Location, location, and, oh, yes… location … January 31, 2012

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I have had the pleasure of attending a meeting of the Chamber of Commerce where inspiring speeches were given on the glories of capitalism and business, as people dismissed to pass out their cards and inform others of a booming possibility with their rendition of the American Dream.
 
I have sat at the fireside of a gathering of homeless individuals, sharing a platter of beans with two pieces of day-old white bread purchased from the Dolly Madison Store, as all those surrounding the warmth discussed their day’s activities.
 
I have been at a rock concert with screaming fans leaping to their feet, hoping the next tune would be their favorite one.
 
I have attended a family reunion where aunts and uncles barely of my acquaintance have insisted that I knew some old relative who had since passed on, as we conversed about names unfamiliar, while munching on delectable potato salad.
 
Out of curiosity, I have actually gone to political party meetings of both sides and been inundated with pamphlets, propaganda and platforms, encouraging me to make a good American stands against the opposing party’s irrelevant views.
 
Being a father of children, I have also sat through a PTA meeting, often out-numbered, lacking members of my particular gender, as speaker after speaker lamented the lack of something or other in the educational system.
 
Stupidly, I was lured into an investment party because it promised something free and ended up being a ploy to get me to take the little money I had and drop it into a hole, hoping that the crevice would spew back profits.
 
I have been in many a counseling session–mainly as the counselor–listening patiently as each party made his or her case against the other, well-organized, well-rehearsed and well-entrenched.
 
I have done these things and many others in the pursuit of discovering the best of my human family, only to realize that when we herd together, we normally want to make sure that we’re with cattle of our own kind.
 
It limits us. It retards us (if I may use the word in its correct form without being politically incorrect). It inhibits us from using the two greatest possessions we have–a mirror and a brain. Because in all those conclaves I listed, at no time at all was I asked to examine myself, nor was it necessary for me to think–because the mental agenda was provided.
 
Which brings me to last night in Clinton, Louisiana, where forty-six people emerged from the community–from different paths, walks, theologies and political persuasions. They huddled into one building to consider a message and how they measured up to its intensity. It’s called a church. And even though I will rail against a religious system which tries to turn the true church into something that blends the Chamber of Commerce with a political party meeting with overtones of a counseling session, I am a firm believer that the church is the only place where the possibility of looking in the mirror at oneself and actually tapping the brain that God has given you is plausible.
 
Oh, yes–I am not naive.  I realize that the present religious system would love to mimic the Chamber of Commerce.  Poorer congregations would like to react like the homeless, making fun of the rich. There are those “hip” congregations, which think the church is just a rock concert, cheering on Jesus and the Spirit of God. Smaller groups of church folks actually become nothing more than a family reunion, discussing the week’s activities, dead parishioners and the weather. Too many religious institutions have become the harlot for political parties, pushing a social agenda more than salvation.
 
But when it’s done right, there is nothing in our society like the church–because it asks us to look in the mirror and to use our brains.
 
How do you know if you’re in a real church or just a religious system trying to parrot the world around it? The real church has seven important ingredients:
 
1. Be prepared for the unpredictable. For after all, repetition has always been the agenda of hell.
2. Stop complaining. No one ever learns in the midst of a lament.
3. Love somebody new. If we aren’t expanding the family of man around us to include more and more people, we are shrinking the vision of God.
4. Cry until you laugh. There are people in churches still in pain after many years of suffering, who should have had a nighttime of weeping and allowed joy to come in their morning.
5. Think for yourself about yourself to improve yourself. Don’t use God’s house as a way to confirm your inadequacy.
6. Be thankful. Sounds simple, doesn’t it? But thankfulness is missing from our society. It has been bumped out of the way by expectation. We need some place to go where we actually express gratitude.
7. And finally, leave changed. The Chamber of Commerce didn’t ask me to do that; nor did the homeless, the rock singer, Aunt Mabel, the Republicans and Democrats, the teacher’s conference, the investment firm or even those attending the counseling session. We all basically came into those events with one mind-set and left with a little bit more cement added. The true church is a place where we leave changed every time we are there, or we must question  the gospel which is supposed to give us the truth that makes us free.
 
Yes, it’s all about location, location, location. And if you’re looking for a place to go that will renew you and allow you to look in the mirror without fear and think instead of merely react, I recommend a good church which understands the seven things I just stated.
 
