Jesonian … December 9th, 2017

 Jonathots Daily Blog



To the classic question, “Were you born in a barn?” I can truthfully answer, “Matter of fact, I was.”

Although my good friends, Matthew and Luke, did a charming job relating the circumstances of my coming into this world, many layers and textures of the actual tale were left out in favor of a concise sharing, a Hollywood ending with all the participants–shepherds, wise men, angels and Holy Family–lined up in a row for a photo op.

Certainly beautiful and even miraculous, the actual unfoldings were different. I did not learn all the factors of my birth in Bethlehem until I was twelve years old. Mary and Joseph wisely chose to withhold some of the more frightening aspects of the experience from my ears until I was of an age when I could at least attempt comprehension.

But following a trip to Jerusalem, where I was particularly disobedient to them by chasing my curiosity instead of using my common sense, they sat down one night along the trail and spilled.

First, let’s understand that a young girl getting pregnant without a husband was always met with shunning or stoning. Mary’s simplicity and piety did not spare her from the wicked tongues of the gossips.

Joseph felt pressure. We’re told that an angel spoke to him, but Joseph never confirmed that with me. He said he was tortured in his dreams and finally realized that he loved my mother more than he wanted the approval of the town elders.
He did not need to make the journey to Bethlehem with Mary–he could have represented on his own to give the information about the taxes. He brought her because he was afraid to leave her alone.

So they made a fifteen day journey to a little town outside Jerusalem, which had no significance in their lives other than the fact that some “Great-Great Somebody” was born there and Joseph happened to be part of that clan.

When Mother and Father were unable to access lodging in the houses surrounding the town square, they quietly slipped into the stable, hoping not to be discovered. The innkeeper found them huddled in a corner among the animals, and when he saw that Mary was hopelessly pregnant, he chose to leave them alone rather than interfering.

They were stowaways in an animal shelter.

The birth was difficult because Mary was so small, weary from the journey–and both of them completely inexperienced with the process.

No shepherds arrived that first night. No angels sang. Nothing but grunting animals, relieved parents because the baby actually came out whole, and a chill in the air disguised by the heated odor of the stable’s occupants.

The next morning Joseph went to try to find food, and both of them realized there was no place for them to go. They would need to stay where they were for eight days to fulfill the Jewish law on circumcising the baby, so they remained as quiet as possible, hoping the innkeeper would leave them alone.

Three days passed with them scrounging for food, tucking themselves away in the farthest corner of the manger. It was on the fourth night that some shepherds did arrive. They looked perplexed, abashed and completely out of their element. They explained that they had been spoken to from the skies and told to come to find a baby in a stable.

It made no sense. Matter of fact, there was a sniff of alcohol on all three of them which hinted that the visit from heaven might have come from a flask. But Mary and Joseph listened politely, and it made for great conversation over the next few days while they waited for the circumcision.

Arriving at the temple on the eighth day, they were accosted by two very old, wild-eyed individuals–one man and one woman–who claimed the gift of prophecy. They told Mary and Joseph that the baby was going to be great and amazing. Even though Mary and Joseph wanted to believe the words, they feared the utterings were coming from dementia rather than another dimension.

Then things became really difficult. There was no need to go back to Nazareth. The presence of the baby would only increase the gossip.

So Joseph talked to the local carpenter and secured a single room in his home in exchange for work. The job included repair work, masonry and even some garbage collection.

They found contentment, until Joseph was awakened by an angel. (This time he really believed it was an angel.) He was told to leave Bethlehem to protect me from danger. When Joseph told me the story, he said it was the hardest decision he had ever made. It seemed illogical, for they had been in the carpenter’s home for a year-and-a-half and had found some peace of mind. Leaving seemed futile, if not insane.

Before departure could be executed, there was a visit from foreigners–those wise men mentioned in the Gospel story. They brought gifts. They inserted finance into a family that was about to be on the lam from the law. It was certainly timely.

