Good News and Better News … April 25th, 2016

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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Salem composite

Salem United Methodist Church in Blountville, Tennessee.

It was my pleasure to be with the dear citizens yesterday morning.

“Salem” means “a peaceful completion.” Ironic, since it’s contained in the name of the city, “Jerusalem,” which is hardly peaceful or completed.

But as I looked out at my new friends yesterday morning, I asked myself, what is peace?

Because Jesus told us that we are certainly meant to be peacemakers. As in most things in life, I think we get confused as to where to start.

The more religious among us believe we should make our peace with God first and foremost.

Those who are more secular-minded contend we should make our peace with ourselves–find our inner sanctum of tranquility. Then we would be in a position to make peace with others.

Even though these two schools of thought are very popular, they have not brought peace to the world.

Often when we feel we’ve made our peace with God, it makes us prideful of our salvation and therefore critical of others.

On the other hand, when we make peace with ourselves, we tend to get a bit pompous over our own satisfaction, feel no need for God, and pity the weaker humans around us.

Yesterday, while sharing with the Salem gathered, I realized that our job is to make peace with others.

Jesus made this clear in the Sermon on the Mount. He said if you get to church and you remember that somebody has something against you–maybe a grudge–you should leave church and work that out first. Otherwise, nothing good will happen.

Conventional thinking is that going to church would soften our hearts to be more forgiving, or that the solitude of prayer would prepare our souls for a peaceful resolution.

But Jesus said nothing is really achieved until we make peace with the offended. (By the way, that doesn’t mean we have a bone to pick with them, but instead, we recall that they want to pick our bones.)

I’ve got to be honest with you–sometimes those around me get miffed at something I’ve done and I couldn’t give a hoot owl’s “who-who” over it. But that’s because I think I can have peace of mind and peace with my God without having peace with my brothers and sisters.

That kind of attitude is the formula for conflict, feuds and even wars.

God has peace with me. He knows who I am. He still hangs around.

Generally speaking, under normal circumstances, I find a way to love myself–even if it’s the “ooey-gooey” of self-pity.

But true peace is when I become passionately concerned over trying to understand the situation of the individuals around me.

I can’t get peace with God or really have legitimate peace with myself until I attempt to make peace with others.

That’s the good news. Here’s the better news:

If we believe this to be true, we can get a jump on the situation … before misunderstandings become lasting conflicts.

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Dear Man/Dear Woman: A Noteworthy Conversation … February 6th, 2016

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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Dear Man Dear Woman

Dear Woman: So what did you think?

 

Dear Man: About what?

 

Dear Woman: Dinner.

 

Dear Man: It was good.

 

Dear Woman: What did you eat?

 

Dear Man: What do you mean?

 

Dear Woman: I mean, what did you eat? What was it?

 

Dear Man: Chicken. Am I right?

 

Dear Woman: You see, this is my problem. Yes, it was chicken, but I made a special sauce to go with it, added some cheese. I spent a little time.

 

Dear Man: And so do I. You know our routine. Monday, Wednesday and Friday, I work on dinner when I get home. Tuesday and Thursday you do it. Saturday is pizza day and Sunday is clean out the refrigerator.

 

Dear Woman: I know. But you see, my point is, because you don’t have any part in my dinner-making tonight, we don’t have any connection.

 

Dear Man: We have conversation over dinner.

 

Dear Woman: Somewhat. But conversation about your day and conversation about my day is not conversation about our day.

 

Dear Man: What do you mean?

 

Dear Woman: What I mean is, you spent most of your day at work with people putting together projects, getting close to them in a mutual effort, and then we come here and we’re married, but the only thing we ever really do together is pay bills.

 

Dear Man: That’s ridiculous. We do lots of things together. We watch movies, we go to the mall, we shop, we go to the park…

 

Dear Woman: You see, that’s the problem We go to places but we’re not a place. I know you don’t necessarily believe all the Adam and Eve stuff from the Bible…

 

Dear Man: I believe in the Bible, just not everything…

 

Dear Woman: Well, I don’t believe in everything, either. But even the things I don’t think are possible, I still try to learn the lessons they have to offer…

 

Dear Man: So what am I missing?

