Good News and Better News… December 26th, 2016


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My Christmas morning:

  • Four tiny little ones
  • One twelve-year-old
  • A teenager
  • Eighteen adults
  • And six dogs marauding about, sniffing at presents.

It was all held in a lovely, but somewhat square-footage-impaired house in East Nashville.

Although most people consider Christmas to be a holiday season which they either enjoy or complain about trying to get through, I contend that Christmas is a microcosm of life as it should be. It’s a collision of giving and receiving, organizing and finding yourself surprised by a slip-up, and having a crunch of humanity around you which requires you to be open-minded and willing to adapt.

For instance, in the course of our morning, well over a hundred presents were opened.

Also, one of the young men decided to use it as an occasion to propose marriage to his girlfriend–an amazing precedent.

And there were moments of silliness followed by junctures of tenderness, concluding with decisions to stay energetic enough to survive the gauntlet.

The adults made themselves flexible to appreciate toys opened by Santa believers and the subtleties of certain gifts which needed to be explained because they only had significance to the recipient.

Then, in the midst of the festivities and the brunch following, we discovered that one of the guests just lost his grandma. She had passed away in her sleep.

Quiet–and amazing it was how quickly it settled on the room, even among the children. A time to feel and consider the magnitude of such a departure.

Tears.

Gentleness.

Allowing ourselves to transition from one emotion to another without trauma or drama, to return to eating and enjoying one another as life insisted on pushing forward. I heard one person declare the day a “miracle,” but actually, it’s the way our lives are meant to be lived: in abundance.

Abundant opportunities

Abundant problems

Abundant relationships

Abundant attempts

Abundant failures

Abundant successes

And abundant gratitude

The good news is that Christmas is a time for abundance.

The better news is that the baby in the manger came to give us life, and it more abundantly.

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Ask Jonathots … November 17th, 2016


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When turning the other cheek, how do you ensure you won’t be slapped twice?

A door has two functions.

If open, it provides access to another possibility.

If closed, it creates curiosity, but also can pass along the impression that what is beyond the barrier is forbidden.

The reason most people fight is because the doors are closed. It’s the main reason that “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth” fails to achieve any purpose–because slamming the door in the face of another human being does not mean they won’t try to burst through or close doors in your face.

Retaliation is a never-ending process–unless somebody opens a door.

I have relationships with people who are fruitful, even though they’ve been speckled with egregious conflict and offense. They work because doors are left open.

And I have broken connections with other folks that were halted because the door was slammed on communication, leaving behind a climate of mistrust–a grudge.

When you turn the other cheek, you refuse to slam the door on the possibility of creating peace.

Will someone take advantage of your willingness and slug you again? Perhaps. But if you push back they will certainly follow up their violence with additional attacks.

For after all, there are no guarantees when it comes to interaction with human beings, yet I can promise you that if you slam doors, strike out, or try to get even, you will certainly be in danger of escalating the aggression.

It is in that moment of turning the other cheek, refusing to participate, and allowing for cooler heads to prevail, that you thrust a mirror into the face of your enemy and let him or her see themselves as the villain.

Does it always work? Does anything?

Certainly there are some folks who will continue to beat on you once you stop fighting, but it is not the norm. Usually when you refuse to seek revenge, you will stall the vitriol of others and give them pause to contemplate.

In that moment, more than likely you will avoid the second slapping–and just possibly open the door to conversation. 

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Mr. Kringle’s Tales …26 Stories ‘Til Christmas

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An advent calendar of stories, designed to enchant readers of all ages

“Quite literally the best Christmas stories I have ever read.” — Arthur Holland, Shelby, North Carolina

Only $5.99 plus $1.25 shipping and handling.

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Dear Man/Dear Woman: A Noteworthy Conversation … July 23rd, 2016


 Jonathots Daily Blog

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Dear Man Dear Woman

Dear Woman: I caught myself just in the nick of time.

 

Dear Man: What do you mean?

