G-Poppers … March 16th, 2018

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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G-Pop knows that nearly everybody is acquainted with the process–going out to dinner.

First, arriving at the restaurant, having the greeter seat you. And then the server comes by and sets the whole evening in motion by asking the question, “Can I get your order?”

Of course, if you are a veteran of the cuisine, you know there is an order. First comes the drink, then the salad, entree, dessert, concluding with the check and tip. Candidly, the management doesn’t like it when you get it out of order. Matter of fact, you could be corrected.

Likewise, G-Pop has realized there is an order to this journey. Perhaps we should have learned it by now but there’s so much confusion–and there are too many people who want to get dessert before their salad. So we get confused.

Just as a restaurant visit is “drink, salad, entrée, dessert and then check,” in our time on Earth, we have to discover the correct order for: me, God, people, science and animals.

Simply placing one of these pieces in the wrong position can send us awry. And by awry, G-Pop means a bewilderment which settles into our souls because something doesn’t seem right.

What should come first? There are dangers.

If you start off with God you become too religious. That soon makes you intolerant of people and sometimes even grumpy about including science in the family at all.

Those who begin the order with science often find it necessary to negate a Creator, and over the years may grow weary with people, ending up giving the bulk of their charity to animal rights organizations.

Should we begin with people? That can be a real mouse trap–especially when people act like rats.

How about if we just negate the whole mess and dedicate our lives to animals? They may be cute but they are still beasts, because they bite–sometimes when you least expect it.

So just as a journey to your local bistro is an adventure requiring some basic understanding, being a quality human being certainly means you need to be able to answer the question, “Can I take your order?”

What is your order? G-Pop is curious.

When considering “me” (yourself), God, people, science (Mother Nature) and animals, what sequence works for you?

The choices you make and the order they’re in determine the abundance of your heart–and therefore control your speech and interaction with others.

G-Pop would love to hear from some of his children on this subject. Rather than rattling on about it this week, he’ll wait and see what people have to say.

So in closing, from G-Pop: Can I take your order, please?

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Good News and Better News… August 21st, 2017

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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I had the night off from my gigs.

I decided to take in a church service at a small pioneer work where I’m staying. It is called Renaissance Fellowship. It touts the uniqueness of being a Christian church focused on the arts. Since I’ve been known to have a brain cell or two tuned in that direction, I was titillated.

The church is held at a community center and has about twenty-five folks who attend. The people are typical “church.” About 35% of them are excited, involved, busy scurrying around, and the rest of them have the appearance of folks arriving for a seminar on an unknown subject, with the promise that they might get free passes to a restaurant at the end.

Renaissance suffers from what every church suffers from. In trying to find God, they accidentally kill passion.

The pastor, a young man in his early forties, has a delightful desire and talent for sharing his thoughts. You can tell he is still deeply involved in the pursuit of God and the salvation of human souls, but growing a bit worn around the edges in all the well-doing. It happens to all of us.

But I heard something I liked. I heard rumblings that sounded like possibility.

Even though his message was plagued with too much preaching to the soul and teaching to the brain, I sensed that he’s beginning to reach for the heart.

For you see–human beings are not really spiritual. We aren’t thoughtful. We are emotional.

It doesn’t matter if it’s about work, play, a football stadium or church–the evidence that we are impacted is always an emotional outburst.

So I speak with great clarity to this pastor and tell him to keep reaching for the heart. Go ahead and abandon preaching to the soul and teaching to the mind. No one cares what Abraham, Moses, Joseph or any of the old patriarchs did. If the stories do not relate to family, Wal-mart and the Internet, they will not touch the hearts of American people.

Instructing the brain by pointing out clever pieces of information may once have been a path of probability, but no longer. Our brains are inundated with too much information, and of course, way too many posts on Facebook about nothing.

  • Reach the heart.
  • Touch the heart.
  • And demand a heartfelt response.

It is the only way people are healed. As Jesus said, “If you say to this mountain, be removed, and you do not doubt in your heart, it shall be done.”

