Not Long Tales … December 3rd, 2019

Jonathots Daily Blog

(4441)

17.

The Man Who Would Be…

Santa Claus.

A complicated simplification.

For he is a homebody with a flair for adventure and a generous soul with a mission to “nice up the naughty.”

A lowly toymaker with a vision for all the children of the world.

Reginald Carlson was a fan of Santa Claus. He was obsessed with the good saint from the North. It was usually the second thing he shared with any person he met, right after saying, “Fine. How are you?”

For twenty years, Reggie (as they called him at work) found his station in life in the backroom of the local post office, sorting letters that he hoped found correct destinations. But all day long, he would share, with whomever would listen, whatever he had recently learned about Father Christmas.

He studied books.

He read all the legends.

He had over two thousand pictures of Old Saint Nick in his personal possession.

For Reggie, rather than reaching an age when he ceased to believe in Santa Claus, not only continued to keep his faith in the icon but developed a hero worship—an everlasting sensation of sympathetic connection.

He wanted to be Santa Claus. There were three problems:

First, Reggie couldn’t get any skinnier if he were to fast for ten days. No, not an ounce of fat on Mr. Carlson’s frame.

He was also not bestowed with hundreds and hundreds of elfin assistants to aid him in his quest to bring a toy and joy to every girl and boy.

And finally, the traditional marshmallow-white skin envisioned for the toy-giver—well, Reggie’s was a bit more toasted.

But in the midst of one of his musings about trying to do something to become more “Clausian,” he came up with his idea:

North Poling.

It was a rather plain concept. Reggie envisioned selecting twenty small towns in his home state and finding a group of grown-ups in each locale who would become Santa Claus to their community by taking all the families in their little village who were unable to provide a solid Christmas for their children—and not only provide the toys and extras, but deliver them, wearing costumes, on Christmas Eve.

Reggie was so excited he could barely contain himself.

He shared the dream with everyone he knew, and though it seemed a bit farfetched to them, it had a bit of sparkle and nobility, which made each one promise to support and even participate.

Counting his hometown of Baskerville, Missouri, Reggie lined up twelve other communities within a hundred-mile radius and started writing letters. City councils, mayors, preachers, store owners…

He contacted charities and pursued government grants to procure the money for the yuletide venture.

Word of his efforts spread quickly, and some pictures of the first fruits of his gathering in Baskerville even went viral on the Internet.

He received an invitation from the television show, “Invest or Bust.” The program featured entrepreneurs with reasonable ideas, who presented their plans, trying to get money for their causes from the star of the show, who dubbed himself “Snarky.”

Snarky was hard to convince. He was prideful, cynical and had left many people in tears, walking away feeling foolish for having uttered their visions.

Things were going so well with North Poling and there was such a great level of intrigue that when Reggie received the invitation from “Invest or Bust,” he was reluctant to appear. But everybody circled around him, hounding him, for a whole week, until he nodded his head, called back on the phone and set a date for taping.

Meanwhile, Reggie had no illusions of grandeur. He didn’t need some billionaire from New York City to feed his hopes with cash. He kept promoting. He kept sharing. He kept believing and even started his initial planning.

By the time he headed off to tape “Invest or Bust,” there were ten communities which had agreed to be part of North Poling, with over a hundred volunteers. He was ecstatic. His faith in becoming Santa Claus was materializing right before his eyes.

So he took the trip to New York more or less as a lark. He imagined himself being the bearer of great news and receiving—well, overall, a vote of confidence.

But when the show was taped, Snarky, being particularly surly that night, attacked Reggie for his presumption, explaining that it was not only foolish and a waste of time and money, but that in a sense he was discouraging poor people from improving their situation. Reggie tried to defend himself, but Snarky kept up his attack, viciously snarling rebukes and repudiation.

At length, Reggie explained that he wasn’t looking for any money and really didn’t need Snarky’s approval. In doing so, he feared that he had come off angry and defensive.

Reggie was so disappointed with his appearance on “Invest or Bust” that he took an early flight home, only to discover that apparently the whole world had been watching.

The phone started ringing.

One after another, the small towns that had signed up for the project pulled out, stating that they lacked the money or some other lame excuse.

Snarky’s prophesy about the adventure being doomed was being fulfilled.

There seemed to be no encouragement coming in from the appearance in New York except one tailor from Los Angeles, who donated a red and white pinstripe Santa suit for Reggie to wear. When the garment arrived three days later, Reggie looked at the beautiful costume with a deep sense of futility. All that was left was Baskerville, which had shrunk to a staff of only five—to deliver toys to thirty-two households.

Then a sneaky, sinister statement began to circle through the community.

