Not Long Tales … October 8th, 2019

Jonathots Daily Blog

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9.

Write Before My Eyes

At age twenty-five, just shortly before his wedding day, Nathan Merced decided he wanted to write a novel. Energized by his romance and a bit greedy for some notoriety and profit, he envisioned a book showcasing all of his art and much of his heart.

Now, nearing his fortieth birthday and a father of two, he returned to the dream, determined to once and for all pen a lasting tribute to immortalize his name and offer credence for his time on Earth (or words to that effect).

Staring at the page, with the working title, “Monstrous,” Nathan paused, considering his byline. What name should he use for his book? He had never favored pen names—how would people know it was you who wrote it? Nathan Merced was a solid handle, he thought, but it didn’t have that three-name flow common to writer—like Edgar Allen Poe.

He thought about using all three of his names: Nathan Edward Merced. But suddenly, Edward sounded very common. He decided to transform Edward into Edvard. So now typed on the page in front of him was:

Monstrous

A Novel

By Nathan Edvard Merced

And the morning was the first day.

Coming back after a lunch (which he tried to make continental and light, so as not to bulge his brain with fat grams) Nathan felt his best approach was to conceive a work with a popular theme—of course, nowadays that would be science fiction or a graphic novel. Bringing up something about the Apocalypse would be a plus. Bouncing a few ideas around, he decided to write them down, just in case one of them fired up the ferocity of his writing thrust.

How about a book where a human becomes a monster, while simultaneously, a monster from an alien planet becomes a human? Yes, yes…then they mysteriously meet somewhere in the middle of their transition, and in those few hours of complete similarity—one being half monster and one being half human—they fall madly in love, only to move away from each other as the human becomes more monster and the monster more human, until finally, the human (now monster) kills and eats the monster (now human) whom he or she had once loved.

Nathan sat back and considered. It could work. It could really work.

But did he know enough about monsters to write about one? He laughed. Since there really weren’t any monsters, anything he made up would be fine. No one could challenge him, citing the “Book of Monsters.”

Suddenly there was a knock at the door. He had told his wife he needed to be left alone, so assumed she would answer, running interference. But the knocking continued. Finally, Nathan’s next-door-neighbor, Jack, was standing outside his bay window, pointing to the front door. Nathan heaved a sigh of despair. Apparently, his wife got caught up in some temporary difficulty and failed to be the watchman required.

So Nathan waved at Jack, slowly stood to his feet and walked to the front door. He welcomed a man who was obviously agitated. He invited Jack into the study where Nathan had just been involved in writing the Great American Tome. Before he could offer Jack drink or even seat, the man launched.

“My daughter Cynthia,” he began frantically, “I need help. I need wisdom. I came to you because you have more education than me. You’ve got some sort of degree, don’t you?”

Nathan sat down slowly in his desk chair. “Well, I’ve got a bachelor’s in fine arts.”

“Perfect,” Jack said quickly. “That’s more than I’ve got. I thought you maybe could help—here’s the problem. In high school, my Cynthia’s history class has been studying the 1970’s and she has become obsessed with Patty Hearst.”

Nathan frowned, trying to remember the name. Jack, seeing his confused face, offered, “You remember her, right? That rich girl that got captured by the Symbionese Liberation Army.”

Nathan’s eyes grew wide. “Listen, Jack—you obviously know more about this than I do.”

Jack objected. “That’s only because I looked it up. I thought I should at least know the name of what was destroying my daughter. Do you understand? My beautiful, young daughter, Cynthia, came to me today with a headband tied around her head and insisted that from now on, we should address her as ‘Scratchy.’”

“Scratchy?” repeated Nathan, trying to keep up.

Jack shook his head. “I don’t know. I don’t know why she wants to be ‘Scratchy.’ She’s read up on all this stuff, she knows all the details. She even knows what Patty Hearst wore the day she was abducted. Nathan, for her sixteenth birthday, she’s asked for an Uzi.”

