Good News and Better News… April 3rd, 2017

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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Perhaps a good definition for foolishness is to pursue an answer which you already have acquired, hoping that this time you will get a different response.

It’s kind of like when religious people ask, “What would Jesus do?”

I guess the concept is that his desires and inclinations may be such a mystery that we need to go to fasting and prayer to attain them.

Actually, all the church would have to do is ask the question, “What did Jesus do?”

It’s not like his life is a secret. He didn’t withhold his preferences from us. And it’s not like he didn’t lay out a road map for both his personality and his heart–whether it was about politics, where Jesus made it clear that he had no preference–any Caesar was as good as any other Caesar. And in the realm of social matters, Jesus was clear about the existence of the natural order, but if that is altered by human free will, we are not to judge others who choose a different path.

Jesus certainly made it clear that women were equals, though his church today continues to forbid them place and purpose.

So I guess we continue to pose “what would Jesus do?” so that we can slam enough scriptures together, out of context, to make it look like Jesus would agree with us.

What Jesus liked was obvious: humility, endurance, personal responsibility, faith, compassion and honesty.

What Jesus did not like was equally as obvious: hypocrisy, pretense, superiority, laziness, prejudice and over-emphasis on family and culture.

We could make great strides in the church if we ceased pretending that we are bewildered about the mind of Christ. Shoot, the Apostle Paul told us that “we have the mind of Christ.”

So why not use it?

Here’s the good news: Jesus is an open book. (Four of them, in fact–Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.)

The better news is that when you study his character, you find out that he offers the only path which leads to peaceful coexistence among human beings.

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Dear Man/Dear Woman: A Noteworthy Conversation … June 18th, 2016

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Dear Man Dear Woman

Dear Woman: Are you looking for equality?

 

Dear Man: Absolutely not.

 

Dear Woman: Well, I think I know you well enough that you’re not going to settle for inferiority–or pursue superiority.

 

Dear Man: That’s right.

 

Dear Woman: So isn’t the whole thing about equality? Even hearkening back to the Equal Rights Amendment?

 

Dear Man: That would have been a mistake. You see, the word “equality” is a trick. Thomas Jefferson used the word “equal” in the Declaration of Independence–while still owning slaves. For many years in the South, there was a proclamation of “separate but equal,” which was supposed to make everything right. But of course, it didn’t.

 

Dear Woman: So what you’re saying is, to a certain degree we are pursuing “separate but equal” between the sexes.

 

Dear Man: Exactly. We have created a Jim Crow situation between men and women with all the books, jokes and rules that are enforced in our society.

 

Dear Woman: I get it. Things like “man cave–chick flick.”

 

Dear Man: They connote that there’s equality–a place where each gender has dominion, but keeping us totally separate from each other.

 

Dear Woman: So is it possible to be separate and equal?

 

Dear Man: Not unless the power is equal. In other words, if men are in charge of almost everything, then the stream of equality that trickles down to women will be subject to their whim.

 

Dear Woman: Just like it was in the South during the Jim Crow era. They claimed equality, but because they were separate, and the white population had domination, the black folks had to rely on the white interpretation of equality.

 

Dear Man: You got it. It sounds a little complicated but it really isn’t. Separate but equal was the way the white community in the South tried to control things while making it look like they were creating equality.

 

Dear Woman: In other words, when we say women do this and men do that, we’re separating them off, while insisting that in the separation there is still equality.

 

Dear Man: That’s why I don’t want to be equal. I want to be equivalent.

 

Dear Woman: Interesting word. So where do you see the difference?

 

Dear Man: It’s a situation in which men and women head for the common ground–human. Attributes, emotions, preferences, desires and skills are not viewed by gender but instead, solely on talent and choice. We’re working on this in racial relationships–the black community is not trying to be equal. They’re trying to establish the fact that we’re all equivalent.

 

Dear Woman: This makes complete sense to me. Because even though I’m trying to be forward thinking on this issue, unfortunately, I still contend that there are things that women do better than men and vice versa.

 

Dear Man: Me, too. We were trained that way. So when it comes to the gender wars, we promote “separate but equal,” which has historically proven to be nearly worthless.

 

Dear Woman: So how do you think I can confirm to you that I believe you and I are equivalent?

 

Dear Man: That’s easy. Stop assuming. Stop assuming that I won’t like a football game. Stop assuming that I’d rather go shopping than help you fix a cabinet in the kitchen. And I’ll stop assuming that you won’t like a movie because someone declared it “for women.” And I won’t assume that you’re completely uninterested in an outfit I’m buying.

 

Dear Woman: Is it really that simple? Do you really think that will bring some resolution?

 

Dear Man: What it will bring is clarity–that we’re not looking for an equality that still allows for separation, but instead, an equivalency that gives us the right to enjoy what we want to enjoy without having to distinguish it “pink” or “blue.”

 

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Ask Jonathots … March 31st, 2016

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My fiance was raised as a Catholic and I grew up Presbyterian. We plan to compromise after we’re married by going either to a Lutheran or Episcopal. But I don’t really like the solution. Neither one of us think the denomination makes any difference, but it did get me thinking. What do you think about this dilemma–especially since we want children?

