Hope: Good v. Bad … September 11, 2013

Jonathots Daily Blog

(2003)

Garden cityI suppose, technically speaking, that hope is viewed in a positive light–something perpetually draped in white linen, espousing good. I certainly do not want to portray in this morning’s essay that I am opposed to something as universally enshrined in purity as hope, yet I must tell you–there IS such a thing as “bad hope.”

When hope is ill-placed or fails to evolve through the leading of the Spirit,  it becomes “bad hope.”

For instance, we live in a time when the two words “I can” are continually touted as the symbol of confidence–the battle cry of the victor. Here’s the problem: what if your “I can”  is really and truthfully an “I can’t?” What if claiming an ability you HOPE you have does not conjure it into existence? What if you believe you can dance, but really possess two left feet? Will your continual proclamations of superiority make you a better hoofer? Or are you opening yourself up to disappointment with a side dish of ridicule?

Secular society dupes the public into believing that merely stating a desire makes it come to pass as long as you “keep on believing.” Tain’t so, Joe.

Somewhere along the line, the advertising that falls off your lips with “I can” needs to audition on the stage of competition and prove its merit. At that juncture, many people walk away not only disillusioned, but also angry at those who are better than them.

The second “bad hope” comes from the religious community, as those with beatific expressions lift their eyes to the heavens and shout, “HE can!”

It amazes me that we believe we have the right to declare the will and preferences of God, especially as pertaining to our prosperity and future. There are folks who think if they become fervent enough, they can force the hand of “Our Father, which art in heaven” to do their beckoning. What God is able to do and what He chooses to do are two different things. You do not impress the Creator of the Universe by quoting Bible to Him.

So what IS “good hope?”

As I head off tonight to share with the folks at Good Hope Lutheran Church in Garden City, Michigan, I want to make sure they understand that their edifice of worship is well-named–as long as they pursue the correct style of hopefulness.

Good hope happens whenever we promote the truly heavenly notion that “WE can.”

“I can” will fail based upon my talent.

“He can” often dribbles away due to presumption and pride.

But when we finally arrive at the “we” part of the Kingdom of God, we discover the power of hope.

Here it is in a single sentence: I need you, you need me, we need God and God needs us.

That’s it.

As long as you choose that line of logic, you will find that hope is a very fulfilling and delightful exercise.

  • I may be able to do things but that doesn’t mean I don’t need you.
  • You may have great gifts, but truthfully, you probably require my involvement.
  • We all could benefit from picking the brain of the Guy who came up with the idea of earth.
  • And He has no intention of doing anything without coming into covenant with human beings.

It’s just the way it works. If you’re not going to bring your five loaves and two fishes and hang around to see what happens, don’t expect God to multiply it out to the thousands.

So there IS “bad hope:”

Any time we believe that merely saying “I can” puts a shudder of fear down the backside of the universe, we are on a fool’s journey. And also, on those occasions when we bow our heads and piously proclaim, “HE can,” with no intention of changing our own personal calendars, we are equally as dumbfounded by the less-than-promising results.

But when we realize that I need you and you need me, we come to the conclusion that we need God and we see that He has decided to need us, then whatever we hope can become faith, which has proven, over time … to have the power to move mountains.

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The Battle or the War… November 29, 2012

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Ego drain–locate brain.

It’s a little two-phrase process I go through every time I get ready to go to a new location to set up for my presentation. For after all, the last thing the world needs is a dose of my ego. People are not created by God to make me feel good about myself. They are exactly what Jesus said they are–interested in themselves and if they can muster enough spirituality, they may learn to be able to extend that courtesy to others, including me.

One of the standard processes I face as I journey from city to city is learning to comprehend that the American people have been taught to have an agenda for everything under the guise of protecting their self-esteem. If you want to know why we have gridlock in Congress, it’s because we have allowed a false doctrine of self-esteem to rule the mind and heart of our nation for nearly two generations. Here’s what we have been taught over the past thirty years about self-esteem:

I matter because I was born. I have an opinion. And I am great because “God don’t make no junk.”