 

Dear Woman: I was just about to speak some words from my lips that were going to sound like an old man.

 

Dear Man: What were the words?

 

Dear Woman: It always begins the same. “Don’t you think you should?…” Here’s the truth. Things evolve. I suppose we can levy a moral tax on folks if they don’t measure up to what people used to do, but when it comes to human relationships, we’re just trying to figure out how to make it work.

 

Dear Man: Give me an example.

 

Dear Woman: When I was a kid you were supposed to meet someone, date for a while, get engaged, get married, have kids and live happily ever after or at least, live.

 

Dear Man: Same for me. Except it was my understanding that I was supposed to be pretty pure–but the guy I married could have experience, though I was never sure where he got that experience, considering the fact that all the girls were supposed to be pure.

 

Dear Woman: So you see, we now have a generation of people who are fully grown, but have memories of being raised in households without two parents. They were the children of divorces.

 

Dear Man: So naturally, they are frightened to death of marriage–because even though we accept divorce as a possibility, or maybe even a probability, the stigma of failure still stings.

 

Dear Woman: So people are trying to figure out how to couple and keep the coupling civil.

 

Dear Man: I think the key is understanding that there’s a difference between attraction and relationship.

 

Dear Woman: And a huge difference between relationship and commitment.

 

Dear Man: God knows, we’re attracted to many people. It’s what gives us confidence. It provides a fantasy life where, for a split second, we imagine what a romantic link-up would be with somebody, only to slap our face, shake it off and move on.

 

Dear Woman: You can’t base much on attraction. Sometimes you’re just attracted. It doesn’t mean any more than that, and the true stupidity is thinking that every attraction is meant to lead to a hookup.

 

Dear Man: Relationship–to relate. Honestly, I don’t want to relate with everybody on an intimate level. I don’t want everybody to know my bathroom habits. A relationship is a decision to take an attraction and see if you can take it out of the physical into the emotional.

 

Dear Woman: I like that. Because when something stays in the physical and we try to force emotion into it, we generate the tension that causes hard feelings and can even degrade to abuse.

 

Dear Man: Likewise, every relationship is not meant to turn into a commitment. A commitment is where we commit. No matter what happens we will stay together because we’re convinced there’s nothing out there that will be better than what we’ve got.

 

Dear Woman: In the Victorian era, when people were either betrothed to each other or married at an early age, there was a chance that an attraction could be birthed which could lead to relationship to feed the commitment. But since we don’t do it that way anymore, the younger people in our country need a way to wade through the confusion of attraction, leading to relationship with the possibility of commitment.

 

Dear Man: Yes. I think we have to be careful not to criticize people for living together, for instance, just because they’re not married. Unless they introduce children into the equation.

 

Dear Woman: I agree. That’s a deal breaker. Children should not show up until there’s a commitment to see the relationship through. The trouble is, people are having offspring from just attractions.

 

Dear Man: So let me see if I can get this straight. Attractions mean we are attracted. We don’t have to follow up on it. It just makes us feel warm and fuzzy.

 

Dear Woman: Exactly. And relationships are where we decide if our attraction is strong enough that we might relate to one another, spending more time together.

 

Dear Man: And once we discover that we relate so well that we don’t need to look for someone else to relate to, then we can move to commitment, where we cement our feelings. In other words, we would choose therapy over divorce.

 

Dear Woman: It’s a great process, and each generation needs to figure out how to sort through all the details.

 

Dear Man: Attraction–to be attracted. Relationship–to find out if we can relate. And commitment–to commit ourselves to be one.

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G-Poppers… July 17th, 2015


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“After all–we’re all different.”

The words were spoken and the crowd gradually joined in with applause. G-Pop sat and listened carefully.

Something didn’t ring true.

The way to overcome intolerance is not to accentuate our differences. To think that human beings are capable of acknowledging differences among us without secretly holding prejudice against the person who dares to be different is absolutely ridiculous.