Reggie was trying to make money off the idea.

One of the volunteers asked him why he had so much money in his checking account. Reggie was shocked. How did this fellow know how much money he had bank? It was outlined to Reggie that “someone knew someone” who worked at the bank.

Reggie explained that he had no place to put the donation money that was coming in, or the few grants that had been afforded his way.

But it didn’t really matter what story he offered. The five Baskerville volunteers were really just looking for a reason to escape. They all deserted.

It was three days before Christmas, and all through the town, all the creatures were stirring, but no support was around.

Reggie was depressed. His wife and oldest son had cautiously stepped away. Oh, they still spoke their support, but whenever he brought up new ideas or asked if they would help him find more volunteers, they gently changed the subject.

The question hanging in the air all over Baskerville was:

What is Reggie going to do on Christmas Eve with what he’s begun if he has no one to help him. What will become of the money? What will happen with the toys? What will he do with the huge truck he rented for the evening?

The answer was simple: Reggie had no idea.

By five o’clock Christmas Eve afternoon, he sat alone in a rented warehouse, staring at presents which were already wrapped—with no place to go.

He was alone. Darkness was falling. The warehouse was chilly, with shadows were lingering across the walls. Reggie sat on a big box containing five bicycles—and started to cry.

After about a half an hour, weary of his own tears, he spoke aloud.

“I am not a religious man. I have nothing against God (if You’re listening). I just don’t like church—sitting for so long and ending up doing nothing. I don’t get it. I mean, if there is anything supernatural—if there is a spirit that causes Santa Claus to be real, why in the hell didn’t it show up? Is it because of me? Am I so stinky and dumb and meaningless that the idea has to wait for a better person to carry it? What did I do wrong?”

He continued. “Was it prideful for me to go to New York? Why couldn’t North Poling work? Even if it is a dumb idea, other dumb ideas work. Putting cinnamon on cereal kind of worked. I think it’s stupid, but it’s still out there. They messed up Coca Cola for a while, but people are still drinking Coke. And even when we have really bad politicians, no one gives up on the government. What happened?”

All at once Reggie raised his voice with a mighty thunder. “What in the hell happened?”

He heard a sound behind him and whirled around.

Standing there was Kathy Gillespie. She was one of the teenagers from the high school—a cheerleader. Reggie knew her because the school often sent her down to the post office to pick up specific packages that the principal wanted as soon as possible.

There she was, standing in the darkened room, frightened and shivering. Reggie foolishly stepped toward her. She jerked back, terrified. “I’m sorry,” she said sheepishly. “I didn’t know you were crazy.”

She burst into tears, turned on her heel and ran out of the warehouse. Reggie thought about chasing her but the image of a grown man tracking down a teenage girl in the night didn’t seem very promising. So instead, the middle-aged post office laborer loaded a few things into the truck, not certain what he would do once everything was in place. All he knew was that he needed to make a go of it.

And if he couldn’t finish it, he still needed to begin.

The truck was nearly loaded. He stepped out and walked down the ramp, and there before him was Kathy again—but this time, she had brought seven teenage boys and five teenage girls with her. Standing alongside them were what appeared to be six younger brothers and three little sisters.

Reggie didn’t know whether to defend his angry speech to Kathy or to simply allow her to share why she had returned. Was she going to try to get him in trouble? Had she brought friends to make fun of him?

Kathy, sensing his nervousness, spoke up. “I’m sorry I bothered you the first time,” she said sweetly. “I ran away because—well, because you seemed kinda nuts.”

One of the boys laughed but then covered his mouth. Reggie was about ready to speak when the girl continued. “The reason we came was that all of us here—felt that you got treated, well…you got treated…”

The biggest boy of the group jumped in. “Like shit,” he said in a basal tone. This caused everybody to laugh. Reggie even chuckled through his depression.

“Well, anyway,” said Kathy, “we thought it was terrible. I mean, all you wanted was to be Santa Claus to a bunch of kids who need one. If we’re gonna wait for answers to fly out of the sky, then a lot of people are going to go without.”

Reggie’s eyes filled with tears. He was sensing that something beautiful was about to happen. He needed to just be still.

Kathy, who apparently had been assigned as a spokesperson, went on. “Well, anyway, there’s only…”

She looked around at the gathered friends. “…about a dozen of us. Maybe more. But we’ve come out—by the way, with our parents’ permission…”

More laughter.

Kathy cleared her throat. “We’ve come out to help you deliver all the stuff in your truck.”

Reggie was beside himself with joy.

It wasn’t the army of toy givers he had envisioned.

It wasn’t the march of twelve communities in unison, providing for the needs of the less fortunate.

