Good News and Better News … January 29th, 2018

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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Somewhere stuck between pissed off and tuned out, I waddle and wheeze, waiting for a needful kick in the butt, which I pray will actually be a whack of love.

For I am a human being. I look a lot like a monkey, but my Daddy is the King of the Universe (paternity test yet to be performed).

While we wiggle and struggle over the language of piety, politics and purpose, most of the human race is looking for a pleasant path to eating a good meal, while trying to get along.

Everything is too damn complicated. Matter of fact, writing this essay creates the risk of heaping another helping of opinion onto the stinky pile accumulated behind the house.

Can we simplify?

As far as I know (and I could be wrong, but not just because you think so–there would have to be some merit to your objection) every one of us needs:

1. A start of heart.

If we don’t feel, we don’t have any feeling. If we have no feeling, we have no empathy, and without empathy we start treating people like dogs (or even worse, because we kind of like dogs).

2. A goal of soul.

Even if there were no God we would have to invent one in order to lift our behavior above eye-gouging and tooth extraction.

I need a soul. I need to know you have one. Otherwise, if you get in my way, you could start looking like a cockroach and I might be tempted to strap on my killin’ boots.

3. A lane for the brain.

Parents, culture, family, schooling and misgivings have built cement freeways in our cranium. Unfortunately these roads don’t always take us to a healthy place. We need a lane in the brain to keep us from being insane.

4. A wealth of health.

I’m talking about your best health. If you’re like me, you’ll probably never be as well-structured as an Olympic athlete. But you can be the best pudgy, healthy rendition of the model that’s been provided for you.

These are the four things we’re all concerned about when we aren’t bitching. Once we begin to complain, life becomes too pat. “It’s your fault because it couldn’t be my fault because I have no fault.”

As you see, this is not a very fruitful profile.

So the good news is, if we will stop trying to change the world by preaching, the better news is, we might just start finding so much commonality that we are sympathetic to one another.

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G-23: Console or Counsel?… May 9, 2014

Jonathots Daily Blog

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murderPerhaps the most important discovery in understanding life is an accurate representation of what has happened and what didn’t happen. Arriving at that story line and discovering the truth of the matter not only allows for clarification but permits us to go forward with a bit of intelligence.

Man and woman had two sons. It was a by-product of their love and also their horniness.

Like every other set of parents that followed them, they had no idea what they were doing. Parenting is not a science, nor is it a religion; rather, it is a game of chance.

Since there were two children, there were two different interpretations of the family goals. One son grew up diligent, straight as an arrow and willing to accept the spiritual principles of the household. The other grew up sympathetic to the cause, but in search of short-cuts and ways to limit his involvement.

Yet man and woman loved them both.

Not so much the brothers to each other, though. Because the danger with the righteousness possessed by the one sibling is that it can quickly become self-righteousness. And the danger with short-cuts, as pursued by the other brother, is that they often take you down dark alleys.

So a conflict arises and it’s time to decide how to resolve the breach.

Do you counsel or do you console?

Humans quickly become addicted to consolation. Matter of fact, even those who have committed atrocities still find themselves hunkered down in a bunker at the end of their journey, desiring a hug.

On the other hand, the human family is not quite as receptive to counsel–because at the root of all counsel is the proposition that we must stay involved to improve our situation. Giving up is so much more fun. Admitting that things are impossible and beyond our scope is often comforting.

So when God comes and talks to the one boy who is very sad and crestfallen by his lack of approval over a recent offering, God offers counsel. I know we tend to believe that God is a consoler, but actually, a careful viewing of His style will tell you that He firmly believes in humanity and considers us capable of following advice. The advice was concise:

“If you do well, you’re going to succeed. If you don’t you’re going to fail, and then, if you feel sorry for yourself, worse things will happen.”

That was it. No pat on the back; no “nice try, kid.”

The young man found no consolation in being told to do better, so he started hunting for a victim. One day he found his brother in a field and they argued.

Please understand–it was an argument. That means that the straight-as-an-arrow brother decided to stick the tip of that arrow into his brother, to make a point. His righteousness gained a bit of piety. And of course, when people are already pissed off, it doesn’t help to remind them how inadequate they are.

The end result was a murder.

