Practical … October 24, 2013

Jonathots Daily Blog

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Nuts-and-Bolts1Meanwhile, back at our dilemma:

The problem we face here on the road at the end of our yearly odyssey will not disappear just because we throw some cynical attitude its way. Trials and tribulations are not impressed with our disgust. And also, you must understand that heavenly conclusions cannot be achieved without pursuing some sort of earthly application.

To put it bluntly, prayer becomes useless if we haven’t tuned our senses to the world around us and find ourselves ready to move out on the opportunities that come our way.

Therefore it is just as possible to pursue a darkened path by saying we have faith in God, but not taking the cues from the world around us, and instead, insisting that our particular miracle must float down from the heavens.

This lends a second possibility in approaching our human quagmires: practical.

Amazingly enough, the Good Book, which is often portrayed as ethereal, is actually better presented as a handbook for planet living. Practical divides into three parts:

  • Count
  • Contend
  • Control

First of all, we should count what we actually have. Don’t expect any progress to be made if you’re not willing to invest what you already possess. Much of the cynicism and darkened conclusions will depart when we realize we have resources.

Case in point: when you’re trying to feed five thousand people, five loaves and two fishes don’t seem like very much, but they aren’t nothing–and at least it affords the opportunity for in-depth conversation.

Secondly, after we know what we have, we need to contend. What does that mean? It means, “Where are we?” Knowing our resources will not always stimulate faith, but sometimes will weaken our resolve. There will be some human effort involved in achieving divine conclusions, so it is necessary for us to understand our emotional state, our spiritual belief, our mental awareness and our physical strength. If we are going to be an army, we need to be well-fed, well-trained and well-armed.

And finally–control. Sometimes the whole problem cannot be whipped in one whack, so we should work on our negotiation skills, to buy time to take on our difficulties one piece at a time.

For instance, here on the road, it is ridiculous for me to worry about what we’re going to do at the end of next month. Instead, I should focus on what happens today and at the end of this week. Won’t that get me closer to my goal?

Count: what do we have?

Contend: where am I emotionally, spiritually, mentally and physically?

Control: can I divide this up into smaller pieces?

Pursuing this path removes the specter of darkened cynicism, which opens the door to our Creator being willing to link with His creation. Once that relationship is initiated, our third possibility comes to play.

See you tomorrow.

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Crazy Larry… February 24, 2013

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Living a Legendary LifeI think it was about eight years ago. I had begun to write screenplays for independent movies, was composing some symphonic works for a regional orchestra, was working on a couple of novels and traveling across the country doing my presentation in churches.

It was an excitingly varied life, which brought one piece of information to the forefront of my mind: everyone is basically looking for a central mission in their journey, but are often reluctant to name that yearning by using one of the conventional terms for God or spirituality.

I found that both intriguing and comical. The thought in my mind is, once you find out where faith has its nexus, the name you come up with for this precious sense of peace of mind is not nearly as important as remaining passionate and fervent.

So I wrote a book called Living a Legendary Life, and in a very tongue-in-cheek style I proposed that rather than fighting over religious vernacular, we should just go ahead and call God–Larry.

I thought it was quite funny. I wasn’t actually suggesting that we start the First Church of Larry or the Holy Order of Larry. What I failed to realize was that I was trying to be humorous, off-the-cuff and clever in a world that does not particularly favor those presentations.

I immediately ran into the conservatives and the liberals. The conservatives were upset because I suggested that the name of the Divine God of the Universe was one of the Three Stooges. The liberals, on the other hand, were dismayed because I portrayed a God named Larry (which they didn’t have much problem with) but that this Deity expected people to be involved in their own lives and not cop out on their responsibilities.

Little did I know that I had placed myself directly in the center between these two houses of philosophy, and was in danger of being shot by both sides.

It made me think of the words of Larry’s son, Jesus, who once noted that he was very happy that truth is “hidden from the wise and prudent.” The wise consist of those more liberal individuals, who contend that they’re more intellectual and scientific than their backwoods brethren. And the prudent are the conservatives, who think the only way to be acceptable is to retreat into former times, when everything was supposedly just hunky-dory, and you could actually say “hunky-dory.”

