Resource and Remedy … January 13, 2014

Jonathots Daily Blog

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argue new testamentEach of us considers “normal” to be whatever we view as acceptable behavior, and has become our fallback position. So if you grew up around worriers, it seems natural to worry. If you were surrounded by gruff, unemotional human beings, you will think it is bizarre to be gregarious. If your background is in Judeo-Christian values, then you will be caught in the paradox between “do I love my neighbor as myself?” or is it “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth?”

Even though we all believe we’re on a quest to find a remedy for our everyday problems and even our nagging addictions, we might want to stop and realize that the resources we tap will certainly determine the quality of the treatment.

Yesterday as I met the delightful and hungry souls at Cypress Trails United Methodist Church, I realized that each of them was  joining into a body of believers while secretly pursuing a private belief system of their own, which had been infused into them from the time they were tiny children, and is now “normal,” even if unfulfilling.

For we are much more likely to accept an unfulfilling life than we are to question our “normal.”

To challenge our upbringing means we put ourselves on the outside, looking in–and that sense of abandonment can be terrifying.

But every remedy I have found in my life has demanded that I question my resources, values and even faith to set in motion a new miracle for myself.

After all, in my case, it is difficult to get over obesity because I was taught that food is love. It’s like trying to remove affection from existence. It seems unnatural. It seems ungodly.

Take a moment every day and ask a simple question: am I doing this because I have chosen to do so and it has proven to make me a better human being, or am I repeating behavior that I learned, which has trapped me in the person I am instead of the person I desire to become?

In the realm of spirituality, ten commandments that we dangle over the collective head of humanity does not always jive with “judge not, lest ye be judged.”

You have to make a choice.

And when you’re choosing, just make sure that what you follow breeds life … instead of stifling it.

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Click for details on the SpirTed 2014 presentation

Click for details on the SpirTed 2014 presentation

Please contact Jonathan’s agent, Jackie Barnett, at (615) 481-1474, for information about scheduling SpiriTed in 2014.

click to hear music from Spirited 2014

click to hear music from Spirited 2014

Recess… November 8, 2013

Jonathots Daily Blog

(2061)

children playgroundThe bell rang. Time for recess.

I looked around the room into the faces of twenty-nine other young souls like myself, in Mrs. Arnold’s third grade class and realized that the ringing meant different things to each and every one.

Some were smiling, wiggling in anticipation. Others seemed resigned, as if bored with the prospect. And there were those who were terrified–fully aware that in a few short minutes they would be out on the playground with their peers, trying to compete and falling short of the glory of childhood acceptance.

  • There would be interaction.
  • There would be competition.
  • There would be challenges.
  • There would be ridicule.

It is part of the process. And as we pursue a much-needed campaign against the brutality of bullying, we must be careful not to hamper the interaction among younger folks when they are separated from grown-ups–an exposure that brings about the necessary evolution toward character, confidence and realization.

For when you discuss “peer,” there are three different categories. If you think that each and every time children fuss, argue and fight, it is wrong–bullying–you are disrupting the human jungle that DOES provide a great barometer for cleaning out abnormalities and setting apart better paths.

For instance, I failed to be called a “fat boy” enough in school to rid myself of obesity. I was TOO well-liked, too personable and in some ways, too talented to be challenged over a weakness that has now plagued me my whole life. It should have been taken care of by:

1. Peer presence.

This is just the blending of kids getting together to discover solutions on the best way to get along. It is characterized by talking. This is why sometimes it’s stupid in school, to tell kids to be quiet. They are trying to find a way to blend with each other. Not everything can be solved by an adult guidance counselor. We need our friends to talk with, to blend with and to discover solutions. And sometimes this leads to:

2. Peer pressure.

It is essential in the human race that we learn how to bend. We must discover our differences and even be willing to argue about them in order to produce adequate compromises. Too many teachers think that because kids are arguing, it’s a sign of severe difficulty. The truth is, peer pressure teaches us to bend, acknowledge our differences, and if necessary, fuss our way through them.

I certainly agree that peer pressure can go too far and can lead to the promotion of violent behavior. But I will also tell you there is no person who appears to the youngster to be old, who can intervene and produce the results that they can hammer out, on their own, together.

When you live in the adult world, the only power you have over the young is to teach them right, wrong, manners and gentleness. Then they must go out in the midst of peer pressure and work out the specifics. Occasionally this can get carried away and lead to:

3. Peer persecution.

Some kids feel compelled to bind other children by bullying them.  How can you identify what’s bullying and what is viable peer pressure?

