Good News and Better News … June 20th, 2016

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Good News Walkersville

I have spent the last week in Maryland, “habitating” on Mason Dixon Road.

If you’re unacquainted with the significance of “Mason Dixon,” simply explained, it is the contrived boundary line which was drawn to distinguish the North from the South, and therefore, the free states from the slave states. It was another one of those man-made solutions that seemed brilliant at the time because it appeased an acceptable insanity.

As I thought about it this week, I realized that every time we try to divide one from another–be it by race, gender, culture, sexual preference, or denomination–we take a big slather of glue and try to repair a major crack in the rock.

It never works. It never holds. And eventually, the action of trying to achieve a temporary solution seems ludicrous.

If we would simply start with the principle that there are no divisions unless we’re trying to be superior, then we would be on our way to understanding human life as it was meant to be on Planet Earth.

Enjoying the fine souls at Walkersville United Methodist Church, I realized that there was no greater message to share with them than the removal of all the “Mason Dixon Lines” that keep us apart.

I don’t care if it’s some politician portraying that the one percent is battling the ninety-nine percent, or another chap who insists on constructing a wall to keep the immigrants from the “permanents”–we are merely pretending to address a situation which can only be achieved by submitting to the wisdom of four immutable axioms.

Whenever there are two people gathered, each must realize:

1. We’re both wrong.

If life were as limited as our understanding, then it could never include everyone alive. So in some way, we’re both wrong.

2. We’re both right.

Yes, there is something good at the core of almost every philosophy or religion which can be included in the ultimate solution.

3. The Spirit knows the difference.

As long as we are in our flesh or living in our minds, we will never be able to surrender to the ultimate wisdom that keeps us from constructing barriers between one another.

  • We need the spirit of history
  • We need the spirit of science
  • We need the spirit of wisdom
  • We need the spirit of creativity.

And this is all encapsulated in our Father in Heaven.

4. Stay in the Spirit.

Since it is the Spirit that will lead us to deeper acceptance, the more we laugh at our prejudices as we chase them out the door, the greater the chance that we will achieve comprehension.

So that’s the good news. Because we’re both wrong and we’re both right, and the Spirit knows the difference, we should stay in the Spirit.

And here’s the better news:

It’s fun being wrong, as long as you believe in your heart that it is possible.

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G-Poppers … May 13th, 2016

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Jon close up

G-Pop wonders if his children comprehend the origin of evil.

After escaping the notion that we are plagued by demons from hell or caught up in a Luciferian revenge plot, we are left with the reality that evil is simply human beings gone amuck.

But is it all the lust of the flesh? The lust of the eyes? The truth is, most carnal sins do little to hurt anyone but the offending party.

G-Pop is curious if his children can recall an old-fashioned word which seems to have fallen out of favor: cunning.

Yes, it is a cunning spirit inside a conniving human heart which plans the offense, and even death, of other souls.

G-Pop’s not quite sure where it started–maybe it was thousands of years ago, when the human race lived in tribes and one tiny village thought it was clever to withhold the location of a good hunting ground from another nearby clump of people, so as to gain superiority.

In doing so, the selfish clan established a wicked premise: “We are better than you.”

Once that idea is invited into the minds of people, they will always be looking for ways to express their dominance, to the detriment of others.

For after all, in the 1950’s, in the southern part of our nation, no white family would discourage black people from singing Negro spirituals, clapping their hands, eating neck bones with collard greens or acting quiet and humble. Matter of fact, any Caucasian person would insist it was “just the black culture.”

They felt magnanimous by being aware of the preferences of their darker-shaded neighbors, allowing them to practice their desires.

It was cunning–a way of saying, “You’re not as good as me because you don’t do the same things I do. I pretend to bid you well, but reject your choices.”

This is why, in our present environment, politicians are able to convince us that Mexicans are rapists, all Muslims are potential terrorists, and billionaires are out to strangle the poor so they can fill their coffers.

We once believed that America was “the great melting pot.” It’s been replaced by the insistence that “we are the great grocery cart.”

We lay inside this country–separate, culturally bound, no longer searching for commonality, but instead, faking a reverence for each other’s cultural inclinations, while privately looking down on each other for having them.