The soul, the brain and the body have nothing to do with moving mountains. It is a heartfelt action.

Although I’m sure they are delightful and blessed people, many of the folks at Renaissance were doing their best imitation of being church cardboard cutouts. But becoming a church of artistry will require that the congregation that’s already there–tiny as it is–become emotionally excited with its own faith.

If it doesn’t, they will be just an average church that occasionally puts on plays.

The good news is that the Gospel is an experience of the heart.

The better news is, the pastor of Renaissance Fellowship and his congregation have a great opportunity to become heartfelt.

I have confidence in them.

For you see, the pastor is my son.Donate Button

 

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Good News and Better News … August 15th, 2016

Jonathots Daily Blog

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Bauchman name tags

Name tags hanging from a peg board

 

 

Bauchman treat table

Coffee awaiting the faithful

 

 

 

 

Bauchman door windows

 

Beautiful mahogany walls with colored glass

 

 

An old-fashioned radiator, Bauchman radiatorreminding us how long the church has been established

 

 

 

 

Bauchman stained glass window

 

A skylight, welcoming the sunshine from the heavens

 

 

 

 

Another Sunday morning in America.

This time, it is Baughman United Methodist Church in New Cumberland, Pennsylvania.

Busy folks.

The morning announcements took ten minutes–just to cover the expanse of activity and planned events.

Matter of fact, if I were evaluating the church in America as a whole, I would conclude that it is an extremely proficient organization.

Here’s the problem: the church that Jesus came to “build on the rock” through his words and the essence of his life was never meant to be an organization. He punctuated this by saying, “My kingdom is not of this world.”

The Jesonian church is meant to be an organism.

Here’s the difference:

  • An organization needs plans.
  • An organism needs food.

And although we are meticulous in the religious system to organize, put in place and promote a series of determinations, these plans themselves offer no nourishment to the starving souls trying to find their best-seated positions in the back of the sanctuary.

The church is an organism because it’s filled with people, and people need:

1. Emotional food

Yes, we require a diet of “love one another”–and all the awkward situations that produces.

2. Spiritual food

Living our lives out, finding what is real and then discovering where Jesus dealt with it in his earthly time, and studying his insights on the matter

3. Mental food

Challenging all the opinions of our youth and renewing our file with ideas that are edifying to the people around us instead of alienating them.

4. Physical food

Honest to God, we need to eat together. Jesus said “as oft as you do eat together, remember me.”

We’re better people when we’re eating. I wouldn’t rule out the possibility of having a restaurant on site at every church, so on Sunday we could file out of the service to a dinner table, where we could discuss what had warmed our hearts as we fill our tummies.

The good news is that the Baughman church was filled with delightful, enterprising and searching human beings.

The better news is that if we stop approaching Christianity as an organization, we might be able to feed the organism of faith … and change the world.

 

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G-Poppers … May 20th, 2016

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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Jon close up

G-Pop has certainly made a religion out of avoiding being religious or political.

It’s not that he lacks faith or devotion to America–just that he is leery of any club that insists on making all the rules.

So when G-Pop was waiting for his son to join him for dinner at a restaurant, as he sipped some water and tried to avoid the breadsticks they had brought to the table, he listened in to a nearby conversation among two men and a woman.

Remarkably, the trio was split among the three remaining candidates who have a chance to be the President of the United States.

  • The woman was for Donald.
  • The younger man was for Bernie.
  • And the older man was for Hillary.

G-Pop chose to quietly monitor their conversation because it was so fascinating.

The woman who was for Donald was attracted to him because he is an Alpha male, angry over all the unfairness of government and the lack of protection seemingly being offered the American people.

The younger man was also incensed by the greed of Wall Street, the unfairness of wages and income distribution, as the older man tried to make the case that Hillary was the safe choice and at least has some background in the internal workings of the executive branch of the government.

G-Pop was keeping score in his mind.

Let’s see now: Two “angrys” and a safe choice.

