Good News and Better News … August 15th, 2016

Jonathots Daily Blog

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Bauchman name tags

Name tags hanging from a peg board

 

 

Bauchman treat table

Coffee awaiting the faithful

 

 

 

 

Bauchman door windows

 

Beautiful mahogany walls with colored glass

 

 

An old-fashioned radiator, Bauchman radiatorreminding us how long the church has been established

 

 

 

 

Bauchman stained glass window

 

A skylight, welcoming the sunshine from the heavens

 

 

 

 

Another Sunday morning in America.

This time, it is Baughman United Methodist Church in New Cumberland, Pennsylvania.

Busy folks.

The morning announcements took ten minutes–just to cover the expanse of activity and planned events.

Matter of fact, if I were evaluating the church in America as a whole, I would conclude that it is an extremely proficient organization.

Here’s the problem: the church that Jesus came to “build on the rock” through his words and the essence of his life was never meant to be an organization. He punctuated this by saying, “My kingdom is not of this world.”

The Jesonian church is meant to be an organism.

Here’s the difference:

  • An organization needs plans.
  • An organism needs food.

And although we are meticulous in the religious system to organize, put in place and promote a series of determinations, these plans themselves offer no nourishment to the starving souls trying to find their best-seated positions in the back of the sanctuary.

The church is an organism because it’s filled with people, and people need:

1. Emotional food

Yes, we require a diet of “love one another”–and all the awkward situations that produces.

2. Spiritual food

Living our lives out, finding what is real and then discovering where Jesus dealt with it in his earthly time, and studying his insights on the matter

3. Mental food

Challenging all the opinions of our youth and renewing our file with ideas that are edifying to the people around us instead of alienating them.

4. Physical food

Honest to God, we need to eat together. Jesus said “as oft as you do eat together, remember me.”

We’re better people when we’re eating. I wouldn’t rule out the possibility of having a restaurant on site at every church, so on Sunday we could file out of the service to a dinner table, where we could discuss what had warmed our hearts as we fill our tummies.

The good news is that the Baughman church was filled with delightful, enterprising and searching human beings.

The better news is that if we stop approaching Christianity as an organization, we might be able to feed the organism of faith … and change the world.

 

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Good News and Better News … October 26th, 2015

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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Lakeville composite

Was it three, or four?

If I remember correctly, I think it was four individuals who came to my book table saying, “How did you guys end up at our ‘little church’?”

Ms. Clazzy and I found ourselves in Lakeville, Indiana.

I suppose in some ways I would understand their question, since our society is indoctrinated in the idea that good things go to big places to make a huge splash. But if you look at history and you understand the essence of the Gospel, it really doesn’t work that way.

Life is about finding a mustard seed, planting it and then not worrying about what happens next.

Jesus promised it would grow into a tree, but how long will that take? Certainly not within one harvest.

So what you work on is your mustard seed.

  • Is it good?
  • Does it have growing possibilities?
  • Does it nestle well into the soil, accepting nutrition and water?

I don’t worry about numbers of people. Truthfully, the places in our society which draw the largest crowds are often bigoted and errant.

I always feel like the Holy Spirit giggles at our notion of popularity–because even though we insist that Jesus shared in front of large crowds, they often left pretty quickly once they realized he was going to teach and not just offer another all-you-can-eat fish dinner for five thousand or more.

Do you know what I liked about Lakeville? It isn’t put together yet.

I suppose they might be offended by that statement but they shouldn’t be. There are many things in America that are put together–even organized into clubs or parties–which are doing absolutely nothing to help mankind.

Lakeville still has a chance to be of benefit to the human race. They’ll have to turn down some of the noise of the world and simplify things instead of complicating them, but they have a good mixture of men, women, children and older saints. They are led by an enthusiastic, fine chap named Brian.

So what would I tell Lakeville as I leave it?

1. Reject religion.

Since religion is what killed off Jesus 2,000 years ago, let us go ahead and assume it does the same today.

  • Religion wants organization. Jesus wants spirit.
  • Religion wants rules. Jesus wants faith.
  • Religion wants to worship God. Jesus wants us to find God inside the person standing next to us.

2. Push away politics.

Yes, the church is obsessed with politics. Even though the two political parties over the past 16 years have nearly destroyed the integrity of our security and economics, for some reason the church wants to join the mayhem instead of bandaging up the wounded.

Politics is what people pursue when they no longer believe in God.

3. Get excited about Jesus.

Yes, I will tell you–the best way we can help our Muslim and Jewish brothers and sisters who are trying to kill one another is to actually step away, be separate and act like Jesus. You don’t become a better Christian by worshipping Judaism. You also don’t become a better Christian by reading the Koran.

If your church can’t become excited about Jesus, at least be honest enough to warn people that you no longer are followers of his dream but instead, are just readers of the Bible.

4. And finally, create something.

  • Don’t settle for leftovers.
  • Don’t insist there’s nothing new under the sun.
  • Write new songs.
  • Think new thoughts.
  • Share your arts, your crafts, and your professional abilities–and give God glory for them.

The first nature of God is found in Genesis 1:1: “In the beginning, God created.”

No kidding.

