Sit Down Comedy … April 26th, 2019

Jonathots Daily Blog

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It is completely unlikely that anyone over the age of seventy in the United States of America has not heard, spoken or nervously laughed at a joke containing the “N word.” As painful as this may be, we were a country that was comfortable with bigotry.

Likewise, is there any chance that there’s a human being over the age of fifty who hasn’t stated, repeated or stood silent when the word “fag” was offered in an adult conversation? For years, this was the way we described anyone we deemed incapable of the tenacity, strength and energy to succeed.

And dare I say, there is probably no one over the age of twenty-five who has not referred or heard a reference to the female of our species as “bitch.”

It’s just the nature of our journey. We are born without the ability to walk, talk or use a spoon. We graduate from high school and enter grown-up land unable to solve problems, and therefore often opt for selfishness, in order to protect the little we have. As the old song says:

I wish I knew then what I know now.

But do you?

Do you really want to be the first white person in Montgomery, Alabama, who comes to the conclusion that Jim Crow laws are evil and must be overturned?

Do you desire to be the straight person, who during the AIDS pandemic of the mid-1980’s, decides to defend the gay community instead of insisting they brought a plague down on mankind?

And even more recently, do you want to believe the stories of women who were subjugated by domineering men, when it seems more popular, or at least politically acceptable, to come to the side of the accused, dominant, masculine figure?

There are no rewards for those who think ahead of their time.

Society has a history of putting to death those who finally clarify their message, especially when that proclamation is contrary to cultural standards and mores.

You can be popular—or you can be right.

You can’t be both.

It wasn’t even popular in 1863 to free the slaves, even though supposedly we were fighting a war to do so.

It wasn’t popular to take those same slaves—after the war was already over—and give them human and states’ rights.

It took us until 1919 to allow women a chance to vote—and even after that “lightbulb decision” was enacted, there were many places in our country where females were not allowed to serve on juries.

Being spiritually insightful, emotionally empathetic, mentally progressive and physically fit never places you in the forefront of anything.

BEING A LEADER MEANS…

If you decide to be a leader instead of a follower, you will lead alone—since the followers have already pledged their allegiance. Yet we, as a people, count on certain souls to walk a lonely path, pursue through resistance and overcome public opinion to bring us the solutions which lead us into a spirited life instead of rendering us dispirited.

As we judge candidates, senators, congressmen, President and judges, let us keep in mind that they gain their positions by either being voted in or approved. In order to get a vote or be approved, you have to get the blessing of those who walk in the present—not those who have the presence of mind to know where history is walking.

If I knew then what I know now, I would either have to forget it so I could still be fairly popular, or else decide to take the path untraveled—alone.


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Three Ways to be Spirited Without Becoming Religious … August 28, 2014

Jonathots Daily Blog

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Spirited logo

I shall refrain from beating the dead horse of religion (even if it’s one of those horses of the Apocalypse).

Religion has historically, and even currently, displayed the by-products of its foolishness and bloody miscalculations. The reason religion has been so unsuccessful is because it works under the faulty premise that we are trying to please a God who has already told us that He’s pleased. Upon finishing His creation, God said, “It is good.”

There you go.

Yet at the same time, to try to run away from the “spirited” side of life in an attempt to avoid the superstition of religion, one can end up creating a vacancy while simultaneously failing to fill one.

So let me tell you the three ways I believe you can be spirited without ever falling under the flea-infested dogma of organized religion:

1. Let people know you’re human.

It was eloquently phrased in the Good Book: “By your fruits you shall be known.” Being human is not an insult nor an excuse for weakness. It is the honor of possessing the greatest soul and intellect on our planet.

But we are also vulnerable–and we become valuable to each other when our honesty allows for revelation.

2. Let people know you have hope.

Once again, well phrased with the passage, “Let your light shine before men, that they’ll see your good works and glorify the Father in heaven.”

There’s no power in being human if you’ve given up on your race. Yes, I’m human, but I’m hoping for so much more. I’m reaching for vistas beyond my carnal senses. I’m believing for better.

3. Let people know you’re learning.

For after all, the kingdom of God is within you. Every new revelation, discovery and spiritual explosion is going to come from the hearts of men and women.

Certainly we can garner comfort and joy from reading the testimonies of the forefathers in the scriptures, but unless we’re writing a living testament through our own learning process, we become worshippers of a book instead of lively stones of faith.

