Sit Down Comedy … October 11th, 2019

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Sit Down Comedy

I sat and listened quietly, almost mouse-like, as two fellows in their early thirties launched into a great debate, right before my ears, about whether the Joker, as presented in the latest film, would actually be as murderous as predicted.

The discussion became vehement, nearly volatile. Each one of the fine fellows was certain that he had a pinpoint understanding on the true character, if not mental profile, of the villain.

Internally I was smiling.

The truth is, they both could be right since the Joker is a fictitious character.

Yes—you can conjure almost any scenario about him you want in the pursuit of advertising your theory or feathering your nest with ticket sales.

Likewise, of late I have sat in the presence of my Republican and Democrat brothers and sisters as they have mused over whether Jesus would agree with some portion of their political piety. But you see, here’s the problem–in this second discussion between the politicians, they fail to remember that unlike the Joker, Jesus was not a mythical figure.

There is some actual historical confirmation of his life, quite a few renditions of his thinking, and even a record of his untimely demise, recorded for all time by the fastidious Roman Empire.

It is much more difficult to turn Jesus of Nazareth into a mascot rooting for your team.

The Republicans may want to make him conservative as the Democrats profile him as liberal, but the fact of the matter is:

Jesus was Jesonian.

He had a way of thinking, doing, being, believing, loving, caring and moving.

If you choose to study these motions and imitate them, then you might be able to call yourself a Christian. But if you’re going to ignore the biographical information available and the obvious choices he made as a human being, you may pretend he is a mythical being, but it will be very easy to prove his timeline.

Let’s be clear:

Jesus never claimed that he was “Almighty” or “a stable genius.”

He also did not profile himself to be the preacher for the poor—out to get the top one percent of rich folks.

He didn’t rail against abortion and demand that people sacrifice their free will.

But of course, he did favor children, and said they were “like the kingdom of heaven.”

Yet rather than going through a litany of issues that have been placed upon his shoulders as burdens to carry, let’s look at two things we do know about him, based upon his own words and actions:

1. On a fine afternoon, when approached by a rich, young ruler, who addressed him as “Good Master,” Jesus replied, “Why do you call me good? There’s none good but God.”

Now, Jesus had done enough kindly deeds, and dare we say, even merciful acts of miraculous proportions, to have absorbed up the word “good” without seeming to be puffed up.

But you see, he didn’t.

He portrayed that one of the great frailties of human thinking is to believe, promote and toot your horn as you trumpet your goodness to the populace.

Once again, he refused to call himself good.

2. Talking to his disciples one morning, he said, “When you’ve done that which is expected of you, call yourself an unprofitable servant.”

This was certainly an unpopular position with folks around the world who wanted to feel persecuted, let down, set aside or ignored.

Jesus made it clear that if you’re not excelling, you’re bitching.

So when it comes to those Republicans who love to talk about how great our nation is or what mighty deeds are being achieved, how they’re “the deciders,” or even how exceptional we are as a country…

Don’t get ready for Jesus to show up at the rally.

He kept his perspective.

Human beings don’t gain any power by insisting they have it.

There’s none good but God.

And for all my Democrat buddies out there, who think the bad rich people who have made money are the reason that the poor folks are unmotivated, broken, selfish and begging, they should take another gander at what Jesus really promotes before they dress him up in his blue robe and roll him out at the Convention. For Jesus said, “Stop feeling sorry for yourself. If you do what you’re supposed to do, that doesn’t even get you in the door.”

Set your GPS for the second mile.

Now, if you like this statement of Jesus, I would invite you to join me and a chosen few in living it out joyfully. If you don’t, then hang around.

There’ll be an elephant or a donkey along real soon to carry you to the voting booth.

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Jonathots … November 27th, 2018


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Jonathan's Handbook of Hands

Darwin didn’t know anything about hammers, nails or carpentry. He was a banker who could build a portfolio but not a cupboard.

Yet there was a simple repair which required a couple of nails in a cabinet in his garage, so he decided to take the hammer from the drawer and do the work himself. He lined up the nail, failed to pay adequate attention, and ended up slamming his hand with the hammer.

It was shocking and it hurt.

The first thing he did was drop the hammer, take his right hand, reach over, and caress his wounded hand.

It was natural.

We all do it.

We have a toothache–we put our hand up to cradle our jaw.

