Jesonian … August 4th, 2018

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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“No man can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will hold to the one and despise the other.”

The word “master” is such a nasty, archaic term. But basically, the message is that there is something that compels us. We fancy ourselves to be the compellers, but we actually spend most of our lives compelled. And when you take the word “compel” and look at the synonyms–constrain, enforce, urge, bulldoze, coerce and squeeze–you come up with a vision in your mind which gives you a sense of claustrophobia concerning being manipulated.

Perhaps that’s why people have trouble coming to terms with human life. They continue to pursue the fallacy that they call all their own shots and that everything is perfect if it is at their beckon command.

Unfortunately, Jesus was correct. From the time of our birth to the time of our death, we are obsessed with some compulsion. It is that compulsion that dictates our moods, our actions, our frustrations, our bigotry and to a large degree, our finance.

The reason I bring up finance is that the rest of the verse is a cold, hard statement from the Nazarene, telling us, “You cannot serve God and Mammon.”

Like master, Mammon is one of those words which is barely comprehensible to most of the population. Mammon is just a total obsession with things. Once we are obsessed with things, we are compelled to get them. Whatever stands in our way becomes the enemy.

I sat down before I wrote this essay and asked myself, “What is it that compels me?”

Much to the chagrin of my lineage, who may be waiting for an inheritance, profit and gain has never intrigued me in the least. I’ve had lots of money and I’ve had no money, and have found the two experiences to have little impact on my soul satisfaction.

So I would like to simplify this phrase down to one that may be easier to understand: You will be compelled, and the choice you are given is whether you are going to serve good, or goods.

Pause.

Your immediate instinct may be to say, “I’m not materialistic. I don’t want more than I need.” But there are three questions you can ask that will tell you if you’re being mastered by the good, or by goods:

1. Do you worry about money?

Since you know worrying about money doesn’t achieve anything, what is the purpose of worrying about it unless you’re compelled to do so?

2. Do you feel you would be happier and better off if you had more money?

Candidly, even though we don’t think money can buy happiness, we’re pretty sure it can rent it.

3. Do you have a wish list of things you hope to attain financially before the end of your life?

A large portion of the world will go to bed hungry tonight. In such an environment, having dinner makes you a rich person.

When you look at these three questions, you can ascertain whether you are being mastered by good or by goods.

What was the master of Abraham Lincoln? Saving the Union. To do so he realized he had to abolish with slavery. A double blessing.

What was the master of Napoleon? Conquering the world and proving that the French were superior. In attempting to do this, he ended up dying alone on an island.

What is the master of former President Jimmy Carter? This man just seems to enjoy helping other folks. He is well into his nineties and still keeps picking up a hammer.

You will be compelled, constrained, urged and coerced to do something from some thing which has gained the full attention of your passion.

Just keep in mind, it is impossible to serve the pursuit of good and the quest for goods.

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Salient…June 4th, 2018

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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There are matters that are too important to ignore or leave to chance. These are salient moments.

You can “go crazy” or you can “stay sane.” One requires you go and another suggests you stay.

If you intend on spending your life chasing what is popular, convinced that the numbers, profit margin and adulation is proof of its value, then you will end up constantly finding yourself splashing down into a pool of disappointment.

After all, consider the word popular–it “pops up,” and then, when it’s proven to be insufficient for human growth, it pops again, like a balloon, and goes away.

Here is a statement: virtue, love, tenderness, creativity, gentleness and honesty will never be popular.

You will never get the majority of the people to agree at any single moment to swing their weight in the direction of faith, hope and charity. These attributes are enduring.

Those who stay and follow them, when the “crazy” goes away, will find themselves positioned to be of help for friends and family who were wounded by the latest failed fad.

You might ask, what’s the difference between crazy and sane?

Crazy is any movement that suggests that the absence of mercy will achieve progress.

Sane is understanding that the greatest progress we can make is to apply mercy to every situation.

It’s all about mercy. There is no kindness without mercy. There is no love without mercy. Mercy is realizing that even if things don’t get better, we can work with what we have to find some good.

This will never be popular.

There will be more screams for revenge, vindication and violence as the years go by.

