Jesonian: Don’t Call Me a Dog… January 18, 2015

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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doggy under table bigger

It is rather doubtful that Jesus was able to grow up in a small village, surrounded by Jewish tradition, without absorbing a little of the local prejudice.

I didn’t.

I was born in Central Ohio and spent my youth there at a time when civil rights was being argued in the country. So as an adult, when I went out and tried to become open-minded to ethnic groups, I found it very awkward, my attempts riddled with clumsiness.

I made mistakes.

My heart was right, but the verbiage and training in my mind were tainted by false concepts.

So … when a Greek woman–a Gentile–asked Jesus to heal her daughter, the young Nazarene tried to ignore her. “Maybe she’ll just go away.”

She didn’t.

So then Jesus tried to explain to those around him, his faithful, why he was ignoring her–because her kind of people were beyond his scope of outreach.

She persisted.

So finally he told her directly, “I can’t help you because you’re a dog. A Gentile dog. And it wouldn’t be right for me to assist you and take my energies, which are reserved for my people, to help you.”

This is what we call an impasse. We have many of them in our society today. They happen when prejudice comes face-to-face with insecurity and defensive attitudes, generating volatile situations.

But in our story, this woman is not insecure. She doesn’t scream, “Don’t call me a dog! How dare you, you Jew bigot!”

Or even, “You’d better damn well respect me!”

For you see, screaming an objection at bad training is wasting words on the deaf.

Instead, she reasons:

“Okay. You think I’m a dog. But don’t the puppies get to eat the crumbs that fall underneath the table from the children’s plates?”

An amazing answer.

A metered response.

And even though she caught Jesus on a bad day, when a little too much of his childhood prejudice was creeping through, she also happened to be talking to someone who was moved by faith.

The Good Book says Jesus told this woman that because of her answer, the daughter would be healed. Insight: Jesus made a mistake but didn’t get stubborn about defending it.

Let us never forget that it also says:

  • Jesus grew in wisdom.
  • That’s right. He wasn’t born with all of it.
  • He learned obedience. Just like us, it didn’t come naturally.
  • He was moved with compassion. It wasn’t infused into him by his divine mission.
  • And he was touched with our infirmities.

He realized that such an intelligent, well-meaning, creative and enduring lady deserved to be respected and blessed.

May I share this? Nothing good happens in the church from insisting that Jesus was perfect. We all hate perfect people.

Jesus made mistakes but caught them before they cemented into horrible habits and sin. That’s pretty perfect. At least, as perfect as human beings get.

And even though, in a moment of weakness he proclaimed this woman to be a dog … she was still able to bark out the right answer.

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PoHymn: A Rustling in the Stagnant… January 7, 2015

  Jonathots Daily Blog

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Pohymn January 7

I, You–God

I am the light.

You have a light.

God is our light.

I have a great family.

You have one, too.

God is no respecter of persons.

I am smart.

You are educated.

God has wisdom.

I am beautiful.

You are attractive.

God looks on the heart.

I am great.

You are good.

God is … God.

I make mistakes.

You have sins.

Grace covers us all.

I am busy.

You are involved.

God is available.

I have insight.

You have opinions.

God has experience.

I have faith.

You have hope.

God is love.

I am bound for heaven.

You can come, too.

God has brought it here.

I need some changes.

You need to repent.

God agrees.

I am listening.

You are listening.

God is listening.

An understanding that passes all peace.

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Straits and Narrows … August 10, 2013

Jonathots Daily Blog

(1971)

church of the straitsYou meet the nicest people at the swimming pool.

Water is just wet with possibility: it’s good for splashing, swimming, drinking and even, I hear, washing away sins.

Yesterday I encountered a dear lady during my time of pool play. We had a rather lengthy conversation which placed me in the enjoyable position of “listener” more than “speaker.” (I actually rather prefer that as long as my attention span doesn’t drag me away to drowsiness.)

At the conclusion of our little rendezvous, she said, “The problem in America is that the younger generation doesn’t have any respect for morals and goodness.”

I know that’s a popular opinion. It’s probably the same thing my parents said about me and my friends when we were mere burgeoning bumpkins. But it’s really not the dilemma. The problem is that we suffer from social amnesia, forgetting how to keep things straight and knowing when to narrow down our choices so that we don’t become so pliable that we lack common sense.

