Catchy (Sitting 21) ‘Why’ Is a Nasty One … November 5th, 2017

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“So what brought you here?” asked Carlos, as he eased his way up to find a more comfortable spot on the bunk.

Matthew glanced around at the stark confinement of the cell and laughed. “I wonder how many times that question’s been asked in this jail.”

Jubal laughed very loudly, the way a man does when he’s nervous and doesn’t exactly know what to talk about and is grateful for a joke to fill the space.

Matthew said, “As I was telling you, we have this plan on how to use the money…”

Jubal interrupted. “No, I figure we’ve got more time than that. I already understand that story line. I was talking about what brought you to the point in your life where you want to take on some crazy idea to advertise Jesus of Nazareth.”

Matthew quickly fired back. “Money.”

“Nothing else?” inquired Jubal.

Matthew smiled. “We all keep pretending there is something else, don’t we? We discuss high-sounding values, which end up smashed to smithereens by the time they get through a budget meeting. Or somebody runs for President, promising a chicken in every pot, when actually they’re trying to figure out how much money they can make off of legalizing pot. My friend, it’s all about money, because without money, we can’t pay the light bill to sit in a room and argue about high-sounding ideals.”

Jubal tilted his head, frowning. “I guess I would be surprised with your answer–might even call it cynical–except, well, I live in Las Vegas. If they could, they’d wallpaper the casinos with money, just to tempt the tourists to come in and gamble to get it.”

“I know there are things that are important,” Matthew continued. “I know you have to have values you treasure. Otherwise, when you close your doors at night, you’d be terrified, with a gun in your hand, because the world is so screwed up.”

“The world is a screwed-up place, but we’re part of the screw-up, right?” inserted Jubal.

“I don’t like to think of myself as screwed-up,” said Matthew. “Imbalanced, a little greedy. Maybe sometimes I drink too much alcohol. But I can tell you–there are more times I don’t drink enough.”

Jubal laughed–this time, just a little. “So is it hypocritical to advertise a God that you don’t necessarily believe in?”

Matthew objected. “I didn’t say I didn’t believe. Goddamnit, you can’t live in this country without believing. You can’t do business. and expect to get customers if you’re going to deny their God. I just place God where he belongs.”

“And where would that be?” challenged Jubal.

“Watching,” replied Matthew calmly.

“Let me go with that,” said Jubal. “So let’s say I’m walking down the strip, and I see two men fighting and they’re really hurting each other–and I decide to watch. Who in the hell am I?”

“Smart,” replied Matthew quickly. “Look at you. You’re not a big fellow. What in the hell do you think you’re gonna do? You’re gonna get tied up in the mix-up and you’re gonna get hurt. And truthfully, every time we start believing that God cares or that God loves the world, all we do is start blaming Him for every little piece of shit we’ve come up with. I guess maybe I love God more than other people. I don’t want to believe in Him so much that I blame Him for everything.”

Jubal sat quietly for a moment. He decided to change the subject. “In about an hour, they’re going to give you the choice between a bologna and American cheese sandwich and a turkey pot pie.”

Matthew, grateful for a different topic, leaped in. “Well, I personally love a turkey pot pie.”

Jubal shook his head. “No. You loved the turkey pot pie your mother made when you were a kid. This variety comes in two forms–burned on the top or raw.”

Matthew laughed. “No, you’re wrong. It’s just like my mother’s.”

He sat for a second and then asked, “Why aren’t you eating?”

Jubal replied, “I don’t know. It seemed like a noble idea. I mean, I’ve heard of people fasting to make their point. I didn’t make any point–I just got hungry. And now, every time I shift my legs I can smell myself. Honestly, Matthew…that is your name, right?”

Matthew acted affronted. “How can you ever play the son of God if you can’t remember my name?”

“Play the son of God…” Jubal reflected. “Sounds wrong, doesn’t it?”

Matthew stormed. “No. What’s wrong, my friend, is for you to be in jail, smellin’ like my old dog, Bogo, because you were out helping the homeless.”