The visitors explained about a star in the sky, but Mary and Joseph never really understood the significance, nor the tie-in.

During the journey to Egypt and the next six years of exile, I developed a separation anxiety. I just never felt part of anything. When Mary and Joseph started having other children, I didn’t feel like a brother. It was more like I was an intrusive uncle or a foster child.

This haunted me my whole life. I never felt quite secure with my surroundings. There were times I left the fellowship with my disciples to slip away and get my head straight, so I wouldn’t come off like a crazy man, nervous and frustrated.

Even though Egypt saved me from King Herod, the rejection hung in my mind throughout my life. I had to be careful not to get offended by the treatment I received. I learned mercy because I had no sense of mercy being given to me.

It became especially strong, and nearly violent in my soul, when Nazareth rejected my ministry, and then my mother and family thought I was crazy. I had to walk away from them.

You see, Christmas is a different tale to me.

It’s a story like many stories in the sense that God’s hand is not completely obvious in the moment, and is only unveiled through the endurance of his followers.

God picked the right pair. For if Mary had been prissy, Joseph would not have been able to manage without her. And if Joseph had been too conventional, Mary would never have been able to muster a companion. They needed each other.

Christmas is a miracle story–about God allowing people of faith to use their faith to do faithful things, to see their faith make things whole.

So Merry Christmas.

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Confessing … October 24th, 2015

 Jonathots Daily Blog



I confess so I can heal.

If I deny, I remain sick.

I was the chief “piety” officer for a crew of young swabs who also viewed themselves as aspiring artists.

We also were certain that we were better Christians because we had a “heart for the poor.” We sought out opportunities to benefit those in poverty in our community, thinking that we had become the right arm of Jesus of Nazareth.

Things went along pretty well until the little dab we were able to do was not sufficient to cover the chasm of lack that existed among the locals.

One day a woman came and asked me if she could get some help. She was in tears–nearly hysterical–as she explained that her rent was due, her children without food and her electricity was about to be turned off.

She needed $480.

We had never donated that much before, but she touched my heart.

So I decided to go see an elderly couple who had befriended me, named the O’Dells.

They had taken a liking to me and even invited me to come to their church once a month to share my thoughts and feelings. So great was their generosity that they purchased me a suit so I would be correctly attired for these visitations.

Thinking to myself that the O’Dells might not wish to finance this woman’s need without another reason, I decided to lie to them. I told them that I needed the $480 for a small surgical procedure.

I think they knew I was misleading them, but they reluctantly agreed and loaned me the money.

You see, I made it a loan because the lady had told me that she had government assistance arriving in the next few weeks and would pay me back. I believed her.

When I presented her with the finance, she fell on my neck in tears, declaring me everything possible short of divine.

I was absorbed in my own sense of importance.

Three weeks passed, then a month–and my lady never showed up. I went searching for her and discovered that she was gone.

Possessing a childish nature, I decided to avoid the O’Dells and not tell them about my dilemma. I even cancelled speaking at the church so as not to encounter them.

It was almost two months later that I was walking through the local mall and ran headlong into them. They asked me how I had been, since they were concerned about my “surgical procedure.”

I decided to come clean and tell them the whole story. I concluded my tale by apologizing for the fact that I did not have the money to pay them back.

Mr. O’Dell said that it was not about the money–they just loved me, and were very hurt that I had deceived them.

Mrs. O’Dell gave me a hug and walked away sadly.

It was ten years later that I got together a little finance and sought out the O’Dells in an attempt to pay them back for their generosity, but they had passed on to their well-deserved reward.

I learned much from that experience.

Jesus told us that the poor don’t ever go away, so we should make sure that we take care of our own affairs–and then, if we have abundance, give generously, but responsibly, to the need.

I had no right to borrow money to appear magnanimous. I hurt two people to help one.

It’s not a good trade.


confessing old couple


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Good News and Better News … October 5th, 2015

 Jonathots Daily Blog


Good News Cross Plains

Yesterday I had the chance to share at a Lutheran church in Cross Plains, Wisconsin.