We are not divine. We are human. As humans, we are looking for reasons to find commonality.

This holds true in every relationship:

  • If two people are dating and discover they have nothing in common, they don’t continue dating, hoping to build up toleration for one another
  • If two kids are on the playground and one likes to play baseball and the other likes to climb the monkey bars, they quietly separate from one another, seeking out individuals whose taste in play is similar to theirs.

The path to peaceful coexistence is commonality.

How much do I have in common with you in comparison to our differences? Candidly, the word “difference” begins with “differ.”

If we do differ from one another, the process is simple: if we’re civilized, we walk away to avoid an argument. If we aren’t quite so civilized, we stand there and argue.

I do not know when the definition of “toleration” became biting one’s lip and pretending to accept things that don’t make sense. Toleration is finding places of common ground and celebrating them.

The “pendulum do swing.”

In a short period of time, we’ve gone from being a nation that was abusive to the gay community to a nation which now has a plurality which is willing to include gay marriage. But we will never have true openness with one another until we find the linking parts. We can’t fake receptivity.

For I have no intention of taking the social standing of old religion, ISIS and Vladimir Putin and joining with them against the homosexual community. But I came to this conclusion not because I looked at my brothers and sisters as obtuse and unusual, but because they use words that are common to me: freedom, brotherhood, love, relationship and tenderness.

We are not going to become better people by pretending we are tolerant. We become better people when we find common ways that we share in common, accentuating our common values.

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Ask Jonathots… July 2nd, 2015


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I’m living with my boyfriend, and have been for over a year. About every six months, my mom and I get into an argument because she thinks we should get married. Honestly, I just don’t see the need. I love him, he loves me, and if that changes we don’t have to get a divorce. What’s wrong with that?

God looks on the heart.

I’m sure you’ve heard that. He does not look on the outward appearance, but instead, views our intentions.

Your mother is probably concerned about what’s happening in your bedroom, and God is much more concerned about what’s going on in your living room.

In the process of occupying the same home, what are the two of you deciding about living?

For I will tell you, if you’re living together because you want the opportunity to bail out of the relationship without having a lawyer, then it is an unfulfilling situation, which means it’s unrighteous.

This would be true about a marriage also.

There is one rule and one rule alone: we are to love people as we love ourselves.

Honestly, if that’s what you’re doing, then God, who has no intentions of rummaging through your drawer looking for a license, already considers you married.

Yet if you have a license but have no respect for each other, and you treat yourself better than you treat your spouse, God finds the arrangement immoral.

So let’s get it straight.

Long before we discuss marriage, let’s discuss relationship. Because just as surely as someone can go to church and not be a Christian, you can have a ceremony and not be truly married to one another.

God does not have the respect for marriage that we do. Matter of fact, Jesus used the process of being married and making plans to get married to describe the indifferent atmosphere which will exist at the end of the world.

So what are we looking for?

1. Commitment.

Have we decided that we’re going to hang together no matter what happens? If not, we’re just dating. That goes for married couples, too.

2. Do we have a legitimate interest in one another’s dreams?

Asking someone to come along to be a cheerleader is not a relationship.

3. Are we willing to include this other person in the private areas of our heart?

If God looks on the heart, the definition of a Godly love is to allow someone else to look on ours.

4. And finally, are we willing to pledge allegiance to the fidelity of our love?

In other words, when temptations come, rather than ignoring them or pretending they don’t exist, we share our fears and apprehensions.

If you find you have all four of these things with your live-in boyfriend, then you only have one other question.

Would there be an advantage to have a piece of paper which would allow Uncle Sam to give great tax deductions by filing jointly, and also keep your mother at bay, so that all she would have left to complain about is housekeeping?

Do I think marriage is here to stay?

Marriage will always be important if those who truly have a love that is inclusive of one another want to declare to the whole world … and seal it with a kiss.

Got a question for Jonathots? Send it to jacquelinebarnett76@gmail.com.