Bullying is when the arguing stops, one person ceases to speak and becomes the target of the other one, who dominates.

That’s right. If two kids are arguing, give them a chance to work it out. But if you come across two kids and only one of them is yelling, ridiculing the other child, who is standing there, without speech, just taking it–you have just come across bullying.

It is a mistake for people who are no longer in school, no longer youthful and no longer understand the playground, to try to come in and make things right for everybody by keeping things calm and on an even keel. You are just making matters worse. Learn the difference.

  • The young students in our country need peer presence. They must be given a human mixer to blend, discovering solutions.
  • Sometimes this leads to peer pressure, where kids will argue, trying to bend to one another’s inclinations, and in the process, uncover differences which eventually are included in the flow.
  • But we should never let it go into peer persecution, where one kid binds another one up with bullying. This is easily identified by the absence of the persecuted child offering any verbal defense.

I recently heard about a young man who felt he was being bullied, so he committed suicide. Here’s my problem with that: why wasn’t there a climate where this young man could express to his parents, family or teachers his need for assistance?

And why are we attacking the very delicate procedure of peer interaction, trying to eliminate anything WE would consider negative, just because in this case, the system failed one young man?

I am saddened by his death, but alerted to the fact that the problem here was not just bullying. It was a fellow who didn’t think he could argue back to the peer pressure, and also did not feel that anybody outside the playground would either hear or have the power to change his circumstances.

We need peer presence. Students must learn to blend.

I think we need some peer pressure, to bend, where kids have the chance to produce some of their own solutions through argument.

What we do need to stop is peer persecution, binding, where one person is silenced as the others continue to rail against him or her.

Can we make these distinctions? If we can’t, we need to stop calling ourselves parents, teachers and leaders.

Our society is overwrought. Some things are necessary to create the cultural revolution in each generation that progresses the idea of humanity instead of trying to keep everything calm, but stalled.

I know it is possible. I did it with all six of the sons I raised. I let them blend and I let them bend. Only when they began to bind each other with persecution did I step in. Because of that, I think each one of them has grown up with a better understanding of who he is and how he fits in.

Bullying–it’s when one person stops talking and runs for cover, only to be chased by an assailant.

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

Peace with the Pieces… March 10, 2013

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piecesIt was odd.

I was suddenly overwhelmed by the notion of my own inadequacy.

Thinking about the sharing I would be doing tomorrow morning at Cornerstone United Methodist Church in Houston, Texas, I was confronted with my lacking. I am a bald, aging man with limited mobility, who has suffered–or at least struggled–with obesity all my life.

To say that I feel humbled by the notion of offering exhortation, edification or even insight into the lives of others would be an oversimplification of my vacancy. I don’t know whether anybody is worthy to be a voice crying in the wilderness–especially entrusted with the concept of challenging people to “prepare the way of the Lord and make His paths straight.”

Somehow or another it seems prudent for me to straighten some of my own paths before instructing others in path-straightening.

But what does that mean? Am I to sit around and wait until I am a worthy representation of goodness in order to praise goodness, point to goodness or even stand in awe of what goodness can do?

I am pieces, trying to make peace with myself.

I am chunks of what could be a whole, but doesn’t really promise to ever coagulate.

I am an incomplete vessel who really has only one responsibility–don’t lie about my insufficiency. Don’t exaggerate my qualification. And don’t pretend to be anything other than the subtotal of my pieces.

When my knees gave out on me late last year, I thought my time  of speaking in front of audiences and pouring out my heart was over. I honestly did not want to be a disgrace to the kingdom of God through my weakness. I was determined to develop an excuse for escaping my continued participation in the unification of the human spirit with the presence of God by pulling up lame–literally.

Maybe it’s just that I felt stupid. Maybe “wheeling” my way in front of an audience to hobble to my keyboard was just a little too much hyperbole of uselessness.

I don’t know. It wasn’t that I wanted to quit. It just seemed that quitting was an honorable thing. Make room for someone who’s more … whole.

And then I remembered the words that God said to Adam in the Garden when his little buddy was hiding among the fig leaves.

“Why are you hiding?”

“I’m hiding because I’m naked,” said Adam.

“Who told you that you were naked?” asked God.

Yes–who told me I was unworthy? Who told me I was weak and beyond redemption? Who told me that it was time to graze in the grass instead of  shepherding people to greener pastures?

I did.