You can say those three statements in any arena–be it secular or religious–and get thunderous applause. Unfortunately, that is NOT self-esteem. That is a formula for a struggle between people, which perpetuates a battle without ever winning a war.

If two people arrive in a room and both of them think they’re important, that their opinions matter and God believes they are great, there will be no meeting of the minds and very little potential for finding the best solution.

That’s why I begin with ego drain. Three points that drive my life:

  1. The people I’m about to meet don’t owe me anything.
  2. The people I’m about to meet don’t really know me, and therefore their reaction is knee-jerk rather than intelligent.
  3. The people I’m about to meet will only be blessed if I have some way to assist them where they are instead of demanding that they come to where I am.

There you go. That’s self-esteem. Self-esteem is when I realize that God has given me gifts–so if I use them humbly, I become of value. I am not valuable just because I breathe–I am valuable if I can breathe life into things that were presumed dead.

Everybody is fighting the battle and nobody’s winning the war. Hamas and Israel are involved in an ego struggle. The United States and Iran are entangled in a similar futile punching contest. No one has the integrity to discern the common good and promote the general welfare.

Last night a beautiful woman in a church was nervous about her upcoming Christmas program and felt a great responsibility to make sure her choir was ready to perform. She didn’t want to be bumped out of doing a good job by our program digging into her rehearsal time. I understand. It doesn’t matter whether I agree–my job is to put on that woman’s skin and don her brain for a few moments so that I can get the insight to know how I can help instead of hinder. I chose to set up my show in the smaller fellowship hall so this dear woman could have her rehearsal without trauma, fear or interruption. There are people in the American culture who would say I lost. They believe in the false definition of self-esteem. But self-esteem is providing for the common good and promoting the general welfare. We had a wham-bang time last night, and I hope my dear friend had a good rehearsal. For you see, I don’t need a building. I don’t need pre-eminence. I don’t even need respect.

I need a door of opportunity and a chance to make things better.

Stop fighting the battle and start winning the war. The battle is between egos of people who have bought into false self-esteem. The war will be won by those who realize “we ain’t nothin’ until we bring somethin’.”

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There’s Got To Be a Morning After… October 2, 2012

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Three words: humble, humility, humiliation.

I think I have spent a lifetime learning the difference among that trio of offerings. For after all, I’ve met many people who have suggested that “humble” is the path to take in attempting to please God and make your life spiritually in order. Here’s the problem–acting like you’re not capable of much is quickly proven to be true when your efforts fall short of adequate, and rather than being viewed as humble, you are deemed inept.

Then there are people who take the other route. They decide to lead with their talents, accomplishments, dreams, aspirations and fleeting acclaim. They think a little piece of pride is necessary to grease the wheels of the train of success. The only problem is, there’s going to be a morning after. Eventually you have to display your wares in the marketplace of life and be evaluated by the existing forces on the qualities of who you are and what you do. If you’ve spent too much time bragging about your potential, the end result will be humiliation–and others will get the chance to tell you how rotten and unfulfilling you really are.

The third choice is humility. Humility is when you have a private counsel in your soul with all your faculties and the spirit of God, and through that meeting you decide on a course of action and quietly set it in motion without fanfare, planning it meticulously, rehearsing your portion faithfully and believing God to be able beyond measure.  When prosperity is brought about through that effort, you then have the power to receive the praise and deflect it in any direction you desire.

I am astounded, as I travel this country, at the arrogance displayed from both the conservatives and the liberals, and the phony, humble attitudes manufactured under the guise of coming across like “just one of the people.” Humility can not be faked. It is a delicious blend of effort with faith. It is a concoction where we understand the importance of excellence, while also comprehending that perfect things are often nailed to a cross.

As I sat onstage last night in Conneaut, Ohio, at New Leaf United Methodist Church, in front of some of the sweetest human beings you would ever want to meet, and the cameras were rolling, filming my show, I was temporarily overcome by the beauty of a simple word: opportunity.

Some folks spend their whole lives trying to achieve a station, a stage, or a format they deem to be worthy of their abilities instead of grabbing any soapbox available and standing in humility and delivering. As I watched my partner, Janet, display all of her years of rehearsing and excellence in front of the audience, I was moved with great admiration that this dear lady was absolutely delighted to be sharing her portion of God’s gift in this small, Ohio town.