Carlos squinted. “What do you mean, smellin’ like your dog, Bogo?”

“When I was a kid, my dad found an abandoned sheep dog, and decided to bring him home. He was adorable and loving, but he had so much hair that every time he took a dump, some of it would stick to his fur. Being a good pup, he tried to clean it off himself, which was gross beyond all measure. But every few weeks my dad would point to Bogo, and I knew that meant I had to go and wash his behind and trim his fur. I remember that smell. I have not inhaled it since I was a kid–until I walked into this cell today.”

Carlos smelled his shirt. “Are you saying I smell like the back side of your crappy sheep dog?”

“Identical,” panned Matthew.

Jubal lifted his hand as if making a pledge. “I promise, the next time they offer soap and water I will participate.”

Matthew gave him a thumbs up and said, “Even though I’m not a religious man, I can say amen to that.”

“I’m not a religious man,” said Jubal. “When I’m working in the casinos and I see the pretty titties on the showgirls or some groupie who thought my drumming was particularly divine and tempts me with her entirety, I’m just as horny as the next guy. No, Matthew–I would make a terrible religious person. That’s why I decided to follow Jesus.”

Matthew quarreled, “Jesus was religious.”

“No, he wasn’t,” said Jubal. “If he had been, religious people would have really dug him and sinners would have run away in terror. Instead, sinners cuddled up to him, ate with him, drank with him, slept by the fire with him. It was the religious people who were terrorized.”

“Yeah, I get that,” said Matthew. “I’ve heard that old song and dance. But you see, move ahead and he’s nothing but an emaciated Jew hanging on a cross. Look at it this way. When we were kids we studied Zeus, Apollo, Mars, and Athena in class.”

Jubal nodded. “Yeah, we did. Except you mixed Greek and Roman gods.”

Matthew stood to his feet to accentuate his point. “You see, that’s what I mean. Nobody cares anymore. Even when we studied them in school, we didn’t study them as a religion. It was called mythology. They were myths–even though any Greek or Roman of the time would have vehemently objected to term. It’s all just a bunch of crap. The only reason the stories still exist is because they’re so childish and dumb.”

Jubal interrupted. “So I guess what you’re trying to say is that just as Poseidon and all the other gods disappeared and became part of an old culture, that the same thing will happen to Jesus?”

Matthew shrugged, easing back down onto the bunk. “Not for a while. It’ll start with Jonah and the whale, Noah and the ark. But eventually all these stories that have been called sacred will become mythology.”

“It’s been two thousand years,” Jubal noted.

Matthew considered the thought. “Yeah, I know. I’ve even had some moments when I thought having a God would be a good thing. Honestly, my friend, being around you has made me doubt some of my doubts. But we’ve already eaten away at a lot of the stuff. Because after all, what’s the difference between an emperor who thought he was a god, living in Rome, and the Pope?”

“Let me make something clear,” said Jubal. “I’m not asking you these questions because I’m trying to convert you.”

“Good luck if you are,” punctuated Matthew.

Jubal resumed. “No, I’m just trying to figure out who I’m working with. I’m just trying to decide if I should work with it. I’m just trying to clear my head about what parts of the story I believe and what parts are myth to me. Mostly, I’m trying to learn about you without asking ‘why.’ Matthew, I hate the word ‘why.’ It’s usually mean-spiritied, challenging, ferocious…”

Matthew chuckled. “I never thought of it that way, Jubal. ‘Why’ is the nasty one, isn’t it?”

“It is,” Jubal agreed. “But unfortunately, it’s the one that always demands to be answered first.”

 

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G-Poppers … July 21st, 2017

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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Jon close up

 

 

G-Pop is taking a brief pause to chat with his children.

American people have forgotten how to repent.

We have been so busy bolstering self-esteem and justifying lying that we have failed to realize that the greatest gift we have is to recognize error–and change.

Yesterday, G-Pop watched a man of seventy years rationalize behavior which placed him in legal jeopardy and eventually in prison. He sat and made excuses. We were supposed to see events through the prism of his understanding rather than the logical conclusions of a jury of his peers.

