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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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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Ohio, Oh-My-Oh… September 29, 2012

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I was born in a small village in Central Ohio.

I should know from my adequate education in the state that it is actually redundant to say “small” and “village” together. But I did it so that I could correct myself, to demonstrate the style of thinking I was introduced to, being a resident of this fine state.

For in our town, although quite tiny, we had a nudist and a family whose members were in good standing with the John Birch Society. We had Democrats and Republicans living right next to each other and rarely complaining about their neighbor’s crab grass. Ohio was an unusual state to me because on any street corner you could have had John Lennon and Yoko Ono living in one house while just down the road you might find the home of Rush Limbaugh.

So I was curious about what was going to happen when I came into Ohio with my declaration of “NoOne is better than anyone else.”

Oh-My One: At my first stop, I was surprised when a man came to my table and said, “Jonathan, aren’t men better than women? Isn’t that what the Bible says?”

In earshot was a lady who immediately stepped up and piped in. “No, my friends. It is a scientific fact that women are superior to men.”

So you can see, whatever I said next was going to displease someone. Whenever I get into that position, I think it is just best to displease everybody.

I suppose there are those who would contend that the battle between the sexes has existed since ever Adam and Eve had a quarrel over splitting an apple. But the truth of the matter is that the differences between the sexes is mostly made up to maintain a split marketing plan for the public so as to offer products for one gender and others for the opposite.

Here’s the truth–“in the Kingdom of God, there is neither male nor female.” That’s what it says in the Bible. Now, I know you can find scriptures that contradict that concept, but they all come from a place where someone was trying to appease the existing squabble instead of speaking the truth.

So let’s take a quick look at this: if the Kingdom of God is within us (also from the Bible) and in the Kingdom of God there is neither male nor female, it is safe to assume that within us is a universal commonality, whether we be male or female.

Obviously, there are physical differences which create great possibilities for pleasure.  Glory be to God. But truly intelligent people are always in the pursuit of similarity instead of advocating difference.

I have worked with men and I have traveled with women, and I will tell you that the best ones have forsaken their boundaries of gender and have just become human. I have been told that women are more emotional than men, but the truth of the matter is that it’s quite the contrary. Having played sports and indulged in outdoor activities with men, they are just as emotional, if not more so, when their particular team or hunt has been benefitted through victory.

Separating ourselves into a gender battle in this country is one of the worst errors being propagated across the board. You hear it in church, you see it on television, you read it in books. Men are not better than women and women are not better than men.

If you don’t believe me, please make note of the “affirmative action program” Jesus conducted during his ministry on earth. Arriving ina completely male-dominated society, Jesus chose to thrust women and children into the forefront of his ministry. If you remove all the women from the life of Jesus, he not only loses funding, he also loses friends to be with him during his hour of torture AND anyone to recognize that he had risen from his the dead.

When the disciples wanted to get rid of the children, Jesus rebuked them and told them that children were what all humans should become if they wanted to enter the kingdom of heaven.

If you want to be Jewish or Muslim, you can continue to promote the differences between men and women. But you can’t do it if you’re a Christian. NoOne is better than anyone else–and it begins with Adam and Eve.

Oh-My Two: “Jonathan, maybe I just want to be better. It’s a free country.”

This one surprised me a little bit. Even though it appears to possess a bit of honesty, the odor that rises from this heap of misrepresentation stings your eyes and makes you pull away. I, for one, am disgusted with the notion that we are unique “because of our freedom.” Matter of fact, “freedom” may the most over-rated, overused and least understood word in all the world. Now, this is not because our forefathers didn’t explain that freedom only works when extended in equality to others, but over the years, we have decided that freedom is a torch, passed from one dominant race, party or religion to another, based upon the popularity of an idea. The truth of the matter is, no one is free to rob someone else of equality.

The Bible makes it clear that “where the spirit of God is, there is liberty”–and liberty is freedom which has graduated from high school and has taken at least a couple of courses in college. Whereas freedom merely demands “our own way,” liberty understands that when you seek to have your own preferences honored, it is only valid when you’re willing to honor the preferences of others.

As far as I know, there are only three ways to live on this planet:

  • by law, where whatever is permissible in this present hour is enforced, regulated and even prosecuted.
  • by grace, where you continue to do dumb things, and believe that you’re just so pretty and good-looking that everything should work out fine.
  • or by liberty, which means you consider your own desires and pursue them, fuilly aware that you will have to extend the same mercy and possibility to others.

When you arrive at that liberty, you find God, a heavenly Father who desired to send a messenger, His son, but was forced to stand back and accept the rejection of the ignorant masses as they put his boy to death. Now, that’s liberty.

He then turns it around and changes that vicious assassination into salvation for the hapless murderers. That’s grace.

So you can continue to insist that you have the right to be mean because someone bled and died on a beach in Normandy, but eventually, if you’re going to live in this country and abide under the true spirit of God, you will have to afford that liberty to everyone else–thus, once again, establishing that NoOne is better than anyone else.

So in Ohio I found those who thought they were unique by gender–both male and female. And they thought they were unique in their freedom and had the right to be errant and inconsiderate if they so desired. But stupidity only survives until smart has time to put on its shoes–and then stupidity is not just a mistake, it becomes the enemy of mankind.

In this country, only one generation back in our history, we contended that segregation of the races was permissible because … well, we preferred it. But whether we like it or not, every choice of freedom has to pass the test of submitting to the eternal concept of NoOne is better than anyone else.

