Good News and Better News … January 8th, 2018

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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Bethel United Methodist Church in Walterboro, South Carolina.

Although I’m not privy to your traveling plans, it does seem unlikely that you will ever make your way to darken the doors of this particular sanctuary. I did–just yesterday morning.

With a day that folks from Wisconsin would call “brisk” and those from South Carolina deemed “polar ice cap,” some very faithful locals gathered in the building to see what the weather and the road had brought to them via our humble efforts.

It started the day before, when Wally, Johnny and Collin arrived to help us set up, and all of my equipment, which had been sitting in the back of the van, tried to “fuzz out,” insisting it was Floridian. Overcoming those little missteps, we got all hooked up, and by Sunday morning, the Holy Spirit, resilient fellow that He is, arrived in a parka.

These are beautiful people. They are delightful human beings that the political parties take for granted, and the more snotty members of our society deem to be “simple.”

It’s a huge mistake. They are full of integrity; they have hearts which can be moved with the notion of a loving God, and after a considerable amount of time, they are even willing to embrace odd-looking strangers like Janet and myself.

As I sat and chatted with these adorable brothers and sisters, I was struck by a usable idea. All during my childhood and even in my adult years, I have been encouraged by society to “find my voice.”

Yes, “find your voice.”

But yesterday it struck me that this notion is the misconception that’s driving our problems into the ditch. People are trying very hard to find their own voice, and when all these individual voices speak together, what we have is” Tower of Babel II.”

Life is not about finding your voice–it’s about finding the voice.

The voice is humble, encouraging, respectful, open-minded, free of prejudice and also gentle and kind, with good cheer.

I suppose if you sat down all the people of Bethel United Methodist and had a political discussion, they might be at each other’s throats in three minutes.

That’s why we should never do that. We should take all things pertaining to government–“Caesar”–and let them stew in their own juices.

What we need to think about are the things that belong to God.

I’ve stopped trying to find my voice, and I’m looking for the voice. It is a voice that:

1. Encourages others.

2. Knows when to shut up.

3. Doesn’t repeat information unless there’s a personal experience.

4. Looks for a reason to be kind.

5. Quotes things that lift people up.

6. Refuses to accept complaining as natural.

7. Notices when things get better.

This morning I feel as joyous as a new baby colt. (They are joyous, aren’t they? I would think so.)

Because the good news is, I got to spend time with Wally, Johnny, Collin and the blessed souls of Bethel.

And the better news is, I got to practice once again finding The Voice instead of insisting on promoting mine.

 

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Good News and Better News… March 6th, 2017

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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jesus-politician

They were known as the Herodians.

They were one of three political parties that stumped around in Jesus’ time, completely enveloped in a cloud of self-importance.

Unlike their counterparts, the Pharisees and the Sadducees, the Herodians had quietly given up on the power of Jewish tradition, scriptural integrity and even the intervention of God. They had decided to seek a more “earthly” solution. In doing this, they proclaimed that Herod was the Messiah and the King of the Jews. This immediately eliminated a need to wait for anything, believe in anything outrageous or follow commandments which seemed to be a dead-end street.

It was the Herodians who actually put the nails in Jesus’ hands.

Both the Pharisees and Sadducees were so frightened of the people that they were never able to come up with a plan to trap Jesus. It was only when the cunning Herodians, with their defiled political thinking, came on the scene, that a plot was put in place to put an end to the “Jesus question.”

I bring up the Herodians this morning because we have a similar situation in America. The church has flirted with politics for years, feeling that it gave them some sort of pass to “big-town thinking.” Yet somehow or another, the religious system was able to keep itself from becoming the whore to Washington.

Then somewhere along the line, we gave up on faith.

We gave up on “love your neighbor as yourself.”

And to a huge degree, we gave up on Jesus.

We started looking for a secular leader to represent us–an imposter–so we once again have come up with a scheme rid ourselves of Jesus.

This is why we’re so confused. It’s why worship has a feeling of vanity and purposelessness to it. Numbers are dropping. The young people are uninspired, and the clergy teeter between fanaticism and apathy.

