Sit Down Comedy … May 22nd, 2020

Jonathots Daily Blog

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Sit Down Comedy

I was a fully grown, on-my-own 34-year-old man before I held three thousand dollars in my hands that was mine and mine alone.

I mean, ours and ours alone. For the entire family had traveled for a year all across the nation—sharing our talent, our hearts and our simple message of common sense, to land in the month of December with a nest egg which we were about to crack open and turn into individual omelets.

But before we did, I decided to take my young sons to a halfway house for recovering alcoholics, where those whose “down and out” had finally brought them to the point that they needed human care.

I let my kids sit with these gentlemen and listen to their stories, messages of redemption. I was hoping my sons would understand how blessed they were to surpass survival and be granted bounty. It was an amazing experience.

Everyone was thrilled because one of the occupants, who had been hooked on liquor for years, was finally going to get to go home to Mississippi to see his family. It had been five years.

His name was Herbie.

He was mentally challenged—but still able to maintain a conversation and make sense.

I shared. I told the whole room about our magnificent year and how much God had sustained us and endowed us.

Unfortunately, I was carrying our whole financial bonanza in my wallet, simply because it made me feel good and I was obviously not cleared for prosperity.

So when I went to the bathroom, my wallet slipped out the back end of my pants, and one of the inhabitants of the house found it and brought it back to me. He was praised for his honesty, and I gave him twenty dollars for retrieving my wallet.

That was before I counted the money inside.

I knew exactly how much money I had. So when I counted it, and it was $810 light, I faced a problem. Aggravating the situation was that my nine-year-old son overheard a conversation between Herbie and his buddy, in which it was made clear that Herbie was our thief.  My boy had found a corner where he was unnoticed and happened to listen in on Herbie bragging to his bunk-mate.

I didn’t know what to do. I am much more comfortable being human than trying for sainthood.

I was pissed off that I had been pilfered.

I didn’t want to attack Herbie or hurt him in any way. He had much work to do on his journey, escaping addiction. I didn’t want to be the reason he returned to the bottle, but I also didn’t want this fellow to think he could receive kindness and give back evil.

So I asked Herbie to join me in a room—just the two of us. I talked to him for a good half-hour, opening the door for him to admit what he had done. I even offered to pay for his bus ticket to Mississippi and give him a hundred dollars to buy presents for his family.

Never have I seen a man so totally divided between purity and holding onto what he had stolen.

By the end of the half-hour, he had wiggled and squirmed all the way down into the “hog-squaller,” where repentance usually brings about mercy.

But he just couldn’t do it.

I have heard rumors that in hours of confusion, God will provide the grace to be gracious. Apparently, this applies to everyone but me.

I was infuriated. I was defensive.

I took every one of my childhood prejudices against the poor and spilled them out in my heart, trying to decide what accusation to pursue next.

The worst part? $2,160 is not $3,000.

Yes—the numbers bothered me. I was enraged that this fellow was going to get away with his crime simply because he appeared to be helpless, weak and beaten up.

We finished our visit at the mission by singing a song. Before we sang, I commented, “This was an amazing day. Amazing because I got to meet all of you. But also amazing because one of you stole money from me.”

There was a gasp. The chaplain of all the chaps turned white in horror.

It was a cruel thing I did.

It could have been done differently, and I suppose the next time (or at least the time after) when I have eight hundred dollars snatched, I will be more polished and organized.

But on this day, I was deflated and out to hurt someone.

It was three days later, when I was wrapping presents for my children, that I realized how much we had and how comfortable we were. I finally gave myself permission to consider a different ending for my story.

For the truth is, having good cheer means sometimes maintaining the cheer when the good runs away.

I’ve told this tale many times.

I’ve never lied and said I believed it was God’s will or that there was some good done with the money that was better than what our family would have chosen to pursue.

I don’t believe any of that.

But each time I’ve shared, the spirit of hope lights up a different part of the tale, making me think deeper about myself, money and Herbie.

Today’s revelation was that my son, who must have been terrified to hear the man confess to the thievery, trusted me enough to report instead of nervously hiding the truth for fear of being wrong.

Everything doesn’t work out.

Everything certainly doesn’t work out to the good.

But everything, in its own way, does work out.