Nathan chuckled nervously. “Come on, Jack,” he said, trying to sound reasonable. “She’s a teenager. It’s a phase she’s going through.” He motioned to the page on his computer. “Listen, I’ve got some work going on here. I think you should back off—don’t do anything to either discourage her or encourage her.”

“Did I tell you the worst part?” jack responded impatiently. “She is advertising—posting on the Internet—asking for someone to come and kidnap her.”

Nathan crinkled his brow. “Oh-h-h. That’s not good.”

Jack sat, shaking his head, staring at his hands, not saying a word. Thirty seconds of silence went by, creeping up to a minute. Nathan, realizing that Jack was awaiting some kind of guidance of divine proportion, finally responded gently, “Hey, Jack…”

Jack stood up, and Nathan rose, too, speaking. “Listen,” he said, “I am gonna help you with this, but not right now. I think I told you last week. I’m on a jag. I’ve hitched a plane. I don’t know how to explain it, but I’m really buzzed about writing this novel, and here I am. See? I’m sittin’ here and it’s happenin’. We’ll talk about Cynthia later. Just go home, lock all your doors and keep an eye on her.”

They arrived at the front door. Jack turned and looked at Nathan like a desperate man on his way to the gallows. “Okay,” he said slowly, “if you say so. But I don’t think I can keep crazy people from attacking my house to snatch my daughter.” A quaver invaded his speech as the last word was spoken.

Nathan nodded his head, walked over, patted him on the back—but literally pushed him out the door and on his way.

Nathan quickly returned to his computer, trying to regain the energy of his monster-human story. He was on the verge of coming up with an idea concerning how the sexual parts of the emerging monster and unfolding human were difficult to…what would be the word? Well, he decided, let’s go with “reconnoiter.” But their love was so strong that somehow, they found a place for everything.

As Nathan turned back to type up the ideas that were eeking out of his brain, there was another knock at the door. He was stuck. He now knew his wife wasn’t home to sidestep the danger, and he didn’t want anyone else doing jumping jacks to get his attention through the bay window, so he eased to his feet and went to the front of the house, peering through the curtain to see who had come to invade his privacy. He recognized him immediately. It was the new minister from the church down the street. (Nathan had only met him twice. Church didn’t come up often on the Merced schedule.)

All at once, the minister winked at Nathan, glimpsing his peering position behind the curtain. Exposed— “made,” as they often said in police dramas—Nathan pulled the curtain back to its former position and stood tall for a moment, trying to remember the preacher’s name. He remembered that when he first met the fellow, his name reminded him of donuts. Powered? Glazed? Jelly-filled?

Unlikely.

Nathan went to the door and opened it. Fortunately, the minister, well-trained by his seminary, solved the problem. “Hello, Mr. Merced,” he said brightly. “I hope you remember me.” He reached out his hand to Nathan and continued. “I’m Reverend Thomas Duncan.”

Nathan laughed inside. There it was. Like Dunkin Donuts. He shook Duncan’s hand but decided to keep the conversation at the door instead of letting it spill out into the house.

The polite parson, realizing he had not been welcomed inside, began to launch on his mission. “I don’t mean to bother you, but I’m contacting all the church families because we have a…how should I say? Well, I guess it’s a crisis.” He quickly added, “But also an opportunity.”

For a crisis, Nathan felt forced to invite the minister in. They walked back to the study where the novel had been on the verge of being unleashed, Nathan perched behind his computer, hoping to create a visual for not talking too long.

The young minister perched and explained. “We have gotten information about a refugee family from Central America. They were just rescued from the Atlantic Ocean. You see, Mr. Merced, they were so poor, so frightened of military retribution, that they made a raft—to the best of their ability. Although I have to be honest. I don’t know how they would have any information on how to construct such a vessel. But somehow or another, they got together a raft and launched it into the Caribbean—all six members. Mom, Dad and four kids, the oldest being twelve.”

Nathan was frustrated. He felt a long discourse coming on and he was not in the mood for it. He could just feel the inspiration dribbling out of his body. Here he was, on the precipice of writing the first paragraph—or maybe even chapter—of “Monstrous,” and he was being held captive by an overwrought reverend. Yet Nathan had no idea how to shut the man up, so the soliloquy continued.