I decided what was righteous.

I decided what was beautiful.

I decided what was marketable.

God hasn’t worked with me for these many years and seen me crash and bounce to the earth to not allow me to continue to speak my mind.

I’m finding ways to be at peace with my pieces. For after all, being complete is over-rated. When we express our weakness, those around us perceive us as stronger by the confession. When we pronounce our strengths, yet obviously sprout flaws, we are only made weaker by our boasting.

I come to you in pieces, trying to find a way to have peace with them.

You can decide … whether it’s worth hearing.

The producers of jonathots would humbly request a yearly subscription donation of $10 for this wonderful, inspirational opportunity

The Reason for Rules … December 8, 2012

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Jon Signing

“Don’t do that.”

I’ve always hated those three words. Maybe it’s because I have a snotty seven-year-old brat living inside my big, fat body. It could be my rebellious nature. It might be that I don’t like to remember a bunch of stuff that doesn’t seem necessary if I don’t already know it. But I think the reason I hate the words, “Don’t do that” is because when you pose the natural question, “Why not?” you are often met with indignation or even ostracized from the club that has instituted the regulation.Please do not walk on the grass

I do understand the importance of rules. I just want you to comprehend that sometimes they are arbitrary, other times rules become unnecessary because of development and too often they are just a way to keep people from achievement so that everyone can remain dull and mediocre.

As far as I can tell, here are the four reasons for rules:

1. To prevent people from doing something that will ultimately kill them.

2. To prevent people from doing something contrary to your government, your God or your preference.

3. To prevent people from doing something that won’t kill them.

4. To prevent people from doing.

I’m sure you can find different angles on this, but you might be surprised to discover that three of the four reasons for rules are less than noble.

I certainly am in favor of outlawing anything that endangers the life of human beings, animals or any part of God’s creation that has the right to live instead of being decimated. That’s why I’m against abortion. It’s why I am opposed to the right to bear arms without adequate restriction to guarantee the safety of the innocent. It’s why I think obesity should be against the law. Even though I’m a fat guy, I have to admit, nothing kills people more than blubber. It’s why I think restrictions on cigarettes, alcohol and mind-altering drugs are essential–they all a hook they jab into human flesh, dragging people into desecration and disintegration.

But not all rules are so valuable. For instance, I think it’s good that the Ten Commandments tell us not to commit adultery, but I don’t think it’s beneficial when the Catholics, Mormons, Muslims and fundamentalist Christians use that precept to cast aspersions on the joys and pleasures of sex. Sex was not created by God to make children. Children, fortunately or unfortunately (depending on your point of view) are a by-product of a really good orgasm.

I do not think we can market a God who has more rules to His philosophy than jewels. I don’t think a government can sustain itself trying to keep its citizens from the liberty that God says we enjoy as evidence of His spirit. And I don’t think you have the right to establish disfavor for other people because just you find their particular habits distasteful.

I think we have to take a good look at the reason for rules. I think we have to be candid and say that the introduction of incurable viruses into our society through various types of lifestyles is reason enough to re-evaluate those choices. Why? Because the result is dead human beings.

“It is not God’s will that any should perish.” God does not hate sin, God hates death.

Learn it. Otherwise, you’re going to start looking for evidence that the people who are supposed to be your brothers and sisters are an abomination to your snooty God, because they ate shrimp from the nearby Mediterranean Sea. (You know that WAS the case at one time. Shellfish were forbidden for the Jews because for that season they were contaminated. In other words–they killed. Now they don’t. Enjoy your shrimp with your cocktail sauce.)

Likewise, if we come up with a cigarette that doesn’t produce lung cancer, more power to us. If we can prove that carrying around fifty extra pounds of lard on one’s body does not fry the circulatory system, then eat away. If we can produce guns with bullets that are better targeted towards evil than good people, then please start the manufacturing tomorrow. And if you can establish that aborting a fetus is not terminating life, then go ahead and open your clinic.

Other than that, realize that death is not admissible to a God who loves all of his children. But also be aware that making rules so as to make your fanciful cult more exclusive is just as distasteful to a God who honors free will above all else.

Be careful. Three out of four reasons for rules are at least erroneous, if not destructive. But by the same token, if a particular action ends in death, understand that our loving Father has only one desire–to protect His children.

