Ask Jonathots … November 3rd, 2016

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Organic and natural foods are extremely expensive–out of reach for the average American, including me. But packaged foods are full of additives, starch or high fructose corn syrup. How do you find affordable healthy food in America?

In the realm of groceries or food products, there are only three ways to acquire nutritious portions and avoid the additives, salts and sugars.

1. You can grow your own food.

It may sound a little ridiculous, but lots of people have a small parcel of land where simple vegetables can be grown with some ease–especially things like tomatoes, green beans, cucumbers and squash.

2. Look for mark-downs.

Some grocery stores are very willing to mark down produce and even meat when they are near expiration. Find those stores, learn their patterns and be there when these various products are discounted for a more reasonable price.

3. Adjust your menu for the week to what is on sale.

Sometimes produce and vitamin-rich products are set at a lower price in order to lure people into the store. They often keep those prices for ten or twelve days, hoping to “hook” people on the taste before they raise the cost.

Don’t lock into bananas when it turns out that strawberries are on sale. Don’t insist on grapefruit if they have a deal on tangerines.

And I guess I should add a fourth point:

If you’re going to get nutritious food at a reasonable price, you have to adjust to the fact that you probably will be traveling to more than one grocery store. Make shopping a joy by beating the system through finding the deals, taking advantage of the mark-downs, and then supplementing your choices with a few things grown from your own garden.

If you will do these things, you will find that your budget will permit much healthier choices.

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Dear Man/Dear Woman: A Noteworthy Conversation … January 2nd, 2016

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Dear Man Dear Woman

 

Dear Woman: Why don’t you like sex?

 

Dear Man: Who says I don’t like sex?

 

Dear Woman: Well, I guess me since it just came out of my mouth.

 

Dear Man: Where’d you get that idea?

 

Dear Woman: Let me put it this way. Maybe I overstated it, but here’s what I know. If I turned to you and said, “Would you like to go out to dinner?” or “Would you like to go shopping?” or even “Would you like to go visit your mother?” your response would be positive.

 

Dear Man: Even though that’s a generality, I suppose it’s pretty accurate.

 

Dear Woman: OK. But if I said to you, “Do you want to have sex?” your response is not always positive.

 

Dear Man: Who does that? It’s so abrupt. I mean, who asks that? Sex kind of just happens, right?

 

Dear Woman: Yeah. But not enough. So I was just curious.

 

Dear Man: I wouldn’t call that curiosity. It’s more an accusation.

 

Dear Woman: Wow. I don’t know how we got there. I am really interested.

 

Dear Man: Really? Are you sure? Are you sure you want me to be honest?

 

Dear Woman: Well, if you can do it without being mean.

 

Dear Man: Yes, I can do it without being mean. The question is whether you’ll think it’s mean.

 

Dear Woman: Try me.

 

Dear Man: OK. Let’s talk about amusement parks. Let’s say we go to an amusement park and my job is to walk around all day with you while you go on the rides and you come back after you’ve completed the experience and explain how wonderful it was, and I’m supposed to get my pleasure through you being overjoyed with your ride.

 

Dear Woman: So you’re saying you don’t enjoy sex?

 

Dear Man: What I’m saying is, we go on the ride until you’re satisfied, not until I’m satisfied.

 

Dear Woman: So you’re not satisfied.

 

Dear Man: See? You’re already defensive, because you’ve been taught that it’s your job to satisfy me.

 

Dear Woman: What’s wrong with that? Isn’t that love?

 

Dear Man: No, that’s arrogant. It’s my job to learn my own sexuality–my own body–and be able to satisfy myself. Your job is to listen to me as I listen to you, so you can help me and be there when I achieve my satisfaction.

 

Dear Woman: Wow. That just sounds kind of weird.

 

Dear Man: See? You’re talking like a chauvinist. What you really want is for me to pretend that I’m satisfied with what you do. That’s what you call a good wife–a good sexual partner.

 

Dear Woman: Well, not exactly. But I do want to feel like I satisfy you.

 

Dear Man: And I want you to feel like I know how to get satisfied, and have you interested in discovering what that entails.

 

Dear Woman: So you like sex?

 

Dear Man: Just like you. I like orgasms. And what I’m trying to tell you is that sex without orgasms is like doing situps. You may sense the benefit but it gets tiresome.

 

Dear Woman: Wow. I don’t know whether I’m glad I asked or not.

 

Dear Man: Be careful what you ask. You may get an answer.

 

 

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Duck for Cover… December 21, 2013

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Duck DynastyHere was my plan.