“Well, as you probably guessed, they got the raft past the tides and into the ocean, but it began to fall apart. The family members ended up clinging to it, holding on for their lives. As the story goes, they figured out a way to catch fish, or some sort of sea life, which they broke apart, shared and ate raw. On hot days, they licked the sweat off each other for moisture, and when it rained, after the storm passed, they would remove their clothes and wring them out into each other’s mouths to achieve hydration. After six days on the ocean, they were rescued by a fishing trawler, begged for asylum and arrived on the mainland of the United States with no place to go. When the notice of their plight went out on the Internet, I immediately contacted the authorities and offered our town, and said that our church would provide this family lodging for two weeks, until they could gain their admission, get assistance and make their way to becoming part of our great country.”

Even though Nathan was absorbed in his own concerns, the tale was so compelling that a tear came to his eye, yet he bravely fought it back in respect of regaining his muse. “Listen,” he said, “we can’t have a family near here. You see, the problem is, Pastor, there’s a girl who lives next door and she’s kind of crazy right now. She wants to be abducted by…what should I call them…scoundrels. I don’t have time to give details—but I don’t think this is a good place for this lost family, but I will tell you what I’ll do. I’m gonna sit down right here—right here at my desk—and I’m gonna write you a check. Yes, I’m gonna give you a donation to help these folks.”

Nathan grabbed his checkbook from the drawer, took his pen and scrawled the gift. He ripped it out and handed it to Pastor Duncan, who said with as much vigor as he possibly could, “Oh! Twenty dollars! Well…that should help.”

Nathan interrupted him. “That’s what they say, Pastor. Every little bit helps.”

The startled preacher responded, “And this is just that. A little bit…”

The young pastor quickly stood to his feet, shook Nathan’s hand and headed for the door, asking him as he walked, “If you have any other people you know or ideas, please contact me.”

Nathan, a bit ashamed, confused, yet a tad irate over his donation being trivialized, tried to change the subject. “Hey, preacher,” he said. “You know how I remembered your name?”

The minister shook his head. Nathan chuckled. “Donuts. I remembered ‘donuts’ and that’s how I knew your name was Duncan.” Nathan laughed.

The minister smiled. “Huh,” he said. “I never heard that one before.”

There was no more conversation.

Nathan’s mind was already floating back to his computer and the pastor’s focus began to float to the lost souls who had floated his way.

With the departure of the cleric, Nathan gleefully shut the door behind him and ran to the computer to resume his quest for the Great American Novel. He hadn’t even made it to his seat when his phone buzzed. He glanced down at the screen. A text from his wife. He wanted to ignore it. He wanted to purposely set it aside to demonstrate his devotion and dedication to his mission. But after all, it was his wife. How could he ever explain to her that he had declined her text?

So he punched the button and the text came up. “Son arrived at school dressed in drag. Meeting required immediately. 2:00 P. M.”

Nathan wanted to throw the phone across the room, but such actions always ended up costing money, only offering temporary satisfaction. He glanced at his watch. Twenty minutes until two, and the school was ten minutes away.

He shouted at the walls around him, “How the hell am I supposed to write a masterpiece in this environment, where I am constantly interrupted, and I don’t have the chance to transform small ideas into great ones? My God! How did the masters ever achieve their successes, surrounded by sniveling mortals?”

He finished his little speech, so enthralled with his boisterous outburst that he quickly typed onto his screen the phrase, “sniveling mortals.” He would certainly want to use that later.

He decided to take ten minutes—ten holy minutes, ten consecrated minutes—and see if he could add to the already burgeoning possibilities of “Monstrous.” But rather than being inspired by his efforts thus far, the plot line began to mock him.

Who would be interested in a half-monster and half-human, getting busy?

How would he sell the book to kids under fifteen once it was dubbed too racy? They would certainly read it, but they would download it from their friends, and he wouldn’t make a penny.

And finally, the worst realization. What kind of name was “Monstrous” for a novel?

He was so discouraged.

Why couldn’t Jack take care of his own daughter?