He tried to remember the last President of the United States who came into office angry or as the safe choice, who ended up doing much to benefit the common good.

So G-Pop took a moment to examine the basic premises of each candidate.

Donald: America is too nice, we need to get tougher and also stop trying to please the whole world. Matter of fact, he lives this out personally by sharing that he doesn’t particularly favor apologizing.

Bernie: On the other hand, he is angry because Wall Street billionaires are hoarding all the profit, leaving the working class nearly destitute.

Hillary: She thinks her greatest appeal lies in trying to get the American people to go back to the 1990’s, when her husband was President, to restore that age of alleged optimism, balanced budgets and job security.

Always remember, every temporary solution looks better than a permanent one. That’s what makes it temporary.

Donald doesn’t want to apologize, yet we have a fellow who’s been around for two thousand years who tells us that as we forgive others, we will be forgiven.

Bernie wants to equalize the finance in the world, when that great thinker from two thousand years ago told us that those who have will get more and those who haven’t may very well lose what they have. That’s why we should be sensitive to the least of our brethren. It never equalizes.

And as far as Hillary’s contention regarding going back to the 1990’s, the same teacher instructed us that you can’t put new wine into old wineskins. 2016 is not 1995. Matter of fact, there’s little similarity anywhere in the mix.

So as G-Pop waited for his son to arrive, he thought to himself, two angry people and a safe choice will not prepare our nation for the problems we will be facing, which will demand strength mingled with diplomacy, force tenderized by forgiveness and devotion tempered by an evolution toward needful change.

Obviously, the three people at the table nearby were unable to come to any conclusions.

But G-Pop wants his children to know that unless one of these three candidates steps out of his or her present format and starts forgiving, being more realistic about wealth distribution and admits that we can’t live off a Presidency that is twenty years gone, we will have more problems than just a close election.

We will end up with leftovers in a world that demands main courses.

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Confessing … May 23rd, 2015

   Jonathots Daily Blog

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III.

I confess so I can heal.

If I deny, I remain sick.

My dad liked cashews. Honestly, I think most people like cashews unless they’re cursed with some sort of peanut allergy. Certainly, his chubby eleven-year-old boy loved them.

My father was of an old-world mind, which believed that the patriarch of the family should be given special consideration and gifts greater than his offspring. So whenever we went to a restaurant, I would be allowed to order the chicken in a basket while he munched on T-bone steak.

Likewise, when my dad bought a can of cashews, he opened them, took out a couple and then hid them in the drawer of his desk. He did not offer any to me because they were expensive and I was just a kid.

When I asked him for a cashew, he said, “Little boys eat popcorn. Daddies eat cashews.” (Candidly, popcorn is very good unless you’re aware that cashews are within a three-mile radius.)

So every time my dad walked away from his desk to do an errand I would sneak in and steal from his can.

At first I tried to limit it to one or two cashews and attempted to “nibble” on them to extend the pleasure. Yet I think you will agree that cashews are better consumed in handfuls.

Pretty soon I found myself taking four, five, ten…twenty.

I looked into the can and saw that it was obviously depleted so I shook the can around, trying to plump them up to look like more. Unfortunately, I continued to eat them and “poofing” became impossible.

So I took the can out, dumped the cashews on the desk and stuffed Kleenex in the bottom, then placed the cashews back on top, trying to make it look like a full container.

But my appetite did not subside.

Soon it became obvious that there was Kleenex sticking out from among the cashews, so it became necessary to take a drastic step.

I ate the remaining cashews and then took the empty container and buried it in the back yard, careful to NOT remember where it was located so that when my dad asked me if I knew where the can of cashews was, I could truthfully say “no.”

He did ask.

I lied.

He didn’t say anything.

I don’t know if he stopped eating cashews or just found a better hiding place. But I was always ashamed of both my gluttony and my deceit.

Even as I write this today I wonder what selfishness would cause me to be equally as much a liar in my dealings with others.

I hope I would either ask for cashews or buy my own can.

Because even though I buried my sin in the backyard, for many weeks afterwards … it cried out to me.