I put some thought into it. Now, I don’t consider myself a scholar, but I did come up with three things to help us humans stay on the “strait and narrow,” so we don’t become seething contradictions to those around us:

1. If I want the blessing, I’ve got to be willing to take the blame and if I’m going to take the blame–darned tootin,’ I deserve the blessing. Since people in our culture are frightened of appearing inept in any way at all, the human family seems to scatter in all directions, seeking a corner in which to hide whenever a dish is broken. In doing so, they sacrifice the ability to confess their bumbling, become well-trusted and be part of the team that gets to go out dish-shopping. As long as we extol the technique of subterfuge and hiding our weaknesses, we will never actually be able to participate in the kind of discovery that unearths miracles and blessings. Which leads to:

2. Lying sucks. I hate it when people lie to me; I would assume they feel the same way about my mistruths. Lying sucks because it puts such a cheap price on conversation that we never quite know what is important and what is just another foolish posting on Facebook. We also have no idea whether we can trust the words that come from the mouths of our friends, so we dangerously find ourselves second-guessing for fear of being duped. And how about this?

3. Leave people alone. Just yesterday, driving between my headquarters and the shopping center, a mere mile-and-a-half away, I saw at least six things that my fellow-humans did right in front of my eyes which I found at least stupid, if not unethical. Who cares? As long as we believe that stupidity has a chance of being successful, we will be grumpy about folks who take short cuts and cheat.

It sometimes takes a while, but no bad deed goes unpunished.

And it isn’t a choice between condemning and condoning–it’s really a decision to keep your eyes on the prize of your own life and leave people alone. I will not condemn you, but I’m not necessarily going to condone everything I see, either. My gift is to leave you alone and let it play out. After all, nothing is more annoying than brothers and sisters trying to correct one another instead of letting Mom and Dad do their jobs. And for me, Mother Earth and Father God can take care of it. I’m just going to show up for dinner and make sure I wash behind my ears.

There you go.

Tomorrow I will be sharing at the Church of the Straits in Mackinaw City, Michigan. bridgeEven though I know the “strait” in this case refers to a body of water, I am taking the poetic license of hoping that they also understand that the “strait and narrow” referred to in the gospel is not “strait-laced and narrow-minded,” but rather, straight-forward and narrow in focus to the truth.

I hope they will agree with me–to get the blessing:

  • You’ve gotta take the blame.
  • Lying sucks.
  • And leave people alone.

When you do all of these things, it makes pool time so much more pleasant.

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So … they made Andrew a saint … April 23, 2012

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“Bring it.”

That was his philosophy. He was a young fisherman who was searching. He was tired of religion–or he would have ended up at the local synagogue, passing out shewbread. Instead, he found himself at the Jordan River, chasing down the latest crazed prophet who was dunking people in the muddy water to change their lives. When that same grasshopper-eating preacher told him that one of the people who was just baptized was the Messiah, he picked up his belongings and followed the new trend.  He was so impressed with what he heard that he got his brother and brought him along. That led to two other brothers joining up pretty quickly–also fishermen.

He got voted in, to be part of the top twelve, but soon saw the honor diminished when the dozen honorees were basically shrunk down to three of an inner circle–he not being one. His brother was, though, and his other two fishing buddies. Apparently, there was something wrong with him.

But he didn’t let it get him down. When five thousand people needed to be fed, he was the one who found a kid who had the only food available to even begin to address the problem. He brought it.

We don’t know if he was miffed because he wasn’t part of the inner circle; we don’t know if he resented his brother for seemingly being favored over him. We know this–he hung in there. He knew that religion didn’t have anything for him, fishing had lost its hook and the crazed prophet had lost his head. The only place to go forward was in the direction of the teachings, the love, the ideas and the spirit of the Nazarene.

So yesterday I went to a church called St. Andrew‘s. You see, it turns out that this guy who “brought it” put up with being left out of the inner circle, hung in there, lived and died long enough to be called a saint. I met some enlightened people. But I must tell them that it wouldn’t hurt them at all to study the life, style and mindset of the individual after whom they named the church. Andrew was not religious. Yes, I will tell you right now that belief in God would be a wonderful thing if it weren’t so damned religious.

For instance, my daughter-in-law, who has come over here from China to study business at UCLA, invited some of her friends out to see her father-in-law perform while in Los Angeles. All of her comrades were greatly enthralled with the possibility of the encounter until they found out it was going to be at a church. They refused to come. Now, I know this would make some people think that these little renegade agnostics need to “open their hearts to God” and receive the truth. But honestly, it’s not what Jesus would do–nor Andrew. Jesus would find a way to change the wording, the approach and the atmosphere so that those who need the help would be comfortable enough to receive the message.