Having grown sick of seeing people park at shopping malls in total disregard to the rules and regulations, in a fit of what I would call righteous fury, I decided I would go out and make a citizen’s arrest of individuals who were impinging on the rights of others by where they perched their vehicles and even how they decided to wiggle into spaces.

I found myself a fake prop gun and headed out toward my local shopping establishment. Of course, it didn’t take me any time at all to locate transgressors. If you’re looking for people who make mistakes, who are breaking the law AND you have enough pickiness in your own soul to incriminate them, you can quickly discover a whole prison-load of infractors.

Lickety-split, using my fake gun to intimidate, I wrangled up fifteen perpetrators and forced them to get into my big, black van, slamming the door, locking it, intimidating them with my presence, and gleefully dialing the police department, to inform them that I had faithfully executed the mission of honoring the laws of the land.

To my surprise, when the police arrived, rather than cuffing these illegal parkers, they instead placed the shackles on my wrists and led me away as I screamed my objections to such foul treatment for a faithful disciple against moving violators.

The individuals I had detained were released and offered apologies by the police department, as I turned to one of the nearby officers and said, “What did I do wrong? I just followed the letter of the law and discovered those who weren’t, pointed it out and detained them until such time that YOU could offer sufficient punishment.”

He replied, “The law has justice and justice has mercy.”

So true.

Of course, I didn’t actually go to the mall with a fake gun. I share the story to make a point.

It’s something that Phil Robertson forgot a few days ago when he ran into the public square and insisted that people listen to the law of religion and theology and follow it because it was written a certain way at a certain time.

Mr. Duck Dynasty forgot that God often contradicts His own edicts by offering grace for a multitude of sins. Even if Phil feels that homosexuality is a sin, he didn’t take into consideration that Jesus, when confronted with the blatant interpretation of Mosaic law concerning stoning a woman caught in adultery, turned his back on the commandment and rose up and forgave her.

In the process of pursuing justice for each and every one of us, God frequently contradicts the laws that mankind interpreted to be His will–in order that He might rescue people from destruction.

Because it’s not just about the law. Justice comes to play.

And justice is when we’re each given a chance, individually, to be viewed by a loving Father who evaluates us personally. And even then, when justice has had its day, mercy is greater than all of it.

My advice to anyone who thinks they understand the Bible, especially as it pertains to someone else’s life, is to just shut the hell up.

Because even though people may commit indiscretions by your standards, God does not look on the outward appearance.  He looks on the heart.

And if He peers, from His heavenly home, on the hearts of two people in love, don’t you ever assume that he turns them over to check what gender they are.

My brother, Phil, is probably a good and kind man in his normal moments, but he mistakenly thinks he can detain others because there may be some sort of law permitting him to do so.

Justice and mercy always trump the cold reading of heavenly commandments.

 

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Fifty-Two Days … January 28, 2013

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I got out my calculator and figured it out–one-seventh of a year.

I just spent one-seventh of a year situated in South Florida to spend Christmas with the family, record a new album and share in a whole bunch of Sunshine State churches before making my departure this morning.

People often talk about evaluating the success of a project or the fruitfulness of an endeavor. The only difficulty with that aspiration is that we can’t keep moving the goal post to accommodate the lack of achievement. (Actually, that may be the secret to bringing America out of its economic and spiritual doldrums–if we could just get people to admit that the present flow of finance and inspiration is lacking, we might become righteously disgruntled enough to DO something about our plight instead of rationalizing it.)

So as I drive up 27 N to take on another hunk of the Floridian countryside, I must ask myself what I thought I wanted to accomplish when I arrived in Ft. Lauderdale over seven weeks ago.  It really boiled down to four missions:

  1. I wanted to enjoy my family.
  2. I wanted to bless all the people I met.
  3. I wanted to increase my productivity by recording an album and getting my video ready for touring in 2013.
  4. And I wanted to make sure my children are growing in the faith, prospering and in good health, “even as their souls prosper.”

So even though it’s silly, I would like to take this morning to give myself a report card. Now, there is a good chance that I will grade myself too generously, but since I don’t have anybody else to come in and score my papers, we’ll just have to be satisfied with my ciphering.

Let’s look at #1–enjoying my family. I think I can give myself an A on that one. I am convinced that being a good father is the correct mixture of hands-off, hands-on and hand-outs. In other words, I want to give my children room to breathe and be themselves while simultaneously intervening when I see them racing toward the edge of a cliff–and never make them feel that if they hit a hard spot, they can’t ask for assistance. I hope they all feel that way. So thus far, so good.