Lutherans believe in grace. I have to admit, I do favor that particular favoring. Grace seems to be a cool drink of water on a hot day.

But I must tell you, I do think grace requires a bit of confirmation.

Just as kind is bolstered by a bit of kindness, and love is greatly enhanced by loving, grace waits patiently for the arrival of gracious.

Yes, those who have been bestowed grace are given the opportunity of being gracious. It is an opportunity that certainly should be embraced as an expectation. And what is gracious?

Gracious is when we wink our eye at our brothers and sisters and laughingly say, “You think you’re bad? You should know me!”

  • It’s endearing.
  • It’s humble.
  • It’s human.
  • It’s funny.
  • It’s relaxed.
  • And it is the definition, in human form, of good cheer.

I looked for the presence of gracious in my Cross Plains hosts.

Wow. They did good.

They welcomed us. They listened, They were helpful. They shared their own hearts without fear. And most importantly, rather than standing at a distance in piety, they learned.

It was amazing.

So what is my contribution to this lovely group of people I met in Cross Plains? Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that you’re either too young or too old.

The church is losing its power by eliminating the youth, and assuming that those who have reached retirement are incapable of transformation. If you’re going to stunt the growth of a congregation by thinking people are too young or too old, you’ll put your faith in those in the middle, who are completely encompassed with raising children and having their mortgage growl at them every month. These are not the people to lead your church–these are the folks who desperately need the ministry of the church.

But getting your younger members to be excited about church again, and your older folks to put their work boots back on instead of setting them in the corner, is what will transform all churches–including the Lutheran souls in Cross Plains–into a force of gracious effort.

I so enjoyed all the people I met.

I was greeted with warm handshakes, smiles, tears, hugs and one dear lady even kissed me.

But good Lutherans that you are, please remember, grace is much easier to understand when it is acted out by those who are gracious.

And it will be the young who will see visions ,,, and your older folks who will hatch new dreams.

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G-Poppers … September 4th, 2015

 Jonathots Daily Blog


Jon close up

G-Pop sat quietly in his chair, checking his emails on his I-Pad, as two of his grandkids were perched nearby, surfing the channels for something to watch on the television.

For some reason, the girl, the older of the two, paused on the History Channel, which was showing a special on Hitler and the Third Reich.

The younger boy asked the girl, “Who’s that?”

“Hitler,” she replied.

“Who’s he?” he asked.

“A monster.” She then turned the channel and they were on to more entertaining possibilities.

G-Pop wondered if he should say something. Yet it really wasn’t what they refer to as a “teaching moment.” The kids were obviously seeking diversion, not instruction.

But he realized that most people do think of Hitler as a monster. After all, it’s too frightening to consider that he was just a human being who got trapped in a “monster idea.” Unfortunately, the monster idea is still trouncing around while Hitler is long in his grave. What is the “monster idea?”

It’s a 2-part conclusion which always ends up in some form of treachery: “I am better. We are the best.”

When the notion that “I am better than other people” links up with followers or advocates to form a mob mentality of dominance, somebody is going to get hurt.

Maybe it won’t be six million Jews. Maybe it’ll just be six people disincluded from our party because of their color, nationality or preferences.

But the monster still roams the hillsides, seeking to kill off the innocent.

Until this is addressed, we will insist that our form of nationalism is nothing like what was promoted by the Nazis. We will allow politicians to openly condemn entire races of people in the name of protecting our national security.

We will even extol the piety of a woman refusing to do her job because she feels that she is better than those who have come to receive their rightful privilege.

  • Right and wrong is ultimately determined in the heavens.
  • Humility or arrogance is our choice.
  • And those who choose arrogance in the name of right are always wrong.
  • And those who choose humility in the presence of wrong will historically be judged right.

It’s as simple as that.

There are no monster people…just people who are following a monster idea.


