Good News and Better News… November 23rd, 2015

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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Lawrence composite

There is a church in Lawrence.

I know this to be true because I was there just yesterday.

It is filled with beautifully flawed people–the kind God really loves. For after all, when we insist we’re beautiful, but without flaw, we become obnoxious to everyone we encounter. And when we spend too much time bowing our heads, feeling we are flawed without beauty, we make our Creator look like a failure.

Yes, coming to the end of another year of traveling across the country, I will tell you: humanity is a holy mess.

We are butterflies, still trying to tote our cocoons. It keeps us from flying high in the sky where our colors can be seen.

The people of Lawrence, like all the folks I’ve met this year, are absolutely outstanding, industrious, faithful and willing–but still unfortunately held in check by the burden and the beast of religion. They are so close to being free. Really, they’re just two steps away.

I spent the morning trying to convince them that those two steps were well worth the effort. It’s the same message Jesus had for religious people in his day, who were frightened of the terrorism of the zealots and angry with the Roman government.

Jesus told the people they were the “salt of the earth” and not to worry so much about the world around them, but instead, to focus on the emerging talent and ability within them. Most of them were unable to make the transition.

Yes, may I say to my dear friends in Lawrence: you are merely two steps away from the message of Jesus, to cut the cord of your cocoon so you can soar like butterflies.

All you have to do is get rid of superstition and bondage to the Old Testament.

For superstition makes us believe that God is angry with mankind, when Jesus told us he loves the world; and the Old Testament is filled with the same type of Sharia Law that insists women are inferior and that stealing and adultery are mistakes punishable by death.

The reason Jesus is powerful is because he does not expect human beings to become righteous. He challenges us to respect one another, and therefore become human beings.

Lawrence, I tell you that I love you dearly, as I adore all of the congregations I encountered this year across America.

But butterflies were meant to stream across the sky, not to stay earthbound …  fearful of climbing.

 

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Getting in Character … August 10th, 2015

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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Rules guys

From Act II, Scene VII of As You Like It, Shakespeare asserts that “all the world is a stage and all the men and women, merely players.”

Rules were not penned to paper nor carved into stone to cease human sin. They are put in place and enforced because humans lie about it.

Whether these stipulations are called “The Book of Order,” “Standards and Practices” or “Ten Commandments,” they loom as an angry mother with a switch, threatening us with nagging time-outs unless we comply or find a way to do it “behind Mommy’s back.”

Here’s the problem: we cannot live an abundant life, filled with character, and place a quality performance on the stage by dodging responsibility like adolescent brats.

Are rules important? When do regulations become a noose around the neck instead of a rope, pulling us toward success?

First and foremost, we must understand that there are good rules and bad rules.

A good rule is a guideline that advances the quality of human life. A bad rule is an attempt to stall human life in order to halt some feared activity. It’s similar to the office manager telling all the employees that no one is allowed into the supply room to get anything because someone is stealing paperclips.

So how do we know?

A good rule: All men are created equal.

A bad rule: We need cheap labor, so we’re going to make the black ones slaves.

A good rule: Moderation in all things.

A bad rule: Total prohibition of alcohol.

A good rule: Marry someone you love.

A bad rule: Just make sure he or she is the same color.

To be an excellent character in the great human drama, you must be prepared to respectfully decline from participating in rules that were produced in fear, which generate even more fear.

It’s the difference between the law and truth:

  • The law is when people try to control their humanity.
  • The truth is when people try to learn their humanity. 

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Confessing … June 27th, 2015

Jonathots Daily Blog

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VIII.

I confess so I can heal.

If I deny, I remain sick.

I. D. I.

It is an acronym. It stands for “I Deserve It.”

All the sin and stupidity of mankind throughout the centuries have been fostered by that assertion.

Why do we get so confused?

  • No human deserves hell.
  • Nor does any human deserve heaven.
  • So God gave us Earth, which is neither.

It’s just the place where we are supposed to sort through who we really are and cease to insist on propagating and promoting what we think we deserve.