Concerning blessing all the people I meet, this has become a heart’s desire and source of chilling excitement to my soul. At my lodging location during this period, I got to know the maintenance people, the maids and all of the staff–blessing them with a dollar or two from my wallet from time to time, letting them know I appreciate their contributions to my life and that I admire the work they pursue to make a living wage. I certainly could not do it.

I also tried to tenderize my heart even more towards all the congregational members, audiences and sponsors who were gracious enough to allow me a platform to air my thoughts. So I’m going to give myself a B+–mainly because we can always do better at doing better.

Now, concerning increasing my productivity, it was a smashing success, as I slid into my son’s recording studio, producing a new album, and with the assistance of my other son, put out the video of my show. Both the album and the video are now in my van, journeying with me. I really feel that I landed on a bit of inspiration and heavenly breath with both projects. It doesn’t cause me to be prideful, but certainly grateful for the spunk and initiative to bring God to life through art instead of just reading about Him in a book. So I’m going to make that grade an A+. (I’m a little embarrassed because it seems like I’m grading myself very generously. But it was a good 52 days.)

And now for the final step of assuring my own soul that those individuals who sprang from my lineage or have been introduced into it are finding power in their spiritual journey. I think I have to give myself a C- here. The world and the pressure to conform have taken some toll on my little conclave of family. Don’t misunderstand me–they’re beautiful people and I love them dearly, but they are living in a society that has convinced itself that it is cool and intellectual to deny the work of a universal Father. It doesn’t sadden me so much as it makes me realize that they’ve increased the difficulty in their lives by journeying without a map, compass or co-pilot. I think most of them still believe in God–they have just bought in a little bit to the social lethargy which feels snooty by ignoring a divine goodness.

I know they will not like hearing me say this, but I do believe it’s my duty after fifty-two days to warn my friends that the popularity of the moment is never the lasting virtue of the future. God has not gone away. He is often disguised by religion, which wishes to profit from His image more than seeing the world enriched by His wisdom. He’s been nearly mutilated by politics, which has attempted to turn the Almighty into a poster child for everything from abortion to gun advocacy. And He has been locked up in a black leather-bound book, which is so vulnerable in establishing the weaknesses in its heroes and characters that it falls prey to the cynic.

So as I drive on today with my A, B+, A+ and C-, I realize that I have once again ended up where I have often found myself in life–B.

I don’t know. Perhaps maybe I am doomed to be a B movie for eternity. But at least, God has given me the sense of humor, ability to be honest about it while simultaneously refusing to give up–continuing to pray and believe that all things work together for the good.

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Common “Since” … December 31, 2012

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Layovers.

For several years I toured the country by air–right before flying the skies began to resemble a prison transfer bus, complete with cramped quarters, armed guards and frisking. Like everyone else, I always found layovers to be unpleasant. After all, getting into that big, long tube once to fly non-stop to your destination is the ideal, but is occasionally impossible because your destination may be a smaller city or you may need a more reasonable ticket.airplane on the tarmac

So rather than complaining about layovers, I tried to start using them as a vehicle to attempt a productive project. Sometimes I tried to hook up with the people I knew in the town where I was going to spend a couple of hours and have conversations, or purposely plan a writing pursuit to fill the time. I became very aware of a phenomenon in human life which we shall refer to as the “since-then” syndrome.

“Since I’m stuck in an airport, then I choose to do the following…”

“Since my tire is flat and I’m going to be late, then I will change my plans and do this different thing…”

“Since I didn’t get the original amount of money I intended to receive, then I will adjust my budget to make it appear that I’m solvent…”

It is probably one of the most powerful principles you can teach to yourself and others in order to maintain the decorum which allows you the dignity to survive adversity and await the next opportunity that sprouts the unplanned-for blessing.

I ran across this same philosophy yesterday in Boynton Beach, Florida, at my gig. The pastor of the church told a story about a woman with a brain tumor, who developed the further complication of bleeding on the brain. The family, rather than looking on it as a setback, was grateful–because the bleeding was treatable, and in the process of taking care of that particular difficulty, they were praying that in some way the brain tumor itself would be addressed or perhaps even eliminated.

Now, the normal reaction from the average person to this kind of idea would range from admiration to mocking. But really, neither of those takes on the situation are on point with the value of their thinking. What I heard was that this family understood the “since-then” concept. We all have things happen to us that we have little control over–except to meter our reaction in the direction of the continuation of life rather than complaining about our lot.