These three things appeal to everybody.

They are completely accessible simply by having a pure heart.

And these three things produce fruit, which lights up the world with the knowledge that God is not dead … but has established a kingdom within your heart.

 

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See the Forrest AND the Trees … June 22, 2013

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color churchSue. Jerry. Lee. Paul. Peg. Maxine. June. Tom. And Corrine.

This is the list of all the people who attended my concert last night in Forrest, Illinois.

It is not often that I’m able to actually jot down the entire passenger manifest on my “Good Ship SpiriTed’s” journey. Usually there would be too many people for such a compilation. But last night these fine folks showed up for the concert … minus others. It reminded me of the saying, you can’t see the forest for the trees.

Actually, that’s not the problem, is it? Most of the time, we can’t see the trees because we stand at a distance and observe them in huge clumps and call them forests. Our society is preoccupied with creating islands of humanity which are separated from the mainland of “Peopledom,” while simultaneously insisting that we are also individuals. We just can’t seem to make up our minds.

Are we a tree–or are we a forest?

I must tell you–it is unique to perform in front of nine people. They are not a forest. They are an array of individual trees. You can either complain about the fact that there’s no forest, or you can choose to enjoy the branches and leaves provided.

Over the years I have learned not to take things for granted. Those who do soon have nothing to take. So my approach, rather than being one of sharing with an audience, was more conversational, personal and interactive.

Several astounding things came out through the experience. Once the gathered souls got over the shock of being part of a “chosen few,” they warmed. Matter of fact, by the end, when I was leaving the building, I had more people helping to load my van than I do when the auditorium is packed.

They felt a part of it. They were convinced that they were MORE than a forest from Forrest, Illinois, but instead, had been recognized as “specialized trees.” I think it’s the idea the Bible wants to get across to us about God: even though He’s the master of the universe, He craves intimacy with every one of His creations.

It was plenty intimate. Matter of fact, there were moments that were so tender that you almost had to look away.

So I am torn between the normal ego-driven marketing schemes of wanting to get my work out to more and more people so as to make a greater and greater impact, versus the simple beauty of breaking bread with a tiny gathering in an upper room.

Yes, I believe the problem is not that we can’t see the forest for the trees. Rather, somewhere along the line, we’ve lost the ability to see the trees because we have dubbed them “forest.”

I want to thank the people of St. Paul Lutheran for coming out on a Friday night on the beginning of summer to see something that they certainly could not conceive of in their minds.

Because Sue, Jerry, Lee, Paul, Peg, Maxine, June, Tom and Corrine–you are not just a forest.

Each one of you is a beautiful tree.

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Oops, there it is … March 2, 2012

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It seems to be back with a vengeance–and a considerable amount of attitude, obviously upset over being set aside in the great discussion of America over the past fifteen or twenty years. Dusted off, brushed up, polished a bit, with weathered pamphlets removed from storage, morality has once again resurfaced as a great club with which to use on our opponents and those who would dare to vary from our particular philosophy or theology.
 
I thought we had put “morality” to bed (pardon the pun)–not in the sense of dismissing the importance of possessing a code of behavior, but rather, insisting on transferring our own personal choices into the marketplace of conversation and presenting our conclusion as an edict from God which needs to be followed precisely in order to avoid fiery damnation. When those moral people of the 1980’s decided to proclaim themselves a “majority,” I was immediately shocked by the audacity of thinking that one human being could actually maintain a conversation on the issue of conduct without expecting other human beings to begin to pour over the aggressor’s activities with a fine-tooth comb.
 
I am a great believer in morality. I have morality as a fulcrum–lifting some of the heavier burdens of responsibility and ethics. But I would never presume to infuse my particular interpretation of morality–or especially, my application of this tenuous human feat–onto the conscience and lifestyle of others. People may ask, “What’s the harm?” Let me address that with an example.
 
During the season of the Moral Majority, we were suddenly confronted with a disease–AIDS. It was a terrifying prospect to have a rampant virus on the loose which was able to kill off those of all ages, but especially the tender blooms of our youth. Rather than tackling the issue of tracing the source of the virus and beginning  treatment and care for its victims, the debate initially turned towards finding someone to blame for bringing this “bubonic” condition upon our society. Yes, I think we wasted time trying to confirm our message of morality by calling this horrible disease “the gay plague” instead of mobilizing a national effort to overcome the infestation.
 