When I was fifteen years old, my brother asked me to babysit his children. I didn’t want to do it. Why? Because I was fifteen years old–did I tell you that?

I didn’t want to do anything. I was even stalled about pursuing what I thought I wanted to do because it seemed like too much of a commitment.

But my dear brother and his lovely bride promised to compensate me financially.

I didn’t have any money. Oh, occasionally I would get offered some finance from my parents if I owed something at school or if there was a special something-or-other coming up.

So the potential of actually holding some funds in my hands made me willing to become a caretaker for nephews and niece.

My brother and his wife had started a business, and they were doing well. Looking back, I realize that they were only in their late twenties or early thirties, and considering their age, they were prosperous.

When I arrived at their home to watch their children and they left to go out on their date, I discovered, in their makeshift office, a tackle box which was open and had lots of coinage and some paper money sticking out.

Being a good Christian boy, I immediately left the room and tried to forget about the temptation a mere fifteen feet away.

But I wanted that money. I became obsessed.

After a while I gave in. I took out six quarters. It seemed like a lot to me at the time, but I thought they might not miss it considering the makeup of the cash in the box.

After that I agreed to babysit frequently, and each time I took out money from their little treasure chest–a little more each and every visit. But I never touched the paper money–until one night I saw two one dollar bills lying on the desk, separate from the other provision.

I took them.

I don’t know whether my brother and sister-in-law ever knew of my pilfering or not. But I realized after a while that I could not go to their house without stealing, so I avoided their invitations.

I was incapable of escaping my I. D. I.

My sense of “I Deserve It” pushed me to do things that I would have insisted, in my Sunday School class, were evil and unacceptable.

I learned that day that as long as we believe I. D. I. and feel cheated when we don’t have it, we will do anything if the opportunity arises.

As I look at my life today, I realize that I am no less a thief. I have just taken my I. D. I. and killed it off daily, mocking it for its selfishness and isolating it for its lack of integrity.

Am I capable of lying and stealing? Absolutely. It is not beyond my scope.

That is why I must take the sensation that “I Deserve It”… and nail it to a cross.

 

Confessing tackle box

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Confessing … May 23rd, 2015

   Jonathots Daily Blog

(2589)

III.

I confess so I can heal.

If I deny, I remain sick.

My dad liked cashews. Honestly, I think most people like cashews unless they’re cursed with some sort of peanut allergy. Certainly, his chubby eleven-year-old boy loved them.

My father was of an old-world mind, which believed that the patriarch of the family should be given special consideration and gifts greater than his offspring. So whenever we went to a restaurant, I would be allowed to order the chicken in a basket while he munched on T-bone steak.

Likewise, when my dad bought a can of cashews, he opened them, took out a couple and then hid them in the drawer of his desk. He did not offer any to me because they were expensive and I was just a kid.

When I asked him for a cashew, he said, “Little boys eat popcorn. Daddies eat cashews.” (Candidly, popcorn is very good unless you’re aware that cashews are within a three-mile radius.)

So every time my dad walked away from his desk to do an errand I would sneak in and steal from his can.

At first I tried to limit it to one or two cashews and attempted to “nibble” on them to extend the pleasure. Yet I think you will agree that cashews are better consumed in handfuls.

Pretty soon I found myself taking four, five, ten…twenty.

I looked into the can and saw that it was obviously depleted so I shook the can around, trying to plump them up to look like more. Unfortunately, I continued to eat them and “poofing” became impossible.

So I took the can out, dumped the cashews on the desk and stuffed Kleenex in the bottom, then placed the cashews back on top, trying to make it look like a full container.

But my appetite did not subside.

Soon it became obvious that there was Kleenex sticking out from among the cashews, so it became necessary to take a drastic step.

I ate the remaining cashews and then took the empty container and buried it in the back yard, careful to NOT remember where it was located so that when my dad asked me if I knew where the can of cashews was, I could truthfully say “no.”

He did ask.

I lied.

He didn’t say anything.

I don’t know if he stopped eating cashews or just found a better hiding place. But I was always ashamed of both my gluttony and my deceit.