Afterwards, I interfaced, embraced, chatted, laughed and cried with these kind folks who had come out to see me shake my reed in the wind. It was beautiful.

But as I lay down to sleep last night, I felt a burning, incendiary anger in my soul. Yes, I am furious with Republicans, Democrats, conservatives, liberals, religious, secular, fundamentalist and scientific folk who have squared off against each other and created an atmosphere of tension and inflexibility instead of building pathways to understanding.

I even saw it yesterday.There was a conservative contingency in Conneaut which collided with a liberal element, which was introduced by the presence of my film crew. They never were quite able to make connection. I am sure both would be enraged that I suggest that such an impasse exists. But the truth is, when you believe there is a distance between your belief and that of another, you will just naturally try to maintain the distance.

So I would like to introduce you to three other words: collision, congealing and cohesion.

All we have succeeded doing in this country is creating a collision of ideas, coyly referring to it as “debate.” It isn’t debate because there is never resolution–just an agonizing, gnawing needling about one group’s superiority over another. I, for one, am so tired of it that I not only refuse to participate, but fully intend to dismantle the intransigent, selfish attitudes of both sides, until they are exposed for the charlatans they truly are.

You conservatives, it doesn’t do any good to tell the world they are going to hell in a handbasket unless you also tell them that Jesus has given us the keys to the kingdom and that the gates of hell will not prevail against us.

Liberals, it doesn’t do any good to put your faith in science and technology, when the very nature that you acclaim was created, fostered and implemented by the will of God.

We are in the midst of an ongoing collision which is doing much more damage than we can imagine, even though we insist that it’s just two big tanks, hitting each other. Somewhere along the line, we have to congeal.

Here’s a start–you can’t have art in the church and think it’s going to conform to your doctrines and theology. Art by definition is expansive and is set in motion to challenge ideas rather than confirm them.

On the other hand, how can you build a mutual respect for human beings when you’re constructing your Tower of Babel based solely on personal self-worth and the aqcuisition of money and worldly goods? How can you expect to keep the earth well-rounded when you square off the corners in foolish controversy?

Congeal. Find a reason to mingle what you believe with the feelings of other human beings without compromising the depths of your spirit, but expanding the borders of your heart.

I agree with about half of what my conservative friends in Conneaut have to say and about half of what my film crew thinks. This doesn’t make me better. It makes me usable. I can work with any conservative as long as he or she tells me that God does not have a vendetta to hurt human beings. I can work with any liberal as long as he or she does not try to express their superiority by showing God the back door.

If we would begin to congeal, we could set in motion the possibility of the final phase, which is cohesion. Yes, we would begin to cling to each other in respect, love, admiration, and also a bit of wonder–because our lack of comprehension about the other party’s views would keep us on our toes, learning and growing.

When I walked off the stage last night in Conneaut, I was so grateful and felt such humility–to be part of the process moving us towards cohesion instead of destroying us in perpetual collision.

My journey has just begun. Right now I am introducing the notion of congealing. Conservatives are not my enemies. They remind me of little children who are afraid to play with the toys because the gifts are still in the boxes and they’re not sure they have the right to tear into them and launch into great joy. I love my liberal friends–because they have torn into the boxes and they are playing, but the toys are broken. And because they do not know the manufacturer very well, they do not know how to fix them.

Could I be more of a blessed man than to have interacted with the salt of the earth from Conneaut, Ohio, and delivered the only true, eternal message–NoOne is better than anyone else.

There’s got to be a morning after–and on this particular morning, I feel great humility, because I didn’t try to be humble or prideful, ending up in humiliation. I feel a giddy leap in my soul because I’m walking away from the collision and asking my brothers and sisters to congeal so that one day, in the sight of God and man, we can create a cohesion of fellowship with a bond that cannot be broken.

Would you join me? Forget about me, for I, too, will pass away. Would you do what’s right for yourself? Stop being part of the problem and at least make an attempt at the solution?.