You can “go” after these causes, but you’ll end up crazy. Or you can “stay” with the power of mercy and remain sane.

So here is your salient moment:

There will be many voices in the wilderness. If you follow them you will go crazy.

There will always be an opportunity for mercy. If you embrace it, sanity will be your prize.

 

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Jesonian: Reverend Meningsbee (Part 30) Anchored … November 20th, 2016

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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Reverend Meningsbee

Katrina Middlesex was the news anchor of the USBN station. She insisted on being referred to as an anchor rather than anchor-woman or anchor-person, citing that she had no intention of “skirting” her responsibilities.

She requested a “meet and greet” with Reverend Meningsbee. Partially flattered but mostly trapped, the pastor agreed, but decided to make the pow-wow at his church office instead of his home. He selected that atmosphere because he didn’t feel comfortable talking to her in his private environment, and didn’t want to offer tea and crumpets (since he didn’t care for tea and had no idea what crumpets were).

She arrived promptly and didn’t waste time. Before her backside had completely hit the cushion on the chair she fired a question.

“What is it you have against this series we’re doing on your town?”

Meningsbee was equally as willing to commence. “It’s intrusive. You don’t really know these people. Many of the things you’re examining are multifaceted story-lines, and you’re focusing on one sensational aspect. And to be blunt, Ms. Middlesex…”

She interrupted immediately. “No, call me Katrina.”

Meningsbee relented. “All right, Katrina. To be candid, I don’t think you really care about the people on a human level, but rather, see them as caricatures for your network’s unfoldings.”

She smiled. “Well, well. You certainly don’t hold back, do you?”

“I’m not trying to be blunt, nor do I mean to be rude,” said Meningsbee. “It’s just that the commission I have here and the calling I enjoy asks me to be a shepherd, and that involves protecting the sheep from outside forces…”

Katrina interrupted again. “You mean like wolves? Do I look like a wolf to you?”

“Yes, actually, you do,” answered Meningsbee. “You don’t know you’re a wolf because you hang around with people who have teeth. The folks in Garsonville are simple, and dare I say, toothless.”

She giggled a little bit–almost girlish. “I don’t think you know the people quite as well as you think you do. Not only are they more complicated than you describe, but a bit more greedy. I’ve had numerous requests for revenue for the stories they’re providing, assuming, I suppose, that our network is making tremendous profit from their profferings.”

Meningsbee remained silent. A little piece of his soul was burning from the statement–partially due to the nastiness of her tone, but mostly because he was fully aware that the folks of Garsonville had been cast under the spell of big-town profit and gain.

Katrina waited for a moment, and then pursued. “Let me give you an example. The little boy with the miracle ears…”

Meningsbee jumped in. “Katrina, it was not a miracle. At least, not what you mean by a miracle. The young boy had a medical condition which the doctors felt might take care of itself and might not. It was beautiful that his inner awakening of healing happened during his baptism, but certainly it wasn’t due to an angel touching his ears.”

“Oh, ye of little faith. Wherein do you doubt?” Katrina chided.

“I believe in God,” said Meningsbee. “I just think the miracle He gives us is life, and we’re trying to learn how to use it and to pursue all of its meaning.”

Katrina opened up a notebook and began to read. “I have stories here of adultery, one horrible recounting of incest, somebody even referring to the fact that they might have witnessed a murder in the town. Are you aware of all this, Pastor Meningsbee?”

The Reverend sat for a long moment, staring at the self-satisfied anchor. “No,” he replied. “Nor do I wish to know. You see, my dear, repentance is something people do when they understand the depth of their error. Recounting is what they do when they’re in front of foolish people who are looking for the darker side of humanity.”

Ms. Middlesex smiled, but exuded no warmth. It was obvious she had no affection for the simple parson who stubbornly refused to submit to her charms. She rose to her feet and headed toward the door. Turning, she delivered one final statement.

“Richard…may I call you Richard?”

“You just did,” said Meningsbee.

“Richard, I have stories on everybody in this town. Including you. It is my job to discern which ones are suitable for air and will bring the most viewership. I try to use gentle discretion, but I am a business person, not a theologian.”

