to quit smoking cut down on eating or exercise more is the true miracle.

I do not believe that God’s grace has limits, but I think I should conduct my spiritual life as if it does. He wants His children to become spirited–without constantly needing to be bailed out of jail for failure to enact the principles.

The gentle nudgings are those opportunities that come our way because we have learned to take what we feel, what we know and what we want–and create a belief that is believable to us. It is the “when” that causes us to win.

You might righteously ask me how often my gentle nudgings turn into actual, obvious spiritual miracles. After an ongoing life of trial and error, I can report that about fifty per cent of the time I see evidence of intervention. And that means that this simple concept has provided me twice the blessing I would have in comparison to sitting around in a prayer room waiting for God to do my work for me.

“And God breathed into man the breath of life and man became a living soul…”

Exactly. And that soul comes to life when we follow the gentle nudgings that have come to us from our spirit because we have cleansed our hearts, opened our minds and purified our desires–to create a spirit we can trust.

It is the when win. When you feel it, trust what you have created to lead you to beautiful, gentle nudgings of miracles.

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Creedless … August 6, 2012

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I have never been very enthusiastic about reciting things in unison. I will participate from time to time, but it always kind of reminds me of the scene in the movie, The Omen, when the followers of the anti-Christ mime his words back to him through what sounds like a really spooky echo chamber.

But a couple of weeks ago, I found myself in a church where they were reciting the Apostle’s Creed. “I believe in God the Father, maker of heaven and earth, and in Jesus Christ, his only begotten son, who was conceived of the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead and buried …”

At this point I stopped speaking with the rest of the sheep. It just seemed strange to me that in this particular discourse, we leap from Jesus being born straight to suffering under Pontius Pilate.  Wasn’t there a life in there somewhere? Weren’t there thirty-three years of dynamic existence, with the establishment of the Kingdom of God, healing the sick, raising the dead, teaching us to love our enemies? Where is that in the creed? Is the high point of the life of Jesus of Nazareth best expressed in explaining to all future generations that he died? What if we taught history that way?

“George Washington was born in Virginia and many years later he contracted pneumonia, was treated with leeches, was weakened and passed away.”

“Abraham Lincoln was born in Kentucky in a log cabin and through the passage of time was shot in the head during a theater performance.”

“Adolf Hitler was born in Germany and one day was found dead in a bunker in Berlin.”

Not only would we have a dearth of material to offer for our history classes, but our children would have no comprehension of the struggle, discovery and journeys of these figures who peppered our landscape with both greatness and evil deeds. The National Education Association would be up in arms.

It makes me wonder why the ministers and congregations are not equally as distressed when Jesus is presented only as a redemptive pin cushion to buffer the punishment for our sins.

No wonder our young humans are choosing to walk away from the religious system in favor of Sunday morning outings at the park with the family. Why go to church? If someone is dead, as a courtesy you put flowers on their grave once a year–which is why people show up for Easter. It’s only polite, you know.

Let me dispel some myths:

First of all, concerning this creed–Jesus did not suffer under Pontius Pilate. When Peter preached on the Day of Pentecost, he absolved Governor Pilate of all responsibility, and laid the cause and blame for the atrocity of the death of Jesus at the feet of that day’s present Jewish religious leaders. If you will pardon my phrasing, I know it’s not kosher to blame the Jews for judging Jesus Christ. They had a bad day. Of a truth, they represented us all, who probably would have been equally as intolerant of someone insisting on tolerance. But it was their watch and they were asleep at the wheel.

Next: Jesus came to earth to show us the Father. For those of you who have been taught that he came to earth to die for our sins, you might want to take another pass at reading his own representation of his mission–because hours before they put nails in his hands, he announced, in the Garden of Gethsemane, to his Father through prayer that he had completed his work.

So what is the cross? It is the greatest act of sacrificial bravery in the history of mankind. It is the final proclamation of love from someone who knew that it was unacceptable to take away the free will-choice of those who wished to kill him. It was an action meant for treachery, which God, as always, brought around to our good.

So the act should be revered and respected for bringing about the salvation which we so frantically attempted to avoid, but it should never be put in predominance over the life, work, heart and mind of Jesus.

Perhaps I mis-titled this article. I called it “Creedless.” I’m not “creedless.” I believe everything in the Apostle’s Creed. It’s just that there is so much more I hold dear, and it is these assertions that make my Christian life meaningful–not the bloody, untimely death of my dearest friend.

Of course, all of this is going to play out. Every one of us will die and find out once and for all what is truly going on beyond our beatless heart. Here are the two possibilities: we will either meet God, our Creator, who certainly can’t be a God of love and also contend that we are so foul that He needed to grab His nearby son to expunge our blackened spot with his miracle blood. No, if there is a God up there, He is, as the Good Book says, Someone who desires mercy instead of sacrifice. So spending all of our time commemorating the death of his son ranges in quality from futile to annoying. As God said to Peter, James and John at the Mount of Transfiguration, “This is my beloved son. Hear ye him.”

There you go. It is just very difficult to hear the words from someone who has been relegated to being a prop for propitiation.

On the other hand, if we pass on and discover that there is nothing beyond the great pale, just paler circumstances, to have spent our lives rallying around the tomb of an executed savior will certainly seem useless when available to us was the spirit and message of a man who wanted to teach people to “love your neighbor as yourself.”