I thought it was brilliant. It is actually a perfect example of faith. For after all, faith is not a foolish whim spoken into the wind in a dreamy sort of psychotic haze. Faith is accepting what has come our way, yet believing that God is looking for a path to increase our possibilities instead of limiting us.

I went Christmas shopping three times this year. I haven’t done that in five years. I gleefully go grocery shopping every week now. I found that very painful to accomplish over the past couple of years. All of these things are made possible because when I discovered my knees were failing, rather than giving up on my potential, I merely sat down in a wheelchair, and in so doing, increased my range. Since I am presently mobile only by using wheels on a chair, then I will take that new mobility and use it as proficiently–and frequently–as possible. I could even fly again if I want to.

See how it works? Since I am here, then I will do this. Since I write a daily column, instead of fretting over whether anybody reads it, then I will do my best, knowing that at least I have a strong readership in the heavens.

Of course, the supreme example of this is Jesus, who was given a cross–and since he was, then he turned it into salvation.

Layovers–you can either take the time to look at your watch … or use the time to watch and look.

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Remarkable … December 28, 2012

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It really is quite simple.

To solve all the world’s problems is not a complicated cypher. All you have to do is decide between remarkable and re-make-able. Am I going to treat the human beings around me as remarkable individuals, or am I going to follow my culture in the continual, futile task of remaking them?

We are notorious for this. We meet someone for the first time, and before we know it, our brain is already trying to take them back to the drawing board, where God drafted their being, and correct the original design.

  • We quickly discern if they’re too fat.
  • On the other hand, we wonder why they’re so bony and skinny.
  • We’re curious about whether that mole in the middle of their forehead makes them self-conscious.
  • We notice skin color, although we fervently resist the inkling.
  • “Pretty” and “ugly” leap to the forefront.
  • “Nice” or “mean” is a split-second piece of discernment, with a vengeance of judgment.

We begin to reform them from the dustiness of our minds, evolving them into different creatures that we think would be better suited for life on this planet–especially in front of us.

Here’s the killer–we don’t even have to say anything. Our body language, our look, our deference and our avoidance speak volumes.  It puts people on edge.

Of course, meanwhile they are trying to remake us.

So when you take a world of remakers and thrust them together, they all piously begin to believe that if their will were enacted on earth, then it would truly be heavenly. To overcome such a dastardly practice, you have to decide to become a person who is looking for the remarkable.

It happened to me yesterday at the swimming pool. I went down for a quiet swim and a little exercise. Even though the weather was a bit chilly, I persevered and attempted to brave it. Just as I arrived, a mother with her four children came through the gate. Now, I want to tell you what my Midwestern, German upbringing immediately sprouted in my brain:

  1. Darn it, here come some kids.
  2. She’s a black woman. I hope she doesn’t think I’m fat and white.
  3. Do I really want to get in the pool in front of a bunch of children under the age of ten?
  4. I should have come down sooner.
  5. Why is she looking at me so grouchy?
  6. Is she noticing that I’m displeased?
  7. Maybe the water will be too cold and they won’t stay long.

Now, none of these thoughts took very long–and as each one came to my mind, I was disgusted with myself for birthing the little boogers. But bratty thoughts will hang around until they are replaced with better offspring.

So I decided to converse with this woman, talk to her about her children and include the youngsters in surviving the frigid waters. It was beautiful. By the end of my visit to that pool, the dear lady had warmed up, even deciding to move from her perch where she had originally situated herself, surmising that it was going to block my exit from the waters into my wheelchair.

It was a massive success. But it did require that both she and I pursue finding the remarkable instead of pandering to our picky, nasty attitudes of the re-make-able.

Here is one thing for sure–people change slowly, even when they have to. So most certainly, they will never change because I want them to or even have a good suggestion. The only thing I can do to make my journey fun is to find the remarkable in what other folks want to view as the re-make-able.

So I don’t care if you’re black, white, red, green, gay, straight, atheist, Muslim, Chinese or Yorkshire terrier. It is my mission, as long as God gives me breath, to find the remarkable in everyone sent my way, and in the process, remove the curse of trying to remake the world around me.