It is a cunning spirit that gradually welcomes segregation and eventually invites violence.

Will G-Pop’s children become aware of this, or buy into the ridiculous notion that we’re actually involved in culture conflicts, which can be alleviated by more education and understanding of our differences?

Going back those many thousands of years, if the selfish tribe which found the excellent source of food had simply said to themselves, “This other tribe is also hungry and there’s plenty for everyone,” then how many wars, executions and genocides could have been avoided?

The source of evil is the cunning notion that if I can convince you that you’re not quite as good as me, I can relegate you to a position where I can move you anywhere I want.

Until we become the great melting pot again, we will struggle in alienation which ironically seems to be feeding tolerance, but actually is just a cunning way to starve people of equality.

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Jesonian: Reasonable (Part 19) Apolitical … April 10th, 2016

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Jesonian hands

It is impossible to pursue the dictates of a political party and stay faithful to the Jesonian.

There. I said it.

Anyone who follows a political persuasion is bound by that party to defend the stances presently being taken in the moment instead of embracing a more historical and eternal view.

Politics are for those who have given up on the power of the Gospel.

It is a way of trying to convince Caesar to accept your principles, or a way of forcing your principles into becoming “the new Caesar.”

Let us realize–they were constantly hounding Jesus to become political. They wanted him to fly the flag of Judaism and reject the Samaritans, or criticize the Greek woman who came for healing, attack the tax collectors, who were considered betrayers to the seed of Abraham, and most certainly, deny Rome the authority to rule and reign.

He disappointed all of these factions by living off of two simple concepts:

  1. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
  2. Go the second mile.

There is no political party in the United States of America that fully lines up in agreement with either of these concepts.

For “do unto others” is a decision to include all of humanity into your circle instead of rejecting some. So as the Republicans are infuriated with immigrants and the Democrats despise the South, the Jesonian individual must remain apolitical–loving the new visitors to our country and honoring the brothers and sisters in the Southeast.

No political party in this country believes in going the second mile. Going the second mile is finding out what energizes us instead of exhausts us.

The constant debate, attacks, and gridlock caused by political maneuvering becomes a national fatigue which removes the initiative to do just a little better than we did the last time.

  • “Do unto others” is spiritual.
  • “Go the second mile” is practical.

But you will find that when you do unto others, it has a practical edge, making you a friend of all tribes.

And you will discover that when you go the second mile, you gain spiritual credibility, as bystanders view your endeavors.

It is not reasonable to be political.

What is reasonable is to maintain a profile that is apolitical, while doing unto others and going the second mile–allowing the future to be determined by the wisdom of inclusion and the impetus of excellence.

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Distinctive … May 5, 2014

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stewAs I travel the country, each and every region advertises its uniqueness by pointing out some attribute, location, cuisine, battlefield or monument that is special to the surroundings. Everyone wants me to know what makes their province sparkle.

For there is an instinct deep inside the human race to be separated off from others, with the hope that the alienation will grant some clarity or maybe even superiority.

But this is not us at our best.

We are a fussy creation when we are either critical of others or feel self-sufficiency within the boundaries of our ineptness.

As I stood in front of the delightful congregation yesterday in Henderson, Tennessee, I wanted to give them an emotional hug and tell them that it’s all right to be a part of the common sensibility.

  • It’s good to be from the South and find reasons for interaction with those from the North.
  • It’s completely permissible to be a Republican who occasionally agrees with a Democrat.
  • It is truly holy to be a Methodist who understands fellowship with a Baptist simply because of Jesus.

There are three things that make us distinctive. I must be candid. Without these three things we begin to clump together. We glue onto those who agree with us on every point, or with those who are related by birth.

Here is what I look for in people of every region:

1. Can they be touched?

Refusing to open your heart simply because you are unfamiliar with the person in front of you or they don’t have the same clothing or accent is the best way to remain lonely and vacant.

I know it’s popular to avoid emotional connection, but if you think you’re going to “zen” your way to enlightenment in your journey without fellowship with others and emotional blessing and upheaval, you really are searching for Nirvana instead of reality.

2. Can they learn?

The smartest people I know are fully aware of when to be dumb. There is no power in presenting an opinion which is stupid. There is great energy in admitting what you lack as you offer what you have.