Go and do thou likewise.

 

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WE are the US of OUR Lives… May 27, 2013

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 America is not a population–it is a collision.

Yes, it is a fender-bender, accidental conglomeration of people who have ended up in the same place, searching for similar freedoms.

Our churches are not congregations. They are configurations–the makeshift, last-minute gathering of a collage of human beings who often disagree with each other but are bound by what we hope and pray is a common purpose. Our disunity and differences are what challenge us to stay together and keep working, to ferret out similarities.

We spend way too much time trying to find perfect circumstances. We even arrogantly proclaim that we’re on a quest to find a “soul mate.” Life is not a Disney cartoon. It’s not the story of a chambermaid who is secretly a princess who finds herself “slippering” her way into marrying Prince Charming.

It usually consists of two folks who hang around each other long enough that the spark of lust ignites passion one evening. Then they spend time figuring out how to take that initial encounter and turn it into domestication.

What’s wrong with that? Why does everything have to be so antiseptic? Let us be honest. One of the most obnoxious thing about human beings is when they believe they have found God’s will or they have knowledge that exceeds others.

What I saw yesterday in Mabank, Texas, was a mish-mash of humanity which decided to stay together with each other instead of becoming picky and bratty–praying for better converts. Now THAT just might be the definition of God’s will.

We ARE the “us” of our lives.

  • I don’t always agree with my children, but they are my children.
  • I don’t always get along with my friends, but they are my friends.
  • I don’t always concur with strangers, but there’s really nothing strange about them at all, is there?
  • And the United States of America is always at its best when we include all the “we’s” and embrace them as “us” to create “our.” In the process, we collect some weirdos, freaks and people who think they’re extraordinarily normal, who end up being more odd than they thought.

But we do not express the love of God by giving up on anyone. We do not become a better organization by shunning members. And we never, ever discover the beauty of heaven by finding weakness in our fellow humans and displaying it for mockery.

I give great tribute to the people of Mabank. Even though they live in a small town and might be tempted to be snooty and fussy, they’ve decided to pursue the greatest depths of true spirituality, which is: don’t give up on folks just because right now you think they’re ugly.

So on this Memorial Day, as we celebrate our nation and the sacrifice of those who have gone before, let us not forget the power of this idea: the energy of our faith is that we constantly challenge our own prejudices.

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I’m Looking For… A Pleasant Planner February 1, 2013

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listWedged somewhere between the pesky pusher and the lazy loser is the delightful individual who purposely discovers ways and means to be a pleasant planner.

Although many individuals hate to admit it,we all do realize that some sort of organization is necessary in order to avoid … well, to avoid disorganization. Life is way too short to have to constantly peer at the rear end of people who have passed you by because they had an idea on how to follow through. Here’s what to avoid in the pursuit of a goal:

1. Don’t be too serious. If joy is our strength, then nagging is our death. Being somber in an aspiration communicates dissatisfaction and certainly does nothing to recruit followers.

2. Don’t be too involved. If you have your fingers in EVERY pie, no one wants to eat your pastries. Sooner or later you have to trust people to do something even if you believe it may amount to nothing.

3. Don’t take too long. Anything that takes over an hour needs to have a reprieve. I have heard directors tout the importance of three-hour rehearsals, but I will tell you–they only got sixty minutes of productivity out of it. Every human being needs a break after the hour hand goes around once.

4. Don’t be too boring. Some propagators insist that a certain level of tedium is necessary to prove sincerity and that we’re grown up about the vision. Good luck with that.

And finally …

5. Don’t be too strict. I know the old saying is “close enough for Hoyle,” but since nobody knows what that means, could we change it to “close enough for human?” Be prepared for people to fall short. In the movies, strictness is always portrayed as wrong, annoying and punishable. You might want to take a more cinematic approach.

Here’s what I think goes into becoming a pleasant planner:

1. Keep it simple. Just about the time you think it’s too childlike, you need to knock off a couple more steps from the directions. We are human beings. We like to celebrate. Establish benchmarks along the way where partying is possible.

2. Be ready to change. Even the Ten Commandments had to be amended. God knew that we human beings would never be able to follow anything past Number 1. That’s why, at the end of the Good Book it says “love your neighbor as yourself.” If you pull that off, you have done your part.

3. Laugh at your lack. There is one certainty in every project–it will run out of both energy AND money. If you’re not prepared for that you shouldn’t begin. A good sense of humor about falling short of the glory of your aspirations is the beginning of energizing future accomplishment.

4. Have fun getting it done. When you remove the excitement from life, you take the blood out of the body. For a little while it still looks like it’s human, but gradually, without blood flow, it starts to decay and stink. If you take the pleasure out of progress, everything around you will die and develop a stench.

5. Learn and burn. Learn what works and burn away everything that doesn’t. That means that a lot of things on your original list will have to be dumped along the roadside. You only look stupid if you become sentimental about things that are no longer valuable. You look like a genius when you follow through on the plans that do bear fruit.

Yes, I am looking for a pleasant planner.

I am looking to follow someone who tells me that my burden is easy and the weight is light.

To tell people anything else is to scare them away from following and chase them down the road … into obscurity.

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