I have always been of the contention that what you believe is much more important than where, when or even how you believe.

I think the problem with a compromise in spirituality is the notion that all outlets for the Christian message actually offer the heart, soul and mind of Jesus of Nazareth. They really don’t.

In the pursuit of finding the climate that suits a congregation, a church often has to place the more intense convictions of the faith on the back burner. It’s not a malicious act, but it is a purposeful one.

So I think it’s possible to visit every denomination for one Sunday or a couple of Sabbaths, introduce your own belief system into their atmosphere, and have an absolutely delightful time. But after a while, they will desire that you acquiesce to their cultural preferences instead of sharing your more basic beliefs.

So I think the decision of whether you go to an Episcopalian, Lutheran, Catholic or Presbyterian because you think they all believe in the same God is errant. What you want is to go to a church that understands the important values you treasure and leave there with a soul-satisfying experience.

I think many people think of going to church like they got a DUI and now have to do community service. They find it to be a duty, responsibility and now a sentence–to atone for a sinful nature.

I, for one, do not believe that such attendance to a religious service does us much good unless we actually find a way to become emotionally involved.

So my suggestion? The two of you should sit and write down the five things you agree upon, spiritually and emotionally, and then find a church of any denomination that agrees with most of them and grants you the conducive surroundings.

The sooner we understand that church is not about the delivery system of the worship service, but rather, the message and how it impacts our lives and touches our hearts, the better off we will be–and the less likely we will be to leave the institution because we find that Sunday morning family time is much more fulfilling.

 

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G-Poppers … March 11th, 2016

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The advantage of getting older is that you have been out-smarted so many times that you just might have stumbled upon some “in-smarts.”

At least, that’s what G-Pop thinks.

In a day and age when ragged ideas are being touted as well-sewn pieces of truth, it is important to remember how ignorance is born.

Ignorance is not the absence of knowledge, it is the carefully planned de-bunking of truth.

Ignorance begins with a critical nature.

Although G-Pop would love for his children to be able to discern what is real from false, he also would warn them not to develop a critical heart in performing this mission.

Critical people have one phrase which falls off their lips too easily: “I don’t like it.”

And the more they say it, the more they become accustomed to the intoxicating sensation of power they feel when they reject ideas that come their way.

The beginning of all ignorance is to be critical.

For after all, from “I don’t like it,” it is a simple few steps to, “I don’t like you.”

Once we express our disdain over the flavor of eggplant, it is just too easy to start looking at other human beings as if they were eggplant.

This is the first fruits of prejudice.

All prejudice comes via the misuse of a critical nature. If you’re not looking for reasons to dislike people, you have a much better chance of learning to live with them. But if you’ve convinced yourself that you should be allowed to have preferences, you will soon turn those inclinations into prejudices.

And G-Pop will tell his children that once we don’t like someone, it becomes easier and easier to generalize into, “I don’t like them.”

Bigotryturning one face into condemning a race.

To see change in our country, we must stop believing that “critical” has anything to do with intelligence. We should be looking for reasons to praise instead of criticize–because once critical, it’s easy to become prejudiced.

And once prejudiced, it is a “trip and fall” to bigotry.

There are stereotypes in life. If you spend time with any culture, you will find that many of the claims made about the group do have some foundation.

Those who are born of spirit and wisdom ignore the stereotypes. Once we start pointing out the stereotypes, it is a brief season until we begin promoting them and making up new stereotypes, producing hate.

G-Pop would love to see his children learn the dangers leading to the path of ignorance.

Stop being so quick to criticize: it is the gateway drug to bigotry.

 

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Three Ways to Be Wanted … November 6, 2014

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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Everybody yearns to be wanted.

Are there universal aspects of human behavior that make us more appealing to the tribe than others? Of course there are.

So it’s ridiculous to continue to preach a gospel of individuality when a certain amount of conformity is necessary for us to get along and succeed with our brothers and sisters.

So let me offer three suggestions on how to make yourself more wanted by friends, and even strangers.

1. Stop complaining.

I mean, completely. And when you do slip up and begin to grump and growl, catch it and apologize. It’s a piece of self-righteousness that we must acquire, otherwise we will find ourselves hanging around with folks who believe that complaining is an option rather than a vice.

To identify what complaining is, let me give you a definition: Complaining is when your expectation has been dashed and detoured by reality and you still feel you have the right to an opinion.

You don’t, I don’t and neither does anyone else.

One of the most appealing aspects of human character which draws people your way is a reputation for “taking one on the chin” without bruising up for a week.

2. Start listening and remembering.

Some people say they’re good listeners, but they’re horrible at remembering.

  • If people tell you they don’t like pickles, don’t keep serving them.
  • If you hear that someone is searching for a specific item and you run across it, buy it and present it to them.

We extol the virtue of listening, but it is a useless attribute if we don’t allow the information to become part of our conscious memory.

Listen–yes indeed, but more importantly, remember the preferences, deeds and desires of others.

3. Pick a mood.

You don’t have to be happy all the time. But you do have to land on a general temperament which people can trust. Even though we may not admit it, we get frustrated by folks who are high one day and “in the pit” the next. Matter of fact, we tend to become amateur psychiatrists, diagnosing what their condition might be.