Why didn’t the preacher start somewhere else to seek aid?

Why didn’t his son choose Saturday to experiment with women’s clothes?

A sense of gloom, and then doom, fell upon him like a pelting summer rain. He closed up his computer, heaved a sigh, stood to his feet and walked toward the study door, turning for a moment to address his computer.

“Good-bye, old buddy,” he said softly. “I don’t think I’ll come again. There just don’t seem to be any great stories left to tell.”

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Jesonian: Reverend Meningsbee (Part 22) Thirty Days Has Remember… September 25th, 2016

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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Reverend Meningsbee

One month passed.

It’s one of those phrases a writer inserts to move the story along. But they don’t really move. Stories must be evicted from the hovel where they huddle to escape progress.

Ten days after the “Old Time Religion Community Church” signed its incorporation papers in the living room of Sammy Collins’ home on a table near the fireplace, he was rushed to the hospital, red lights flashing. He had collapsed at work and everyone was certain it was a heart attack. The town was abuzz with gossip and prayer.

As it turned out, it was a ruptured gall bladder, and while he was having his personal rendition of that organ removed, it was discovered that he also had high blood pressure and bad cholesterol.

It was suggested he slow down.

Also within the month, a crumpled letter arrived in the mail at Matrisse’s house, postmarked Atlantic City, New Jersey. Inside was a note and a ten-dollar bill.

In her own words, Kitty attempted to explain to Matrisse that she was on an odyssey to find herself, which had taken her to the East Coast, and that she had found a job as a bartender at one of the casinos which had managed to escape bankruptcy.

Kitty said she was sorry and happy at the same time–because she missed her little Hapsy, but knew she was well taken care of, and until Kitty could find all her answers, she was probably better off separated from her growing daughter.

Also, about fifteen days into the “month of remember,” an article appeared in the local paper about Patrick Swanson and the church meeting at the Holiday Inn Express, entitled, “A Gathering for the Young Up-and-Coming Conservative.”

It seemed that Patrick had found his target market, as they say in the world of social media. Being interviewed by the local reporter, he explained that the congregation did not believe in gay marriage, government interference, and were certainly strongly against gender blurring. What they were interested in were young families who wanted to see the country return to its original glisten and gleam.

Then, seven days ago, a young boy named Alex Bachman arrived at school early, went into the lower portions of the building to the furnace room, threw a rope over the top of a pipe and hung himself.

He left a suicide proclamation. It read:

They said it would get better. It didn’t.

Reverend Meningsbee was called by the family and asked if he would be willing to conduct a memorial service at the church building, free of godly trappings, since the Bachman family was a non-religious group of people (what the average Nebraskan would call “avowed atheists”).

The family also wanted Meningsbee to be the moderator–yes, that’s the word they used–for the event, and to give a retrospective on the life of young Alex, ending with a positive message of humanity, and everybody departing to walk to the local park to plant three trees.

At first Meningsbee wanted to decline, offering his best wishes and regards, but then, in a moment of clarity, he realized there was no other place in town they could go for such a commemoration–and that opportunity never arrives resembling anything of what we really want.

So on a Saturday afternoon, with memories of a month full of Garsonville life racing through his mind, he drives to the church, on his way to a presentation which denies the importance of everything he believes.

What should he say?

What did he feel?

Maybe he should have studied more.

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PoHymn: A Rustling in the Stagnant

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Jesonian: Qualified… April 20, 2014

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There are those who would question whether the human race needs a savior. They contend that we are as we have evolved, without need or apology.

Yet most of us, spending some time staring in the mirror, have noted some vacancy in our soul and clutter in our conscience. We require a savior who offers transforming salvation.

I am Jesonian. I have chosen Jesus because he:

  • was tempted like we are in every way.
  • learned obedience through the things he suffered
  • grew in wisdom and stature
  • celebrated the faith he saw in others
  • was touched with our sicknesses
  • deflected praise
  • called himself the Son of Man
  • chose to be baptized
  • referred to us as friends
  • loved sinners
  • challenged hypocrisy
  • turned his back on religion
  • welcomed women as equals
  • was not afraid to make mistakes
  • honored free will–all the way through the cross.
  • taught the brotherhood of humans
  • gave us the power to become the sons of God
  • yearned to live
  • believed in salvaging people instead of judging them
  • told stories that children could understand
  • crossed racial, cultural, ethnic and social boundaries
  • established a new Holy Land: “the kingdom of God is within you.”
  • gave his life freely when others determined to take it

He was human.