 

cashews

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We’re Open… October 9, 2013

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openThe restaurant was determined to communicate its message.

Since it found itself tucked away behind a barrage of construction, orange cones, dump trucks and road workers, it was important to communicate to the public that they were still there, making food–open for business.

As I head off tonight to Grace Lutheran in Pittsburgh, I wonder if they’re as smart as this restaurant. Do they understand that the true message of love, compassion, mercy and forgiveness is nearly hidden by a busy religious machine which has committed so many atrocities against human beings that it hardly seems likely that anything behind the curtain of theology has much to offer?

Yes, right out in front of your church there are blockades, orange cones, dump trucks and people with signs, squeezing the traffic of life down to one lane, headed away from you.

If you have any intention of helping the brothers and sisters around you, you’d better get a big sign and put it out in front of your establishment that says, “We’re Open.”

  • We’re open to feeling. Yes, we don’t just recite things in our building. We let people feel the presence of God in the heart. Likewise, we don’t walk in ashamed because we have sinned. We come in looking for ways to do things better, so that next week we don’t have to be so embarrassed.
  • We also apply. That’s right–spiritual ideas are not merely noted or read in a deep voice from the lectern. We actually take ancient ideas and make them current, and if we can’t, we move on to the next passage, probing for the new wine.
  • We think.You will not need to leave your brain at the door and pick it up when you leave the service. We are willing to listen to great ideas, because after all, if we really believe in God, such noble overtures are completely within the spectrum of His will. And when we leave to head out to the parking lot to push past the construction:
  • We smile. We know nothing in life can be achieved if we do not decide to “be of good cheer.”

Lo, we need to put up a sign in front of the fellowship house of God that says “We’re Open.” We need to hope that pilgrims trapped in traffic, aggravated by the construction and torn up roads in front of our location, will risk coming in, and when they get there, they will find people who feel, apply, think and smile.

Or I guess we can just hope they assume that “supper’s cookin’.”

As I said, the church tonight is called Grace. But true grace is extended to those who are confused by the screaming yells of religion and would love to hear the voice of the Good Shepherd.

We’re open.

Advertise it–but also be prepared to back it up … if somebody can survive all the detours.

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Rich Path… October 31, 2012

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A storm called Sandy. What’s next? A beach named Rainy?

I was scheduled to be in Richwood, Ohio. So you don’t have to grab your maps, it is a tiny community of 1500 people about one hour northwest of Columbus. Since the Buckeyes are experiencing their first major storm of the season, I opted not to take the freeway route, because I figured people would still be driving seventy miles per hour, running into each other and backing up traffic so that we would all end up going seven miles an hour. Instead, I took State Route 37–and opened up a treasure chest of memories.

Driving through Lancaster, I passed by the elementary school where my two young boys attended for three months back in 1980 when I was traveling the country with my Broadway-style show, Mountain, and they were staying with their Grandma, continuing their studies. I was trying to turn religious and classically-trained young folk into Broadway singers and dancers. I fell a bit short on the dream.

Just about five miles further up the road, I passed by the church where I shared just six days ago–and had one of those sweet memories of the dear hearts at New Zion.

In no time at all, I was driving along on 37 and came to Interstate 70–a truck stop where I once sat in a booth with my girlfriend and planned how we would escape her parents’ disapproval and some day be married. This monstrous achievement was discussed over waffles and eggs and ended up being pulled off–much to everybody’s surprise.

Putting my foot on the gas pedal, I was soon in Granville, the location of the first performance I ever did in my life, at a nursing home, when I was twelve years old, singing old hymns to old ladies on an old piano with three fellow young’uns. I even remember the first song–it was Kneel at the Cross.

As I continued on my rich path of discovery, rain pelting on the windshield, allowing for memories to flood my mind, I cruised into Alexandria. I drove by a church where Terry, the bass guitar player for our high school musical group, sat with me out in a car and told me that his girlfriend had left town to go become a nun. Pretty devastating stuff when you’re sixteen years old–so crippling that Terry went home that night and tried to kill himself by overdosing on aspirin. Fortunately, taking four of them does not have lethal results.