Even as I write this today I wonder what selfishness would cause me to be equally as much a liar in my dealings with others.

I hope I would either ask for cashews or buy my own can.

Because even though I buried my sin in the backyard, for many weeks afterwards … it cried out to me.

 

cashews

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Untotaled: Stepping 41 (July 14th, 1967) Needing Change… November 22, 2014

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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(Transcript)

It had never happened before.

There was going to be a carnival set up at the Westerville Shopping Center, right across the street from Redman’s Hardware.

Even though that in itself was cool, even cooler was that this cavalcade of amusements was advertising unlimited rides and midway games for five dollars for the whole day.

It was great.

The only trouble was, Randy and I didn’t have five dollars apiece, so I was ready to do my usual small-town plan of giving up and spending my carnival time complaining about missing the parade.

Randy, on the other hand, had an idea.

He went down to our local phone booth, sitting on the north corner of the Town Commons, and stuffed a bunch of Kleenex into the change return, so that when people missed a call or had money coming back their way, it would get caught and would not return to them.

I thought it was the dumbest idea I’d ever heard.

I wasn’t so concerned that it was dishonest as that I didn’t think we would ever get ten dollars out of such an adventure, with the money coming out in increments of ten cents a throw.

But Rand did it anyway, and three days later, when he pulled out the Kleenex, we ended up with a haul of $10.75.

Apparently a very popular phone booth.

We could not have been more giddy. We went to the carnival and had a fabulous time, never once feeling guilty about how we acquired the funds.

No, for me it was four days later.

I was sitting in my mother and father’s loan company, and I peered out the window and saw there was a policeman inspecting the phone booth.

It scared the crap out of me.

I had to do something–not out of guilt over my misstep, but rather, because I didn’t want to go to Juvenile Hall, where I heard they only served partially cooked pot pies.

So when my parents weren’t looking, I snuck into the safe of the loan company and grabbed a roll of dimes. I quietly stepped over to the phone booth, trying to pretend like I was going to make a call, and as calmly as possible, stuffed that whole role of dimes back into the slot, one at a time, to do recompense for my sin.

Once again, it never occurred to me that I stole from my parents to cover my previous thievery.

It was nearly three weeks later, when my uncle gave me five dollars for school supplies, that my conscience finally showed up.

I determined to go to the bank, purchase a roll of dimes and slip them back into the safe, no one the wiser.

Unfortunately, my plan was foiled by the fact that my parents hung around all day long, never giving me the chance to do penance.

I decided to try again the next day, but on the way home I passed by the local five and dime, and they were advertising candy bars–six for 20 cents.

Well, the only 20 cents I had was in the roll of dimes, and I thought, what the hell? What difference would two dimes make?

The next day I forgot to return my dimes to the loan company, but I did stop off at the Dairy Queen to get a hot dog and a coke, which took another seven dimes.

Long story short, within a week I spent all the dimes I had planned to return.

I didn’t feel bad–I felt stupid.

I did make one determination, and that was to never steal from the phone booth again. And when Randy tempted me, I changed the subject and refrained from further iniquity.

From then on, I went on a personal journey in search of my own integrity.

It was ten years later, long after my dad had died.

I was visiting my mother at her home, and I walked up to her and gently placed a roll of dimes into her hand. She looked up at me, quizzically.

I patted her on the shoulder and said, “It’s a really, really long story…”

 

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Squeaky Wheel … September 21, 2012

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Complaining is when we take the precious time to stop off and write the “Book of Lamentations” when we know we should be finishing up the “Book of Acts.” It is the proverbial squeaky wheel which Benjamin Franklin insisted always gets the grease. But candidly, for every dollar’s worth of attention a complainer receives from the world around him, he spends two dollars in lost respect from others.

Human beings are often hypocritical, and one of our main hypocrisies is that we simultaneously despise complaining when it trips off the lips of others, but find it logical and necessary when its origin is in our mouths. Still, all in all, we actually judge the true depth of character in the human family by whether those around us are able to endure, or if they give in to sharing their opinions about their plight. Those who persevere are dubbed spiritual. Those who don’t are viewed as devilish.