It was not the triumph of his childhood dream to become Santa Claus.

But it was something. It was something good.

Maybe the towns should have done better. Maybe Snarky could have been kinder. Maybe…

But this Christmas, it would be the children doing the leading.

It would be those who were young caring for their young friends who didn’t have enough.

There was something heavenly about it.

It took the better part of the night. Some households were happy to see the truck arrive. Others felt put out because of the lateness of the hour.

It didn’t matter.

At exactly 4:02 A. M., they delivered the final wrapped present—this one was for the McCaultry children.

They were done.

Reggie put all his helpers, his elfin assistants, into the back of the truck and drove to a restaurant about ten miles away and treated the whole entourage to breakfast.

Stories, laughter, tears, jubilance.

The owner of the restaurant was so impressed by what this quickly-put-together committee had accomplished that he gave them their morning eats for free. Reggie was speechless.

In its simplicity, North Poling worked.

Maybe trying to do something big was the opposite of Santa Claus.

Maybe trying to get the whole world involved and failing was why we needed a Santa Claus in the first place.

When Reggie arrived back at the warehouse and parked the truck, the kids all got out, hugged, and then turned to head home.

Reggie watched them walk away. They probably always had been good kids—but now they were good kids who had done something good.

Reggie learned a lot that Christmas.

Mainly, Reggie learned that being Santa is a hard row to ho-ho-ho.

 

 

Jesonian: S.I.N. (Single Issue Nerds) … January 11, 2015

  Jonathots Daily Blog

(2470)

intellectual gif

Judas thought it was all about poor people. We’re not certain that he really cared about the poor–just that he thought it was a confirmation of being religious.

The Pharisees thought we proved our worth to God by performing traditional worship services. They did a lot of straining and ended up with more gnats than camels.

The disciples of John the Baptist believed that people appear more righteous when they fast–especially if you can go without food and look miserable while doing it.

The Sadducees did not believe in an afterlife–either heaven or hell. In other words, it all happens here or nothing happens.

In each one of these cases you are dealing with “Single Issue Nerds”–they believe that the way one does things is more important than the motivation–the faithfulness to a practice more powerful than a conclusion.

Dare I say, they all became the enemy, or at least the adversary, of Jesus of Nazareth? His contention about true religion was that “the kingdom of God is within you.” In other words:

  • If you’re not happy, your faith is failing.
  • If you don’t have peace of mind, your beliefs are weakened.
  • And if you’re not pursuing a life of good cheer and acceptance of others, you might as well be without any kind of spirituality because you’re really just mimicking the heathens.

I see it everywhere I go–“Single Issue Nerds.” They have grabbed some bauble from the Bible and made it their beating bongo. They are obsessed with their discovery, convinced that those who do not pursue their particular issue lack enlightenment and possibly totally misunderstand the will of God.

Let us never forget that Jesus did not have a single issue. It didn’t matter who he talked to, what nationality they were, or even if the people around them thought they were hopeless sinners. He always looked for three things:

1. Are you ready for a change? People who are not willing to change will spend all their time trying to change you.

2. Can you humble yourself? Are you willing to deny your sensation of wholeness, to admit your lack?

3. Can you extend the same mercy to others? Grace is soon dissipated by the absence of mercy. For as Jesus said, “The measure I measure out to others will be measured back to me.”

You may think you have a great social gospel or that your liturgy is significantly deep and meaningful, or maybe that your fundamentalism will squeak you through the doors of heaven when others are rejected.

I suppose you might consider yourself to be progressive–where you only use the Gospel to explain your own mission statement.

But you will find that in your hour of need, your faith has to be able to set you free–because if you’re not free, you can’t free anyone else.

And if you’re in bondage, no matter how good your intentions, you will soon bind up all the world around you.

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Jesonian: Content or Context … September 7, 2014

Jonathots Daily Blog

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Osteen

Once again, the religious community has blown up over the wording shared by a lady in Houston, Texas, as she attempted to explain how she believed that God “wants us to be happy.”

Was it simplistic? Perhaps.

Was it completely unbiblical? Of course not.

Was it unbalanced? Indeed.

The thing we have to remember about the Bible is that it offers us six thousand years of spiritual evolution, as human beings have come to grips with the heart of our Creator.

We start out in the book unwilling to speak His name, and by the time the volume is finished, we’re calling Him “Daddy.”

So it’s important that we learn the difference between content and context. Fortunately, if we’re willing to accept scriptural inclination, that direction is provided by giving special emphasis and recognition to the words of Jesus.

When we do this, we have an arbiter who literally does fulfill the law and the prophets, as he also teaches us to “render unto Caesar.”