I arrived in Johnstown, Ohio, which doesn’t look any different from when I was a kid and played football against their team. I remember the game, because it was the only time in my brief gridiron career that I intercepted a pass. Linebackers don’t get to do that very often. And I must clarify this by telling you that it was NOT a great feat of athleticism. The quarterback of the other team was so frightened of me running in to tackle him that he threw the ball right at my chest, and somehow I ended up on the ground with my arms wrapped around it. Still, an interception.

Another nine miles and I was in Sunbury, the place of my birth. It now is a bustling little city, but during my tenure it resembled a sleepy little village. But still, there was the Sunbury Grill, which touted its $1.29 lunch special, complete with a fresh slice of apple pie, and the building that once held my dad’s loan company, where he used to sit in the back room, rolling cigarettes and trying to make extra money for the family by filling out tax returns for wealthy farmers.

I crossed Interstate 71, which used to be a place that had two restaurants, and now is populated with hundreds of businesses. By the way, one of those restaurants had a waitress who happened to be my mother, who selected to work at that profession after my father’s death, I think more or less because she enjoyed yapping with people. It is there that she met Eric Burton and the Animals in an era when they were roaming the jungles of rock and roll. I was not there for the introduction, but it would certainly have been fascinating to hear my mother try to talk to these English-born Bohemians.

The rain kept falling and I kept driving. arriving in Delaware, Ohio, and passing by Bunn’s Famous Restaurant. (You know it’s famous because the sign says so.) It was just a few short years ago that I went to that particular establishment to meet with my sister-in-law and nephew, just seven months after my brother passed away. They were devastated by the loss, but it is amazing what a good meal and some good humor can do in a short period of time.

On my way to Richwood to finish my odyssey, I drove through a little town called Magnetic Springs, where I once joined four other comrades from my local church to participate in what was called a Bible League tournament, which basically was Jeopardy!  focusing on the book of Deuteronomy. The reason I recall that particular event was that I was only thirteen years old and was not supposed to be permitted to join the senior high team, but because I objected, citing that there was no rule against it, I not only ended up on the senior high team, but by the end of the year was captain. It made me smile. For verily I say unto you, there is a certain amount of “trouble maker” necessary to end up doing good.

And then there was last evening. Brave Ohio souls came out in the rain, sleet and cold and huddled together for an hour so we could talk about good things, good ideas, good memories, and even some better choices. In no time at all I was back in my van, driving to my headquarters.

I was really surprised on my way back when I passed by the hospital in Delaware. I didn’t realize it was on 37. It’s where they took my wife and second son, Joshua, after he popped out as a big surprise in that loan company I mentioned before, in Sunbury. Yes, an ambulance arrived and took them both to this Delaware hospital, where they were put in isolation (since he was apparently born contaminated, outside the sterility of the medical complex).

I munched on a vegetarian Subway sandwich and drove on through the misty night. After about an hour, I was back in Lancaster, and there was the nursing home where my mother spent her last days. I recalled the last time I saw her. I took her to a shopping mall, bought her some of her preferred candy, and on the way home, we sang her favorite hymn, The Old Rugged Cross. My mother could never sing on key, but made up for it with vigorous pipes.

I was back. Mine was a rich path, full of memories. But it was not unique to this hometown turf of my youth. I have been a blessed man–to crisscross the United States at least a hundred times, and I could take one of these nostalgic journeys almost anywhere in this country. I have similar memories in California, Alabama, Florida, Arizona, Texas and even more recently–Utah.

As I nestled myself in bed last night, I realized that I had just spent an evening driving through a “Sandy storm” to discover a very valuable truth: Life is not difficult. We honor the past; we thrive in the present. And in so doing, we impact the future.

If you forget any part of it, you feel an empty spot somewhere in the corner of your heart. But when you do all three, life ends up being what it is–and that is always just enough.

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