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Published in: on December 28, 2012 at 2:31 pm  Comments (1)  
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Here You Go–November 9, 2011

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Sitting in the parking lot of a very crowded department store, I saw a gentleman emerge with two large carts, completely filled, heading for his car. I think I noticed it because it is unusual to see someone pushing two buggies. Anyway, he arrived at his car and began to unload the bags from the carts and set them in front of his door. I immediately thought to myself that this plan of action was erroneous–and sure enough, when he pulled out the fourteenth or fifteenth package and placed it in front of his door, it occurred to him that he had blocked the door with his purchases and was therefore unable to load them in. He stood there for a second, trying to figure out how to get the door open without disturbing the pile, and then, in a fit of anger, kicked one of the bags which caused a can to roll out. A car drove by at that exact moment, honking at him as he scurried to retrieve the item. He shook his fist at the driver in frustration and stomped back to his packages, which were still blocking the car door, and in a fit of fury, moved the bags from the door so that he could gain access, all the time growing more and more angry over having to double his efforts. Honestly, I felt sorry for him, while simultaneously wondering how he had gotten a pass from the barn in which he certainly lived.

Here’s what crossed my mind. The scenario before me is very similar to how we conduct our daily lives–not that it’s a matter of grocery bags that we stack in front of our car door, but rather, untapped and unresolved feelings that block the entrance to possibilities. Americans just somehow or another feel stronger when they hide their emotions. We are an insulated people who try to escape any appearance of being vulnerable by denying that we have misgivings and doubts. It renders us insipid because eventually, our feelings block our entrance and exit to anything new that might give us greater insight.

Yes, it is important to be clean with your emotions. The issue becomes how to achieve this. After all, sharing candidly with everyone can certainly be a formula for devastation or betrayal, but failing to clean our emotions out will taint our efforts with the nastiness of unresolved conflict. What should we do?

The problem is residue. Very few of us actually get the purity of a new day’s advantage because yesterday is still jamming up the passage, failing to allow any chance for joy to enter our being. So somehow or another, we have to release our emotions for what they are. It doesn’t really matter how we do it. It may be the true power of prayer. Even if atheists are right and there ends up being no God, having an imaginary friend to share your emotions with on a daily basis is therapeutic.

On those occasions when I do not feel that I can be completely honest with the folks around me, just having a heavenly Father who has an ear without always giving an opinion is priceless.

Sometimes a mirror will do. Yes, just being able to look into my own eyes and speak the truth of my inward parts is a stroke of brilliance.

And then there are those times when a friend can be trusted and we’re able to share temporary, fleeting ideas without fear that they’ll be thrown up to us later. Whatever the case, it is impossible to have good spiritual and mental health if you’re emotionally clogged up, causing the entrance to your soul to be blocked off.

Here are some signs that you are backed up:

1. You wake up with dread. Dread is one of the common indicators that we have untapped emotional quantities in us that should be released in some fashion.

2. You have targeted another human being as the source of your problem. I will admit to you that people can bring conflict into our lives, but they are not the reason we have lost our way. Only I can truly destroy myself. When we start targeting a single member of the human family as the source of our misery, it is because we have not allowed small moments of emotional issues to be released and shown for what they really are–miniscule.

3. If you find yourself reluctant to seek spiritual guidance or enlightenment, it’s pretty sure that you’ve blocked the entrance to that soul of yours with emotional baggage. God always seems far away when our problems are too near. The emotions are the doorway to the soul. If you feel spiritually dry and empty, it’s because your emotions have not been fulfilled, released and given the freedom to be expressed.

For the next few days, I’m going to take you on a journey to what I call the Here Philosophy–because after all, we are here for a while, and it would be excellent to have a life that is conducive to planet earth.

The Here Philosophy begins with “Here you go.”   In other words, “Here’s what I feel.  I can’t change it until I express it.”  Because every thought seems to be right when it is inside of us, and is only revealed for what it truly is when we allow ourselves the blessing of full disclosure.

There is no power in claiming to be a believer in God and being crazy. One of the things the Bible tells us we should have is a sound mind–and that begins with, “Here you go. This is what I feel, right or wrong, and until I clear the way, nothing good can get into my spirit.”

Back to my story–I watched as my friend loaded the last bag in the car, walked around to his entrance, slammed the door, and I realized that from his perspective, his whole day had been ruined. How unfortunate.

You can’t put the bags in front of the door and think that anything is going to work right, and you can’t hide your emotions and pretend like they don’t exist and think that your soul can receive the touch of God.

You are emotional. Stop trying to hide it, and instead find a way–God, mirror or friend–to pop off and get it taken care of.

***************

Here comes Christmas! For your listening pleasure, below is Manger Medley, Jonathan’s arrangement of Away in the Manger, which closes with him singing his gorgeous song, Messiah.  Looking forward to the holidays with you!

Jonathan sings “Let”

Jonathan Sings “Spent This Time”

Jonathan and his partner, Janet Clazzy, play “The Call”

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