Cracked 5 … December 15th, 2018


Jonathots Daily Blog

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Cracked 5

Things to Do When They Start Singing “The Twelve Days of Christmas”

A.  Fake a heart attack

 

B.  Belch out “Five Golden Rings”

 

C.  Mess with the words so they send you out of the room

 

D.  Clap your hands like there’s a beat

 

E.  Vomit

art by smarrttie panntts

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Good News and Better News… August 14th, 2017

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For some ridiculous reason, I occasionally get embarrassed by being happy. I give in to the pressure to act adult, disgruntled, and get tempted to complain about my problems. This is not my nature–I normally have a bubble in my soul which releases a fresh batch of ooey-gooey jubilation.

Yet this seems to bother those who wonder if I have any sensibility about the pain in the world or the suffering in some country they are barely able to pronounce.

I have been called to “brighten the corner where I am.” I am not in Afghanistan. I am not even in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Yesterday I found myself in Haines City, Florida, at the Lamb of God Lutheran Church with Pastor Joe, sitting and sharing with some of God’s wonderful flock.

I was not sheepish. I shepherded these dear souls through a journey laced with the human essential of good cheer. Say what you will about church but it has one function and one alone: find other human beings on the journey and fellowship with them.

Therefore, the byproduct of every experience taking you into into the House of God should be good cheer. For in the world, you only have tribulation, so we need some place to go where we can be of good cheer. It must be the church.

We must stop thinking that the arrival of Cring & Clazzy was a “breath of fresh air,” but instead, understand that stale air is not acceptable.

We cannot go from sucking in oxygen to inhaling fumes. As a congregation, as people, as children of God, as sane humans, we must stand up and demand good cheer:

  • Good cheer in the singing
  • Good cheer in the liturgy (if you have it)
  • Good cheer in communion
  • Certainly good cheer in the sermon
  • Good cheer in the benediction

And even good cheer when you reach the vestibule and discover that your favorite donut has already been eaten by the kids, who were released too early from children’s church.

I talked to some of the most intelligent, caring people you’d ever want to find. I just wonder whether they have the gumption to demand that the church be what it was meant to be–a safe place where we encourage one another, even so much more as we see the world going crazy around us.

The good news is that the world is full of tribulation, and therefore offers no harbor.

The better news is, we can be of good cheer if we start demanding purpose instead of settling for anemic programming.

 

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Good News and Better News… November 28th, 2016

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good-news-man-thanksgiving

Yesterday–for the first time all year–I did not go to a church and share my heart for a Sunday morning worship service.

I am officially on hiatus for the Christmas season. I think the obvious questions would be, how do I feel about not ministering and performing. Did I miss it?

Actually what I felt was nothing.

Although some people would consider that to be a negative statement, “nothing” is the most positive position in which we can find ourselves.

Several years ago I was prompted in my spirit to close letters I wrote to a friend with the phrase, “without nothing.” I think she was a bit confused by this departing phrase, but it’s quite simple. Without nothing, something has no chance of happening.

The best way to ensure that you will not pursue anything of new value or creativity is to constantly claim, “I’m busy.”

Busy smothers the better parts of our soul

Busy convinces us that we have no time.

And busy shuts out others in preference to a pre-arranged party-goers.

When we finally stop being busy, we can arrive at nothing, which then offers the possibility of something.

If we don’t have enough time on our hands to be nearly frustrated by the time on our hands, then we’ll never use the time on our hands to take our hands to create.

  • Without nothing, there is no something.
  • Without a void, there is no filling.
  • Without loneliness, no new relationships.
  • Without grumbling over the absence of a feeling, there is no seeking innovation.

So as I sat in my chair Sunday morning, thinking for a moment what song I might be singing or story I might be telling under normal conditions, I was suddenly flooded with the assurance that God uses nothing to get my attention to do something.

That’s the good news.

The better news is: I found something.

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Scratchy… December 30, 2013

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bridge to Tx

It had been nearly four years since I had been visited by the common curse of a cold. Even though I am around thousands of people who tote germs like little six-year-olds carrying backpacks to the first day of school, I am blessed with an immune system which bunkers me in safely to health.

