Iffing Way–Part 4: UnPharoah … November 10, 2014

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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If bigger

What if a voice of sanity had risen up at various stages in the story of human history, to offer a challenging view when craziness was about to win the day?

If …

It all revolved around a game of intimidation.

The only way to protect your particular parcel of land from intrusion and invasion was to convince other kingdoms nearby that you were well-established, well-fortified and darned well intent on fighting to the death to “keep your own.” Thus the purpose for building huge walls, great monuments and fortifications.

Thutmose III was well aware of the situation.

As Pharoah of Egypt, it was his job to maintain the order of his domain and keep his citizens safe from the marauding hordes. Any sign of weakness was an invitation to be destroyed by the stronger villains of the desert.

To build such huge constructions took man power. Now, society was divided into four sections:

  • royalty, which would never lift a finger for such tasks
  • farmers, who raised the food which kept the citizenry in bread and wine
  • soldiers, who protected the sovereignty of the turf
  • and slaves, the cheapest labor possible, to perform the most arduous duties

After many years of peaceful coexistence with the Jews, the Egyptians grew tired of this clan of immigrants who seemed to be overtaking the social order of the land. A movement began against them. It was decided that the free meal ticket provided by the previous Pharoah, out of loving deference to Joseph, should be terminated and that these people should be put to hard labor, working for the state.

The pressure was immense.

Matter of fact, sitting in front of Thutmose III was an edict to proclaim all Jews as slaves. All that was needed was his seal. Then the document would become a holy edict, enforced viciously by the taskmasters against these people without a country.

He delayed.

He stalled so long that his critics began to call him a coward, and even a traitor. Thutmose III tried to draw a deep breath of wisdom and sanity. For after all, what seems prudent today has arms, legs, breath and anger in the future generations subjected to the treatment.

What should he do?

After many nights, lying sleepless in his bed, he devised a plan. He decided to alternate his work force–take the relocated Jews and put them in the fields for part of the year and bring the field workers in to build the walls and monuments necessary to maintain a sense of control.

He also concluded that it was unnecessary to build many pyramids–one for each Pharoah who died. Why not one gigantic pyramid for all the rulers who had gone on? It would be just as intimidating and beautiful, but more easily conceived and carried out by the workers.

When Thutmose III presented his plan to the council they immediately rejected it, which made no difference whatsoever, since he was a dictator.

Reluctantly, the plan was carried out and the Jews, rather than being slaves, were turned into brethren with a variety of tasks to contribute to the cause.

After many years and much success with this new plan, the Council of the Jewish people, under the leadership of a man named Moses, came and asked for permission to emigrate to another land, where they would take the experiences of Egypt and their own faith, and build a life.

It was negotiated. It was agreed.

The transition was smooth because it was not the escaping of slaves, but rather, the releasing of friends to their new mission.

Thutmose III died a happy man, interred in the greatest pyramid ever constructed, having saved a whole race of people from slavery and allowing for that same tribe to find their God and their expression.

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The Sermon on the Mount in music and story. Click the mountain!

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G-32: Protector … July 11, 2014

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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battling JewsShortly after Joseph died, his friend, the Pharoah, passed away, bringing a new monarch to power, who had an inordinate interest in building pyramids.

A project of such magnitude demands labor, preferably cheap. And the best way to acquire this workforce is to convince one group of people that they’re superior to the other, and to intimidate the other conglomeration of souls into believing that they’re inferior.

So the created human beings who had found provision under Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Joseph suddenly found themselves strangers in the land of Egypt and were gradually subjugated to be servants of the locals.

Since they had been a people provided for by their Creator, they didn’t make very good slaves. The sense of entitlement caused them to rebel against the oppression, creating an ongoing conflict and growing hostility.

Even though the Father in Heaven had found great joy in being a Provider, He now found Himself in need of becoming a Protector.

Through Moses, Joshua and David, the people were freed from Egypt, wilderness bound, conquering Jericho and gradually became a warring tribe, attempting to secure what they considered to be their “Promised Land.”

So the Creator who had regretted making human beings and repented by deciding to provide for them, now found Himself protecting them, only to discover that the instinct to conquer is an overwhelming vice in the human spirit, turning us once again to abstract violence. (Matter of fact, when King David wanted to build a Temple, God refused to allow him to do so because his hands were covered in so much blood.)

It was an awkward situation.

The people weren’t dissatisfied with their status as aggressors, and they deeply believed they were pursuing both a nationalistic and a religious goal by destroying the heathen. But since the root word of Creator is “create,” the Father found himself very saddened by the destruction of other human beings in order to protect a tiny handful.