Learning happens when we stop complaining and confess that the additional wisdom would greatly enhance our possibility.

3. And finally, can they try?

Some people can be touched and may learn, taking notes on scraps of paper, to later be discarded when they go back and return to their same drudgery.

The bravest thing you can do as a human being is try something you’ve never done before and certainly are not sure of its workability. But the denial of trying is the absence of faith, and without faith, we just sit around hoping for love.

It doesn’t matter where I travel–I look for people who can be touched, are willing to learn and ready to try.

If you can’t do this, you find yourself tripping and falling into the soup of the ignorant. If you can, you are welcome to the great human stew.

Jump on in … and add your flavor.

 

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My Body is in Temple… January 19, 2014

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First Lutheran Temple

It’s been forty years since my body has been in Temple.

Temple, Texas, that is.

I have passed by this fair town several times on my journeys, but never actually plopped down for a few minutes of food for thought, by breaking bread.

Four decades ago when I landed in Temple, it was during a brief tour when I was invited to come to Waco, Texas, to Word Records, to share my music, with the aspirations of having this fledgling company record my musical ensemble and make us famous. (Well, at least as famous as one would get by being the first fruits of a fledgling.)

I remember that visitation vividly. Being raised in Central Ohio, I was told horror stories about the depravity of the South and the backwards nature of unseemly locations like Texas. So up to that point in my life I had never gone any further south than Nashville, Tennessee, or further west than Chicago.jesus rally

I don’t know what I was expecting, but it was a different time. Even though Temple was a rural community, ingrained with the traditions of its heritage, a new breeze had blown through, initiated by the winds of Spirit.

Young hippies, fresh from California, had just arrived in the region to sing a new song. So it was really amazing–you had long hairs and butch haircuts side by side, finding common ground with guitars and Jesus. They were tolerant of each other and seemed fairly oblivious to the differences that might build up over hair follicle preferences.

Many of the engineers in the recording studios were good ole’ boys, and the performers were fresh off the street, many of them ex-drug addicts who had been thrust into salvation, with a movement through Jesus.

Shoulder to shoulder, they worked on beautiful tunes, laughed, shared pictures of their families with each other, and acted like they had known one another for a lifetime.

I shared in several of the area’s religious establishments and was greeted with warmth and tenderness by folks who had just come out of the field with mud on their boots, curious about whether what they had just planted would ever reach harvest.

Even though I was a very young snap-off-the-whipper, I realized that what made this thing work was finding something in common with each other and sealing it by believing in the same message of love.

So as I come back to Temple, Texas, in a much different time–when it is considered to be righteous and upstanding to be at odds with one another over miniscule issues–I want to bring that same breeze with me.

I would love to allow the Spirit to permit commonality and faith to blend together again, to make us one.

It is a piece of idealism I permit myself without apology. For I know this: the world will never be a decent place to live until we find reasons to be alike.

And I also know that we will never find reasons to be alike …  when we work so darned tootin’ hard on trying to be different.

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“My God-given American right…” July 3, 2012

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I read it off a bumper sticker on the back of a puke-green, mud-splattered pick-up truck. So you know it has to be true. Yes, I am back in Dixie, where all chicken is fried, all biscuits are covered with gravy and all truths are simple.

I love the south–at least, many things about it. There is a quiet hospitality available at the root of its motivation. But I’ve always been uncomfortable with any group of people who too closely mingle God and country. Historically, it’s proven to be a nasty mixture–whether it was the Roman Empire trying to make Caesar divine, or Hitler manifesting a super-race. Whenever nationalism and spirituality tango, the result is a tangled mess.

But the bumper sticker did get me thinking. Are there any “God-given, American rights?” Are there any standards, beliefs and guarantees granted to each of us simply because we were created by God and born in the United States?

I came up with a list of seven. I believe that if you listen to them carefully and follow them fervently, you will discover that a universal unction of benefit will be provided your way. They don’t really have much to do with our Bill of Rights, which tends to create more debate than progress, but rather, are the careful blending of the heart of God with the will of our nation.

1. You have the God-given American right to get as much liberty as you’re willing to give. Liberty is a slippery slope. You are completely free to seek it–as long as you’re willing to grant it to others. The minute you limit the possibility of another citizen, that measure will be measured back to you.