He forgot how to repent.

Matter of fact, it’s become a common practice to pretend that everything is just “a simple misunderstanding.”

A great man once said that without repentance, people, culture and quality begin to perish.

So just in case you are one of those souls who has forgotten how to repent, it works like this:

1. I know what I did wrong.

Yes, it is always better to discover it for yourself instead of being indicted for it.

2. I know what caused it.

Finding the source of the ego, ignorance or selfishness which brought on the dim-witted selection is very important.

3. I have ideas I can implement to keep it from happening again.

I have come to myself. I have taken away the fear of being unrighteous, and in so doing, I have tapped some truly noble notions.

4. I have selected a practical humility.

Realizing that my pride is always present just before my fall, I accept that I am susceptible to error. The humility keeps me sharp.

This is how you repent.

This is how you produce the change that makes life plausible instead of destructive.

Our country needs to learn how to repent again. If we don’t, we will continue to tout our self-worth–with less and less evidence that there’s actually any value.

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PoHymn: A Rustling in the Stagnant … July 22nd, 2015

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PoHymn July 22

At Least (A Saga)

He said he was hungry

I thought he might be lazy

But I can’t make him work

I can help him eat

I can

The little boy was dripping with sweat

His tongue hanging out as he panted

Hot day–he should hydrate

He knows that

Not my problem

I could give him one of my cold bottles of water

But if he’s thirsty, why doesn’t he drink?

Maybe too tired

I can offer

I can

 

The family looks lost

I don’t know them

Don’t want to be pushy

God forbid I should interfere

But seems they could use a friendly word

I’m embarrassed, a chicken

A timid hen

They appear rejected

I might say something

Awkward

Still, I can be nice

I can

 

How did I end up here?

The guys from work wanted to go to a strip joint

Pardon–Gentlemen’s Club

Look at her

She is so naked

I mean, disrobed of her identity

Men poking, leering and groping

Let me outta here

Buy her a drink?

Offer her my coat and a chance to talk?

Too weird

Too naked

I can be a man instead of a boy

I can

 

Sick people make me sick

I get sick looking at them

Germs

Got to stay healthy

But being sick is so sickly

Feeling bad makes you think bad

I can visit

I can

 

Law breakers

Get what they deserve

Jail birds, but we clip their wings

Maybe they want more

A second chance

How lonely is prison?

I could come to see someone

Especially since my nephew is in there

What would I say?

Maybe nothing

I can sit and listen

I can

 

I can do much more

Than stand outside the door

And wonder what’s within

Hope, joy, faith or sin

Will I risk being odd

To find the touch of God?

Yes, my soul deserves a feast

So I can go…

At least.

 

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Three Ways to Conquer Despair… December 11, 2014

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big sad little boy

Despair comes into our lives when the pile of what we need seems to be bigger than the pile of what we have.

It’s an issue of perception.

It doesn’t matter whether you’re a small child in India or the Son of God, struggling in the Garden of Gethsemane, suddenly overwhelmed by the task ahead. You still want to screech, “Take this away from me!”

Despair is hard to escape. The classic remedies of prayer, counseling, positive thinking or even medication are all limited in their scope, based on faithfulness to the process.

Let’s be honest. It is very difficult to be faithful when you’re scared.

If you’ll allow me, here are three ways to set in motion a process to conquer despair by not allowing it to wash over you in the first place:

1. Don’t ignore your moods.

You are an emotional person and merely quoting scripture, uttering your mantra, finding your yoga position or trying to ignore the problem is not going to make it go away. Our moods are powerful to us because they project the symptoms of a condition existing in our soul, which requires our attention.

Stop perceiving yourself as “moody,” and realize that you are actually symptomatic. There is a tendency in our society to try to douse the emotions and limit their value. This is the worst thing we can do.

Deal with your emotions–they are telling you something important coming from deep within your soul.

2. Find a human mirror.

You will consider yourself irreparable until you realize there are other people in your same situation, and you can see your problem or apprehension in the face of another human being. This is why rehab surrounds you with addicts instead of people who have never taken drugs sharing their insights on self-control.

