Jesonian … December 9th, 2017

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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To the classic question, “Were you born in a barn?” I can truthfully answer, “Matter of fact, I was.”

Although my good friends, Matthew and Luke, did a charming job relating the circumstances of my coming into this world, many layers and textures of the actual tale were left out in favor of a concise sharing, a Hollywood ending with all the participants–shepherds, wise men, angels and Holy Family–lined up in a row for a photo op.

Certainly beautiful and even miraculous, the actual unfoldings were different. I did not learn all the factors of my birth in Bethlehem until I was twelve years old. Mary and Joseph wisely chose to withhold some of the more frightening aspects of the experience from my ears until I was of an age when I could at least attempt comprehension.

But following a trip to Jerusalem, where I was particularly disobedient to them by chasing my curiosity instead of using my common sense, they sat down one night along the trail and spilled.

First, let’s understand that a young girl getting pregnant without a husband was always met with shunning or stoning. Mary’s simplicity and piety did not spare her from the wicked tongues of the gossips.

Joseph felt pressure. We’re told that an angel spoke to him, but Joseph never confirmed that with me. He said he was tortured in his dreams and finally realized that he loved my mother more than he wanted the approval of the town elders.
He did not need to make the journey to Bethlehem with Mary–he could have represented on his own to give the information about the taxes. He brought her because he was afraid to leave her alone.

So they made a fifteen day journey to a little town outside Jerusalem, which had no significance in their lives other than the fact that some “Great-Great Somebody” was born there and Joseph happened to be part of that clan.

When Mother and Father were unable to access lodging in the houses surrounding the town square, they quietly slipped into the stable, hoping not to be discovered. The innkeeper found them huddled in a corner among the animals, and when he saw that Mary was hopelessly pregnant, he chose to leave them alone rather than interfering.

They were stowaways in an animal shelter.

The birth was difficult because Mary was so small, weary from the journey–and both of them completely inexperienced with the process.

No shepherds arrived that first night. No angels sang. Nothing but grunting animals, relieved parents because the baby actually came out whole, and a chill in the air disguised by the heated odor of the stable’s occupants.

The next morning Joseph went to try to find food, and both of them realized there was no place for them to go. They would need to stay where they were for eight days to fulfill the Jewish law on circumcising the baby, so they remained as quiet as possible, hoping the innkeeper would leave them alone.

Three days passed with them scrounging for food, tucking themselves away in the farthest corner of the manger. It was on the fourth night that some shepherds did arrive. They looked perplexed, abashed and completely out of their element. They explained that they had been spoken to from the skies and told to come to find a baby in a stable.

It made no sense. Matter of fact, there was a sniff of alcohol on all three of them which hinted that the visit from heaven might have come from a flask. But Mary and Joseph listened politely, and it made for great conversation over the next few days while they waited for the circumcision.

Arriving at the temple on the eighth day, they were accosted by two very old, wild-eyed individuals–one man and one woman–who claimed the gift of prophecy. They told Mary and Joseph that the baby was going to be great and amazing. Even though Mary and Joseph wanted to believe the words, they feared the utterings were coming from dementia rather than another dimension.

Then things became really difficult. There was no need to go back to Nazareth. The presence of the baby would only increase the gossip.

So Joseph talked to the local carpenter and secured a single room in his home in exchange for work. The job included repair work, masonry and even some garbage collection.

They found contentment, until Joseph was awakened by an angel. (This time he really believed it was an angel.) He was told to leave Bethlehem to protect me from danger. When Joseph told me the story, he said it was the hardest decision he had ever made. It seemed illogical, for they had been in the carpenter’s home for a year-and-a-half and had found some peace of mind. Leaving seemed futile, if not insane.

Before departure could be executed, there was a visit from foreigners–those wise men mentioned in the Gospel story. They brought gifts. They inserted finance into a family that was about to be on the lam from the law. It was certainly timely.

The visitors explained about a star in the sky, but Mary and Joseph never really understood the significance, nor the tie-in.

During the journey to Egypt and the next six years of exile, I developed a separation anxiety. I just never felt part of anything. When Mary and Joseph started having other children, I didn’t feel like a brother. It was more like I was an intrusive uncle or a foster child.

This haunted me my whole life. I never felt quite secure with my surroundings. There were times I left the fellowship with my disciples to slip away and get my head straight, so I wouldn’t come off like a crazy man, nervous and frustrated.

Even though Egypt saved me from King Herod, the rejection hung in my mind throughout my life. I had to be careful not to get offended by the treatment I received. I learned mercy because I had no sense of mercy being given to me.

It became especially strong, and nearly violent in my soul, when Nazareth rejected my ministry, and then my mother and family thought I was crazy. I had to walk away from them.

You see, Christmas is a different tale to me.

It’s a story like many stories in the sense that God’s hand is not completely obvious in the moment, and is only unveiled through the endurance of his followers.

God picked the right pair. For if Mary had been prissy, Joseph would not have been able to manage without her. And if Joseph had been too conventional, Mary would never have been able to muster a companion. They needed each other.