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Neurotic … September 4, 2012

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I am fairly healthy. Of course, these could be the classic “famous last words” of the guy about to receive his final delivery of carnations … graveside.  But barring some unforeseen bus with my name on it, I persevere. Yet there are little twinges, pains, losses, discrepancies and weaknesses that have crept onto my path to make me aware that I am probably on my way to Grandma’s house. Or in my case, Grandpa’s.

Arriving at my lodging last Thursday, I came up to the front door and realized that the step into the room was fairly high. This wouldn’t be an obstacle to most of you, but I have a bad right knee that doesn’t like to step up and certainly cringes at the necessity of stepping down. So I got myself into the room at a fairly awkward, if not comical, angle, and the first time I left the room I experienced quite a bit of discomfort. Therefore I was intimidated by both entering and leaving my own quarters.

Here’s what I knew immediately–if I kept the situation to myself, it would quickly grow into a fear inside my being. Fear is not unusual to any of us. The trouble with fear is that it is a lousy roommate for other, more congenial tenants. The first thing fear likes to do is cast out love. Then it likes to get confidence evicted. It sits around and debates with faith and chides and criticizes talent. Fear sucks. That may be a rather blatant way of explaining it, but it’s true.

So if I kept my apprehension about this step coming in and out of my door to myself, I would soon be looking at ways to avoid leaving my room and therefore, place myself in a sedentary position, which is not particularly beneficial to me for maintaining my first statement, which was, “I am fairly healthy.”

I was on the verge of becoming neurotic.

Now, I know “neurotic” is relegated to a psychological condition, but it is really so common to all of us that it should be talked about more often and explored like daily bread instead of viewed as a psycho-babble croissant. Here’s what makes us neurotic: a fear unexpressed is the seed of distress.

Whenever we find ourselves in the position where we choose, refrain, refuse or avoid sharing our fears, we plant a seed of distress in our souls. Distress grows into suspicion. Suspicion sprouts some isolation and isolation is what produces rage in us, and turns us into emotional ticking time-bombs.

In my case, if I was not prepared to admit that I was intimidated by a step up into my lodging, I was certainly going to become distressed by my own foolish pride and weakness. This would make me suspicious of any attempt to come and go or avenues that might be achieved in overcoming the situation. That suspicion would isolate me. Instead of moving around–going and doing things–I would look for reasons to stay in the room, and once isolated in that condition, my grumpiness would soon turn into a picky attitude, which could explode into rage if someone challenged me.

We meet neurotic people every day–even after we leave the mirror. Inside them is a fear that they are too intimidated to express. Even as I sat down to write this jonathots to you, I wondered how I would look to my readers, having such a weak knee that I was unable to climb twelve inches without discomfort. Actually, I came inches–or may I say, sentences–from backing away from the whole idea of being so transparent. But because I shared my fear of the step with my traveling partner, Janet, and have now voiced it to you fine folks, I not only have a renewed sense of vigor, but also a comforting presence of good cheer which will not only get me out the door and back in again, but will allow me to do it without feeling shame.

There is only one thing that stops each and every one of us from finding the platform from which we can voice our ability to the world around us: we’re afraid. We share that in common. Not all of us are beautiful. Not all of us are white. Not all of us are black. Not all of us are talented. Not all of us are intelligent.

But all God’s children are afraid.

And if we want to avoid becoming neurotic–gripped by suspicion, isolating ourselves until we become inexplicably enraged with stupid little things that come our way–we must find a way to express our fears. Let me tell you some of mine:

  • I have a fear of small talk with new people, even though my occupation requires it.
  • I have a fear that my obesity will eventually keep me from doing something very important in my life.
  • I have a fear that my children don’t completely understand my mission nor embrace my message.
  • I have a fear …

You see, I could go on and on.

But each time I write one down, I am just a little less afraid. Having the ability to verbalize our trepidation allows us to receive a hug from the love that had been chased away.

I don’t want to be neurotic. It makes me suspicious. It makes me isolate myself. And then, at the wrong moment I can become enraged, with nobody around me understanding the source for the burst of anger.

It doesn’t hurt less to climb the step into my room, or to step down to depart. I know two things–there is one other person, and now a bunch more, who comprehend a little piece of my displeasure. And on Thursday I get to check out and go somewhere else. I just thought I would share this with you. After all, it doesn’t do any good to be intelligent or spiritual if you allow your life to become neurotic.

And neurotic is a fear unexpressed that plants the seed of distress.

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Fat Chance … August 10, 2012

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I have a terrific idea. (Forgive me–I guess what I should say is that I have an idea. Let me present it to you and you can determine its merits.)