 

Dear Woman: Adam and Eve not only had a life together–sex, romance–but they also worked together. They had a Garden to take care of. It made them get up every morning and notice each other. Kind of like, “Thank God you’re here. Otherwise, I’d have to do the Garden by myself.”

 

Dear Man: I’m glad you’re here…

 

Dear Woman: Let me finish. And then they became involved. How do we take care of the Garden? How do we produce this together? A statement of, “There’s much to do and I need you.” They weren’t just roommates. They were work-mates.

 

Dear Man: So how would we work together?

 

Dear Woman: I don’t know. But it created appreciation. They got to see each other doing their stuff at their best, so they could turn to each other and say, “You did great. We did great.” I just feel like I do my best work on the job and you never get to see it.

 

Dear Man: Well, you don’t get to see my best work, either.

 

Dear Woman: Exactly.

 

Dear Man: So what you’re saying is that maybe rather than doing dinner separately, we do it together, and in the process throw in ideas, laugh at ourselves, and come up with a concoction we both are invested in, and therefore will be more interesting to us.

 

Dear Woman: Brilliantly said! I just feel like the more we do together, the more we’ll enjoy what we do, and the more we’ll notice each other, get involved with each other and appreciate each other.

 

Dear Man: Well, it seems like an idea we can do.

 

Dear Woman: I think so, too. I think if we just take the chores of the house, the cooking and the everyday stuff and try to do some of it together so we can watch each other at work, instead of trying to explain our day over dinner, when the thrill of the moment is long gone…well, I just think it’ll draw us closer.

 

Dear Man: We can still keep pizza night, right?

 

Dear Woman: Yeah. Maybe sometimes we’ll make our own pizzas, though.

 

Dear Man: I think we just crossed a line…

 

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Always Starting Over … January 13, 2013

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shoes

Above are the shoes I was wearing tonight as I set up my equipment at All Saints Lutheran Church in Tamarac, Florida. (All Saints Lutheran–you really have to admire a church that makes sure it doesn’t offend any divine possibilities.)

I took a picture of my shoes because they are a symbol of what I do. I travel. Perhaps many people would find that difficult, boring or even impossible to achieve, but the challenge I receive in journeying across this country enables me to put into practice a precious principle. For you see–I’m always starting over.

I can finish up sharing at one venue and make great friends, receive hugs and an occasional kiss on the cheek, but as soon as I climb back into my van and turn out of that parking lot, my next destination has absolutely no idea of the magnitude of the affection just extended my way–or, for that matter, how much I treasured the folks I encountered.

Each time I stop off, my shoes join me in being a stranger. My philosophy of life is constantly being tested, because rather than being continually surrounded by patrons, family, friends and beloved well-wishers, I am usually in the presence of cautious and even suspicious individuals, who are trying to figure out who I am simply by eyeballing the cut of my jib.

So if I don’t know who I am, I certainly will not be able to convince anybody why they should care. I will tell you right now that a good percentage of the problems in this country are due to the fact that we are all encouraged to have an overblown assessment of ourselves and our abilities, which, when put to the test, come up short, making us look like we’ve been freshly smacked in the kisser with a coconut cream pie. There is power in knowing who you are. There is also a great blessing in my life of having that identity continually questioned, so that in the process of reestablishing daily the factual nature of my true character, I also can bring glory to God by every once in a while sprouting a good work or two.

After I establish who I am, I am then given the gift of sharing why I am. Once I share why I am, I can answer the question that fills the heart of every human being. Why should I care?

If we all walk around this planet expecting props for the magnificent manner with which we breathe, we will eventually destroy one another because we feel offended by the lack of appreciation for our yet-undisclosed abilities.

I like starting over. It adds muscle, credence and intelligence to what I believe and teach. It means that my talent can win over my looks. It confirms that having heart is not a lost art in a society that boasts its indifference.

I will put on my shoes in the morning and go out to meet more people who don’t know anything about me except the propaganda written on a piece of paper, which many of them will never read and the rest rarely believe. If I don’t have a gift out of my soul to carefully place into their souls, I am of little use.