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Jesonian: Order of Importance… June 1, 2014

Jonathots Daily Blog


jesus in a fieldThere is the smell of “stale God” in the air.

It stinks.

The odious cloud has risen from a thousand misunderstood scriptures, ten thousand meaningless sermons and a million converts sitting around thinking that saying a prayer or munching on Holy Eucharist does anything of lasting quality.

Maybe it’s just this American attitude that everything is important, which makes us end up giving undue attention to the least effective path to progress.

I will tell you this–I’ve read the Gospels many times, and it doesn’t take much perusing to discover that Jesus had an order of importance when it came to human living. It may astound some of the faithful to discover that he doesn’t give prominence to prayer, fasting, church attendance or Bible reading. He assumed that we should just do those things on our own time, without any pomp and circumstance, to help us energize the things that are important.

From my discovery, these are the five that keep us alive:

1. No one is better than anyone else.

I remember when I was ten years old, I sat down and picked out my favorite army men. After that I never played with the others. I lost out on some great toys. The same thing happens when we pick our favorite people.

2. Don’t judge people.

Drawing conclusions makes ugly pictures and jumping to conclusions always lands you in a mud puddle.

3. “Give and it shall be given unto you.”

If you happen to be going through some lean times, you might want to fatten up your generosity. Human beings are led by example.

4. Don’t be a hypocrite.

Nobody expects anybody else to be perfect. But we do require honesty about faults.

5. Go the second mile.

Life is not meant to be easy; otherwise, lazy people would soon be in charge. It’s in the second mile of effort that we discover the treasures of our own perseverance and the mysteries of human life.

I can guarantee you that whatever afterlife awaits us will have little to do with piety or sanctimonious practices. But if you pursue these important things, you will find that whatever is awaiting us is merely a continuation of the joy we have found in our magical five.

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Arizona morning

After an appearance earlier this year in Surprise, Arizona, Janet and I were blessed to receive a “surprise” ourselves. Click on the beautiful Arizona picture above to share it with us!

Click here to get info on the "Gospel According to Common Sense" Tour

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G-23: Console or Counsel?… May 9, 2014

Jonathots Daily Blog


murderPerhaps the most important discovery in understanding life is an accurate representation of what has happened and what didn’t happen. Arriving at that story line and discovering the truth of the matter not only allows for clarification but permits us to go forward with a bit of intelligence.

Man and woman had two sons. It was a by-product of their love and also their horniness.

Like every other set of parents that followed them, they had no idea what they were doing. Parenting is not a science, nor is it a religion; rather, it is a game of chance.

Since there were two children, there were two different interpretations of the family goals. One son grew up diligent, straight as an arrow and willing to accept the spiritual principles of the household. The other grew up sympathetic to the cause, but in search of short-cuts and ways to limit his involvement.

Yet man and woman loved them both.

Not so much the brothers to each other, though. Because the danger with the righteousness possessed by the one sibling is that it can quickly become self-righteousness. And the danger with short-cuts, as pursued by the other brother, is that they often take you down dark alleys.

So a conflict arises and it’s time to decide how to resolve the breach.

Do you counsel or do you console?

Humans quickly become addicted to consolation. Matter of fact, even those who have committed atrocities still find themselves hunkered down in a bunker at the end of their journey, desiring a hug.

On the other hand, the human family is not quite as receptive to counsel–because at the root of all counsel is the proposition that we must stay involved to improve our situation. Giving up is so much more fun. Admitting that things are impossible and beyond our scope is often comforting.

So when God comes and talks to the one boy who is very sad and crestfallen by his lack of approval over a recent offering, God offers counsel. I know we tend to believe that God is a consoler, but actually, a careful viewing of His style will tell you that He firmly believes in humanity and considers us capable of following advice. The advice was concise:

“If you do well, you’re going to succeed. If you don’t you’re going to fail, and then, if you feel sorry for yourself, worse things will happen.”

