Good News and Better News … February 29th, 2016

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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Good News Moncks Corner

Young lions enjoy the thrill of the kill.

Old lions hunt to eat.

Young fishermen pursue the toss of the sea.

Old fishermen are satisfied with anything they can hook.

I spent an enlightening and enriching morning at Moncks Corner United Methodist Church with Pastor Mike and the eager congregation.

Pastor Mike is an old lion.

Or maybe he’s an old fisherman.

Whichever the case–and for the sake of him not being offended–let me tell you, it’s a good thing.

For in our youth, we chase dreams. As we age, we learn to accept our slice of life.

I have so much fun doing what I do because I do not try to wish for more.

  • Is there anything better than pressing the flesh of strangers and having it turn into fellowship?
  • Could a human be blessed in any greater proportion than to be able to share his heart and have it mean something?

Oh, certainly, I get a variety of responses on any given morning. There’s always a tiny handful who finds my utterances to be inappropriate for such an atmosphere of solemnity. And there are people who notice my girth and find it difficult to get past its weightiness.

But overall, the human race is not possessed with idiots and cynics, but rather, filled with the ranks of those who seem to be aware of the danger of both.

So Pastor Mike has taken his years and avoided idiocy and cynicism, to arrive at a simple path of appreciation for what is set before him.

That’s the good news.

We need such leadership in every aspect of our American culture. We don’t need political candidates who promise us more than we actually deserve. They just need to let us know that even if it gets difficult, it can remain pleasant.

That’s the better news.

For I will tell you–nothing of quality happens without joy.

So the first thing I brought to the folks of Moncks Corner was joy. They’ve had enough sadness, degredation, incrimination, bigotry and despair. If I can’t bring joy, I need to go out, find a comfortable chair and tend my tomato plants.

Once joy is in place, as human beings we are prepared to be motivated to mercy. Our particular species becomes extremely demonic when we remove mercy from the equation. Yet it is difficult to be merciful if you’re not already joyful.

And once you motivate people to mercy, you can welcome peace. Peace is when we understand that the joy in our hearts has instructed us to be merciful, and it certainly is our reasonable service.

So to Pastor Mike and all the beautiful souls of Moncks Corner, I encourage you to begin with joy, motivate mercy … and settle into a glorious peace that passes understanding.

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Lower Seat… October 30, 2012

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I couldn’t reach it.

I had a sudden splash of exasperation mingled with a giggle that stirred together inside my heart. You see, I had wheeled myself into a local grocery store and was shopping around via “the chair” for the first time. About a week ago, I took the leg holders off of the apparatus so that could use my own legs to propel myself, along with the aid my arms. I was doing quite well.

That is, until I got to the lunch meat section and saw that they had 98% fat-free bologna, which ended up being just beyond my grasp. I sat back in the chair for a moment, trying to decide if I wanted to wait for Janet to arrive to reach up and get the prize, or if I was going to figure out how to do it myself.

Suddenly I had this comprehension of one source of both our victories and our failures. Do we step out of the box and try something beyond our present ability, or do we wait for someone more qualified to perform the duty? Great question. It may seem noble to keep trying impossible things and beating your head against the wall, but often you can end up bloodied instead of productive.

I found myself in a lower seat.

You would be astounded at how short you feel when you’re sitting in a wheel chair. After all, your legs are more than half of your height. You start seeing things through the perspective of a five-year-old. Everything at eye level is child-friendly, child-accessible and therefore, eliminates a lot of adult possibilities from your reach.

Now, Jesus talked about “taking the lower seat.” It is one of his stories that gets very little attention, because it appears to be anti-human. After all, don’t people in general want to sit in the highest seats, receiving the highest honors, eating the best delicacies and sensing an ongoing atmosphere of improvement? Who would WANT to take the lower seat? Is it an attempt to appear to be spiritual, when deep in your heart, you resent the hell out of it?

As I sat there in that moment, with the bologna peering down at me, I realized that the power of the lower seat is that you don’t have to advertise that you can do more than you really can. (That’s what makes me shake and quake in my boots when I hear our two Presidential candidates make such broad claims about their abilities and promises about resolving our nation’s conflicts. It is not only arrogant, it is bone-dead stupid.) There is always something that life can come up with to make your original plan seem short-sighted and your talent appear to be wanting.

I realized, sitting in the chair and trying to decide what to do about the problem over my head, that I was alone. No one was paying any attention to me. Matter of fact, the normal profile of individuals who eyeball someone in a wheelchair is to divert their glance. It is an action of politeness–so as not to stare. So I had a full thirty seconds of complete solitude in front of those processed meats, to decide for myself what I wanted to do, sitting in my lower seat, without scrutiny and minus the pressure to impress anyone.