We all need a mirror.

I can’t change my life if I’m looking at people who have never had a life-changing experience. Look in the eyes of someone who suffers from the same despair that you do and draw strength from his or her struggle.

If you surround yourself with people who appear not only to be stronger than you, but also let you know how much stronger they are, you will only deepen your anguish.

3. Find a friend to note your progress.

Yes, you will need to be honest with someone. For a moment you will have to stop trying to be Superman or Superwoman, and admit you’re Clark Kent or Diana.

You will make progress. You’ll have a tendency not to ignore it because your expectations are too high. Get someone who understands your pursuit and can tell you how many steps you’ve made from where you started.

There are those who want to make depression and despair an illness, and perhaps in a handful of souls, it is.

But most of us become trapped in a cave of misunderstanding and worry, and soon find ourselves nearly immobilized–unable to function.

At that point, if you will simply give place to your moods, find other human beings who reflect your need, and get a friend to encourage you in your steps of progress, you can actually win the day and bring despair under your control instead of allowing it to make you an inmate to its prison.

 

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Breakstart … March 24, 2014

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toiletTradition is a habit that seems to have a purpose. Yet every once in a while, we have to stop and ask ourselves, “Is there a better way?”

Otherwise, tradition, lacking a reason, resembles a prison.

Please allow me an oversimplification. When I was in my twenties I traveled with two women in a music group across the country. I learned two things about women:

  1. They are human beings just like me, and
  2. If you truly want to impress, dazzle, seduce and even receive respect–just put the toilet seat down.

I know it sounds trivial, and facts are, it is. It is so trivial that not recognizing it as simple and easy to do is an obvious breach of respect, tenderness and concern.

Let’s be honest–when a man lifts the toilet seat to do his business, the flusher on that pot is right next to the seat on the way out the door. In other words, if you reach for the flusher, your hand is already on the seat, able to permit it to come down. So making an excuse that it’s two separate motions,  hard to remember or difficult to execute is not only ludicrous–to the female mind, it’s insulting.

We are never going to learn to do extraordinary things until we openly admit that we’re ignoring ordinary things that could be done but are being passed over by us out of either insolence or laziness.

It took me about ten tries, but on the eleventh one, it was not only natural to put the toilet seat in the position more suitable for the ladies, but I did it without even thinking.

Or was it that I did it with thinking?

It may be traditional to have the classic battle between men and women exemplified in the bathroom, with the toilet. But success is doing something you don’t have to do, knowing that it will make someone else’s life easier.

Break a tradition and start a miracle–because miracles never happen when you’re repeating yesterday’s efforts. And by the way, you want to startle and enthrall a woman?

Put a lid on it.

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Duck for Cover… December 21, 2013

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Duck DynastyHere was my plan.

Having grown sick of seeing people park at shopping malls in total disregard to the rules and regulations, in a fit of what I would call righteous fury, I decided I would go out and make a citizen’s arrest of individuals who were impinging on the rights of others by where they perched their vehicles and even how they decided to wiggle into spaces.

I found myself a fake prop gun and headed out toward my local shopping establishment. Of course, it didn’t take me any time at all to locate transgressors. If you’re looking for people who make mistakes, who are breaking the law AND you have enough pickiness in your own soul to incriminate them, you can quickly discover a whole prison-load of infractors.

Lickety-split, using my fake gun to intimidate, I wrangled up fifteen perpetrators and forced them to get into my big, black van, slamming the door, locking it, intimidating them with my presence, and gleefully dialing the police department, to inform them that I had faithfully executed the mission of honoring the laws of the land.

To my surprise, when the police arrived, rather than cuffing these illegal parkers, they instead placed the shackles on my wrists and led me away as I screamed my objections to such foul treatment for a faithful disciple against moving violators.

The individuals I had detained were released and offered apologies by the police department, as I turned to one of the nearby officers and said, “What did I do wrong? I just followed the letter of the law and discovered those who weren’t, pointed it out and detained them until such time that YOU could offer sufficient punishment.”