That was it. No pat on the back; no “nice try, kid.”

The young man found no consolation in being told to do better, so he started hunting for a victim. One day he found his brother in a field and they argued.

Please understand–it was an argument. That means that the straight-as-an-arrow brother decided to stick the tip of that arrow into his brother, to make a point. His righteousness gained a bit of piety. And of course, when people are already pissed off, it doesn’t help to remind them how inadequate they are.

The end result was a murder.

I think it’s safe to say that if we were rating God as a counselor, we might just have to give Him a fairly low score on this adventure. This is why we learn from spiritual discovery that there is a time to console and a time to counsel.

  • You console when you encounter people and there’s only pain.
  • You counsel when there’s pain … but also the first fruits of questioning.

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Arizona morning

After an appearance earlier this year in Surprise, Arizona, Janet and I were blessed to receive a “surprise” ourselves. Click on the beautiful Arizona picture above to share it with us!

Click here to get info on the "Gospel According to Common Sense" Tour

Click here to get info on the “Gospel According to Common Sense” Tour

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

Click here to listen to Spirited music

Click here to listen to Spirited music



Factory … April 29, 2013


factory“The kingdom of God is within you.”

It’s too bad that statement is so doggone religious. It contains all the language that we associate with church, godliness and piety.

Actually, if you separate off its true meaning, it is so explanatory of life on earth that it puts a chill down my spine. Here’s the truth of the matter: as long as I believe that my destiny, my circumstances and my fruitfulness are determined by factors beyond myself–be they traffic, failure, weather, man, demons, angels or even God–I will become incapacitated from time to time by the perspective of what seems to be pending doom. If I’m reaching out to the world around me to explain who I am, where I am and why I am, I find myself at the mercy of the system, instead of taking control of my life and making a difference, as God intended.

If I could rework that phrase–“the kingdom of God is within you”–to update it to our time, I would probably construct it to say the following: You are a factory. Work on your wheels and keep turning.

For after all, the choices we are given in this day and age in considering a philosophy of life are frustrating and meaningless.

Choice 1: I stink, you stink, we stink, God is good.

Choice 2: I’m ok, you’re ok, we’re ok, who needs God?

Choice 3: Life is tough, I’ll be tough, you be tough, because the tough survive.

As you can see, Choice 1 leads you to believe that you are worthless–that no good can come out of yourself. Choice 2 causes you to think that you’re fine the way you are; it’s just that you’re waiting for the correct opportunity to cash in your chips. Choice 3 puts you on the defensive, around defensive people, constantly defending your defenses. These are the reasons that human interaction comes to a stalemate in our society.

Here’s what I think the correct philosophy of life should be: I’m human, you’re human, we’re human, God became human.

Nowadays we use the phrase “I’m only human” as an excuse for everything from being late for a dinner party to being the justification for a serial killer. Here’s the truth about being a human:

1. We are given talent, and if we use it, multiply it and balance our lives between critique and praise, we will have room to establish ourselves in prosperity.

2. NoOne is better than anyones else, so as long as you’re not trying to be superior, you are not a threat to your fellow-humans, and therefore, can get some breathing room to do what you want to do.

3. If I believe that both the solution and the problem lie within me, I have the control and authority to promote the good parts and to gradually address the weaker ones.

4. The key to being appreciated is to learn to be a person who appreciates.

There you go.

When I finished up with the beautiful people yesterday at St. Andrew‘s, I viewed absolutely delightful human beings who just need to understand that the kingdom of God is within them.

Each one of them is a factory. If they will stop waiting for their “gospel ship” to come in, cease blaming other people for their problems, and simply and quietly address their own vision and circumstances, they can be productive human beings filled with joy.

Praise God, I’m a factory. I am not an abandoned building. I am not living in the penthouse of a high-rise apartment.I am not a church with a steeple. God made me to be fruitful, multiply and replenish the earth.

Blow the whistle, start your shift, and let’s begin.

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