And because of this, he is qualified to be the Savior of the human race.

Jesus didn’t save us by dying on the cross–he already had saved us by becoming a little lower than the angels … just as we are.

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As It Relates… March 16, 2013

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Sharing personal stories with people to let them know we understand their plight, is a good thing–until we steal from them the much-needed moment in the spotlight they deserve during their hour of need. For after all, there are times that each one of us must blow off steam and believe that our particular predicament is unique, special and not exactly like a thousand other things that somebody else has been through before.

The conclusion? We need to realize that life is not here to be analyzed as it “relates to me” nearly so much as it is to be compassionately approached “as it relates.

I don’t want to confuse you here. Let me give you an example.

I’ve had an epiphany this year on the issue of killing. Just for the record, I’ve never been in favor of it, but I have realized that as it relates to me, there are times I have felt that killing was necessary or even noble in order to achieve a perceived good. The truth of the matter is, killing leaves something dead. And something dead is no longer relatable in this life passage and can no longer be redeemed.

This is not a good thing.

But if I just dealt with it as it “relates to me,” I would think that as long as I wasn’t involved in murderous plots, or supporting the demise of other human beings, I should be all right. However, I have come to realize that all killing stems from violence. I also became aware that I was allowing some violence into my life via my entertainment choices and even sometimes my reading material.

It begged the question: why do I have any intrigue with violence, which is a precursor for killing?

It was a great question. It made me realize that I allowed violent entertainment choices into my life as a release for some of my frustrations. I knew I wasn’t going to kill anyone–but allowing myself to watch some violence was a “quick fix” to appeasing some of my own personal frustrations, and even, God forbid, some vendettas. So here we go.

So I found myself on a mission not merely to analyze killing as it relates to me, but also as it relates to life as a whole.

So what was causing me to be frustrated? That answer also came back pretty quickly: things I didn’t like, things that were displeasing to me and things that seemed to be out of my control. They were never spoken aloud by me, but instead, buried deep in my heart, causing me to become resentful and frustrated.

My heart was impure. Wow. So because my heart was impure, it produced some frustration that allowed me to tolerate violence and lessened my revulsion to killing.

Gosh, I didn’t like that. So what could I do to get a purer heart?

I came to the conclusions that my heart was so clouded because sometimes I lacked the will and fortitude to say “yes” when I needed to say “yes” and to just flat-out say “no” when I needed to say “no.” I was doing many things because I felt I should, because somebody wanted me to or it was the requirement of my generation. Just simply saying yes to the good things I wanted and no to the things I didn’t enhanced my whole disposition.

So looking at my viewing habits on television just as they relate to me, I would have insisted that they were a choice, relaxation or fluff, if you will. But when I took the time to relate them to the world around me, the problems in our time and the history of human interaction, I saw that I was becoming more accepting of killing because I had made myself open to violence–brought on by my own unresolved frustrations because I didn’t have a pure heart about so many things I was doing–incapable of saying yes to the “yes stuff” and no to the “no stuff.”

It really opened my eyes. More accurately, it opened my heart. If we only see the world as it relates to us, we will always find a way to justify our actions as we simultaneously criticize the same attributes in others. It makes us hypocrites.

But if we relate our lives to the truths, the power, the joys, the contentment and the peace of mind that exists from the foundations of the world, we will learn so much more about who we are–and therefore will be much more compassionate in helping others.

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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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Don’t Get Confused … July 17, 2012

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Driving along on Interstate 40 towards Knoxville, Tennessee, I was confronted with a billboard which read, “Where will you spend eternity?”

I had an immediate answer. “I don’t know.”