1 Thing You Can Do This Week To Communicate Yourself More Clearly to Others


Pick Your Eye Placement

The human eyes, being the windows to our soul, are perhaps our most powerful way of passing along our inner thoughts and unfortunately, our internal prejudices.

Bluntly, eye contact is powerfully overwhelming. Sometimes it’s just not needed. Often it can be intrusive. Matter of fact, animals in the jungle do not make eye contact with each other unless they’re ready to square off and fight.

Therefore, deciding what to do with your eyes in any particular  situation grants you the peace of mind of knowing that you’re not passing along false information to other people because they misinterpret your gaze.

This is the power of the cell phone. When you’re going into an environment where you do not know anyone, you’re not aware of how things will turn out, or striking up conversations with the people next to you may be perceived as wacky, look down at your phone. Pen a note. Peruse a book.

If you want to convey that you’re deep in thought, stare straight ahead.

If your selection is to scan the room as if you’re keeping yourself open to possible introduction, then turn your head from right to left and go back and forth like you’re slowly mowing a lawn.

Yet, when you’re in a new situation, avoid eye contact. Since nobody knows you, it will generally be considered to be criticism.

As De Niro once said, “Are you lookin’ at me? Are you lookin’ at me?”

Save your eyeballs for better use—intimacy.

Where you place your eyes determines what you are communicating to the surrounding atmosphere.

Just keep in mind—until your presence is welcome, your eyes can be viewed as being too aggressive.


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Dear Man/Dear Woman: A Noteworthy Conversation … September 3rd, 2016

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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Dear Man Dear Woman

(He takes the television remote, punches pause, sighs and leans back in his chair)

Dear Man: What’s wrong? I thought you wanted to watch a movie.

 

Dear Woman: I did.
Dear Man: So what’s going on? Why the pause?

 

Dear Woman: I just get tired of these flicks portraying men and women at odds, always fussing with each other–acting like “pretend fighting” is funny, and even flirtatious.

 

Dear Man: Oh, I just don’t take it seriously. It’s just entertainment.

 

Dear Woman: But isn’t entertainment supposed to entertain you instead of annoy you? And by the way, without being mean-spirited here, it does affect you.

 

Dear Man: In what way?

 

Dear Woman: Sometimes–I’m not saying all the time–both you and I play the little game we see in the movies of poking at each other, thinking it’s funny.

 

Dear Man: Oh, you’re thinking too much.

 

Dear Woman: That’s probably the first time you’ve ever said that to me. But truthfully, what comes through our eyes and ears does penetrate us. Aren’t movies supposed to do that?

 

Dear Man: I never thought of it that way. So what is it that troubles you the most?

 

Dear Woman: It’s the bickering. The “pretend fighting.” The ongoing idea that men and women can’t peacefully co-exist until they decide to get along by having make-up sex.

 

Dear Man: Wow. Is it that serious?

 

Dear Woman: Yes. I think it’s worse than that. I think there is a sensation that if men and women don’t fume, romance can’t bloom.

 

Dear Man: So how do you think it should be? Are there conflicts?

 

Dear Woman: Let’s look at it this way. Both of us eat. Both of us sleep. Both of us pee. Both of us crap. Both of us think. Both of us laugh. Both of us cry. I could go on and on. The similarities we possess are enormous, but we decide to focus on a tiny list of differences.

 

Dear Man: Such as…?

 

Dear Woman: Well, I can’t have a baby. And you probably can’t lift a hundred and fifty pounds. I can’t nurse my child. Yet you don’t have the seed to make an offspring. Those should be enhancements.

 

Dear Man: I still believe you’re over-thinking it.

 

Dear Woman: Maybe. But I have to tell you, the white people in America came out to minstrel shows and laughed their heads off over actors in black face who were fussing, arguing, doing dumb things and generating what was considered comedic pratfalls. As long as the black race was the butt of a joke, there was no chance for equality.

 

Dear Man: Isn’t humor a release?

 

Dear Woman: Maybe. But it’s also a weapon, to keep real feelings at bay so we can insert prejudices.

 

Dear Man: So what do you suggest?

 

Dear Woman: A really simple solution. If it’s important enough to feel, it’s important enough to say, instead of hiding behind some frustration by using a lame joke.

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Good News and Better News … August 29th, 2016

Jonathots Daily Blog

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Dividing people is easy.

Just get them to focus on their differences, and their prejudices will do the rest.

But uniting people is equally simple.