A sore knee means that one of our hands will reach down and touch the hurtful area and massage it.

Built within the mechanism of our humanity is a notion that we have a “healing touch.” We instinctively want to touch the area of our body that is aching, bleeding or sore.

Yet for some reason, over the years we’ve denied this innate gesture–thinking it was either too religious or too intrusive.

There is one thing for sure–pain brings physical discomfort, but it also invites great emotional distress. Simply having one, two or many friends gather around us and lay their hands on us to express their empathy and tenderness always immediately heals the “emotional distress portion” of the problem.

People say they don’t believe in miraculous healing. Fine. But even if there were no God, there is still healing in every person’s hands, to reach into the soul and heart of another traveler, and for a few minutes–or maybe forever–alleviate the anxiety and terror that accompanies a diagnosis.

If I had a friend who was living thousands of miles away and I found out he was ill, I would call all my family and acquaintances together, purchase an oversized t-shirt and have everybody wear it for twenty seconds, then pack it up and send it to my friend, with the explanation that it was filled with the touch of all his supporters. He should wear it with confidence.

When a woman believed that a carpenter from Nazareth could heal her by touching the garments which were clinging to his body–well, she was miraculously cured because of her faith.

I’m not trying to pretend that any of us are Jesus, but I’m also not trying to live my life like I’m a clumsy monkey’s uncle.

Touch has mercy.

Touch has healing.

It is a way we can intervene in the lives of those around us who are suffering. For we will never know how much virtue we have within us that can be passed along through our compassionate fingertips.

If there’s a need for healing, touch someone.

The worst thing that can happen is closeness.

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Jesonian … April 7th, 2018

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Every story is better told and more effective when the facts are allowed to line up in a reasonable order.

Such is true of the Gospel of Jesus.

Theologians spend so much time proclaiming him the Son of God that they lose the fragrance and uniqueness of the Son of Man. In an attempt to make the tale “super” they lose all of the “natural.”

The average person going to church is deluded by an array of facts which just don’t add up to a crucifixion.

One of those great misconceptions is that Jesus was extremely popular. There were certainly occasions when his crowd appeal spiked, but it always revolved around three stimuli:

A. Was he doing miracles?

B. Was he feeding people?

C. Did it look like he was the Jewish Messiah?

Whenever the populace became convinced through these three “signs and wonders” that God was going to save them from the Romans, they rallied around Jesus. Whenever it was obvious that he was intent on sharing a more universal message which included people that were not Jewish, they slipped away.

Let’s look at some facts:

1. Jesus was rejected by his home town, Nazareth, and never able to return again. Not only was he ignored, but threatened with death–dangled from the edge of a cliff.

2. Even though Jesus held a great revival in Samaria with the testimony from a woman at a well, when he returned to the city, he was forbidden to enter by the town fathers because they found out he also ministered to the Jews.

3. When he fed the 5,000 in Galilee, the hordes followed him for a while–until he told them this was not a food pantry, but rather, that his words and life were the message they were supposed to “eat.” They all departed–except for the twelve.

4. Over and over again, interest sparked with the Pharisees, but when Simon, one of their number, invited him to a special meal, the Pharisee snubbed Jesus and treated him like an outsider.

5. After the resurrection, it is recorded that over 500 people saw Jesus–witnesses of the miracle. But on the Day of Pentecost only 120 remained. Kind of a drastic drop-off.

I guess we feel the need to believe that Jesus was greatly appreciated by the people in his generation, and taken to be crucified only by a handful of powerful critics.

It’s just not true.

We are told that most of the time he dealt with twelve disciples–and he focused on three of them, to be the core leaders. We have some idea of the size of a normal following of Jesus when the scriptures let us know that he sent seventy out to share in his name.

If you are trying to give credence to the message of Jesus by pointing out how enthralled the Jewish community and the Roman oppressors were, then you will be sadly disappointed when you read the actual accounts of his mistreatment and the number of individuals who desperately tried to ignore him.

We’re even told that John the Baptist’s disciples did not believe in him.

Jesus had a model. It’s very simple: Develop a hot core of followers and let them radiate the message.

Nowadays we are so eager to build up numbers in the sanctuary that we fail to build up people. Jesus basically spent three-and-a-half years working on twelve human beings.