Can you imagine a leper coming to Jesus, and before the Master heals the unfortunate one, he first asks him if he contracted the disease by sexual contact or merely through a blood transfusion? Would it ever have occurred to Jesus to ask the prostitutes who came to hear his words and find newness of life to be tested to make sure they were appropriate for travel with the righteous horde? It’s ridiculous. Matter of fact, when his disciples suggested that a blind man might have found himself in that limited plight by being sinful, Jesus sternly corrected them and told them that his blindness, when resolved, existed only to bring glory to God.
 
Yes, we spent too much time discussing the origin of AIDS before mobilizing our scientific community to warfare. There was a gloat in the air from those in the majority who called themselves moral, over a seeming-heavenly-cleansing of the earth of the iniquity of homosexuality. It was a sham and a shame–and those who said they possessed a spiritual nature and wanted to see other human beings redeemed actually became the judge and jury to sentence hundreds and thousands to death. For the more you delay, the more you pay. So let’s try to learn from our historically dubious profile.
 
Let’s deal with three questions.
1. Is morality important?
Answer: Yes–so important that each individual needs to contemplate his or her choice and realize the implications.
2. Would our world be better if everybody shared the same morality?
Answer: Actually, our world would be better if everybody shared a common respect for one another, which is the true beginning of morality.
3. If we believe morality is important, isn’t it essential to preach–or even enforce–an excellent code of behavior on the world around us?
Answer: The Bible has only one criterion for spiritual choices–fruitfulness. Jesus words: “by their fruit you shall know them.” In other words, if trying to intimidate people to be as moral as we are is a fruitful endeavor, then let’s pursue it. But if  such action has proven to be fallacious and fruitless, then perhaps we should abandon it. What do you think? Has all of our preaching against sin eliminated the varmint? I think not.
 
Here are four words I would like to introduce, with a little simple formula, if you will, on how they link to really bring light to our world instead of shining it in the eyes of startled travelers.
  • Spirited–a simple definition: everything spiritual needs to become visual. If you don’t plan to make a prototype of what you believe through your life, letting it speak for itself, you are not only an annoyance to the kingdom of God, but also an enemy of progress.
  • Edifyingeverything visual needs to stand the test of actually improving life.
  • Healthyimproving life is requesting we confirm that our choices are truly lengthening and enriching our journey.
  • ExhortingAnd enriching our journey is allowing ourselves to demonstrate a joyous, spirited profile in our walk.
So be careful. There are things that sound like great ideas, but end up possessing personal benefit not transferable to others through mere sermonizing. We must not insert the morality of our forefathers into the situation of our everyday life without a spirited understanding that edifies human beings to healthy choices which end up exhorting them to a spirited life. Without this, we begin to have a form of godliness while really denying the power of it. And the power of godliness is in making people more accepting, loving and forgiving.
 
Yes, perhaps the old adage was wrong when applied to children, but it seems perfect for morality.
 
For truly, morality should be seen and not heard.
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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.

Deciding… January 5, 2012

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Fear is the womb that births all indecision.

What makes us afraid?

It is the monsters we chased from our childhood closets, which now have mysteriously found “home” in our adult minds. Most people think the important thing is deciding to do right. Actually, the more valuable choice is landing on the right way to decide. 

I think there are six things that prompt us to “decide,” and the quality of your decisions will be based on which one of these frightens you–or excites you.

1. What’s up? There are many folks who make all of their major directional changes based on the climate of society, the mood of their surroundings or the popular choices of the day. They are literally “blown by the wind.” They move from one thing to another based upon the fad of the moment. They are at the mercy of trends. Of course, we know what the problem is with such a profile. What is presently in vogue will, within a matter of days or weeks, be considered foolish. So if you’re making your decision based on “what’s up,” half the time you’ll be hidden within a  host of adherents and the other half of the time, you’ll be considered out-dated and meaningless.

2. What’s proper? Propriety always harkens to a former time. Former times tend to bring habits to the forefront that are repetitive but not necessarily good. Bad habits breed repression. Repression welcomes sin–and sin ushers in a premature death. Making your personal choices based upon what is proper also puts you at the mercy of the opinion of the strongest and loudest screamer instead of the still, small voice of reason.