2. You have the God-given American right to prosper as you work and multiply your talents. There is no reason to believe that laziness or a sense of entitlement will provide for your common needs. There is also no scenario where continuing to do the same things repetitively will increase your coffers. You must work, keeping an eye on ways to expand.

3. You have a God-given American right to be loved exactly at the level with which you love. The minute we begin to believe that certain people are attractive, colorized correctly or financially solvent enough to receive more attention, our whole system of government and belief fall apart.

4. You have the God-given American right to be given to–at the rate you give. One of the “rules of the jungle” in human behavior is the precept that selfish people eventually get starved out. We tend to give to people who give. At first it may not seem that way. There may be the deceptive appearance that greedy people actually achieve success more quickly. But that’s only because those who are plotting revenge against them need time to perfect their plan.

5. You have the God-given American right to receive blessing if you’re willing to survive hassle. Blessing is not a portion provided for those who whine, complain or pout. Blessing is built into the natural order, to be the prize given to those individuals who stop resisting change, find a way to conquer the hassles that come along and introduce inventive ideas.

6. You have the God-given American right to be included as long as you believe that “NoOne is better than anyone else.” Even though the principle is a bit simplistic, and I suppose, deemed arguable by disagreeable people, any other approach creates too many prejudices that shut the door to others–thus eventually shutting the door to ourselves.

7. And finally, you have the God-given American right to respect your heavenly Father, honor Mother Earth, and live at peace with your sisters and brothers. Fussy children spend most of their available hours in “time out.” Yes, life has time out. When you’re not willing to give place to God, honor to Mother Earth and respect to your brothers and sisters, you will spend a lot of your earth journey missing out on opportunity, eating your peas and carrots without dessert.

So there you go. On this day before the 236th birthday of our country, you have my particular list of our God-given American rights. Forgive me if I left out some favorites–like brattiness, indifference, provincialism, regionalism, nationalism, political parties or religious intolerance. The truth is, certain trends may be given a podium and an ear for a season, but history tells us that they eventually will be snuffed out by the desire of the people and the intelligent will of God.

So take heart. Receiving our God-given American rights takes a little more than dropping a buck on the desk at a convenience store and picking up a bumper sticker and slapping it on the back of your favorite ride. It means being prepared to give everybody else what you want.

It means being human … and allowing others to do the same.

   

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Whosoever… June 18, 2012

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“In a perfect world …”

I hate that phrase. It has to be one of the major cop-outs that has sprung into the lexicon of our generation as a universal excuse for falling short of pursuing excellence or often even achieving adequacy. Here’s my opinion. In a perfect world, we would stop saying, “In a perfect world.”

We keep stockpiling great ideas into an arsenal for storage which we call “the ideal.” I’ve even seen things go into this building to be put on mothballs that used to be functioning parts of society’s thinking.

The most recent one to be stuck in the closet is “love your neighbor as yourself.” Jesus used it as a symbol of defining the faith he was establishing among his followers, and now we look upon it as something that is impossible to achieve or the ideal that should be done, which we fail at, and therefore required repentance.

Somewhere along the line, we need to recognize that ideals cannot be abandoned without a death toll in the human spirit. I think that’s the problem with the word itself–most of us read the word “ideal” and break it up into two words: “I deal.”

  • “This is the way I deal with that situation.”
  • “This is the way I deal with people who are different.”
  • “This is the way I deal with frustration.”
  • “This is the way I deal with immorality.”
  • “This is the way I deal with telling the truth.”
  • “This is the way I deal with being friendly and open to others.”

When you redefine truth, you always come up with a lie. It’s just the way things are.

Let me give you an example. Yesterday I had the honor of sharing at a church that has three services. Now, they do not have three services because each one is so large that the capacity of the building would not hold them. No, all three services could fit into their sanctuary. There’s another reason that three services have been constructed. Some people in the congregation would say it’s because each group has a different taste in worship–but honestly, that isn’t really the case. Matter of fact, many churches which once had traditional and contemporary services are now blending them in style–but keeping them separate in time slots. So what is the reason for a church to have three services, when combining all three would not fill the room? It’s just the way we deal with our own prejudices.