  • One of them betrayed him and killed himself.
  • Another denied him, and was prepared to leave the work.
  • Yet another one doubted that a resurrection was possible.

Do not despair–Jesus suffered the same slings and arrows of human apathy that you and I encounter every day. He just had a great system. So when he left the planet, there was a handful of people who knew what he taught, knew what he stood for and were prepared to be filled with the Holy Spirit, to give them the power and insight to take the Gospel to the whole world.

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Good News and Better News … April 2nd, 2018

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Little Jonathan, Jonny, Precious, Jon, Big Jon, Rock, singer, artist, Jonathan Richard, lover, boyfriend, daddy, Papa, father, traveler, performer, controversial, G-Pop, blogger, songwriter, friend.

These are all names associated with me over the years. What a list.

I am not that significant. But I also must tell you that Alexander the Great was not that great, and Ming the Merciful was often fussy.

Names are bandied about to explain what we feel rather than to clarify what someone or something is. This came to my mind last night when I watched the NBC version of “Jesus Christ, Superstar.”

Not only did he need to be “Jesus,” but someone required him to take on the name “Christ.” And not only “Christ” but now, by reputation, he has become a “Superstar.”

A list of such names and adjectives is accumulated in Isaiah from the Good Book.

  • Wonderful
  • Counselor
  • Mighty God
  • Everlasting Father
  • Prince of Peace

I suppose most people would proclaim that Jesus was all of those. But I’m sorry. “Wonderful” just does not do it for me. Sitting around and praising a deity for his goodness does very little to enhance my life.

Some folks would find it essential to establish that he is a “Mighty God,” but I think mastering the rising of the sun and the setting of the same makes that pretty clear.

“Everlasting Father?” I actually need a father here. I don’t know if I need one for eternity.

“Prince of Peace?” That’s cool, but the Prince of Peace also required that I be a peace-maker.

As I look at all the superlatives used to describe the life of Jesus of Nazareth, the one that stands out to me from the list is “Counselor.”

Jesus is my counselor. He has kept me out of jail. He has assisted me in maintaining my fibers of sanity. He has led me in understanding how to become more valuable to the human beings around me. He has informed me on discovering when a door is closed and when it is open.

He taught me to ask and seek and knock instead of complaining about the menu that life has thrust at me.

Because I have accepted him as my counselor, wonderful things have happened. I have been able, through my testimony, to confirm that he is a “Mighty God” and an “Everlasting Father.” And peace? He has been a Prince.

But more importantly, he is my counselor because he is my confidante, and for those who pursue the path of atheism, he is my invisible friend, whom I frequently talk to. And if he doesn’t exist, he’s still a great therapy session. After all, not everyone can afford two hundred dollars an hour for a professional.

I do believe that what you call Jesus does determine the level of religiosity which plagues your soul–because every drop of traditional religion that inhabits us also inhibits us.

So the good news is that Jesus, being versatile, has many names, and just like you and me, has taken on a variety of personas.

And the better news is, you can feel free to call him anything you want.

 

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G-Poppers … March 30th, 2018

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He was anxiously looking forward to spending the weekend alone with his beautiful wife, Claudia, near the sea. The responsibilities of his position were unyielding, leaving him negotiating all sorts of foolish squabbles, bringing him home at night still reeling from the grumpy day.

Unfortunately, Claudia had been the victim of many of his temper tantrums, as he ranted and raged about the inflexibility of the people who dubbed themselves “the children of Abraham.” He just needed to get away.

Caesarea was perfect.

It had been built by the Roman occupiers as a little piece of home–and freedom–in the midst of this inflexible, dim-witted region. For a few days, he could pretend he was civilized again instead of trying to govern a pack of wolves who refused to accept the fact that they were caged.

Resting in his bed, he was awakened early on Friday morning with a request to meet with Caiaphas, the high priest of the Jewish people, to adjudicate a particularly difficult matter. Worse was that Caiaphas and his entourage refused to come into the Great Hall to see him because they were in the midst of their Passover celebration, and to be in the presence of him, a Gentile, made them unclean.

He shook his head, baffled by how foolish they were to make these contentions, for some reason thinking they were not offensive.

Arriving in the outer hall, he was surrounded by bearded, austere theologians, who ushered in a weary, wobbly man obviously suffering from punishment.