So tonight I will do three things:  (1) clean out the basement of my emotions of all unnecessary and unwarranted ego; (2) think about funny things so I’m ready to be of good cheer in the atmosphere of what could be sour dispositions; and (3) spend some time with my heavenly Father, feeling valued–just in case His human creation forgets to grant me that courtesy.

I can recommend starting over. Otherwise you live under the delusion that everybody around you is madly in love with you and thinks you’re the coolest person on earth. They really don’t. They’re just trying to do the best they can and would certainly welcome any overture on your part to make their lives easier.

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Not Really Evil … April 29, 2012

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In Los Angeles

When two dreams are separated and ignored, what lies between is a nightmare–a surrender to sleep, devoid of rest.

Such was my life for a season. About twenty years ago I stopped traveling. I ceased writing. I refrained from sharing. I removed creativity, suffocating my dreams. I settled into the San Francisco Bay area in a motel room with my wife and three children and attempted forced domestication. I worked the “dead man’s shift” at the front desk of the same motel to cover my expenses.

I was at that position late one night when he walked in the door. I had heard rumors from the maids and maintenance staff that he had checked into room 214 and was planning on staying a while, but it seemed so unlikely that I dismissed it as idle chatter. But all at once, in the night hours, he came strolling in, looking for a book of matches.

It was Evil Knievel. I didn’t know much about him. I mean, I had a cursory understanding of his fame and the bold endeavors he had undertaken by leaping over things with his motorcycle. So I was a bit starstruck and dumbfounded at the same time. I fumbled around, found him some matches and he stood there, staring at me, saying nothing. It was very intimidating.

I wanted to speak or maybe even ask a question, but each idea I formed in my mind was more stupid and comical than the previous, so I pretended to be working on some figures behind the desk–as he continued to stare. He only stayed for ten minutes. During that time he asked me three questions.

1. “Have you always been fat?” (That one was easy. I said “yes” and then began a sentence to explain, trailing off prior to verb usage.)

2. “Does the motel offer anything other than Danish for breakfast?” (Another easy answer. We didn’t. We wouldn’t. We can’t. And we shouldn’t. All the excuses I had been provided.)

3. And finally, he said, “What’s your name and what in the hell are you doing here?” (He tricked me with a two-part question. Through my flustered condition, I still was able to retain my name–Jonathan Richard Cring–but I was not sure what I was doing there, though I couldn’t confirm it was hell. But in a strange burst of boldness, I flipped it. “Let me ask you, Mr. Knievel. What in the hell are YOU doing here?”)

He gave a quick laugh which turned into a smoker’s cough, with a long clearing of the throat. “Damned good question, my man,” he said. He turned on his heel, walked out, disappeared around the corner and I never saw him again. About three weeks later he checked out of the motel and I followed his career enough to know that he had a couple of come-backs over the next few years before he took his final leap over the River Styx into eternity.

But in that brief visitation with this man, who had achieved such great fame and now was discussing breakfast choices, I realized that I had escaped down a hole simply because it appeared in front of me. I had decided that traveling around the country with my family, sharing a message of hope and love, was a bizarre thing for a father to do and that I was tired of being out of the box. I wanted to be normal. So I settled in and began to live in a motel, which in itself was extraordinarily abnormal. So here I was, trying to please an existing social system that was not of my heart or making, and even though I had forsaken all of my sense of calling and the energy which rattled my soul to excellence, I had still fallen short of the demands of my culture. What a fool. Just like Evil Knievel, I was hiding away because the hideaway was made available.

It was shortly after that visit that I packed my bags up and took my family back out on the road to reestablish our identity, such as it was. Because life does not consist of a marching army of conformed troops adorned in the same uniform. Life is a personalized journey through a wilderness, where survival is contingent on using what is available while maintaining the best attitude you possibly can.

Evil walked through my door that night–but he really wasn’t so bad. He wasn’t mean. Evil wasn’t out to get me. The main thing I will remember about Evil is that he was lonely. Loneliness is what we’re left with when we follow a voice that is not our own, which ends up not being God.

For after all, respectability is achieved when my needs are covered and you are happy over my choices. Contentment is when my needs are supplied … and I am happy with my choices.

  

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