I was at one last night. It was a good time … although I did miss my beans and day-old bread.
 
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Jonathan wrote the gospel/blues anthem, Spent This Time, in 1985, in Guaymas, Mexico. Take a listen:

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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

Here You Adopt–November 11, 2011

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Is it supposed to work? Life, I mean.

Sometimes I feel that politics wants to eliminate the possibility for resolution so as to create the climate where we all need a new candidate, so that individual can receive our votes. I feel that religion requires us to succumb to the futility of mankind so as to generate a dependence on God. And of course, corporations want us to feel that the present line of products is insufficient to our needs, prompting us to buy new “everything.” No wonder people’s faces look like they just emerged from a tunnel into the sunshine, and would really like to escape back into the darkness again.

Here’s a piece of information you might find fascinating: the brain doesn’t learn anything if the emotions are clogged up with a lack of revelation, therefore forbidding the spirit to be enlightened and creating the chance for new ideas to renew our minds.

It’s why people spend a lot of time feeling dumb. And even though we may resent that implication, we gradually sense that the knowledge we have is deteriorating and new reinforcements are NOT arriving daily to aid us in fortifying our position. Don’t feel bad–because it’s true. If you are emotionally bound and unable to release your frustrations and feelings, you have closed the door to spiritual insight which would allow you to challenge the thinking that was infused in you as a child.

This is why we believe that certain areas of the country think differently than other areas of the country–because rather than all of us garnering an explosion of knowledge, we revert back to our training and pump out the answers that we were given when we were too young to object. This process creates the problem which fosters prejudice, bigotry, war, murder, hatred and devastation. Pretty heavy-duty, huh?

We are heart creatures. If we do not deal with our emotions and find God, a mirror or a friend to share them with, we will close the door to our spirit from receiving the eternal insights that take us from our temporary imprisonment of thinking into more enlightened reasoning. And how will you know when your brain actually begins to be inputted from your spirit because you have cleaned up your emotions? Jesus answered this. He said, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.”

In other words, when you take the time to cleanse your emotions of the fatalism of the previous day’s activities, it opens the door for your spirit to see God in life instead of looking for a devil or blaming your problems on other folks.

And how will you know that you see God? How will you know that you have spiritual insight that is beginning to filter in joy instead of sadness? You will develop thankful thinking.

The brain, by its very nature, tries to find reasons for NOT doing things. When you add your cultural training of warnings and punishments into the mix, you have a cranium crammed with inhibition and apprehension. It is only spirituality that allows the brain to become thankful for opportunity instead of suspicious of it. You will know that you are actually renewing your mind when being thankful for what you have is predominant over regretting what you lack.

Here is a fact of life: no one ever gets what they need in the beginning. We all get just enough to start with and if we allow gratitude to initiate a great plan of action, we will be granted more. It’s just human nature. We give to those who are getting and we bless those who are blessing. This is why some people don’t like to pass off a dollar to a bum on the street–they just don’t think the investment is going to pay off.

Thankfulness is a sign that we have abandoned the futility of expecting on evil conclusions and have ceased resisting the darkness around us, but instead, have decided to pursue a mental health that believes fuel is given as we journey–and never when we sit.

So how do I get there? Here you go: we get there when we allow our emotions to cease to fester and we share candidly, without fear AND without being convinced we are right, but to cleanse ourselves from the unrighteousness that builds up inside of our beings. This opens the door to a spirituality that says, “here you got.” We start celebrating our success instead of hoarding it. Just this action by itself renews the mind to become thankful instead of jealous, giving us the ability to take the better parts of our upbringing while gently resisting the portions that limit our talents.

You will know that your brain is functioning under your guidance instead of the will of your ancestors when thankfulness comes to your mind before complaint. It may be as simple as saying, “It could be worse” or “You know the really funny thing about this thing that happened is that I would never have gotten this without it…”

Thankful thinking is a sign of a brain that has stopped just learning, but has actually come to the knowledge of truth.

I can tell when I have good mental health by a sense of gratitude that permeates my thoughts instead of lamenting over my plight. To get there you have to cleanse your emotions and then you can see God, and once you see God, your first instinct will be thankfulness.

Yet each one of us struggles and nearly chokes on the words “thank you” from time to time because we have been taught to be the bearers of the bad news of our descendants.

Do you want to win or do you want to confirm what you were taught? Make up your mind.