This experience has not deterred my effort to maintain an autonomy from both camps. The wise are too smart to learn and the prudent are too careful to be blessed.

So both of them thought my idea was a rather “crazy Larry” concept–and my satire escaped them. But for those who are not bound by the restrictions of either world, who still believe that God loves us all, and keep good cheer in their lives because it is their favorite survival tool, my writings are still appreciated–and even occasionally comprehended.

After all, faith needs two very important parts: (1) it needs function. It’s got to be practical enough to be of some earthly good. (2) And it requires fervor. If it doesn’t energize you, it is a faith without works … which is dead on arrival..

The producers of jonathots would humbly request a yearly subscription donation of $10 for this wonderful, inspirational opportunity

A Proud Look … August 22, 2012

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Did you know that there are seven things that God hates? Of course you did. You’re just as smart or smarter than me.

But do you remember–at the top of that list is “a proud look?” You would certainly think that God’s primal distaste would be for poor church attendance or a lack of tithing; perhaps misguided prayer or ignoring the Bible. But no–it’s a proud look.

When I read that yesterday it gave me great pause. The word “pride” is an established premise in our society for psychological well-being. Simultaneously, it’s also an accusation we make at others when we want to attack their over-wrought sense of importance.

How can it be both?

Is there a certain amount of pride necessary in order to maintain any human presence? And if you exceed that magical level, does it suddenly become detrimental,  even intolerable? And while you’re answer that one, since when would human beings be able to distinguish and maintain that kind of balance?

Pride, it would seem, is similar to handing a vial of nitroglycerin to a child and calling after him, as he heads to the playground, “Play safe!”

It doesn’t seem to come with instructions. We do know this–the seven things that God hates are actually very human and are also the things that we, as people, despise. So God’s preferences are not nearly as religious as one might think–and we know that at the top of His list, in the catacombs of the despicable, is a proud look.

If I’m emotionally proud, I come across condescending, as if I have solved all the secrets of the universe and have arrived here to aid my ailing brothers and sisters. If I’m spiritually proud, there is a piety that causes people to want to hurt me because I have transformed everything practical into the realm of the supernatural, leaving me arrogantly annoying. If I’m mentally proud, it means I think I’m smarter than everybody else, which is usually reason enough to plot my death. And of course, if I’m physically proud–preening all of my outward members–I just cause those around me to try to think of ways to make me stumble, or at least sprout a pimple.

Sometimes we say, “I’m proud to be an American.” That worries me, too. Nationalistic pride is good–as long as it’s inclusive of others and doesn’t begin to believe in the supremacy of our particular type of people.

Pride is like having a knife with no handle–just two blades. The more you use it, the more you cut yourself. So here’s what I came up with–I think it is a complete package and when enacted correctly, allows us to culminate with a sense of confidence and pride.

Emotionally, I am learning me. I need to stop rationalizing who I am or comparing myself to people with lesser conviction and focus on my own emotions and learn what I can about myself without fear and shame.

Spiritually, I am learning God–not from a Biblical sense, from what others have written down in a book, but from the perspective of Him being my Creator and Father, and comprehending what His love and also His mission entails.

Mentally, I am learning earth. Right? That’s where I live. And until I am evicted or given a bus transfer, the best place for me to learn is earth–how it functions, how I can be a good caretaker and how I can submit to the wisdom of Mother Nature without appearing to be a mama’s boy.

And physically I am learning to work with what I have. In our bodies, there is a danger of being too satisfied with our present condition and certainly equally a precarious cliff we can hang from if we’re constantly disgusted with our appearance. In my case, as a large, aging, bald white man, it’s a good idea to try to play up my better parts and disguise areas that may be ready for retirement.

When you put all that together–when you are emotionally learning yourself, spiritually learning of God’s love and His desires, mentally learning the earth of His creation, and you have taken a few moments to eyeball yourself in the mirror and learn to work with what you have, you do reach a point when you can be proud. It is not a look in your eyes that exudes domination, but instead, a simple statement: I am proud of my pursuit.

It doesn’t show up in your facial expression or countenance. Instead, it is manifested in the fruit you bear, in your tasks and your dealings with others.