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Three Ways to Enjoy Family… December 25, 2014


  Jonathots Daily Blog

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family

Sitting around a delightful Christmas Eve gathering with the members of my family, I was blessed and enlightened.

Family has provided some of the most treasured moments in my journey, and also a good parcel of the frustrations that have come my way.

Let us never forget that the sweet little family in Bethlehem, which birthed the Savior of the World, turned into a fussy, argumentative clan, which was part of the reason that Jesus was run out of his hometown of Nazareth.

Balance.

It is important for us to know how to deal with our families, or we will end up giving either too much emphasis or too little value to these kinsmen.

Let me give you three ways to always enjoy your brood:

1. Avoid too much reliving and instead, work on restocking.

There is a peril in sitting around reminiscing about the past because it makes us tend to live there. For every time you remember a special occasion, you should simultaneously work on creating a new one. Reliving can be beautiful, filled with tenderness, and is especially effective if you’re in the midst of creating new memories.

2. Honor boundaries.

Once I was Dad. Now I have sons and daughters who are performing their own task of parenting.

I need to find my place–pass the torch. Honor the boundaries.

For instance, my children do not believe everything I believe. I can spend time focusing on our differences or I can revel in our similarities.

My son is no longer my son. He is someone else’s dad. As long as I remember that I can continue a relationship with him which is rich, adult and free.

3. And finally, don’t stay too long.

Every family has a length of time which is perfect for peaceful co-existence. If you exceed this barricade, you will begin to try to heal old wounds but instead, open them up, creating pain and bleeding.

Stay long enough that you’re still enjoying yourself, disappointed to leave, but ready to commence your life, to return again.

Have a great Christmas, but do so by enjoying your family.

Restock your memories, honor each other’s beliefs and boundaries and have the wisdom of making a beautiful exit.

 

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Untotaled: Stepping 28 (September 14th, 1966) Cindy Kerns… August 23, 2014


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(Transcript)

Fat boy, locker room, peer pressure, fear of inadequacy, dirty jokes, girl talk, not enough information.

This was my life on September 14th. I was in search of bragging rights. Very simply, I needed a girlfriend.

Even though I was just a kid, I had reached an age where if I didn’t get some experience with the girl crowd very soon, I would be considered queer in every way.

So I picked Cindy Kerns. She was a year older than me, from another school and attended my church. The best way to describe her is to tell you that her mother called her a “flower.” The pastor’s wife referred to her as a “late bloomer.” But I knew the guys on my football team would think she was stink weed.

(All the terms have a botanical source, but certainly different interpretations.)

I knew I could get Cindy interested in me. I was no expert with girls, but because she followed me around and swooned a little bit when I was present, I figured she was interested. She was sweet.

So here was my plan: make my boast after showering, tell them about Cindy, and then acquire a picture from Cindy of one of her other friends from school–a cheerleader–which I could show to my friends instead of the real picture of my actual girlfriend. Then I could make lots of claims and look cool.

Amazingly enough, it came off without a hitch.

I don’t know why Cindy didn’t get suspicious about me requesting pictures of other girls from her school. I guess she just thought I was interested in her friends. She only asked for one picture–mine.

It made me feel bad, but not as bad as I would feel if I had to show my friends a picture of Cindy instead of some unknown beauty from down the road.

Once football season was over and I didn’t have to deal with these guys with their macho jargon on an everyday basis, I dumped Cindy.

But in that brief two-and-a-half month period, I grew to like her. I learned when to kiss, how to kiss and things to say to a woman at just the right times.

Adolescence is a terrible time to try to be a human being. In an attempt to become something that you probably will never be, you can really hurt other people from becoming what they could be.

So I would like to apologize to Cindy (who I am sure by now wouldn’t even remember who I am). And I would also like to apologize to the girl whose picture I used to impress my friends.

After all, it’s unfair to carry on a relationship with a stranger by photograph.

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