But if you happen to be of a denomination which favors a specific doctrine and searches the Good Book to confirm that contention, then you probably will find yourself at odds with others on occasion and a bit zealous about proving your point.

So in my awkward way, allow me to take a series of the social issues of our day, and rather than addressing them by content, offer you the context I have found based on the inklings, words, personality and mission of Jesus.

1. Abortion.

“Don’t send them away.” Children are the closest thing to heaven that we have on earth.

2. The Internet.

“The light of the body is the eye.” Therefore if you fill your eyes with darkness, you will dicover darkness within.

3. Conflict between men and women.

“In the kingdom of God there is neither male nor female.”

4. Marijuana.

I think Jesus would say he wished we could get high on our own light.

5. Capital punishment.

“Neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more.”

6. Poor people.

They aren’t going away. “Do what you can for them.”

7. Culture clash.

God doesn’t have favorites.

8. Facebook.

“Don’t do your deeds to be seen of men.”

9. Homosexuality.

Why are you leading with your sexuality?

10. Guns.

“They that live by them shall die by them.”

11. Pornography.

Lust is emotional adultery.

12. Racism.

“Love your neighbor as yourself.”

13. Family.

“If you only love those who love you, you’re no better than the heathen.”

There’s my offering.

And when it comes to the issue of happiness, Jesus made it clear that it is primal in God’s mind. The Sermon on the Mount begins with “blessed,” and then it takes the rest of the time to explain our responsibility to ourselves, others and God in a quest to maintain that bliss.

So if we are going to live in a society filled with confusion, we must stop contributing to the baffling conflict and begin to simplify things down to a context which will clarify situations instead of further complicating them with more stipulation, legalism or “popcorn philosophy.”

This is why I use the word “Jesonian.”

It’s an attempt to find abundant life … through discovering the heart of Jesus. 

 

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Populie: Poor, Poor People … September 3, 2014

Jonathots Daily Blog

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bread line

The most wealthy woman I have ever known once complained to me that she was having difficulty meeting her needs.

I realized at that point that poverty is not merely a state of finance, but more often than not, a state of mind.

So it is popular to believe that there are poor people.

The populie comes when we say poor, poor people. It stimulates the sensation of pity. Unfortunately, pity is a two-edged sword.

There is pity that manifests itself as, “I feel so sorry for those homeless and impoverished souls.”

And then there is pity that proclaims, “Look at those people. I’m sure glad I’m not like them.”

They share one thing in common: they turn fellow-human beings into victims.

And once we victimize people, it is very easy to marginalize them and make them less important, or even worse, non-human.

Even though we profess to be a socially aware populace, we still subject those who are less fortunate to live in communities where there are more drugs, more liquor stores and no groceries available without paying a high price and selecting unhealthy foods.

Religion loves “poor, poor people” because it gives them a constituency. It grants them a congregation which is so dependent on mercy that they have to come to church, pray and believe in God.

Politics loves the issue because it divides people between believing we can solve the poverty issue and insisting that poverty is caused by laziness. Go to the booth and cast your vote.

Entertainment–well, entertainment loves it any time that it can box people up into categories and postulate on the extremes of the situation, to develop a dramatic or comedic outcome.

“The poor you will have with you always.”

  • Poverty is not going away.
  • We’re not going to wipe it out in our lifetime.
  • There’s no vaccine against it, nor medication to cure it.

Every chance we get, we should do what we can for others without becoming obsessed with the need. Here’s what is necessary to relieve yourself of the emotional, spiritual, mental and physical presence of poverty:

1. Change your location.

If you were a farmer planting seed in a field that bore no crops, you would certainly hunt out new ground. I have seen people improve their prosperity simply by moving. We have a tendency to surround ourselves with people in a similar plight to our own. This breeds a lack of motivation. Make a new plan, Stan, and hit the road, Jack.

2. Refuse pity.

Every time someone tries to be kind to me by feeling sorry for me, I reject it. Sometimes they’re offended, but usually they are so relieved that they don’t have to continue to be my support system that we actually become better friends.

Pity is offering to put you into a cave. Refuse it. Have an idea. And keep your faith.

3. Work your best.

Don’t wait for someone to give you something to do. You will always end up with what they don’t want to do.

Find out what you’re good at and start doing it–even if it’s in a small way–so people can find you, encourage you and use you to perform the duty for them.

Stop experimenting on things you hope for and start perfecting what you know.

“Poor, poor people” is the populie. It’s a formula for keeping people poor.

The only truly spiritual way to treat poverty is to do what you can for folks while you encourage them to go out and do what they can for themselves.

 

 

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

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