3. What’s hard? This is a tricky one–because some people avoid hard things and other people welcome them, feeling they’re very mature because they’re taking on difficult tasks. Can we make something clear? A thing is not better just because it’s harder to do. “Hard” is just a level of fussiness which exists, awaiting an intelligent mind to simplify it. Doing things the hard way is basically admitting you’re stupid–because if any “smarts” existed, a more proficient and easier path would be found.

4. What’s God’s will? This is the one that really makes me laugh. There are people who believe that through prayer, Bible reading or meditation, they are able to make decisions in their lives based upon their discernment of God’s will. This is scary. When I look back over the history of the Crusades and other causes launched in the name of God, a shudder goes down my spine at the notion of anyone believing they are tapping the present daily schedule of the Almighty to find the best approach in any given matter. Actually, God’s will is very simple.  It is: love your neighbor as yourself. And since love and fear cannot coexist and being uncertain of who your neighbor is might stall the process, and an unwillingness to embrace one’s own abilities and emotions could be a deterrent to the conclusion, those very religiously based individuals certainly will find God’s will a bit beyond their groping.

So there are the first four. As you probably can tell, I don’t favor any of them.

  • I will not decide anything based on the vox populi.
  • I certainly cannot condone moving forward on an idea solely determined by its propriety.
  • I am not inclined to pursue a project on the basis of how hard it is–either as a punishment to myself or a proof of my prowess.
  • And honestly, being a mere mortal, accessing God’s will in every matter really is just a case of playing “hot potato.” Because every time I try to toss it off to God, He throws it back my way.

That leaves the final two–and as you probably have guessed, this pair tends to be my favorite.

5. What’s next? Let’s be honest. There is a natural order to things which we sometimes deny because we have pet concepts we want to push to the forefront and often they tend to be out of the flow. On any given day, I know exactly what needs to be done first, second and third, but I may not want to do those things so I pretend they’re unimportant. Life pretty well gives you a “things to do today list,” which you can either ignore or put off–but it doesn’t mean they won’t reappear the following morning. There’s a power in knowing what’s next. Here’s my criterion for what’s next: Of what I presently can do or am willing to do, what is going to create the greater happiness? I will never choose to be unhappy. Even if I am inflicted by disease, my particular attitude will be to move towards happiness and contentment. If you want to know what’s next, find out what’s going to make you happy. If you remove happiness from your life because you think it is unnecessary or unachievable, you are at the mercy of society, propriety, difficulty or a misinterpretation of God’s will. Not a good place to be.

So even when I look at what’s next, I also ask myself, “Is this going to make me and other folks happy?” If the answer is “no,” I am suspicious that this intruder has jumped in line and is not really the next thing I’m supposed to deal with.

6.  And finally, what’s fun? In some ways, we were smarter when wearing short pants. When we were children, we pursued things that were fun and ended up at the end of the day well-exercised, giddy, exhausted and with many friends. What scares away excitement, giddiness and people? Any assertion that fun is not necessary. Because if you’re choosing “what’s next” based on being happy, then deciding what’s fun is just the procedure of making your happiness obvious. If you ask most people if they’re happy, they will say “yes” —  as they frown at you. I just happen to believe that happiness is better expressed through visibly having fun.

As we travel across the country, people will often explain to us that they have to make a decision on whether to have Spirited come into their church. I listen to the tone of their voices.

For some, it’s about, “What’s up?” In other words, “Is this in the flow of our people and will they think it’s a good thing?”

With others, it’s, “What’s proper? Is Spirited going to come in and suggest things we are not presently doing–that might be different?” It’s amazing to me that people expect to have revival in their churches without doing anything new.

Some people want to know if hosting Spirited is going to be hard. They’re afraid there might be a level of difficulty that may surpass their abilities, or that we might make it so easy that they will feel no sense of achievement.

And of course, there are those who think it has to be God’s will. You know, folks, I don’t think I could have traveled for forty years if I didn’t have God as my main investor.

Here’s what I think the basis of every decision should be: What’s next? Is it going to make myself and other folks happier? And: What’s fun? Is that happiness going to be obvious and make us grow into becoming more fruitful individuals?

The first four on our list are decisions based on fear. The last two are decisions of grown-up people who have chased away all the demons — and no longer believe in the Bogey Man.

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Jonathan wrote the gospel/blues anthem, Spent This Time, in 1985, in Guaymas, Mexico. Take a listen:

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