And to make up your mind you must clean up your emotions, let God show you what you’ve really got and then develop thankful thinking, which will give you the ability to open up the full potential of your brain. It is powerful.

A mind renewed is a unit energized with thankfulness that uses the sensation of gratitude to increase the storehouse for knowledge.

Yes–here you adopt thankful thinking.

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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!

Jonathan sings “Let”

Jonathan Sings “Spent This Time”

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

Here You Got–November 10, 2011

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EC + W = IND.

Looks like a formula, doesn’t it? I guess it really is. We do live in a material world, chemically charged, and we are part of that process. So what is this little formula? Let me break it down for you: EC stands for “emotional counting.” The W signifies “worry” and the IND is “indecision.” So what IS emotional counting?

Emotional counting is when we fail to come clean with the feelings from the previous day and carry them over without self-discovery into today’s activities, allowing them to color how we view our possibilities.

In other words, if I had a bad day yesterday and failed to clean myself out emotionally with God, the mirror or a friend, and then I look at the little dab of what I have, that little pile of potential will always look insufficient.

Yesterday’s unresolved problems always make today look impossible—and when we think things are impossible, we commence to worry. Worry, very simply, is pitching a fit that “life is unfair.” Let me tell you—life is unimpressed. Life does not care that we are spoiled brats who threw a temper tantrum because we didn’t get what we wanted.

Next, when worry fails to produce inspiration, we choose the dastardly position of indecision, which causes us to finish our day in greater frustration, compiling our emotional upheaval. This is why those who have problems continue to be plagued by more problems, which we deem to be bizarre and unrighteous.

You cannot count your blessings or even assess the value of what you presently have if you’re still distressed over yesterday’s failures. Looking back on yesterday causes us to worry about tomorrow, making us squander today. Just go back and read that sentence to yourself again. It is a powerful thought.

Emotional counting is allowing ourselves to be ungrateful for what God has given us and what has been provided by our own hands because of fear of yesterday’s inadequacies following us into this 24-hour period. It makes us lose all faith in ourselves and God to supply the need.

So emotional counting produces worry, which is the arrogance of thinking that things should be different, which incapacitates us with indecision.

 And what is the danger with indecision? Is it necessary to make decisions every day? Have you ever heard the phrase, “It’s a jungle out there?” It’s true. And when we choose to be indecisive because we’re worrying over our lack, due to being emotionally clogged up, we leave much of our destiny in the hands of others—who just go ahead and decide for us.

Emotional counting is when we cease to believe that we have enough if we just can come up with a very good angle. So can I give you a better formula? How about this one: C + P = A

Yes, simply Counting what we have and know instead of coloring it with a dark crayon energizes us to do a bit of P—Planning. How can I take what I have and make it work for today without allowing myself to be overly concerned with tomorrow? And when you legitimately count what is available to you and permit yourself the grace of planning instead of worrying, it always leads to A: action.  Yes, as human beings we just feel better when we’re in motion. “And a body in motion shall remain in motion and a body at rest shall remain at rest.” Likewise, a body that’s emotionally distressed will remain that way and one that is worrying will eventually turn into the proverbial wart.

Ingratitude is not merely acting like we don’t appreciate what has been provided. Ingratitude is also believing that it’s just not enough.

God does not have any victory in making us look stupid. God does not receive glory by abandoning His friends in the middle of the desert. But God is quickly rejected by those who will not deal with their emotions and begin to view their possibilities through a clouded lens which produces worry, causing them to land with indecision.

“Here you go” is when we allow ourselves to be emotionally clean by speaking out our worst fears to God, the mirror or our friend. And “here you got” is when we view what is available to us in a positive light because our cleansed emotions do not prompt us to begin to worry and become indecisive.

If I will clean up my emotions, I can count my blessings and plan to use them well in this day’s period, which will prompt me towards action. Remember, often our problem is not that we are destitute, but rather, that we look beyond today’s need and project what tomorrow will demand.

Counting + Planning = Action. 

But to count with a sense of joy what God has given us demands that we remove all the emotional frustration of the previous day … and give God a good chance to bless us right now.

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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!