It’s a concept for a new diet. Since dieting itself has fallen under severe criticism, I have come up with a plan which is practical in its application and simple in its proving. Here it is: since America is getting more obese all the time, what I am going to do is work on maintaining my present weight, and very soon the country will catch up with me and I will end up, poundage wise, in the middle of the pack and therefore it will appear I have lost weight. Then people will look at me and comment, “My goodness gracious, Mr. Cring. You don’t look nearly as big as you once did.” I will be free of the stigma of obesity, admired for my diligent efforts–although unfortunately, my health and portability will not have improved in the slightest.

Although I present this little scenario tongue-in-cheek (please don’t go out and apply it) it does seem to resemble the way we try to solve problems in our country. It is this penchant human beings persist in pursuing when trying to find a one-size-fits-all garment to cover all the inadequacies of our fellow-man. I don’t know when it started. There is a little nasty streak in all of us that believes “if I can do it, why can’t you?” For instance, for every cigarette-smoking slender person who shakes his or her head, wondering why I don’t lose weight, I, in turn, purse my lips and frown over why he or she can’t get off of nicotine.

It just doesn’t help matters. It reminds me of one night when I was at a fellowship with friends and one of the attendees became frustrated because an acquaintance was unable to find employment and was mooching off of those around him to survive.

“Why don’t you go out and get a job?” he screamed at the offender.

The man remained calm and replied, “I have made a job out of trying to get a job–except I don’t get paid for it.”

We often don’t understand one another’s difficulties, so it’s no wonder we haven’t taken the time to learn each other’s potentials.

As I have traveled this nation in 2012, I am learning how to become valuable to my human friends. I’m not always successful, but I am trying to comprehend the variety of ways that I can offer my services without becoming overly zealous and interfering. It is not easy. But I have discovered four ideas that I would like to share with you–because honestly, there is a fat chance that you’ll be able to help anyone if you start out by believing you are better than they are. So here are my suggestions:

1. What is my friend’s point of excellence? Excellence for me and excellence for the next guy is different. If I try to apply my concept of prosperity and personal growth onto everybody else, I will destroy them and on the way to that destruction, I will frustrate them from ever wanting to be around me. Finding their point of excellence is one of the greatest gifts you can give to yourself AND them. If they are mentally challenged, it may just be discovering that their excellence is being able to perform simple duties and take care of themselves. For some young people, excellence does not mean going to college, but rather, developing a trade or finding a way to apprentice into a business, to secure a sense of accomplishment and wage. Take a few minutes and find what the point of excellence is for your acquaintance in need–or do them a favor and leave them alone.

2. How can I help my friend get started? Don’t give people a plan. It is condescending and often mean, especially if they are unable to follow the intracacies of your pattern. Help folks find a way to get started. It’s the greatest thing you can do. Once they are started, let them find the impetus, the evolutions, the direction and the energy to continue–or walk away from the start-up.

3. How should we celebrate weekly progress? I will tell you that many a venture has been destroyed by celebrating too soon–or failing to acknowledge the increments of movement forward. They have to decide when to celebrate. It won’t be, up to you, but rather, up to the people participating to determine when they feel they have achieved a level of credential that is worthy of a party.

4. And finally, when do I back off and when do I back up? As you can probably tell, this one is huge. To everything there is a season. If they are trying to quit smoking, reminding them every week of their plight will certainly drive them back into the pits of tar. By the same token, failing to notice the signals of when our friends are yearning for support and exhortation can be discouraging to them, making them wonder if you have stopped caring. Actually, the answer on when to back off and when to back up from a project is fairly easy to understand. If there is no question in the air, an answer should not be provided. If your friend is not requesting new information or sharing his plight and seeking counsel, offering such advice will certainly scare him away from pursuing his dream, and will end up making him feel diminished. I often receive emails from people explaining their present circumstances, but nowhere in the message will there be a question. To offer counsel without inquiry is not only to intrude, but also to frighten people away from mountain-climbing.

So returning to my original, comical suggestion about weight loss, I will tell you this: like every other human being born since Adam, I will finally get to the business of changing my life when I am weary of my life unchanged. What you can do for me is:

  • Help me find my personal excellence.
  • Give me a place to start.
  • Celebrate with me when I have small victories, even though you may not understand them.
  • And back off when I’m frustrated; back me up when I’m trying my darndest.

Becoming valuable–it really is the practical application of the philosophy, “NoOne is better than anyone else.”

 

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