Christmas is a miracle story–about God allowing people of faith to use their faith to do faithful things, to see their faith make things whole.

So Merry Christmas.

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Good News and Better News… December 12th, 2016

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good-news-light

She spoke to me in a quiet voice, a bit creaky and worn from decades of conversation, hinting at the possibility of sage wisdom.

“I know Jesus said we shouldn’t worry, but …”

She didn’t finish. Apparently she was leaving it to my imagination to fill in the blank. What did she want me to insert in that space?

“I know Jesus said we shouldn’t worry but…”

  1. He was wrong?
  2. He didn’t live in the 21st century?
  3. He was perfect, so it doesn’t count?
  4. He was never a mother?

The greatest disservice we do to ourselves is continuing to believe that worry performs any reasonable function.

Worry is an anti-energy.

It not only fails to provide assistance but actually drains away faith and hope, leaving us stuck with images of struggle and failure.

Here’s the good news:

Since God knows we’re human, He has lit up the path before us.

Not in the sense of controlling our destiny, but rather, by making it clear what needs to be done next and how we can contribute to the cause.

It’s lit up.

Jesus told us that it’s our job to “discern the signs of our times.”

In other words, see what is available for consideration today, and put our efforts into people and circumstances that are ready for input instead of into situations and individuals which stubbornly avoid solution.

  • The wise men followed a star.
  • They didn’t make up a religion.
  • They didn’t adopt a philosophy.
  • They saw a light and they followed it.

It lit up.

The shepherds went to work, never thinking they would be talked to by angels. But once the angels spoke to them and lit up a possibility, they went with it.

And the whole salvation plan came down to a girl turning to her betrothed, Joseph, and saying, “Excuse me, I need to get down from this donkey. I’m crowning.”

Joseph didn’t question. Joseph didn’t say, “There’s no place for this to happen.” It lit up. He followed.

The good news is that life does light up in front of us with today’s possibility.

The better news is that even though the dark questions may go unanswered, there is great opportunity that soon they will brighten.

 

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PoHymn: A Rustling in the Stagnant … December 9th, 2015

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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PoHymn Dec 9

Broken Earth

You gave us a baby

We have acted childish

You hung a star

We have polluted the Earth

You called shepherds

We honor theologians

You summoned angels

We seek the bedeviled

You said “Peace on Earth”

We have broken the earth family into pieces

You were born of woman

We deny her rights

You were sought by the wise

We applaud the foolish

You arrived in humility

We demand recognition

You were a refugee in Egypt

We reject those who flee

You came to unite the human family

We promote our cultural barriers

You arrived at our crossroad

We pushed you on a road to the cross

You died because we denied

We cried because we have lied

You raised from the dead

We are still dead

So you became human

Because we cannot be God

And you are completely God

When we embrace our human.

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G-Poppers… December 26, 2014

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G-Popper

 

After the presents were opened, the children quickly disappeared to gather all their treasures for deep consideration of play-status preference.

An hour passes. The little ones begin to dribble back into the room. One of them asks G-Pop, “Are you sad Christmas is over?”

G-Pop: It’s not over until we say so. It doesn’t stop unless we cease to give. The songs are not silenced, waiting for another year. Bits and pieces of them are contained in every tune we sing. “Peace on earth” awaits champions. “Good will toward men” is the needed mission of every soul who chooses sanity.

The baby born stirs the child within us. The shepherds remind us that God is alive in our work. The angels recruit giddy believers, summoning the willing. The wise men keep us all chasing our dreams.

Christmas is ours and ours alone, if we will take rightful ownership and refuse to relinquish our deed.

It is a lifestyle, not a holiday.

It is yours and mine to possess … and release. 

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Populie: Christmas is for Children … December 3, 2014

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star over manger bigger

I read it over twice just to make sure.

But even with this double scrutiny, I was unable to find the mention of any children in the original Christmas story, except for one baby born in a manger.

The tale contains a king, three astrologers from Mesopotamia, shepherds, a confused purported virgin, a bewildered carpenter-in-training, a prophet and a prophetess, a greedy innkeeper, and many souls who were finding their situation quite taxing.

But there was no one under the age of fifteen who was mentioned except the little fella with straw for a pillow.

Yet today you would assume that Christmas was conceived in the minds of the Madison Avenue elite, who were desiring to come up with a holiday that focused on “tots before they were teens.”

Politics loves this populie, because it provides new stumping ground extolling the family and high-sounding ideals.

The entertainment industry certainly focuses on kids because it frees them from having to put a spiritual spin on December 25th, but instead, advertises Santa Claus, candy canes and overgrown elves.

And religion can barely contain itself, trying to yank that baby out of the wooden cradle and on to the cross as quickly as possible.

In the meantime, the significance of “peace on Earth, good will toward men” dissipates into the background in favor of sitting back in our easy chairs, shaking our heads in awe as the youngsters rip open their presents.

Attention one and all: Christmas is for us. It may be our only chance.

It offers three very important possibilities which tend to escape us by the middle of January, and certainly have run away in horror by April 15th, when the IRS drains our sensibilities.