Turn the conversation toward our common humanity and let our sense of humor draw us closer.

Ebensburg Penn State highway signAs I finished up eleven weeks in Central Pennsylvania, I headed off to Ebensburg en route to begin my tour in Michigan.

Every little community in America touts some piece of uniqueness, or sometimes even insists that it has a personality unto itself. I have absolutely no idea why we want to distinguish ourselves by our quirks and profiles.

But once you break through that initial crustiness, what you find are human beings. As human beings, they have three basic natures:

1. They are concerned for themselves.

2. They are concerned for what is directly around them.

3. But it doesn’t take a whole lot for them to realize that in order to get Numbers 1 and 2 means they need to be concerned about others.Ebensburg set with Jan

I loved my time in Ebensburg, Pennsylvania.

The audiences were not easy. Having an insulated sense of community, they wanted to look on Janet and myself as strangers, but we popped out of that box and offered big hugs.

So by the time we got to the end of our programs and were ready to pack up, they invited us to a luncheon. We shared with them that we needed to hit the road, because we had a two-hour drive to Youngstown, Ohio. dividing people, prejudices, uniting people, sense of humor, commonality,

They sweetly accepted our explanation, but then they came back a second time and invited us again. Why? I suppose if I were bratty, I could say they were being pushy. But that wasn’t the case.

Ebensburg pianoIn the three hours we were with them, a connection was made–and they just wanted us to know that they were fully aware of it and treasured it.

We gently declined again, and all at once one of the sweet Ebensburg souls said, “Why don’t we make you some plates to go? You have to eat. What is it you want?”

It was so moving. Perseverant love.

They wanted us to eat their food, and we needed to eat food, even though we could not stay–so they came up with a plan.

They bagged us up dinners, complete with two cold bottles of water.

As I drove down the highway enjoying my salad with just the right dressing and all the little choices they put on my plate, I considered perseverant love.

The church is in a position to become the only resource in America that has an open door policy and offers perseverant love. It will begin when we stop studying the Bible in abstract, but instead, study human life, find out what’s really going on with people, and then come back to the Gospels to unearth what Jesus says about it.

That’s the good news.

The better news is that when we have this perseverant love, it’s a lot easier to comprehend that somebody could feel that way toward us, too.

Ebensburg empty piano bench

 

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Dear Man/Dear Woman: A Noteworthy Conversation … August 13th, 2016

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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Dear Man Dear Woman

Dear Woman: Hey, I got the message you wanted to see me.

 

Dear Man: Yeah, I have a job interview coming up and I wanted your insight.

 

Dear Woman: Okay…

 

Dear Man: You seem reluctant. What’s the problem?

 

Dear Woman: I’m not reluctant. It’s just that you’re really smart, you know what you’re doing and you’ve gotten jobs before…

 

Dear Man: I know, but this interview is with a man, and I thought you could give me some tips on how to approach it.

 

Dear Woman: (chuckling) You do understand, it’s not like there’s a real “Hair Club for Men” and we get together once a week to discuss our plans.

 

Dear Man: I know that. I just want to get an edge so I can get off on the right foot.

 

Dear Woman: Well, the wrong foot is thinking there’s a context for dealing with other people.

 

Dear Man: What do you mean?

 

Dear Woman: Once we start boxing people up by sex, race or any way at all, we’re showing both our disrespect for them and our insecurity about ourselves.

 

Dear Man: Gee, whiz, I just wanted some advantage…

 

Dear Woman: OK. Here’s an advantage. Work on your content. And here’s your content: “This is who I am, this is what I want and this is what I can offer.” In that order.

 

Dear Man: Isn’t that pushy?

 

Dear Woman: No, pushy is when you think you can look some magical way or produce some mystical dialogue that suddenly makes you appealing to a male boss.

 

Dear Man: There are prejudices.

 

Dear Woman: Yes, there are, but you won’t overcome them by giving into them. Find your content. Don’t try to outsmart. Instead, out-start them. Anticipate the questions and provide the information you know he will need. Then gently guide him to the questions you want him to ask you.

 

Dear Man: How do you do that?

 

Dear Woman: Balance. If you hear something you don’t agree with, say right out loud, “That hasn’t been my finding.” It will surprise him. It’ll make him ask questions about why you differ. Nodding your head and smiling is the best way to make sure that you don’t get a job. Stop worrying about the context. In other words, “I’m talking to a man so I should do this.” Focus on the content: “This is who I am, what I want and what I can offer.” Then if he is not in the same place you are…well, you wouldn’t want to work there anyway, right?