That is, until I spent four days living in the same house with my children and grandchildren over Christmas. I followed this toxic exposure with a 900-mile drive to Houston, Texas.

So sometime on Thursday, right after I ate my Subway sandwich, the left side of my throat began to itch and tickle, radiating up to my ear.

I knew what this meant. I attempted denial, but when the right side of my throat joined the party, I knew I was in the first throes of incubating a common one.

Here’s the problem: I needed to share on Sunday morning at Bay Harbour United Methodist Church in League City, Texas.

I wanted to do a good job. I know everybody says that, but I like to use my talents at full speed, full throttle and full passion. They are my arsenal–to apologize for a mug that couldn’t win a beauty contest versus a coffee cup.

I was about seventy per cent. So what was I going to do?

Obviously, play to my strengths. For instance, talking is easier than singing.

Also, address the three demons that attempt to invade our foxhole in the midst of battle:

  1. Excuses
  2. Fear
  3. Disappointment

Excuses are the pavement on the road to failure. Fear is the rope that strangles the life out of hope. And disappointment is the drug that puts our effort to sleep.

  • I didn’t make excuses. The audience never knew.
  • I wasn’t afraid. For after all, the worst thing that could happen was that I talked and played the piano, without singing. That’s just not that bad.
  • And I wasn’t disappointed because I got sick. Remembering how mortal we are is what helps us assist other humans.

As it turns out, I had a little more than I thought–maybe 78%.  It was a glorious morning.

I don’t like getting sick. I fight it. But if I’m going to lose my faith, energy and direction every time I sniffle, I will probably not be worth very much and will snuffle out my possibilities.

Excuses, fear and disappointment–they arrive like a scratchy throat, making you believe that they’re here to stay.

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Stepping Away… October 19, 2013

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church popscicleElder Ralph was working on a crossword puzzle he had hidden in his Bible.

Deacon Dan was dozing on the third row.

Martha, the church piano player, was thumbing through a Life magazine.

The teenagers sitting around me were passing notes, giggling and trying to time their levity with the jokes infrequently being offered from the pulpit, as Pastor Norm continued to preach on a subject matter which no one seemed to care about.

Suddenly in the midst of this ongoing Sunday night antipathy, it struck me. It was so phony, so contrived and so meaningless to my sixteen-year-old mind.

I quietly rose to my feet, moved past a few of my friends and headed toward the back of the church. Everyone thought I was going to the bathroom. Some people probably thought I was headed to the fellowship hall to see if there were any treats to eat after the service. But actually, I passed on both of those opportunities, headed out the door and walked home. Even though I still believed in God, I had lost confidence in the system that was arranged to represent Him.

For three months, I stepped away.

  • I didn’t go to church.
  • I didn’t stay in contact with the people.
  • I also didn’t go out, get drunk, smoke grass and curse the heavens because of my disillusioned condition.

Various emissaries from the conclave of the righteous were sent to me during the ninety days to tell me how I was missed or what I was missing or how it was absolutely necessary for me to be there–otherwise I would fall into iniquity.

I joyously ignored them.Up the Down Staircase

Instead I took my stepping away hiatus to accept a role in a play at the high school, as Joe Ferrone in Up the Down Staircase. I also worked on my piano playing, which had become as rusty as my Grandpa Ford’s barn door latches, and I practiced singing. (I had convinced myself I was a bass, but actually had enough range to be a tenor. Why not both?)

During my stepping away period I discovered I could do things–yet realized they were more fun when I was tapping the mind and spirit of God to achieve them.

Eventually one of my friends from the youth group came to see me and said, “Jonathan, you may not need us, but we need you.”

Those were the magic words.

It wasn’t an issue of ego–it was the fact that I could no longer attend church because I was afraid not to. I couldn’t go to church because it “made me a better person.” And I didn’t want to go to church to fake it, in order to get heavenly tickets.

I took my newfound drama talent, my expanded singing and my better piano playing back to the “house of people”–to simply enjoy my heavenly Father.

I stopped looking around the room to see what Elder Ralph, Deacon Dan, pianist Martha and all the other kids were doing.

When I disagreed, I chose to simply live differently. And if it got boring, I challenged the ideas.

That three months of stepping away sowed the seed of the man I have become. It was a season of time when I realized that I don’t need to be in church to find God.