He replied, “The law has justice and justice has mercy.”

So true.

Of course, I didn’t actually go to the mall with a fake gun. I share the story to make a point.

It’s something that Phil Robertson forgot a few days ago when he ran into the public square and insisted that people listen to the law of religion and theology and follow it because it was written a certain way at a certain time.

Mr. Duck Dynasty forgot that God often contradicts His own edicts by offering grace for a multitude of sins. Even if Phil feels that homosexuality is a sin, he didn’t take into consideration that Jesus, when confronted with the blatant interpretation of Mosaic law concerning stoning a woman caught in adultery, turned his back on the commandment and rose up and forgave her.

In the process of pursuing justice for each and every one of us, God frequently contradicts the laws that mankind interpreted to be His will–in order that He might rescue people from destruction.

Because it’s not just about the law. Justice comes to play.

And justice is when we’re each given a chance, individually, to be viewed by a loving Father who evaluates us personally. And even then, when justice has had its day, mercy is greater than all of it.

My advice to anyone who thinks they understand the Bible, especially as it pertains to someone else’s life, is to just shut the hell up.

Because even though people may commit indiscretions by your standards, God does not look on the outward appearance.  He looks on the heart.

And if He peers, from His heavenly home, on the hearts of two people in love, don’t you ever assume that he turns them over to check what gender they are.

My brother, Phil, is probably a good and kind man in his normal moments, but he mistakenly thinks he can detain others because there may be some sort of law permitting him to do so.

Justice and mercy always trump the cold reading of heavenly commandments.

 

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Free Indeed … September 5, 2013

Jonathots Daily Blog

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Zion“We’re all believers.”

Those words were spoken to me last night by four souls who had come out to hear our concert from surrounding towns. They went on to lament that the confusion of religion, the inflexibility of faith-based individuals and the entrenched nature of traditionalism is leaving us without a path to find communion with one another.

In my early years, I did some work in prisons. After one of my presentations, a guy in his early twenties came up to me and asked for a moment of my time. He explained that he was in jail because he had stolen a car. Since arriving, he had repented and was trying to educate himself. He said he had four more years inside, and that the greatest gift he had received since arriving was the extra privilege of being able to go to the lounge and watch television one extra hour a day.

You know what struck me? Here was a gentleman who was free of the guilt and pain of his childish error–but was still trapped because he was in prison.

If church is not making us free of self-imprisonment, insecurity and frustration, then just to have more privileges–even if one of them is salvation–does not remove the bars and take away the guards.

Jesus promised me that I could be “free indeed.”  What does that mean?

It means that even though people have a testimony and a religious conviction, they can still suffer from four terrifying evils that lurk at the corners of their souls:

  1. I’m afraid of failing.
  2. I demand praise.
  3. I’m trying to fit in.
  4. I need to be wanted.

Facts are, you will never be free as long as you’re afraid of the powerful gift of failure. It is a gift because it eliminates useless choices that will hinder our ultimate victory.

In like manner, it is difficult to gain independence as long as you’re stomping about or peeking around the corner looking for praise.

Likewise, if you feel the need to fit in, you will find that you constantly need to trim the corners of your life because some new trend will require you to be different.

And finally, the best way to be wanted is by taking care of somebody else’s need instead of your own.

I believe in spirituality and a lifestyle brought by Jesus. That kind of lifestyle creates a confidence that says:

  1. I welcome the ups and downs–I look at it as emotional exercise.
  2. I love the work–if you praise me for it, it’s just gravy. I’ve already got my mashed potatoes.
  3. I am supplied. I don’t need you to tell me what’s currently “in vogue” or what you deem old-fashioned.
  4. I bring something. I never arrive anticipating to eat off the communal buffet without contributing to the spread.

If what those four people said last night is true–that we’re all believers–then let’s start believing in being “free indeed.”

Free indeed happens when we realize that the kingdom of God is within us …  and any time we crawl on our knees to find it we create distance from our own solution.

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