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The Salina Solution … June 11, 2012

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The early explorers landing on the shores of the New World were often astounded to view the natives entering caves to excavate rock, only to emerge with specimens of fine, gold ore, which they chipped at until they freed the rock from the gold, placing the rocks in a pile for use and casting aside the golden nuggets. When the bewildered Europeans asked why the locals were throwing away such valuable material, they would look at them with perplexed expressions. Pointing at the pile of rocks, they replied, “These build houses.” And then, similarly referring to the golden pile, they noted, “These are too soft. They don’t.”

I tell you that story because sometimes that’s the way I feel when I go to churches. In the pursuit of humility and salvation, we often are guilty of mining rocks and throwing away gold. Is it really important for us to continue to believe in our perpetual inadequacy in order to give true glory to the awesome nature of God? Does He want to see us get better? Or is He happy with our floundering–being the tail instead of the head?

As I interacted with the precious human beings in Salina, Kansas, yesterday, I just wondered if they knew that God’s people should be smart. God’s people should be the most creative. God’s children should be at the top of the list in generosity. God’s followers should be leading the way in understanding, mercy and diversity. God’s favored should understand that they’re only given that status because they continue to pursue belief instead of settling for the common.

Yes, in a church environment, I often feel that we’re mining for rocks and throwing away the gold. I sometimes sense that futility has become the symbol of our faith, rather than our faith dispelling all futility.

So after having a wonderful embrace with my new brothers and sisters in Salina, I was encouraged to teach more to the natives about the true value of gold over merely extolling the rocks.

Here are five questions. How you answer these questions determines whether you view your earth journey into a festival of worship or a drudgery and march in despair towards eternal salvation.

(1) Who am I? (2) What am I? (3) Where am I? (4) When am I? (5) Why am I?

We have to start getting better answers than just “secular” and “religious” ones.

Because if you ask a religious person, “Who am I?” they more than likely will respond, “A sinner–in constant need of salvation.” On the other hand, a secular person might tell you that he is a valuable human being with great potential and no limits. Honestly, both answers are incomplete, if not erroneous.

What am I? Religious response: “Trusting God for my needs and waiting for my heavenly reward.” Secular: “Trying to keep ahead of the game and get a little bit ahead.”

Where am I? “On the earth, filled with trials and tribulations,” replies the religious person. “With my family, trying to do the best we can and have a little fun”–a secular perspective.

When am I? If you are of a religious thought pattern, you are constantly reminding yourself of your past sins and your present inadequacies, believing that the future is in God’s hands. A secular person is more than likely trying to ignore the past, have fun in the present and hope for a better future.

Why am I? Even more ambiguous. I guess the religious answer would be that humans are here to give glory to God. A more “street born” philosophy might be some variation of “eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow you may die.”

The religious and secular worlds square off against each other, each one believing the other is absolutely lost and confused. There has to be a better way.

So in honor of my dear, sweet brothers and sisters in Salina, I offer the following proposal, which I shall dub The Salina Solution. It is an attempt to stop mining for rocks and throwing away gold. And what is the difference? How do I know when I’m picking up the rocks and throwing away the gold in life? Anything that makes me cynical is a rock. Anything that stimulates my belief is gold.

So here you go. I will take on the same questions, but give you what I think are more Jesus-based–Jesonian–answers:

1. Who am I? A human being–nothing more, nothing less, no apologies.

2. What am I? Heart, soul, mind and strength–and if I ignore any one of them, they cry out at me like an abandoned baby.

3. Where am I? In this place, needing and giving grace.

4. When am I? Now. I live in the now. I learn from the past, understanding that because of free will, I will determine my own future.

5. Why am I? I have only one mission–to bring heaven to earth and to take as much earth as I can to heaven.

That’s it. It is The Salina Solution–an attempt to cease mining for rocks, casting away the gold. (Otherwise, you find yourself literally “caught between a rock and a hard place.” Religion will break you down in an attempt to make you humble, and the world will lift you up, only to mock you when you tumble from your own lack of ability.)

It is time to dump the rock and save the gold. Are you up to the challenge?

Are you ready to take on The Salina Solution?

   

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