Yes, there is a silent prejudice in America that cannot be spoken, cannot be shared, cannot be discussed and certainly cannot even be acknowledged. We no longer go around throwing stones or lynching people, but instead, use the sophisticated action of the delineation of our tastes in certain matters to create boundaries between each other. Candidly, there are just people in one service who do not care to be with people in another service because…

Well, I don’t know all the reasons. Honestly, maybe they don’t know all the reasons. Maybe it’s political. I often realize that the services I minister to on any given Sunday are divided right along political lines. The Republicans come at 8:30 and the Democrats at 10:30. Now, it’s not advertised that way, nor presented philosophically. It’s just understood. There are some people who don’t care to be with other people because of what they would view as an “intelligence gap.” It’s too cruel to call people “dumb,” so we substitute. “Simple.” “Country.” “Southern gospel.” “Working class.” “Blue collar.”  All words of prejudice, which trigger in the minds of those who silently hold those principles to be true, that these folks are not completely suitable for interaction.

It was the problem in the south in the 1940’s and ’50’s. Black and white people greeted each other congenially in the streets. They worked together. At first sight, you would have thought there was no difficulty between the races in Dixie whatsoever. The problem came when people of color would accidentally cross a line where prejudice had been drawn, and for some reason they forgot, or just didn’t know, and they suddenly became “uppity.” And then, what was once a very relaxed atmosphere between the races exploded into ferocious anger. Most black people in the south had no idea what the boundaries of “uppity” really were because it would change from time to time, based upon the discretion of the domineering white race.

Here’s what I know–we need some place in America where “whosoever” actually means “whosoever.” We need a place where silent prejudice is confronted as being a bit of silliness and foolish thinking. Honestly, not every person I meet on any given Sunday is particularly to my liking. I probably would not want to spend a week in the Poconos camping with them. But I can share a pew. I can share my heart for an hour. I can break down my bigotry and allow myself to believe that God loves them just as much as He loves me–and therefore God wants me to love them as much as I say I love Him.

Without this, the church is just another locale for silent prejudice, where we segregate off from one another, insisting that it’s just a matter of “preference.”

No one wants to be confrontational on this issue. I certainly don’t want to be known as the poster child for pointing out the silent prejudice existing in the American church. The anger that would be unleashed on such a crude whistle-blower would be almost beyond comprehension. I’m just telling you that I will no longer participate in such an irrelevant and irreverent maneuver.

I need to learn to not only preach, “NoOne is better than anyone else,” but also bathe that philosophy in the acid test of my dealings with humanity every day. I personally was at all three services on Sunday. I experienced the three different congregations. And I will tell you this–the only difference among them was in the level of tolerance they had for anything different from themselves–because if they didn’t like people in their own congregation, they certainly didn’t express any favor towards me. After all, I was a stranger. And if they had a heart to love others, I was blessedly included.

So it doesn’t come down to a choice between hymns and choruses, or organ and guitar. It is really an issue of whether you’re going to pursue the ideal, allow your own prejudice to be exposed, or whether you’re going to create a false world of “I deal,” where all of your prejudices are allowed to stay in full bloom and fill up the garden, forbidding the introduction of other different plants.

Yes, the first thing I would do to change the existing religious system is expose the silent prejudice that blocks us from allowing the “whosoever” ideal of Christ to be enacted. It means that in one accord we would have to admit that we still bring our own fussiness into the mix instead of allowing ourselves an opportunity to interact with people who are different from us.

After all, it’s only for an hour. It won’t kill ya’. You don’t have to go out to Sunday lunch with ’em. But if the church cannot establish itself as a “whosoever” district, we have nothing better to offer than the local bar, which divides itself into beer drinkers, whiskey connoisseurs, and wine sippers.

The first problem in America is silent prejudice. It allows us to maintain the insanity of our grandparents’ bigotry, while appearing to still be intelligent and open-minded.

I have told you many times, I still see color. I was raised that way. But I have learned to pretend that I don’t. I’ve learned how to pretend that it’s righteous that I don’t. And in the process of pretending, I have become a pretty good actor.

“Whosoever” means everybody. And don’t you agree–there should be one place in the world where you can go, where whosoever is not just an ideal, but a reality.

   

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