There are just too many words in churches that are never used any other time during the week. There’s a stuffiness that makes you anxious to leave quickly and even causes the congregants to collect in the BACK of the auditorium–to prepare for a hasty retreat. No, I will tell you, St. Andrew’s, that your namesake, Andrew, would never have allowed a religious service in which he was participating to be so eclectic that people who need the message the most would be frightend to indulge.

Until we understand that we need limited use of religious jargon–just enough to communicate the ideas as quickly as possible–we will just have our little cult of the unrenewed, who cannot draw to the side of Jesus the people he desires the most.

It is in the heart of the folks I met yesterday to be real. All of them lead real lives with only a brief interspersing of religious rites and practices intermingled on Sunday. So why not make the leap? Why not do what Andrew did?

Bring it.

Stop apologizing during the confession of sins for not loving your neighbor as yourself–when we all know that it is the primal directive and the mindset of Jesus. You simply cannot keep coming every week to apologize for the same inadequacy when that particular flub is at odds with the entire mission statement of the gospel.

My words are not a critique, but rather, a challenge to intelligent people to be intelligent. When you spoke to me at the table or in the vestibule, you were delightful, engaging, beautiful, humorous and expansive. So why do we have to change when we enter the sanctuary and sit in the pew? Is God really so insecure that He needs to make us bow down in abstract brokenness before we are worthy to be heard? As you well know, ninety-eight percent of the things we do in churches are less than three or four hundred years old in practice. We can change them–not because we want to be nefarious or revolutionary, but because we would like to let those students at UCLA know that we are a congregation that speaks human and does it plainly–and like our friend, Andrew, when we get together, we “bring it.”

There are two concepts that make life work, whether you’re religious or not. (1) Bring it; and (2) be prepared for it to change. Andrew had both concepts down. He “brought it,” and when it ended up that he was one of the top twelve but not the “magnificent three,” he evolved. And because of that, we call him a saint.

We should, you know. He learned how things worked and rather than resenting it and hiding behind religious fervor or false humility, he changed.

So St. Andrew’s, I love you. And there are so many more people who would love you also if you just spoke your heart instead of the musings of the Common Book of Prayer. I will tell you this–you would have had a half-dozen more student there yesterday. And who knows what might have happened?

Who knows what can occur when you’re intelligent enough to put your five loaves and two fishes into the right hands?

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

Below is the first chapter of Jonathan Richard Cring’s stunning novel entitled Preparing a Place for Myself—the story of a journey after death. It is a delicious blend of theology and science fiction that will inspire and entertain. I thought you might enjoy reading it. After you do, if you would like to read the book in its entirety, please click on the link below and go to our tour store. The book is being offered at the special price of $4.99 plus $3.99 shipping–a total of $8.98. Enjoy.

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Sitting One

 I died today. 

I didn’t expect it to happen.  Then again, I did—well, not really.

No, I certainly didn’t expect it.

I’ve had moments of clarity in my life.  Amazingly enough, many of them were in the midst of a dream. For a brief second I would know the meaning of life or the missing treatment to cure cancer.  And then as quickly as it popped into my mind it was gone. I really don’t recollect dying.  Just this unbelievable sense of clear headedness—like walking into a room newly painted and knowing by the odor and brightness that the color on the wall is so splattering new that you should be careful not to touch it for fear of smearing the design. The greatest revelation of all? 

Twenty-five miles in the sky time ceases to exist.

The planet Pluto takes two hundred and forty-eight years to circle the sun. It doesn’t give a damn. 

The day of my death was the day I became free of the only burden I really ever had.  TIME.

Useless.

Time is fussy.  Time is worry. 

Time is fear.  Time is the culprit causing human-types to recoil from pending generosity. 

There just was never enough time. 

Time would not allow it.  Remember—“if time permits …”

Why if time permits?  Why not if I permit?  Why not if I dream?  Why not if I want?  Why does time get to dictate to me my passage? 

It was time that robbed me of my soulful nature.    It was time that convinced me that my selfishness was needed. 

I didn’t die. The clock in me died, leaving spirit to tick on.  

So why don’t we see the farce of time?  Why do we allow ourselves to fall under the power of the cruel despot?  Yes, time is a relentless master—very little wage for much demand.

I died today. 

Actually … a piece of time named after me was cast away.

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