And as violence often does, it led to other depravity.

What was the answer?

  • Certainly being a father means you need to provide, but such provision can make for spoiled children.
  • And because they’re spoiled, they can become eccentric and need protection.
  • But protecting them makes them feel superior to the surrounding families of man, creating a climate of war and calamity.

What was the next step in learning how to be a Father to Your children? 

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G-31: Provider … July 4, 2014

Jonathots Daily Blog

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 bigger star of david“God, you are not a good Father,” pined the Creator Almighty. “You can’t make ’em and then break ’em.”

A rocky start.

For you see, my friend, no matter what you think of the story contained in the black leather-bound book, or what accounts you hold dear, the tale begins with a series of misfortunes, and dare we say, mistakes.

For instance:

  • Creating man with no woman.
  • Welcoming woman with no direct communication about the goals of Eden.
  • Creating a rule while keeping the temptation readily available.
  • Then allowing a tempter to aggravate the reality of free will.
  • Having no idea how to deal with the human penchant for lying.
  • Kicking them out with no destination.
  • Separation.
  • Murder.
  • Ego.
  • Violence.
  • And then the erroneous decision to kill them and start over.

The whole experience was terrifying for the Creator, not to mention bruising to the creation.

How do you become a good Father once you’ve decided to bear children?

The Creator quickly chose to become a provider–to bring blessing and opportunity to a handful of favored souls, who would trickle down the wealth and prosperity to those around them.

A lineage was selected, commencing with a man named Abram, who later became the internationally-famous Abraham. He was promised a great nation and given all sorts of door prizes for every door he entered.

Unfortunately, he still continued to maintain some of that penchant for lying, and ended up being a bit of a wimp–because when he bore children by two women, he selected one over the other, thus setting in motion a custody battle that still rages today.

Abraham had a son named Isaac, who ended up raising two children of his own–one a wimp and one a liar. Esau, the oldest, gladly exchanged his rite of passage as a leader for a good meal. And the younger, Jacob, lied his way into inheritance. He wrestled with angels, suffered the consequences of being lied to by others and had twelve sons, although he really liked one the best–a boy named Joseph.

All through this process, the Creator is practicing Fatherhood by being a good provider, attempting not to interfere too much in the gears of human emotion and transition.

Finally, on the fourth try, he ends up with a decent fellow.

Joseph not only isn’t a liar, he gets in a helluva lot of trouble for telling the truth. And because he’s not a wimp, thousands are saved from starvation in Egypt, finally granting the favored generation a seat of power next to Pharoah.

For the first time in ancient, and even present, history, the Jews and Arabs were living side-by-side, in peace, under mutual agreement.

It seemed that everything was going pretty well, and that this “provider” approach was really paying off.

That is, until Joseph died.

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Assumed Supremacy… March 26, 2013

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classroomThirty excited children in a classroom–wiggling, squirming, trying not to talk out loud for fear of correction, waiting for the school day to begin.

The teacher stands, calms down the hum of thrill and says, “Repeat after me: I am special.”

Thirty young voices respond in unison.

The teacher continues. “I am unique.”

Again, a chorus of youngsters faithfully parrot the phrase.

The teacher concludes, “People need to accept me.”

As the classroom finishes the last phrase, they cheer and clap their hands. Thus begins the school day.

There is an assumed supremacy being passed on in our time under the guise of establishing good self-esteem.

It began in the Garden of Eden when Eve was tempted, convinced that eating some magical fruit would make her smarter. It continued with her sons battling for supremacy, ending in a notorious murder.

Moving along in history, you had Pharoah, who needed to oppress the Jewish nation in order to confirm his own dominance. Alexander proclaimed himself Great to get license to conquer and oppress the world.

Even though we are an honorable nation, our history is speckled with an inclination to be superior, whether it was the Native Americans, the blacks from Africa, the Chinese–well, each and every country arriving here had to take its turn at being presumed inferior.

It was the byline of a man named Adolph, who rose to power in Germany by telling the populace that they were “special, unique and people needed to accept them.” In the process of establishing this assumed supremacy, other folks needed to be shoved into gas chambers to confirm the concept.

You can see, it is a dangerous philosophy. It is a mindset that causes people to settle in, accepting their own eccentric behavior instead of soul-searching for better choices. It is a universal drug of words poured into the mainstream of entertainment and education, which dopes up the public to believe that since “we were born” some certain way, there really is no need to be “born again.