But the church needs me ,,, to make sure we don’t lose Him.

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Is It Still There? … May 6, 2013

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flagHave you ever listened closely to the lyrics? (Actually, since it was originally a poem, maybe I should say “the stanzas.”)

I’m talking about The Star Spangled Banner, penned by Francis Scott Key. After all, the emotion of the song is a yearning curiosity about whether the defenders of Ft. McHenry had survived the all-night battle–if the flag was still waving, proclaiming victory.

We’ve grown so accustomed to hearing the song sung by young, spoiled, famous pop artists, who are more concerned about the pitch range than they are about the emotional range, that we somehow have lost the significance of the message.

That night in Baltimore Harbor, Mr. Key was frantic about whether the United States would be able to continue its mission, initiated 36 years earlier with the signing of the Declaration of Independence.

He was nervous. He was anxious for a little light to be shone on the day so he could determine the future of our nation.

For this I know–after all the scandals, ill-advised wars, foolish clinging to bigotry, financial disasters and even the broaching of civil rights which have peppered our history, we still remain a country which insists on pursuing the simple concept of personal freedom.

But like Francis Scott Key, I sometimes wonder whether The Star Spangled Banner is still there in the midst of all the partisanship and vendettas put out by less-than-scrupulous leaders in this country, who have more of a vested interest in their own personal wealth and position than they do in the deeper treasures of liberty.

But I am not cynical. I still believe I live in a magnificent country.

It all came to bear on me the other day when I received an email from my daughter-in-law, who was born and raised in China. She sent an attachment of a file, with her singing a song she will be auditioning tomorrow, to possibly perform for the UCLA graduation. It was The Star Spangled Banner.

First, I was astonished that she was a singer. She had never shared that talent with me in all of our varied conversations. She had listened to me croon away many times without piping a note herself. But when I listened to her gentle, sweet voice intone our national anthem, I was brought to tears–especially when I heard her share the phrase, “Oh, say does that Star Spangled Banner yet wave–o’er the land of the free …?”

When she hit that high note, a chill went down my spine. Not because it was loud or intense. No–because I realized that here was a Chinese girl raised in among an intelligent and intuitive people, who had used her abilities to arrive on the shores of America to expand her education, and was now singing the praises of the “land of the free.”

You see–that’s America.

America isn’t about listening to a bunch of old codgers, sitting around in over-stuffed leather chairs discussing the subtleties of politics. America is a beautiful young girl from China, who still honors her country of origin, but comes to harvest the benefits from the freedom and opportunities provided by this republic.

It was beautiful. It struck a patriotic chord in me that still resounds this morning.

So you can feel free to continue to be part of the pervasive attitude that is trying to  preserve an America long gone or initiate an America yet unrevealed.

As for me, I will celebrate the power of the immigrant–that soul who has traveled to our shores to find the missing pieces of his or her life.

So here’s to my daughter-in-law and her beautiful spirit. I don’t know if she’ll win the audition or not–but she’s already proven that The Star Spangled Banner is still there.

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*****

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Effective … August 23, 2012

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There are things I like and there are things that work. Sometimes, blessedly, they’re the same, but many times they aren’t. I have discovered that maturity is being able to distinguish between them. For after all, to continue to do something that is not effective simply because you like it may be the accurate definition of senility.

So I don’t think that getting old begins at fifty, but actually initiates its death-hold on us whenever we insist that our particular preference should be pursued even though it isn’t practical to the need. I think we have to take a good hard look at many things in our society with regard to this dilemma.

Certainly the way we elect a President in this country is not effective. The campaign is too long, the issues are generalized and the attacks are personal–and ultimately, we elect individuals who immediately have to prepare for the next election instead of considering the better options for the people.

Likewise, the distribution and sale of food in this country is inequitable and ineffective. Although we insist we want Americans to be healthier, the foods that would benefit the populace are over-priced and often unavailable at the local markets in the poorer neighborhoods. Meanwhile, we have dollar menus in fast food restaurants offering all the delicacies that lend themselves to heart disease.

“Ineffective” also shows up in our religious system. We have become intently involved in the pursuit of a worship service, when Jesus, himself, made it clear that “man was not created for the Sabbath.” In other words, God doesn’t need church. The Sabbath was created for man. Human beings are the ones who need fellowship, confirmation, exhortation and direction.