Now, before you start trying to evangelize me to grant me eternal security and awareness of my heavenly destination, let me explain that I do have aspirations, desires and even requests on where I would like to spend the afterlife. But since Jesus, himself, told us to”make sure our hearts were not troubled on the issue, and we only have stories, promises and opinions, I think it could be considered a classic waste of time to deliberate such a question. Matter of fact, I will go so far as to say it is the festering sore on the backside of humankind–our preoccupation with the future, life after death and what’s going to happen next. I have written on this issue many times, but I continue to be surrounded by those who feel it is all right for them to be inconsiderate in the moment as long as they are pursuing a path to consider what is best in the future.

It’s annoying.

I would like to set this to rest. I think to be halted between two opinions–one being that humans have complete free will and the other contention that there is a perfect will of God in which we all should try to center our lives–is what makes us totally inept, if not comical. I guess I don’t care which side you choose, but I would request that you cease to believe that humans have free will and then continue to worry about what God may have in store for the future.

If I have free will, there IS no future. It has yet to be determined by my next action. Even if you want to believe that God is all-knowing about what I will do next, you must admit that if He is going to honor His system, He somehow or another has to at least pretend that He is experiencing my choice for the first time.

But I’m not concerned about God’s part in this process, but rather, my involvement. We should be suspicious of destiny–a philosophy that really found its origin in fairy tales and is now being introduced into the realm of basic human logic and interaction. Perhaps Snow White was always meant to be a Queen–or was that Cinderella?  Perhaps they were pre-destined and merely went through some obstacles to be rescued in the end and reinstated to their purposes. But that’s why they call it a fairy tale–because it’s not true.

I am not destined to be anything. Even though I’ve lived a life of being a father, a writer, a composer and traveling troubadour, if I want to, I can go out and take a rifle and kill twelve people tomorrow–and become known as a serial killer. I can choose that. I can select to change my image at my own will–and it isn’t because I was destined to eventually become a serial killer. It’s because my gift of free will allows me to be spiritually motivated instead of manipulated. Yes, I choose to love God instead of loving God because He chooses me to do so.

So I just wanted to take a few moments today to see if I can help you to get through this nasty piece of confusion that continues to insult humanity by introducing falsehoods and fairy tales into what could be a really exciting life.

1. There is no destiny. There’s just opportunity. Once you comprehend that life is about asking, seeking and knocking instead of sitting, watching and waiting, you not only begin to fathom the power of the gospel of Jesus, but you actually tap into the natural energy and karma in our world. What happens next is how effectively I use what I have to my advantage.

2. There are no thoughts–just thoughtful. This is why Jesus told his disciples to “take no thought for the morrow.” How do I get myself in trouble? When when I have down time, begin to analyze my situation and how it relates to my perceived future. I become frantic, I worry, I may even tear up because I think there’s a futility to my pursuits. In my ridiculous nature, I might consider these times to be rich with ideas and introspection, but really, it’s a complete waste of time, because unless I use this particular moment effectively, my thoughts will take me nowhere but despair. I will tell you of a certainty that no one ever thinks himself into repentance. Nobody ever thinks himself into rejuvenation. We just normally think ourselves into a tizzy. That’s why the beautiful brain you’ve been given is supposed to conjure ideas about how to be thoughtful–right now. How can I express, in a physical way, my feelings of joy to the world around me–in this second? That’s what the brain is for. If you hire your mind to do anything else other than act in the moment’s possibility, it begins to think it has more power than it was intended to possess. No thoughts, my friend. Just thoughtful.

3. And finally, no future. Just now. There is no future. What is going to happen tomorrow is being determined right now by my choices. God comes along for the ride. It is similar to the game we used to play with our children when we told them that they could make all the decisions for the day–where we were going to go, what we were going to eat and what we were going to do. For this particular exercise in fun to succeed, we had to get rid of all of our adult preconceptions, become childlike and go for it. This is exactly what God does. Our Father, who has given us life, does not suddenly snatch it back from us when we begin to make choices that are different from what He might consider to be fruitful.