Any sensation of supremacy will eventually need to reinforce its point with violence. Any challenge to our supremacy will require that we defend ourselves and commit acts of treachery. We will end up surprising ourselves with how bigoted, angry and frustrated we are if we persist in pursuing the false premise that “we are fine as we are.”

A certain amount of dissatisfaction is necessary to find lasting satisfaction. So since this pseudo self-esteem has come in the front door of our culture, what can we do to address it kindly, but usher it out the back door?

That sounds like a great topic for tomorrow.

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Opening Lines … November 20, 2011

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Live, outdoors in Ambler, PA

Sitting in my motel room last night in Knoxville, Tennessee, I began to think about what I wanted to share in the three programs I’m going to be conducting at the Colonial Heights United Methodist Church. Unfortunately, every new experience in front of an audience demands an opening line. I say “unfortunately,” because there’s nothing more awkward than introducing oneself to many selves who are not always in the mood for an introduction.

 
Having done this for about forty years, I have learned certain phrases and ideas which I do NOT like. For instance, I despise, “Good morning, ladies and gentlemen…I can’t HEAR you.” (You see, the reason they are not responding to you is that they haven’t decided if they like you or not yet, and asking them to repeat something is not the best way to endear them to you.)
 
I also hate it when entertainers ask the audience to clap their hands and play some hokey, fast song to get them excited.  I mean, where do you go from there? It’s like having the honeymoon and then leaving the hotel to go on your first date. No–I really don’t like any attempt to force myself on a group of people who are reluctant at best and who at worst could very easily turn into a lynch mob.
 
I noticed when I set up at the church that there was a table in front of me with all sorts of Thanksgiving and autumn paraphenalia–like corn stalks and pumpkins.  I thought it might be funny if I began with, “Hey, do you agree with me here? It’s not a good idea for a fat guy to sit behind a pumpkin.” But you see–that’s HUMOR.  Humor is dangerous. It demands the intertwining of two conclusions: (a) that the people listening are intelligent enough to UNDERSTAND a clever comment; and (b) that they will actually laugh loudly enough that crickets will not be summoned to the scene.  It’s a big gamble.
 
My more ornery side considered that since the church is named Colonial Heights, I might begin with: “I see you call the church Colonial Heights? Speaking of colonies and being high…did you ever hear that the forefathers had opium in their snuff?” (You see, that’s what you call a joke to TASTE–and if people don’t have humorous taste buds, they might actually find it tasteLESS.)
 
But I do like good opening lines. There have been some famous ones.
  • Moses: “Let my people go.”
  • Pharoah: “No.” (Of course, that response ended up plaguing him … )
  • You can’t beat God’s opening line: “Let there be light!” (Of course, he probably was a little surprised when the sun blazed in his face, when all He was looking for was some subtly placed track lighting…)
  •  Then in the 1970’s, folks had opening lines for picking up girls in bars. Since I never picked up girls and really never went to bars, I was not accustomed to using the lines.  What was the common one? Oh, yes: “What is your sign?”–referring to astrology and the zodiac. I was always afraid if I said that to a girl she’d hold up a stop sign. 
  • I like funny ones, too. Abraham Lincoln: “Mary Todd, I need to see a play like I need another hole in the head.”  (Once again, that would be a particular presentation flavored to taste.)  But if you like that one, how about this one?
  •  Judas Iscarios to a local priest: “How much will you give me for a wandering Jew in a garden?”  Too dark?  Too soon?
  • And of course, the infamous one with Julius Caesar to his friend: “Brutus, you’re just a real pain in the chest.”
  • Then there is the simple approach.  “Hi. My name is Johnny Cash.” Just a little piece of trivia here for you who enjoy such matters–most people don’t know that before he became famous and started making lots of money, his original name was Johnny Credit.
  • One of the favorite opening lines that I’ve used is when arriving at the scene of a fire at a motel where I had been staying. The fire had been extinguished by local fire-fighters, but was still smoldering a bit. I strolled up to one of the brave fellows and said, “Excuse me. I’m here to install the smoke alarm.” (That one did not get much laughter, although I thought it was rich with possibility…)
So I ended my evening not really certain how I would launch my ship of conversation with the congregation–because the most effective way to initiate an encounter is to land somewhere between surprise and shock, but still within the realm of understanding. Over the years, I have found that the best for me is something like this: “Well, listen up. Here’s how I see it …”

***************

Here comes Christmas! For your listening pleasure, below is Manger Medley, Jonathan’s arrangement of Away in the Manger, which closes with him singing his gorgeous song, Messiah.  Looking forward to the holidays with you!

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