A proud look is when we allow one part of our being to jut out from our face while we have ignored the other portions that are ragged and rusty. But a true pride is in rejoicing over the pursuit of learning yourself, learning God, learning earth and learning to work with what you are.

It is still a delicate adventure, but to me, it makes more sense than playing with dynamite … while holding a match.

The producers of jonathots would humbly request a yearly subscription donation of $10 for this wonderful, inspirational opportunity

The Benjamin Franklin Moment… January 19, 2012

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In Philadelphia

 
If memory serves me correctly, it was January 19th, 2006. I was shopping at the Rivergate Mall in Madison, Tennessee, when I walked to my car–and lying on the ground near my front bumper was a hundred-dollar bill.
 
Yes–Benjamin Franklin, giving me his classic lascivious leer. It took a moment for my brain to register that money was lying at my feet, even though it is the continual, persistent dream of every human traveler. There was no wind blowing, so it was quietly remaining, without stirring. I picked it up, realized it was real, and then looked around in all directions to see if somebody was frantically searching their wallet or purse for the lost revenue. There was no one in sight.
 
The spot where I retrieved the bill was also far from any store, so I didn’t know exactly where to go to locate a potential searcher. I stood for a moment, continuing to peer circumspectly but no one came into view. I thought about taking out want ad in the newspaper, telling of the discovered treasure, but I considered how ridiculous that would be–no one is capable of being that honest, considering the financial benefit.
 
I realized that I had received a blessing.  It was MY blessing–yes, my gift–to do with whatever I wanted.
 
I climbed in my car and sat for a moment and made a Biblical decision. I call these Biblical decisions because they are conferences I hold with my spirit, my conscience, my emotions, my will, and everything I’ve learned that truly is important that actually ends up working out when applied. Many things I have tried to put into practice–especially from the Old Testament–have proven to be less than adequate in everyday human interaction. Moses and Nehemiah are not my best contact points in the hour of need. No–it is up to me in my lifespan, to make Biblical decisions based upon a council of myself with the Spirit of God, using as a reference those principles I have found to be irrefutable. Here’s how I decide things:
 
1. If it’s a spiritual matter, I find a way to apply it practically. I do not believe in “abstract” spirituality. I think it’s the duty of every believer to take heavenly things and bring them into earthly use–or else, please just be quiet about it. This is why I do not take part in discussions about the Apocalypse, heaven, hell or even a conversation about who’s going to make it to the pearly gates or not. These are spiritual thoughts that don’t seem to have a landing gear to arrive at the airport of our human reality. Everything spiritual needs to have a practical application–otherwise, hush up.
2. Likewise, everything practical in my life needs to have a spiritual implication. I do not believe it’s an accident when I run across a person in need in the street. I do not think that stopping at a red light is without a measure of spiritual leading by God’s integrity. I look for my practical life to have spiritual meaning and eternal quality. The reason most people cannot grasp the concept of “Christ in me, the hope of glory”  is that they believe their lives are DIVIDED between the earthly and the heavenly. Such a division is not only unnecessary, but may prove to be the definition of careless ungodliness. Everything practical becomes spiritual.
 
 So that is why when I had the one hundred dollars in my possession, I said a quick prayer, tapped the Kingdom of God within me and came up with what I thought was a delicious plan. I decided to keep fifty dollars for my own enjoyment and pleasure–because deprivation does not make me better, just grouchy. Then I went to the bank and took the last fifty dollars and changed it into five ten-dollar bills, and spent the next hour just dropping one ten-dollar bill at five locations, so that someone else could enjoy the miracle of finding unexpected finance.
 
Because, after all, the most spiritual thing you can do in your life is to enjoy the gifts God sends your way, and then find a way to share that sensation with others. I thoroughly enjoyed the notion that someone was finding a ten-dollar bill and they were also being given a chance to turn something spiritual into something practical, and then taking that practical and transforming it back into something spiritual.  It is the essence of what we do as people which sets up apart from not only the apes, but from one another.
 
It was my Benjamin Franklin moment. Fifty dollars for me and five ten-dollar blessings for those who were alert enough to notice. 
 
Yes–alert enough to notice. It may be the true definition of righteousness.
 
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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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http://www.janethan.com/tour_store.htm

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