Jonathan sings “Let”

Jonathan Sings “Spent This Time”

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

Here You Go–November 9, 2011

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Sitting in the parking lot of a very crowded department store, I saw a gentleman emerge with two large carts, completely filled, heading for his car. I think I noticed it because it is unusual to see someone pushing two buggies. Anyway, he arrived at his car and began to unload the bags from the carts and set them in front of his door. I immediately thought to myself that this plan of action was erroneous–and sure enough, when he pulled out the fourteenth or fifteenth package and placed it in front of his door, it occurred to him that he had blocked the door with his purchases and was therefore unable to load them in. He stood there for a second, trying to figure out how to get the door open without disturbing the pile, and then, in a fit of anger, kicked one of the bags which caused a can to roll out. A car drove by at that exact moment, honking at him as he scurried to retrieve the item. He shook his fist at the driver in frustration and stomped back to his packages, which were still blocking the car door, and in a fit of fury, moved the bags from the door so that he could gain access, all the time growing more and more angry over having to double his efforts. Honestly, I felt sorry for him, while simultaneously wondering how he had gotten a pass from the barn in which he certainly lived.

Here’s what crossed my mind. The scenario before me is very similar to how we conduct our daily lives–not that it’s a matter of grocery bags that we stack in front of our car door, but rather, untapped and unresolved feelings that block the entrance to possibilities. Americans just somehow or another feel stronger when they hide their emotions. We are an insulated people who try to escape any appearance of being vulnerable by denying that we have misgivings and doubts. It renders us insipid because eventually, our feelings block our entrance and exit to anything new that might give us greater insight.

Yes, it is important to be clean with your emotions. The issue becomes how to achieve this. After all, sharing candidly with everyone can certainly be a formula for devastation or betrayal, but failing to clean our emotions out will taint our efforts with the nastiness of unresolved conflict. What should we do?

The problem is residue. Very few of us actually get the purity of a new day’s advantage because yesterday is still jamming up the passage, failing to allow any chance for joy to enter our being. So somehow or another, we have to release our emotions for what they are. It doesn’t really matter how we do it. It may be the true power of prayer. Even if atheists are right and there ends up being no God, having an imaginary friend to share your emotions with on a daily basis is therapeutic.

On those occasions when I do not feel that I can be completely honest with the folks around me, just having a heavenly Father who has an ear without always giving an opinion is priceless.

Sometimes a mirror will do. Yes, just being able to look into my own eyes and speak the truth of my inward parts is a stroke of brilliance.

And then there are those times when a friend can be trusted and we’re able to share temporary, fleeting ideas without fear that they’ll be thrown up to us later. Whatever the case, it is impossible to have good spiritual and mental health if you’re emotionally clogged up, causing the entrance to your soul to be blocked off.

Here are some signs that you are backed up:

1. You wake up with dread. Dread is one of the common indicators that we have untapped emotional quantities in us that should be released in some fashion.

2. You have targeted another human being as the source of your problem. I will admit to you that people can bring conflict into our lives, but they are not the reason we have lost our way. Only I can truly destroy myself. When we start targeting a single member of the human family as the source of our misery, it is because we have not allowed small moments of emotional issues to be released and shown for what they really are–miniscule.

3. If you find yourself reluctant to seek spiritual guidance or enlightenment, it’s pretty sure that you’ve blocked the entrance to that soul of yours with emotional baggage. God always seems far away when our problems are too near. The emotions are the doorway to the soul. If you feel spiritually dry and empty, it’s because your emotions have not been fulfilled, released and given the freedom to be expressed.

For the next few days, I’m going to take you on a journey to what I call the Here Philosophy–because after all, we are here for a while, and it would be excellent to have a life that is conducive to planet earth.

The Here Philosophy begins with “Here you go.”   In other words, “Here’s what I feel.  I can’t change it until I express it.”  Because every thought seems to be right when it is inside of us, and is only revealed for what it truly is when we allow ourselves the blessing of full disclosure.

There is no power in claiming to be a believer in God and being crazy. One of the things the Bible tells us we should have is a sound mind–and that begins with, “Here you go. This is what I feel, right or wrong, and until I clear the way, nothing good can get into my spirit.”

Back to my story–I watched as my friend loaded the last bag in the car, walked around to his entrance, slammed the door, and I realized that from his perspective, his whole day had been ruined. How unfortunate.

You can’t put the bags in front of the door and think that anything is going to work right, and you can’t hide your emotions and pretend like they don’t exist and think that your soul can receive the touch of God.

You are emotional. Stop trying to hide it, and instead find a way–God, mirror or friend–to pop off and get it taken care of.

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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!

Jonathan sings “Let”

Jonathan Sings “Spent This Time”

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

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