It is time for us to identify the Herodians, expose them as the quitters they are, and once again give our faith, hope and charity a chance to do its mystery.

Here’s the good news: Jesus is not political.

Here’s the better news: He’s still in the business of loving people and saving souls.

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Ask Jonathots … December 29th, 2016

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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ask jonathots bigger

I am so frustrated. What happened in 2016??

Well, I’m not quite certain of your particular frustration, or what crosses your mind as a grievance concerning the year.

But certainly overall, the United States abandoned its sense of “civil” rights. In pursuing rights it is essential we maintain a civil attitude.

Somewhere along the line it became more important to chase down an agenda or voice opinions of opposition than to find ways to peacefully coexist and respect one another.

In the process, we had a lot of shouting without having any real interaction.

  • It became important to be right.
  • It was essential to win.
  • It was a game to degrade your opposition.
  • And it was considered fair play to dig up dirt and heap it on your opponent.

Because we humans are susceptible to selfishness, once we realized that our leaders were participating in playground antics, we felt the freedom to lessen our general toleration while increasing our volume.

It created a caustic environment.

So all the political parties, all the religions, and all the intellectuals who were supposed to guide us in ways of structured sensibility, instead became armed forts, where rocks were thrown across the chasm.

This will only change when we return to civil ways to establish our rights.

So what is civility?

1. It is impossible for me to completely be right.

I am human and therefore not only capable, but susceptible to error.

2. Listening means shutting up.

There is no such thing as listening with one ear as you prepare your speech to contradict your enemy.

3. Treat every human with the respect and reverence you would give to God.

If you don’t believe in God, treat every human like you would your mother.

4. Be fully aware that in a democracy you will need to include other people who have lifestyles and ideas which are completely opposed to your own.

If it isn’t killing anyone, you will have to learn to adapt.

5. Practice kindness whenever you can.

In other words, if there are going to be conflicts, we need to also have many moments of gentleness in between, or we will start bashing each other instead of learning to enjoy one another.

In 2016, rights became more important than civility.

It was not merely a liberal problem nor a conservative problem. It became universal.

Help change 2017 by making sure that the way you express your opinion is just as respectful as the passion with which you proclaim it.

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G-Poppers … July 29th, 2016

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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Jon close up

G-Pop has to be careful.

There are things he wants to share, but he desperately wants to avoid the possibility of thinking that his ideas are sparkling diamonds, when the younger generation views them as cubic zirconia.

Sometimes though, things are too important to avoid uttering.

After watching the conventions by both American political parties, one abiding realization came to the forefront:

  • Hypocrisy is never attractive.
  • Hypocrisy is never viable.
  • And hypocrisy is eventually exposed and tormented for its stupidity.

If we’re going to move forward as a nation, we have to understand, there is one enduring truth that runs like a golden strain throughout the human experience:

Don’t do what you don’t like.

If you’ve discovered that something is distasteful, don’t think that adopting the same indiscretion into your own actions suddenly purifies it. Even though the Golden Rule is powerful, this “Platinum Rule”–don’t do what you don’t like–procures a needful humility and allows your voice to be heard above the crowd.

Both the Democrats and the Republicans stumble in double-talk. They criticize one another for variations on the same things they, themselves, do.

G-Pop wants his children to know that mistakes are forgivable, but hypocrisy is unpardonable.

So G-Pop says:

1. Always be prepared to fail and change.

Failure is inevitable. Change, on the other hand, is the only thing that you personally control. You can’t stop failure, but you can initiate change, making yourself look ingenious.

2. Have compassion for all people.

The lack of consideration for one group of people immediately opens the door for you to be rejected by those who deem themselves superior.

3. Have a sense of humor about yourself.

Laughing at yourself a lot before you laugh with others a little.

4. Listen to people, especially if they’re smarter than you.

Of course, you would have to admit there are people who are smarter. But before you humiliate yourself and insist that you alone possess all wisdom, be prepared to notice those who’ve accumulated information which you require to do better.