I send my thanks to Ohio for giving me a place to lay my head until I was ready to use it. But I warn them that uniqueness born of gender or merely screamed out in freedom must honor the fact that liberty is where God builds His house.

So we’ve been to California, Alabama, Missouri, Texas and Ohio, fielding the questions from these “pitchers of culture.” Tomorrow we will sum up what we have learned on our nationwide quest–because … The Caper Continues.

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Alabama Allegations… September 26, 2012

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Alabama is not my “sweet home,” but I have always enjoyed my numerous visits to the state.

It is located on about the third notch of the Bible Belt (even though with me being blubbery, I prefer an elastic waist). As is often the case in many of the communities in our southern regions, people in Alabama go to church a lot, respecting God and country with tremendous personal fervor. So when I arrived with my proclamation that “NoOne is better than anyone else,” I found myself greeted with a small smile, only partially disguising a wince. My Alabamian brothers and sisters immediately offered two allegations to potentially contradict my theorem:

Allegation One: “Jonathan, isn’t the Jewish nation the chosen people? Doesn’t that make them better?”

I would like to introduce each and every one of you–and also re-acquaint myself–with the power of reading the Bible to discover a consensus. Facts are, it is easy to find a single verse in the Bible to back up almost any notion, perversion, lifestyle or inclination. But when you pursue further, you will discover that many other verses not only temper that particular assertion, but sometimes update or flat-out contradict it.

Since we are Christians and not followers of Moses, we have to go to the words of Jesus to find what he thought about this concept of the Children of Israel being “chosen.” Matter of fact, I will guarantee you on this fine morning that the main reason he hung between earth and sky, suspended by nails, was that they did not favor his opinion on their manifest destiny. He told the Jews bluntly that they took “great pride in being the children of Abraham” but that God had every capability of taking a common rock laying beside the road and turning it into a “child of Abraham.” You can imagine, considering the nationalistic pride frothing at the time, that this particular teaching was met with quite a bit of resistance.

We are also clearly informed that God is “no respecter of persons,” so even though there are those who would love to propagate the notion that Israel and the Jews are a chosen people, favored by God, and therefore they are unique by birthright, the general consensus of the Bible, which we call the Word, is that God has opened His door to include everyone equally.

So as not to get a bunch of emails from people suggesting that I am anti-Semitic, I will tell you that I believe that Israel has every right to exist, be respected and honored for her traditions. It’s just that since  the time that Jesus walked the earth, Jewish people are not preferred above Arabs or anyone else.

Allegation Two: “Jonathan, you certainly believe that Billy Graham is better than Charles Manson, right?”

You see, this is the idea that we are unique by salvation. I can always tell when people are desperate to win an argument. They either bring up their pet dog, Hitler or Charles Manson. They mention their pet dog because they want to create sympathy; Hitler, to prove how bad people are, and Charles Manson when they want to convince you that some people are beyond hope.

So let me tell you what I told these fine folks from Alabama. Actually, thief that I am, I borrowed the sentiment from Jesus. Talking one day to a group of gossiping Galileans, he asked them if they thought that the people who had recently been killed by Pilate were worse sinners than those who didn’t die. And after all, we do the same thing. If someone survives a hurricane, we insist that “God was with them,” which, whether we like it or not, connotes that the people who perished were at least secretly somewhat dastardly.

Jesus’ response to his own question about this “worse sinner” possibility was, “Except you repent, you will all likewise perish.”

You see, folks, it’s basically a PR situation–life comes along and the first thing you need to do is participate. It is true that there are greater benefits if you indulge in earthly activities by following the rules, but when you don’t, you get a second crack, which is called repentance. If you repent, you are blessed with a clean slate to participate again with a little bit more wisdom.

It doesn’t matter whether you are Billy Graham or Charles Manson–the same rules apply. Participate and repent. If you don’t choose to participate, don’t expect anything to happen. If you do participate, make a mistake and stubbornly refuse to repent, don’t expect to be able to participate anymore. It’s really that simple.

Many people were shocked when Charles Manson was the murderous propagator of so many slain, innocent people. I, too, was appalled, but I awaited the great miracle of repentance. It never came. So righteously, Charlie-boy doesn’t get to participate anymore.

But honestly, folks, if we found out something bad about Billy Graham tomorrow, most Christians would abandon him. I, instead, would wait for the repentance. And once my dear brother repented, I would welcome him back into the family of man, to participate.

Do I believe that Billy Graham is better than Charles Manson? Not by creation. He gains footing on earth’s soil because he repents–and if he didn’t repent, like Mr. Manson, he would find himself perishing one miserable day at a time, in a tiny jail cell.

So participate, and if you don’t, please understand that nothing will happen. After you participate, take note of the quality of your efforts and repent where stupidity has clearly been pointed out to you. It gives you license to participate again. There is no such thing as “worse sinners.” Just terrible repenters.

So this ended my little excursion into Alabama, where people tried to establish that we are unique by birthright, or, as in the case of Billy Graham, unique by salvation. But after I had a friendly conversation with these lovely folks, I made it clear to them that God is no respecter of persons, and that the key to human life is participating and repenting.

I moved on down the road and landed in Missouri, which they refer to as the “Show Me” State. I was certainly not going to escape their scrutiny with my new-fangled phrase.

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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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