Within seconds, he realized that their request for his intervention was not needed. It was one of their pieces of fussiness–something about their God. A reference to a Messiah.

Realizing that the young, abused gentleman in front of him was from Galilee, he decided to pawn the situation off on Herod, whom he hated. As he went back to his chambers to tell his wife of his great solution, she appeared before him with terror in her eyes.

She’d had a dream. It was a dream about a man who would be brought to him, who was accused of great indignities, but was truly innocent.

He listened carefully to Claudia. She was not normally given to such outbursts. He trusted her. She advised him that he must avoid bringing any judgment on this man.

They had barely finished their conversation when Caiaphas and his entourage returned. Apparently Herod had passed the case back over to him.

A little spooked by Claudia’s dream, but even more, aggravated by being disturbed on the morning of his departure, he strolled onto the porch of the outer hallway to interview the young Galilean.

He was a little embarrassed. The religious leaders of the Jews seemed very intent on harming this man, while the fellow stood quietly by, offering no defense. Normally a man in this position, surrounded by accusers, would become defensive, agitated and sometimes even violent. But not this chap.

It was unnerving.

Accusation after witness after lie after deception were presented, with nothing congealing into an airtight complaint against the young man from Nazareth.

Then Caiaphas brought up Caesar. It was a name that terrified him. He considered the fact that he had been made governor of Judea to keep peace, and try to bring civilization to this backward nation. It was a formidable task. Of course, Caesar wouldn’t know that. He would only gauge results.

The religious leaders wanted the young man dead.

On this Friday morning, Governor Pontius Pilate was anxious to get away for the weekend. Who was he to challenge the contents of their oral law and practices?

So…he relented.

Symbolically washing his hands clean of the whole affair, he sentenced the quiet Nazarene to death. It was the quickest, simplest and seemingly most intelligent course of action.

In less than an hour, he had packed his things and by nightfall he was in Caesarea. He had a brief flashback about the morning’s activities, but it was quickly forgotten when Claudia cuddled up to him and they sipped delicious wine from the vineyards of Italy.

He had no idea that his Friday morning, seemingly insignificant encounter with Jesus of Nazareth would be the only remembrance that history would provide of him.

He was the one who gave permission to kill the Christ. He was in too big a hurry to consider any other possibility than ease.

G-Pop is thinking about that on this Good Friday.

What might he be ignoring?

 

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Jesonian … December 23rd, 2017

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A baby being born in a sheep stall in Bethlehem of poor Palestinian parents is not difficult to believe. After all, poverty extracts much of the comfort of good cheer.

Maybe the angels seem a little far-fetched to you (but you know how it is with stories about your young’uns.)

Believing that a year-and-a-half later, a troop of astrologers made their way into town to proclaim this child the hope of the world and the King of the Jews does seem highly unlikely–yet there are always people who have their eccentric ways and live them out because they have enough money to fund them.

Comprehending that there could be a leader of a nation who was so insecure that he was frightened of any competition, and scared a young family away, fearing for their lives, does not seem improbable. Matter of fact, it could be ripped from the headlines. One more refugee family ending up in a foreign land where they have neither kin nor kind is certainly well within the grasp of reality.

Having that young boy return to his alleged home town at age seven, carrying all the trappings and mannerisms of the heathen, would certainly make growing up difficult, not to mention the colliding wills of an every-growing collection of siblings.

Thinking that this boy would have no interest in carpentry, but instead, a precocious passion for humanity and the things of Spirit, is not implausible. After all, he’s the ugly duckling, whom we assume might one day become a swan. He grew in wisdom and stature, and even though he was a foreigner, gradually gained the favor of his neighbors.

It’s not difficult to believe that he lost his Papa, his only real connection with the village of Nazareth, and like many young men, launched out to find some purpose, ending up at the Jordan River, interacting with a wild and wooly cousin named John.

You can certainly believe he got baptized, and probably went out into the wilderness for a while, just to find himself, coming back with claims of interfacing with the devil. You might even forgive his youthful explanation, knowing that to some degree, we all wrestle with our demons.

But the story stalls.

He is rejected by his home town, moves to Capernaum next to the Sea of Galilee, encompassed by a sea of apathy, picks up some friends and followers, and starts traveling the countryside. It is hit-and-miss at best.