The true problem with complaining is that it shuts down the learning process. It is quite impossible to be sharing misgivings and frustrations while still keeping an open mind about new possibilities. It’s just one of those things that makes us too predictable to be valuable.

My friend Caddie had a hard time learning this one. I met Caddie in jail. I was visiting and she was a temporary resident. She had acquired my number off of the wall next to the pay phone in the county jail, placed there by a young man I had assisted through some difficulty a month or so before, who obviously felt compelled to spread the good word about my generosity.

Caddie was a shop lifter. Within twenty seconds of meeting her, she explained that even though she’d had the twenty dollars in her wallet to pay for the scarf, make-up, hair brush and tooth polish, that she couldn’t purchase those items and still have enough money set aside for some groceries and bus fare. Her reasoning was flawless in her own mind. Even though she was surrounded by prison bars, she felt she was the victim of an unjust society which failed to understand that “Caddie needed to do what Caddie needed to do when Caddie needed to do it.”

I helped her get bailed out of jail and offered her a place to stay at my home, and for the next two weeks, as we awaited trial, I attempted to assist this young lady in finding some answers to what I believed were her burning questions.

As time passed, I realized that Caddie didn’t have any burning questions–just complaints. She started off leading me to believe she was asking for my counsel in some matter, but before she ever got to the end of the sentence to form a question mark, we took a detour–four or five details recounting how unfair the situation was in the first place.

She didn’t like the bed we gave her–it was too soft. She was allergic to almost everything we had to eat. She only drank Japanese tea, which I learned was quite different from Chinese tea, or the offerings of Mr. Lipton. She didn’t like television, only appreciated certain types of music on the radio (none of which we were able to provide, by the way) and for some reason, immediately tried to start a war with my young sons, who “returned in unkind” with their own nasty remarks. It didn’t take long for Caddie to set our entire household on edge. People began to root against her. I think one of my boys even hoped that when she walked across the floor she would slip and fall. Caddie seemed oblivious to the disapproval because she was already deeply embroiled in all sorts of disapproval of her own.

When the trial date finally came and we went to court, I found it difficult to be a character witness for her, even though that’s what she desperately needed. So this is what I said to the judge (maybe much to her chagrin):

Your honor, I am not related to this woman, but she has come my way and I have been doing my best to help her find a better path. I cannot tell you that she will never steal again, but I can tell you that she knows she shouldn’t. I also can enlighten you to the fact that Caddie’s main problem is not thievery, but complaining. But… for the past two weeks, she stayed in my home and learned that the squeaky wheel does NOT get the grease. What we do with squeaky wheels is … replace them.”

The judge chuckled and gave Caddie a very light sentence. She stuck around for a week or so more after that, and then took off. About five years later I received a phone call from Indianapolis, Indiana. It was Caddie. She told me she’d had a devil of a time tracking me down, because I had moved and was the traveling sort. She wanted me to know that she had landed somewhere and realized what a pain in all areas of the body she was, had gotten married and started a new life.

With a bit of boldness I stepped up to the plate and asked the most important question. “Have you stopped complaining?”

She laughed. “How do you think I got a husband?”

I laughed, too.

I will tell all ministers, politicians, school teachers and parents this very valuable point. Continuing to leap to your feet to respond to the complaints of a malcontent is to do nothing but build up a thunder cloud of stormy weather in your own soul which will eventually dump rain on them at the wrong moment. Instead:

Don’t give grease to the squeaky wheel. Change the tire.

Ask other human beings to do what you, yourself, have to do to continue to be a learner instead of just a burner of time.

Stop complaining.

And the best way to stop complaining is to understand that difficulty is pre-packaged in life to keep the human race moving forward and discovering instead of just settling into dangerous repetition, boredom and stagnancy.

So the next time you run across something you really don’t like, take an extra moment and find out why it’s really there instead of trying to spit it away with your complaints. Then maybe, like Caddie, you can escape the selfishness that steals time from others and yourself, and instead, find new life.

Maybe … in Indianapolis.

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