 

Dear Man: I hear what you’re saying but I don’t know whether I can do that or not. I’ve spent my life trying to please.

 

Dear Woman: I understand. But it’s time to take steps toward clarifying your content instead of groping around, trying to find the context and submitting to it.

 

Dear Man: I’m so glad I called you.

 

Dear Woman: Oh, you would have figured it out. But in the process you might have missed out on a good job or two.

 

Dear Man: So, content, not context. Out-start them instead of trying to outsmart them.

 

Dear Woman: That’s it. Good luck.

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G-Poppers … February 12th, 2016

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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Jon close up

 G-Pop remembers when he bought a dog for his youngest son.

A trip to the rescue shelter, a scanning of canine candidates, and a selection of the family mutt–an animal with so many donors that breed identification was laughable.

The whole process, counting food and bowl, was $45. For that sum, a family friend was acquired, absent any pedigree.

Yet buried in the genetics of this pup was a little bit of hound.

The young son discovered this one night when he imitated a dog howling, and the mixed-up barker launched a woeful moaning into the air.

The dog resisted his inclination. He tried to refrain from being “nothin’ but a hound dog, cryin’ all the time.”

But eventually, the sound of hound came forth.

He was embarrassed.

Matter of fact, after the outburst, he drug himself from the room to reflect on his folly.

Just for the record, we are all mutts, too.

All us Americans.

We have so many breeds within that it would be impossible to find purity in any of us. And we’ve certainly got some hound.

Yes–there is much that hounds us:

  • We are hounded by our selfishness.
  • We are hounded by our fears.
  • Certainly hounded by our sense of entitlement.
  • And also, by our prejudices.

So politicians, ministers and corporations try to get us to release our disconsolate, mournful bay.

They tempt us to be mean and grouchy.

They lure us to our worst place, where we wallow in dissatisfaction, “the hound of hell.”

So then we whine. I do think we’re embarrassed by it–we want to run and hide because of our weaker nature taking over.

But shame on those who draw out the parts that hound us.

Our dog was noble, loyal and loving.

But sometimes, to establish our pleasure–and dominance–we made him howl like a hound.

G-Pop thinks it’s time for us to stop barking at the moon.

Matter of fact, maybe it’s time for all of us to find our better pooch.

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Ask Jonathots … November 5th, 2015

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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ask jonathots bigger

I have a close friend who has decided to have a baby. She’ll raise the child herself–a single mom. I don’t disapprove, but I do wonder if the child will be somewhat disadvantaged. What do you think? Is there an innate power in the nuclear family–mom, dad and children?

No. There is no natural power in having a nuclear family in raising a child.

Children respond to two stimuli: love and discipline–hopefully dished out in equal portions.

Is there a positive aspect to a child having a male and female role model within the same household? No, but the mother, in your case, needs to be fully aware that since we are a world of men and women, that the child will need to have positive, joyous and untainted visions of the male of the species.

There would be a temptation, as a single mother, to pass along some bitterness, which would not only be useless to the child, but also could create an offspring that is overly sensitive to one gender in favor of the other.

Here’s the truth: we create too much drama around raising children.

People have been doing it for millions of years. Good people have raised bad children and excellent human beings have risen from the ashes of abusive situations. None of us are quite sure what makes the perfect climate for a young human to grow–except we do know that love and discipline go hand in hand to forming a better possibility.

You and I and the next guy standing near us need to realize that we carry prejudices into our relationships, even though we don’t intend to. It could be anything from a distaste over what is referred to as an “unwed mother,” or even a sense that we privately consider ourselves to be “Superparent,” and no one could raise children quite as well as we do.

This is where we can perform the function of encouragement and exhortation.

I will tell you–critique is absolutely worthless. Telling people what they are doing wrong is like spurring them on to do it more. But when you see your single mom friend performing brilliantly, step in and pat her on the back. Buy her a package of disposable diapers. And when you see her questioning what she’s doing, exhort her to pursue her better choices.

The human race will not improve because we are constantly correcting mistakes. Because we are emotional creatures, the human race only improves as we focus on what we are doing which is positive … and only gradually discards the useless ways.

 

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