Unless you have a neurological disorder or a mental illness, your moodiness is your choice.

All of us desire to be wanted. But to achieve this status, we must pack our knapsack with the kind of supplies that make us valuable on this great camp-out called life.

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The Peep Show… September 1, 2012

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She was about to begin her comedy routine. She lifted her arms, extended them toward the audience and declared with great jubilance, “I am so glad to be here in front of all my peeps!” This was followed by a cheer from the congregated horde.

It reminded me of a note I received in my email yesterday. It was from a fellow in the Buckeye State who had been deliberating whether to have me come in to share with his congregation. He had come to a decision. He felt that it was best to “pass” on the opportunity. Even though he found my material to be intelligent, powerful and poignant to our times, he believed that my outreach was a poor match for his particular gathering.

We have become a nation obsessed with the religion of our own individuality.

Even though we don’t want to establish this uniqueness by pursuing new efforts and goals, we find our value in being set apart by our preferences. It’s why the Republicans and Democrats scramble around trying to hit the right buttons to bring the favor of various portions of the electorate. For after all, the theory is that Hispanic voters want different things from black voters and senior citizens have special requests which are quite divergent from those of young people. We keep trying to play to an audience of our peeps.

It creates a three-point philosophy that continues to separate us off into tinier and tinier segments instead of coagulating our nation into a force for good. The minute you believe that different people have different needs which must be handled differently, you create the following climate:

1. “I believe I am normal.” Even though you may try to please other people and reach out to meet their desires, no one is of a mindset to think that these other people actually have a better way of doing things. Otherwise we would adopt some of their practices for our own. The minute you believe you have “peeps,” you will start to reluctantly try to find a way to reach everyone else, while privately wondering why they aren’t more “normal”–like you.

2. “Because you have preferences which are different from mine, try as I might to be magnanimous, I view these variations as weaknesses which I must adapt to in an attempt to gain your favor.” If we believe that people have great chasms of difference from us, we will have a tendency, human as we are, to perceive them as underlings. I know there are those who will disagree with these observations, contending that they have the toleration to experience diversity without drawing conclusions, but honestly, that would only be true if some of the discoveries being made ended up being part of their personal philosophy.

3. “Because I believe that I am normal, and that your preferences, though permissible, are somewhat weaker, my attempts to reach you may come off as condescending.” It would be similar to playing hip-hop music in front of a black audience and hiring a mariachi band for an Hispanic gathering. Yet that’s exactly what we do. Just like high school–juniors feel they are superior to sophomores. It isn’t true, but it gives a sense of exhilaration to lord it over an underclassman. The minute you assume that any group of people will react uniformly in a particular way when given certain stimulus, you are not only condescending, you are certainly guilty of prejudice.

So do you see the problem? Once we believe that each one of us has a particular “bird of a feather” that we are “flocking together” with we are in danger of awkwardness and even bigotry towards people who are different from us. Here’s what I would like to say to that comedian who felt she had found her “peeps,” to the Republicans and Democrats who are constantly trying to plump up their message to reach a variety of clumps, and to that fellow in Ohio who felt he had a pulse on his group of people, and understood their boundaries:

It is the job of every person born of woman to find a way to be a human being instead of just following the example of their culture.

We are all heart, soul, mind and strength.

Since I know that, I gear my message and life to the knowledge that our emotions are touched by commonality. In other words, everybody hurts. Everybody gets older. Everybody needs to learn to laugh at himself. Everybody would gain greater power by ceasing to worry.

Since I know we all have a soul, our spirits are enriched by a loving God who anticipates that we can do better. It doesn’t do any good to preach just a loving God, or certainly to present a disapproving one. Since God is your Father, whether you’re black, white, red or yellow, you want Him to love you and you’re glad He thinks you’ve got more to come.

We all have a brain, and our minds are renewed by seeing what works–not merely by education, conversation or job training. We’re human beings. We need to see what works to allow it to find root in our consciousness.

And finally, we all have a body–and that particular physical unit is enlivened by finding simpler ways to achieve good health. Don’t complicate it. Make it easy.

I don’t care what audience I’m in front of. I don’t care if they’re young, old, black, white or from another planet. As long as I don’t believe in this foolish, short-sighted pursuit of categorizing off our race into little ant hills, I have a chance of reaching them.

Because quite bluntly, folks, I don’t believe I am normal. In some ways I fear normalcy because it has a tendency to settle for mediocrity. I don’t think your preferences are weaknesses. Matter of fact, I am curious if many of them might be better than mine. And I will never be condescending to you because I have too many foibles of my own that can easily be pointed out as evidence of my inadequacy.

But I will address your heart. We will find common ground.

I will speak to your soul. I will tell that soul about a loving God who really believes His children can do better.

I will infiltrate your mind by allowing you to see things that are working instead of just advancing theories of politics and theology.

And I will be vulnerable to you by telling you that my body is in need of improvement and I am on a quest to ascertain simpler ways to discover good health.

Finally, I have no peeps. Just people. And all of them are my family … if I make myself available.

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