1. We are all the children of God.

If Christmas is for children, it is only because we live in the household of “Our Father which art in heaven.” We have lost our innocence. We favor a jaded outlook. We have resigned our place in the human family, running away to live in an orphanage, simply to make ourselves seem abandoned.

2. Children need to be taught.

For a very brief moment, we begin to look at the Jesus-born-in-the-manger as the life coach he was intended to be instead of the human sacrifice we have thrust upon him. After all, the angels foretold of “peace on Earth, good will toward men,” not a sacrificial blood-bath that ends up with us forming religious institutions with dark, dank corridors.

3. Going forward means going back to pick up what we lost.

There is nothing more precious than being nine years old on Christmas morning. To reject that memory as being idealistic, foolish or silly is to lose one’s soul before dying.

It’s not so much that “Christmas should be in our hearts each and every day of the year” as it is that our hearts should never surrender Christmas and the memories that make us chill with anticipation.

Bluntly, if you’re not excited about what’s going to happen next, you need to change what’s next.

So be careful with the populie that says “Christmas is for children,” because you soon will find yourself angry at the holiday, and also at the little fellows and ladies who keep trying to hang the holly and trim the tree.

It is only true that Christmas is for children as long as we understand that to gain a true spiritual and emotional sensibility… we must all become as a little child.

 

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Christmas Greetings A to Z … December 23, 2013

Jonathots Daily Blog

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A: Adorable adventX-men

B: Blessed bounty

C: Cherishing Christmas

D: Dainty dancers

E. Elation everlasting

F: Favorite fa-la-la-la-la

G: Gathering gaiety

H: Huddling home-fires

I: Ideally ingenious

J: Joyous joviality

K: Kris Kringle

L: Loving lullaby

M: Merry manger

N: Noel newness

O: Old-time ornaments

P: Precious Prince

Q: Quality quest

R: Reveling reindeer

S: Sleepless shepherds

T: Tree trimming

U: Untold unity

V: Vivacious vision

W: Wise wanderers

X: X-tra X-men

Y: You, yours

Z: Zany zeal

(Of course, if you insist, you can stick with “Merry Christmas to all!”)

 

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Click for details on the SpirTed 2014 presentation

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Taxing the World… December 17, 2012

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Jon Signing

Let’s assume the story is true. For the sake of today’s essay, let’s agree to believe that the tale told by Matthew and Luke in their gospels is factual.

Caesar decided to tax the world. There’s always someone trying to do that. We live on a globe that is continually bombarded by frustrated individuals who feel that one more annoyance, one more trial, one more war, one more evil or one more excess isn’t going to make any difference one way or another. They are deliverers of straw for the backs of camels–never quite sure if this present shipment is going to break all of our backs.

They are just people who tax the world. They don’t bring anything to the party–they just fuss. They extol the virtue of “debate” and perfect it to the greatest levels of dissension, all in the name of a cause which rarely is developed because there is no time left over for progress. That part of the story makes sense to me–Caesar taxing the world.

Then there are people. Good-hearted, yet not good-natured folks, who end up spending all of their time bitching about the taxes. They try to free themselves of the bondage to the latest Caesar but because they are always complaining about the actions of the government or the mis-deeds of the disenfranchised, they openly admit they’re at the mercy of these merciless politicians and ne’er-do-wells. So Caesar bewitches and the mass of humanity…well, “we bitches.”

It is a nasty, immovable gridlock of meaningless conversation lending itself to deadly delay, opening the door for tragedy to slip into the back windows of our lives because we are too busy discerning the unchangeable. Yes, there are those who tax the world and there are those who bitch about the taxes.

So it was over two thousand years ago in Bethlehem, Judea. It seemed that the most important thing going on was the present affliction being levied on the masses by the Romans, who were trying to raise money to pay for a war in Britannia against the Angles and the Saxons.

And then there was a handful.

In the moment, they seemed meager–a carpenter and his pregnant, besmirched wife, arriving too late into town, not having made preparations for lodging and ending up stalled in the stable; shepherds who certainly wanted to complain about taxes, but found themselves interrupted by more angelic possibilities and needing to make a choice, and wise ones from the East, who were probably mocked by their neighbors as star-gazers with their heads in the clouds, who evidently were completely oblivious to Caesar’s latest imposition.wisemen under star

Yes, there were a few people who decided to birth a new idea.

It is a lesson for all of us. For I will tell you bluntly–CNN and FOX News don’t care one whittle that I write a daily column on the Internet, that I was able to reach tens of thousands of people this year through my travels or that I am recording a new album of music. They are following the latest story of “whoever is taxing the world.” They are also quite interested in those who want to bitch and complain about how over-taxed the world is by problems and difficulties. If you want to send in a tweet or email lamenting some evil in our world, you might get your twelve seconds of fame flashed across the bottom of the screen.

But just as it was in our original story back in Bethlehem, those who are trying to birth a new idea are relegated to obscurity and stuck in a barn somewhere.

But also, just like those so many centuries ago, you have to decide whether you want to be there for the birth, whether you want to worship or whether you want to be one of the wise people.

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