Meningsbee stood to his feet and stepped toward her. “And if all the atrocities done in the name of business would have taken into consideration the worth of a human life, we wouldn’t need theologians…because we’d be so close to God.”

Katrina squinted at him, extended her hand, which he took, shook and she slid out the door.

Meningsbee was a little baffled by the whole situation, not sure why she had come in the first place, but he exited the building, climbed into his car and went home. He was in the mood to have a good cup of coffee and retire to the cubby-hole he had set aside for personal time and study. Procuring his coffee, he headed into his little den of thought.

At the door he suddenly stopped, staring into the room–startled.

His computer was gone.

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Jesonian: Belly-Aching … May 4, 2014

Jonathots Daily Blog

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belly acheHe said, “Everybody understands the problems. There’s no need to keep talking about them. We should stop belly-aching.”

He is a minister of the Gospel.

Over the years he has convinced himself that he prefers the “more positive” teachings of Jesus of Nazareth and wishes to focus on them in order to build a congregation of believers who think good thoughts and don’t generate any negative energy toward the world around them.

Here’s the problem: injustice will never leave as long as it’s making a profit. So it’s up to the prophets to chase injustice away through pointing out its hypocrisy and deceit.

Even though Jesus is portrayed by many churches as a combination of Gandhi and a hippie attending Woodstock, the young Nazarene actually has quite an edge.

Especially as he reached the end of his Earth journey, he began to spout off profusely against the excesses of religion, the selfishness of systems and the indifference of leadership.

There are three chapters in a row–Matthew 23, 24 and 25–where he exhibits his own form of belly-aching. Because you see, belly-aching occurs when you consume something that doesn’t agree with you, and is only relieved when you dispel the thing with which you do not agree.

Understanding that most of you may not want to read the three chapters, if you will allow me, I’ll summarize:

In Matthew 23, Jesus viciously attacks the scribes, Pharisees and lawyers who used their position to extort wealth while doing nothing to relieve the burdens of the people around them. He claims that they cared more for their traditions than they did for the human beings placed in their charge.

So because of their iniquity, in Matthew 24 he informs them that the Romans would come and dismantle their entire hierarchy and destroy their city.

To further reiterate the necessity for repentance, he tells a series of parables in Matthew 25 about a Judgement Day in which God, our Father and Creator, will expect us to deliver evidence of our faith and victory during our human escapade.

The three chapters are full of complaint, warnings, admonitions and some downright insults.

We forgive this belly-aching because the prophesy came true and we understand that the message Jesus preached survives today. To determine whether we are just purveyors of doom and gloom or messengers of hope, we have to keep three things in mind:

1. Never do anything to hurt people, but also do not permit anything to happen that is hurting people.

2. Never offer a warning without giving an olive branch of hope. Nothing is over until God says it is.

3. Always note progress–even if it’s a little–and appreciate it when you see movement toward sanity.

So am I a belly-acher?

If I run across ideas which historically have been proven to be foolish, and I see injustice which is cheating people out of the value of their human lives, or if I come across greed which is suffocating the life out of the needy, I will speak out, using every bit of cleverness, comedy and even cunning that I can muster.

Because without doing this, we become part of a third clump … the ones who stood by and watched the oppressor oppress the helpless.

 

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Where do we go from here?… July 6, 2012

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She crinkled up her nose like she had just sniffed a basket full of sweaty socks at the Y.M.C.A. I could tell by her scrunched-up countenance that I was about to receive a little piece of nasty criticism. She asked, “Why don’t you go to bigger places where you could do more good and help more people instead of coming to small towns with congregations with so little attendance?”

She thought she had invented the wheel. She believed she had discovered a weakness in my effort and had uncovered a fragment of stupidity in my planning. I asked her a simple question.

“My dear, what’s working?”

It stumped her. Because even though she was bound and determined to prove her point, there doesn’t seem to be much in our society that is heavily promoted which is accomplishing anything resembling resolution.

If you turn to the world of politics, there is just too much to prove to produce any power. My dear Lord, you have to convince everybody that you’re a reputable Republican or a distinguished Democrat before you are able to step into the ring and do something to improve the circus. By the time you get done being a pundit for all the platforms of your particular political persuasion, you have used up all the time granted you on the stage of opportunity. Neither one of the political parties have all the answers, and worse, neither are even asking the right questions.