So we tiptoe through the tulips to get into the sanctuary to listen to a prelude written by some dead German three hundred years ago and then quietly wrangle ourselves through a series of hymns with language that, although beautiful, is a bit arcane. In the last ten to twenty minutes we insert some homily with a point to reinforce the value of the Bible and the religious experience and close off to race to coffee, cookies and Danish and talk about everything but our lives and our Heavenly Father.

I suppose if it was just an organization that we started on our own, built to our specifications, it would be just fine. But it was Jesus who started the church and it should be Jesus who is harkened to as to the operation of his organism. What IS effective? If you’re going to minister to people, the meeting together on a weekly basis should have something in it that is people-friendly and meeting the needs of the people.

What was a “Jesus church service like? It isn’t hard to discover. All you have to do is read the gospels and ascertain his approach to an audience of humans.

1. He always started off by telling stories. We call them parables. They were just little tales applicable to life and drew parallels to how much simpler God is than we make Him out to be–how He has already placed snapshots of His style in the everyday world. (Without practical application, religion quickly veers towards ritual. When ritual arrives, HOW we do something becomes more important than WHY we’re doing it. And when HOW becomes the most important part of spirituality, we not only become picky over our processes, but critical of others who don’t revere our version.) Jesus told stories. It’s how he started off his worship services.

2. A time for healing. The stories stimulated the imagination and willingness of the people. They felt the liberty to express their needs for healing and direction. I don’t know whether you would call it Q and A, or just an opening for people to be emotionally vulnerable instead of merely reciting a call to worship. But there was a time for healing–getting down to business. If people are leaving church the same way that they came, they can eventually skip that step, stay home, read the newspaper and have pancakes. That’s how simple it is. If church is not a place for us to discover both inner and outer healing, then how would it be any different from clogging your mind with a morning of viewing Meet the Press? After Jesus told stories, he allowed a time for people to receive healing and express their faith, so that he could agree with them for newness. Let’s be honest–healing is exciting, even if it’s just an emotional exhilaration someone experiences just by being prayed for by those who care for them. It brings joy.

3. This leads to the third step–a time for rejoicing. In the Jesus church service, there was always celebration after the healings. There was always a time to give glory to God and to appreciate the benefit. Jesus often used this energy from the healings to attract others who were curious, but uncertain of the format. Rejoicing is a powerful draw to those who are living a life floating in the doldrums. (The absence of rejoicing seems to be the presence of complacency. Truthfully, complacency is what causes people to divert their attention to the next shiny object.)

So Jesus tells stories, allowing people to express their need for healing. He agrees with them, their faith makes them whole and the exuberance lends itself to rejoicing.

4. Singing. It is at this point that I believe we can insert our ecclesiastical obsession for singing. Singing should never be used unless it is the by-product of joy. Even if a song is tender and heartfelt, it still sounds better coming from a being enraptured by joy.

After the singing, it’s time to go out the door to eat those Danish, but this time, to discuss how beautiful it was to be together rather than to determine whether we prefer cheese over prune. It’s called being effective.

Politically, we need a sixty-day election cycle culminating with debates that are only allowed to center in on the issues, with no television advertising permitted at all, removing the electoral college–and whoever gets the most votes wins.

As far as the food supply is concerned, we should encourage farmers to grow more and more produce instead of paying them off to keep their land fallow, and get those fresh fruits and vegetables into smaller and smaller markets, so people will have choices.

And when it comes to the church, we need to cease contending that we are worshipping God, but instead, do honor to His name by helping human beings live better lives. We need to be effective. Jesus had a very simple four-step formula:

  • Tell
  • Heal
  • Rejoice
  • Sing

This is the order that touches human hearts instead of asking the emotional part of people to step out of the way in an attempt to expose the spirit. It’s impossible to do. Our emotions and spirit are linked together and must be ministered to simultaneously.

We don’t need to be effective; we can continue to follow our own particular likes and dislikes to no productive conclusion. But if you want to be like Jesus, you’re going to set your sights towards ministering to humans instead of trying to impress God. In doing so, your Father in Heaven will deem you effective.

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