It was magnificent. I understood.

The little story that Jesus tells about taking the lower seat is not a step of false humility–to deny your own abilities–but rather, an intelligent move to take the spotlight off of yourself so you can think through what you want to do, come up with an adjusted plan and achieve your goal without ever looking like you came up short.

My solution for achieving my task was quite simple. I scooted to the end of my chair, reached up with my fingertips, flipped the bologna pack in the air from its holder, and caught it. Actually, it looked like I planned it… rather athletic, if I do say so myself. Problem resolved.

Right now, my friends, I find myself in a lower seat. I have not lost my mind. I have not lost my talent. I have not lost my sense of humor. I have not lost my family. I have not lost the capability of being creative. I have not lost comedy and drama. I have not lost the ability to drive. I have not lost the blessing of going to the bathroom. I have not lost my health. For this particular season, what I have lost is the function of standing tall, walking proud and running the race.

I am in a lower seat. It grants God and those around me the option of calling me up to a higher position. I do not know if that will happen, but in the meantime I plan to have great fun with my shortcoming and the immense gift thrust upon me, to see life from the perspective of a toddler. After all, that’s what Jesus told us we were supposed to do–become like little children. To achieve that we have to do two things: stop being grumpy adults and get a little lower.

I’ve done that.

My trip into the grocery store was an immense success. Counting the movement with my legs and arms, wheeling myself around, I got a great little workout and I took care of the balogna–both the one on the shelf and some it in my own prideful heart.

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Dirty Bowl… January 28, 2012

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From Miami, Florida

I had a hankerin’ for some oatmeal. (I don’t normally say “hankerin’,” but since it’s an election year I thought I’d follow the leading of the political candidates and try to “rural up” my language.)
 
As I was saying, I wanted some oatmeal. I don’t buy my oatmeal in those round containers with the picture of the austere Quaker, with a bit of a grimace on his face. I get the pre-packaged kind, usually in flavors, so I can just pour it into a bowl, add some hot water, and let the magic begin. So I did just that. I grabbed a bowl, poured my package into it, dumped in water, stirred it up and started to eat. It was delicious. I was more than halfway through my delicacy when I noticed there was something black at the bottom of the bowl. So I pushed the remaining oatmeal to the side and discovered a huge dirty spot.
 
It was a little disgusting. I’m not prissy, but eating out of a dirty bowl isn’t my idea of macho fare. So I dumped out my oatmeal and discovered the black splotch, stuck it under the faucet and tried to clean it. I was strangely relieved to discover that it wouldn’t dislodge itself and actually was not able to be scrubbed away. It was a permanent blotch. Matter of fact, you couldn’t even refer to it as a dirty bowl anymore. Perhaps you could call it stained. Scorched. Burnt. Discolored. Marred.
 
But I was no longer ill at ease, thinking I was consuming some sort of bacteria experiment from the depths of my oatmeal. I no longer felt like the guy who, having eaten half of his apple, suddenly discovers a half-eaten worm. Or like that one time when I reached in a package of luncheon meat and pulled out a slice that had green around the edges, foretelling of mold. (Unfortunately, I had already consumed two previous slices from the same package.)
 
No, this was different. This was a bowl which, in the process of doing bowl-like activities, had encountered some injury. My bowl was wounded. Its particular infection was not contagious, but rather, a lasting reminder of a poorly chosen activity. It was an amazing transition. I was happy that I could finish the remainder of my oatmeal without too much intimidation (though I was a little squeamish). There was really only one task that remained. Well, not really a task. More a decision.
 
Do I take my marred, discolored, stained, burnt, scorched bowl and throw it away–or keep it? I probably don’t want to eat oatmeal out of it again, but I could put a paper towel in the bottom and serve some grapes or potato chips. It is still able to encircle a food product, holding it in one place. It has not outlasted its complete usefulness. Honestly, it was too much for me to think about, having merely consumed a bowl of oatmeal. So I put it on the shelf, where it remains today.
 
I did not cast it away. I did not reject it. I did not try to make it totally clean by bleaching it and utilizing every cleanser known to man. I realized that sometimes, if you’re a bowl, and you’re in the midst of action of the kitchen sort, you just might get damaged. And if you were able to speak, you certainly would desire mercy.
 
Now, I know this is a little too much thought to give to the rights and privileges of a cheaply manufactured plastic unit. But still, it’s just nice to know that the bowl wasn’t dirty. 
 
Just … well-traveled.

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Jonathan wrote the gospel/blues anthem, Spent This Time, in 1985, in Guaymas, Mexico. Take a listen:

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To see books written by Jonathan, click the link below! You can peruse and order if you like!

http://www.janethan.com/tour_store.htm

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