Even though all four of these fall into the realm of common sense, until you make them common practice, you will not be able to achieve the common good.

 

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G-Poppers … July 22nd, 2016

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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Jon close up

G-Pop watches and listen intensely.

While confident of his intelligence, he still realizes that rich wisdom can be attained through great observation.

Once again the political parties meet to do battle, contending that the one left standing is superior simply because he or she has not been vanquished. Promises are made in the midst of an avalanche of accusations, tossed back and forth with a disregard that foretells ignorance of the beauty of consolation.

How many different things can we insist we’re going to accomplish, so as to make our opponent’s list seem puny? But once elected, every President of any party immediately discovers that life takes over–and the stumbling blocks that have been permanently established in the lethargy of legislation forbid much progress to pass through the gates. After all, in regards to Congress, any organization that operates by Parliamentary Procedure is in no hurry to achieve its aspirations.

So how should G-Pop’s children evaluate who to place in the position of prominence for our land?

They must look for the candidate–whether male or female–who:

1. Handles disappointment with grace.

Since we live in a democracy, nothing of original purity will ever pass muster without being manipulated. There will be disappointment. How that is handled will determine meaningful outcomes, especially if a split second of frustration causes our leader to take his or her eyes off the prize.

2. Discovers the better way to navigate reoccurring surprises.

After all, some of us fare pretty well if one blip comes on our radar screen, but when they start popping up all over, a disgruntled spirit can cause us to forsake our more clever and intuitive parts, and succumb to our more Neanderthal attitudes.

3. Has a great sense of humor.

What we “take personal” becomes personal–even if only in our minds. Once we feel we have been targeted, we tend to seek revenge. The President of the United States cannot have vendettas.

So even though a promotion of ideas is constantly flooding through stump speeches, once the election is completed, these wishes will have to take a back seat to the daily tribulation that the world threatens to afford.

Every once in a while, things calm down long enough that you might be able to fix a highway, start an after school program, or keep the country a little safer.

But most of the time, if you are President of the United States, you’re trying to maintain the purpose of our nation and the dignity of our freedom–in a world gone crazed.

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G-Poppers … April 22nd, 2016

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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Jon close up

G-Pop wishes for his children to listen carefully.

Yes, during this season of great confusion, it is important to be careful how we hear.

With rivers of information flowing through the countryside with greater speed than ever before, there are also mounds of misunderstanding pouring out raw sewage of stupidity, tainting the flow.

Beware the liberal.

Also beware the conservative.

The thing to remember is that truth has no agenda–just a message to make us free; free of the obstruction of needing to stand behind an opinion.

You can always identify the words that are rotten with antagonism.

They blame.

Each political party, every religion, countless races–all point a finger at one another to create blame.

Is there blame? Perhaps. But such accusations need to take a journey through scrutiny.

It begins with the facts. It’s difficult to get them. Websites, news reports and pundits tend to obscure them behind statistics and endorsements.

Listen to all sides, and then find that sweet spot in the middle, where truth has cuddled up, waiting for the persevering soul to discover it.

Find the facts. Don’t be so sure.

Once you find the facts, then it’s important to decide who or what is responsible. Finding the responsible parties is not a decision to target blame, but rather, discovering who has the power to bring solution.

Who is responsible?

Could it be that we are responsible?

What part of the responsibility can we take onto ourselves, to make sure that something will be addressed?

Then, once responsibility is addressed, any blame that needs to be brought forth in order to clean up the nastiness can be pointed out without fear.

  • Facts.
  • Responsibility.
  • Blame.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t work if you go the other direction–blaming someone and making them responsible to fit your allegation.

G-Pop must warn his children that if they pursue the facts to ascertain responsibility, to correctly place blame, that they will find themselves being neither conservative nor liberal–just real.

It is a season when goodness will be determined by those who are not so intent on advertising the badness in their adversaries.

To do this requires a set of ears tuned to history and the love of humankind … instead of listening for reasons to confirm our suspicions and alienate one another.

 

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Good News and Better News … October 26th, 2015

 Jonathots Daily Blog

(2734)

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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