It is at this point that many folks who consider themselves to be intelligent and reasonable become cynical about a miracle-worker who calms the waves and casts out demons. But to a certain degree, even those sardonic souls might be able to explain away this and that, but still maintain their interest in the story–especially since he begins to hammer away at religion, loses the favor of the crowd and opens the door of the hierarchy to plot against him, find a betrayer, try him, beat him, nail him to a cross and kill him.

If the story ended there, the baby born in Bethlehem had a life that was a complete failure. His friends are scattered in every direction, his movement was about to become a joke–a piece of farcical history.

So this is where faith comes in. That’s right–you don’t really have to use much to this point. You can just glide along with the story, picking and choosing at will.

But the tale that unfolds, spoken of by those who claimed to be eyewitnesses, is that this baby of Bethlehem rose from the dead.

Now … faith is in full function and also full demand.

Did Jesus of Bethlehem, Egypt, Nazareth, Jordan River, wilderness, Capernaum and Mesopotamia end his life as a failure, beaten down by his critics?

Or did God, the power of the Ethos and the Spirit of the Universe, choose to resurrect him to give the message one more chance?

It’s a very important decision.

It changes this story from a baby shower to a heaven-ordained miracle.

For as we know, several weeks later, a hundred and twenty people in an Upper Room believed it was true. Twelve disciples gave their lives as martyrs, insisting they had witnessed a resurrection.

And at last count, 2.2 billion humans still living two thousand years later have taken their faith beyond the crib, past the crypt … and placed it in the Christ.

 

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Jesonian … December 16th, 2017

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A day in the life of Jesus of Nazareth.

Although most theologians would like to focus on the 24-hour period leading up to his crucifixion, the Gospels do offer us other examples. One of the primal outlines is found in Matthew, Chapters 12 and 13. You may feel free to read it–I will not tax your spirit or patience by parsing it verse by verse–but there are six things that become clear from perusing the story line.

1. Jesus was not a theologian.

His disciples walked through a field of corn, and even though it was forbidden by religious edict to eat it–especially on the Sabbath–they partook. Jesus defended them to the Pharisees, who were ready to leap upon the activity to prove the unworthiness of Jesus’ Kingdom movement. During this exchange, Jesus makes a profound statement: “The Sabbath is for man.”

It is geared for us, in order to replenish, rejuvenate and renovate our thinking.

2. Jesus was not a rabbi.

He strolls into a synagogue and disrupts the service by healing a man with a withered hand. He is accosted for this untimely interruption, and replies, “Each one of you will save a donkey from a trench, but you won’t do anything to help this fellow.”

Yes, Jesus was guilty of interrupting the flow of worship.

And contrary to the common patter:

3. Jesus was not a Jew.

Not only did he break the Jewish laws, taunting them in doing so, but we are informed that he was a voice, a spirit and a teacher in whom the “Gentiles could trust.”

Even though his proximity to Jerusalem might generate the assumption that he was a Son of Abraham, he made it clear that he was around “before Abraham.”

Shall we press on?

4. He was certainly not a traditionalist.

The religious leaders believed he was satanic. They swore he was casting out demons by the power of Satan. Of course, none of them could cast out a demon, but Jesus made it clear that he had come to destroy the works of the devil and that they needed to be careful not to mock the moving of the Holy Spirit just because it was inconvenient to their case.

So Jesus is not a theologian, a rabbi, a Jew or a traditionalist. And by the way:

5. Jesus was not a family man.

When interrupted by his mother, brothers and sisters during a time of ministry (because they wanted to take him home, thinking he was crazy) Jesus turned to the crowd and claimed them as his new family.

Yes, Jesus might find it difficult to be in a church service, welling up over allegiance with people simply because of shared DNA.

So as Matthew describes a day in the life of Jesus, when he defies theologians, upsets a rabbi, walks away from Judaism, breaks traditions and sidesteps family involvement, he ends the discourse by establishing who the Nazarene really was.

For the Master sat down and told a story: “The sower went forth to sow seed.”

6. Jesus is a sower.

He’s not concerned about isolating off perfect soil, but merely casting the seed in the direction of any possibility.

A day in the life of Jesus will let you know that his message was human, geared for humans, addressed to humans, human-friendly and human-saving.

He discarded religion in favor of the reality of those souls God sent his way.

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