So you see, I have chosen what I consider to be a better path. If there is a heaven, God will have love and mercy as He promised. If there is no eternity, if you don’t mind, I will use the example of the life of Jesus, take that love and mercy, wrap it up and deliver it to the world around me.

 

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Bridging the Troubled Waters … July 18, 2012

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Poolside at Bethesda in Jerusalem near the sheep gate.

Yuk. Who wants to go swimming near a sheep gate?? I guess the key would be to dive under the water a lot to avoid the smell.

Now, this particular place has significance because it is the source of a story of supernatural proportions, which allows it to become a magnificent tourist attraction. According to legend, an angel fell into these waters and somehow or another transferred heavenly energy into the stream, so occasionally the waters would become “troubled” and allegedly, anyone who jumped into the bubbly brew was immediately healed.

It probably did not occur to anyone that the “troubling of the waters” was brought about by a deep underground spring, and the Artesian effect created the bubbling. But it made for  an impressive mythology and drew out great crowds of people who wished to become the next benefactors of the bountiful bubbles.

You may insist that I am being sarcastic about the miraculous proportions of this tale. Not at all. I believe in miracles. I am humbled by a gracious intervention of a mysterious origin. It’s just that I know that this was not a miracle. How? Let me give you three reasons:

1. It favors those who are the fastest. Honestly, if you were truly sick and completely unable to walk and needed the miracle the most, you were least likely to get it because somebody with acne would immediately leap into the pool ahead of you. Blessing from God is not contingent on portability.

2. The myth was kept alive because the only people who got healed were those who were healthy enough not to need it. If the only success stories in your life are those people who were basically successful before and just hit a bad patch, then you are a pit stop, not a salvation station.

3. Rather than creating faithful, excited individuals who are anticipating great benefit from God, the pool ends up making those who linger around it into grumpy, cynical and whiney losers.

For when Jesus runs across a man who has been crippled, as it turns out, for thirty-eight years, he does not ask him why he failed to get into the waters. He doesn’t move him closer to the pool so that all he has to do is fall in. Jesus asks him “if he really wants to be made whole.”  Is it a dumb question? After all, the guy’s LIVING next to this magical pond. Doesn’t that demonstrate his willingness to be transformed? The guy doesn’t even answer Jesus’ question. Instead, he explains to Jesus why it’s impossible to get to the waters before the “speedy sickos.” The man has developed an apology for his belief.

This is my problem with religion. It develops a storyline filled with angels, heavenly promises and seemingly grounded in the Word of God. Then all the sick people come and sit next to this little piece of superstition, devoid of healing or change–just developing excuses for their desperation and need.

I hate superstition. I hate it when people are left in bondage and handed a series of scriptures to hold onto while they struggle with their misery.

So does Jesus. He doesn’t waste any time. He tells the man to rise, take up his bed and walk. He doesn’t trouble the water for the man and put him in, to promote the lie. No–he connects him. And the funny thing about the story is that this guy, who has now been healed, rather than being grateful, overwhelmed and unabashedly appreciative, ends up joining up with the religious leaders to finger Jesus as the guy who did this wonderful deed for him … on the Sabbath Day.

Jesus is angry. He finds the man and warns him to repent lest a worse thing happen to him. Now, answer me this: what could be worse than being crippled for thirty-eight years, sitting next to a pool of water, sniffing sheep dung and waiting for the waters to bubble up in front of you, knowing that you probably will never receive restoration from its flow? I guess what would be worse is being healed and still bound to a religious system that did nothing to help you get that way.

We have to begin to ask our faith to make us whole, not merely comfort us. Not just be satisfied with wonderful stories that we all recite, memorize and retell, never fully understanding the meaning, nor eat magical bread and drink mystical wine, thinking that somehow or another it transforms us into new creatures. Instead, step away from the superstition and ask God to teach you how to be a good human being.

Here are the three things I believe need to be done to escape the religious rhetoric that is driving people away and has no authority to address the problems of our present generation:

1. If our faith makes us whole, then it’s time to teach people that God will involve them in their miracle.

2. There is nothing wrong with questioning stories, fables and even scriptures that do nothing to invite newness of life.

3. If the by-product of our spiritual experience is not becoming rehabilitated humans, then what we’ve entered is a time capsule of belief that was relevant to a former generation and obscure to us.

Here’s a clue:

  • If your reaction to disappointment is the same as the worker in the cubicle next to you, who does not believe in God, then your faith is meaningless.
  • If you are not finding new ways to use your talents to improve your lifestyle and increase your possibilities, then your religion is an albatross hanging around your neck.
  • If you find yourself defending God more often than you do living out His promises with good cheer, then you probably hooked up with the wrong team.
  • If you’re listening to scriptures and the words are beginning to blur together like a highway on a sleepy drive, you probably have lost the power of the word to transform you.
  • If you find yourself criticizing those who don’t believe more often than using your belief to uplift the critical, you are part of the problem, not the solution.
  • And if you’re lying next to a pool of water, waiting for the angels to trouble the stream so you can be healed, you might just have entered a religious Twilight Zone.

Sometimes people make up reasons for religion because the ability to turn disciples into the “light of the world” and the “salt of the earth” has been sacrificed on an altar of tradition. Spirituality is a daily bathing in good cheer and good ideas.

Anything less is religion, which merely gives you an excuse for why you’re not well.

   

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