There is either free will or we are creatures of pre-destination. The in-between state that we try to propagate in our pop culture not only is erroneous, but causes us to run into walls in the dark. I am deciding the future by my choices in the present. It’s as simple as that.

I had a new grandson born last week. What will he become? Well, some folks get that far-off look in their eyes and say, “It’s in God’s hands.”  It isn’t. It’s in his mama’s and papa’s, family’s, friends’–and mostly, it’s in his own hands. What little Johann is going to turn out to be is eventually going to be up to emerging Johann.

And hopefully, if we learn to respect our humanity and the power of our lives, in that process we will often stumble into the whims of God. There is no future–just now.

So I don’t want you to get confused. And even though there are those who will argue with this position, in the midst of their discourse about my error in theology or reasoning, they will collide into so many contradictions that they will eventually end their report by saying, “Well, much of it is a mystery.”

Feel free to pursue life as a mystery–but please allow me and others like myself to pursue it as an adventure. In the long run, you will understand that an adventure is much preferable to a mystery.

Don’t get confused. There is no destiny, just opportunity; no thoughts, just being thoughtful, and no future–just now.

So go and enjoy your day, knowing that it is truly your day, and it is one that God has made available for you–to revel in your free will.

   

The producers of jonathots would humbly request a yearly subscription donation of $10 for this wonderful, inspirational opportunity

The Book of Us … March 18, 2012

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“The word became flesh and dwelt amongst us.”

It is part of a verse from the Gospel of John, describing the mission, purpose and life of Jesus. But I must tell you, as dynamic as Jesus’ life was and as valuable as it is for us to study it and appreciate his deeds and desires, it has been a long time since he was human.

We often hear the phrase, “birds of a feather flock together”–usually used as a pretense for keeping the races separate. But if you apply it to the fact that human beings crave human contact, then I think we might be onto something. Candidly–Jesus, Abraham Lincoln, Moses or any human being who used to walk on this planet, gain credibility when we are transported into their time and visualize them as living beings who had contemporary problems requiring practical solutions. Even though we sometimes object, people need people, and require “people stories” about “people solutions,” handled in a “people way.”

It is the weakness of religion that it requires of its adherents that they pursue God without finding that divinity in themselves or the lives of those around them. Incarnateto place something in the flesh to give it proof of existence.

I guess you can feel free to study the life of Joshua or the deeds of Elijah or the predilections of John the Baptist one more time if you are so inclined, but human beings are much more likely to be moved by the stories of those who are still living and breathing than they are by the tales of those who have already passed on to their reward. How can we make spirituality emotional enough that we actually think about it and when we do contemplate its workings, apply some facets of that experience to our everyday lives?

Rather than offering another series on the end of the world, the tabernacle of Moses or a deep, introspective look at prayer, the church would do better to publish The Book of Us. Every six months, merely put together a small booklet of stories from people in the congregation who have discovered that the word is still living. Simple. Easy to understand. Vulnerable. Human.

The stories should be three-act vignettes.

  •  Act I–this is who I am.
  • Act II–this is how I screwed up.
  • Act III–this is how God helped me find a way out of my mess.

This type of story reaches humanity. It is when the Bible becomes of use to the congregant–on those rare occasions when we actually allow Jesus or one of those fellows or gals who walk the pages, to emerge from the holy of holies to display their spots and blemishes, but also to proclaim the victory they received through their faith in God. But don’t you think it would be so much easier if the person who told the story was still alive to confirm it–an ongoing example of transformation?

It wouldn’t be hard to do. Why do all the heroes of belief have to be in the Bible? Why can’t they be our next-door neighbor, who like us, has frailties, but also like us, can be uplifted through love and understanding? If we do not find ways to make truth incarnate–in other words, evident in flesh and blood–all the greatest concepts of true Godliness and righteousness could be lost to the ages.

Yes, if every church in America would put out a small booklet every six months called The Book of Us, with a handful of wonderful stories telling the immediate evidence of God’s presence, then people would have a reason to believe that the mercy of the Almighty is not merely extended to the prophets.

Each one of us profits from the experience.

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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.

http://www.janethan.com/tour_store.htm

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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