You can feel free to go to religion if you want to, but then you find yourself in the unenviable position of having too much to defend. I will tell you, my dear friends, that I am a person of faith and spirituality, but I have absolutely no intention of trying to explain the Bible. Greater men than me have attempted that feat, and have ended up looking overly pious or have been disproven by the flow of knowledge. I am not going to defend anything. If it can’t stand on its own, then it should suffer from its inadequacy. So I can’t participate in religious ceremony because it just has too much to prove.

Corporations are equally as inhibited and waterlogged. There’s just too much profit to be made. When your latest business meeting is about finding ways to cut employees in order to increase your bottom line, more than likely you will never be considered top of the line. Just too much to profit to have the vision for people and better products.

And I have no intentions of leaping into the forefront of the entertainment industry, which is basically occupied by many pseudo-intellectuals who are more historians than history-makers. They would much rather discuss the subtleties of a scene than risk producing new art that challenges and awakens the audience. Just too much to posture. I never like to be around a group of people who believe they prove their worth by how much they know instead of how much they do.

This is the same position Jesus found himself in when he came out of the wilderness and decided it was time to start his work. There were many, many large towns and countless affluent people looming the horizon. He picked Capernaum. It would probably be the last choice of most individuals who were trying to get a pulse on first-century society. It was tiny, behind the times and certainly out of the flow of the general direction of politics, religion, commerce and entertainment.

So why did he do it? Was it just an attempt to be humble? Or did he know something that other people failed to recognize? Let’s take a look at it from his perspective. If the Jewish religion was going to be decimated in the next seventy years and the Roman Empire would cease to exist within four centuries, there was no wisdom in planting the seeds of your ideas in the format of those who were doomed to be left in the history books. It was necessary to find an environment where the elements of renewal would be received because they were viable to everyday life–not because they were trendy.

Here are the keys to making a difference:

1. Find people who still believe in their talent, but want more. Capernaum was a fishing village. They pulled the sustenance to keep them alive out of the nearby water, and they knew they were at the mercy of nature. These people were prepared to learn more about earth and God. If your coffers are full, it’s hard to believe you lack anything.

2. Find people who use their abilities but aren’t stubborn about tradition, and still seek ways to do it better. One morning, Jesus happened upon Peter and his fishing companions and asked them how they had done during their night’s fishing expedition. They had caught nothing. He told them to cast their net on the other side of the boat. At his word, they did–and pulled in the most fish they had seen in years. Had they been conceited, overly frustrated, pious about their knowledge of the sea, or just aggravated with the turns of life, they would have missed out on pulling in 153 fish. That’s right. We get a count.

3. Learn from people who do it better than you. No one is able to swallow pride, so you might want to spit it out instead. But after you spit it out, realize that it’s not nearly as painful to learn and improve as it is to repeat and fail. Check around. See if there’s anyone who knows more than you do and quietly acquire their storehouse of information.

4. Find people who are willing to stop critiquing. America is obsessed with judging things. Having an opinion is dangerously like stopping on the freeway in the middle of seventy-mile-an-hour traffic. You may know why you did it, but it won’t keep people from wanting to smack you. Keep driving, but learn as you go. Don’t criticize. It makes you look arrogant and stupid.

5. And finally, get somewhere with people who understand that they need to be happy. None of us like grouchy folks. We try to be tolerant but they really do tick us off, the thought being: “We’ve got just as much reason to be grouchy as they do. Why don’t they shut up?” If you can find people who understand that happiness is everything, so therefore, choosing to even fake it from time to time while you’re waiting for it to reappear is the safest way to live, you will find yourself in an environment where God feels like He can show up without having to dodging too many complaints.

So–to give a final answer to my lady who thought she was enlightening me with the need to be more famous, I tell her this:

Nothing is going to happen in this country unless the people who live in the grass roots, who don’t have too much to prove, too much to defend, too much to profit and too much to posture, step forward, use their happiness and learn better ways to love the world and use what they’ve got.

Where do we go from here?

One by one, to the next person who selects a smile instead of frowning at all the choices available.

   

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