I think it’s safe to say that if we were rating God as a counselor, we might just have to give Him a fairly low score on this adventure. This is why we learn from spiritual discovery that there is a time to console and a time to counsel.

  • You console when you encounter people and there’s only pain.
  • You counsel when there’s pain … but also the first fruits of questioning.

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Arizona morning

After an appearance earlier this year in Surprise, Arizona, Janet and I were blessed to receive a “surprise” ourselves. Click on the beautiful Arizona picture above to share it with us!

Click here to get info on the "Gospel According to Common Sense" Tour

Click here to get info on the “Gospel According to Common Sense” Tour

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Shell-rocked … July 27, 2013

Jonathots Daily Blog

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faithlutheranshellrock

  • The me you see
  • The me that’s me
  • The me I’m freed to be

 It’s three different people, you know. Maybe success in life is about getting that trio of personalities to blend into oneness—for if they stay separate, there can be a lot of frustration.

As I head off tomorrow morning to Faith Lutheran Church in Shell Rock, Iowa, I am completely aware that God was speaking the obvious when He said that “man looks on the outward appearance.”

Honestly, my dear friends, my outward appearance has never been my “best foot forward,” unless you are fond of stumbling:

  1. I am fat.
  2. I am certainly NOT tall, dark and handsome.
  3. The aging process has relieved me of my hair.
  4. And I don’t seem powerful because my knees are pretty bad and I utilize a wheelchair to cover long distances.

Now at first reading of this description, you might be sympathetic, or even feel that I need your pity. But that’s the me you see. That is not the me that’s me.

The me that’s me is a father who has raised six sons, traveled the country many times over, written symphonies, books, movies, and has performed in front of hundreds of thousands of people.

I learned early in my life that my best shot was to abandon beauty, my “good looks,” and instead, take a good look at myself and find the best way to be of benefit to others, and therefore find great prosperity in my soul.

new jon and janSo what does that mean?

It means that I’ve developed a sense of humor about how I look, a sense of passion about what I do and a deep abiding gratitude for who I’ve been freed to be.

For you see, that is the third process. God has come along and given me permission to be a new creature—born again, as it were. He has implanted in my spirit notions, ideas and promises that don’t always jibe with my reality, but still remain available if I’m willing to accept them by faith.

Take salvation, for example. I’m glad He handles that particular arena. If I were in charge of salvation, I would first of all have to always be a good person, saying all the right things, while being that guy who believes in life after death even in moments of doubtful consideration.

But I don’t have to worry about that.

The reason most people get shell-shocked on their way to Shell Rock is because they become anxious about what other people are going to think about them and they don’t have much confidence in God pulling off His part. They have bookends of insecurity, making them very nervous about their own package of talent.

I fully expect the people in Shell Rock to initially see me as a fat guy rolling along in a wheelchair. In fact, if it were a silent film, that would be it. But life isn’t a silent film:

  • We get the chance to have a voice.
  • We get the chance to express ourselves.
  • We get the chance to be loving.
  • We are afforded the opportunity to be generous.
  • We are provided moments when we can be confrontational in a way that benefits the common good.

And I am not about to ever forget that even though people may have an immediate visceral reaction to me and I may have gifts that can overcome that prejudice, it still holds no candle to how much I am loved by my Father.

If you’re going to be successful on Planet Earth, you have to realize that the me that people see can never, ever be perfected. No matter how many times you lift your face, tuck your belly or comb your hair, someone will have a problem with your appearance.

So spend more time with the “me that’s me,” and perfect the art of being yourself. And don’t be afraid to move towards excellence.

Because when it’s all done, even when people reject your offering as a whole, you can come home to the “me you’re freed to be” … in the arms of your Father in heaven.

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Why-ny… March 19, 2013

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  • Why did this happen?
  • Why didn’t God do something?
  • Why me?

Common questions. Yes, common and permissible to ask–ONE time. If you persist in dribbling off these particular inquiries over and over again, you will soon be faced with a fourth “why”: why am I so alone?

Because even though we human beings are sympathetic about the above questions, after a very short time, our toleration disappears, and we look at people who continue to foster such aggravation as being “why-ny”–too many why’s.

It is a law of human nature–but I believe it is also a spiritual law. For a brief season we are allowed to reflect on our dilemmas IF at the end of that reflection we achieve a resolution. “Weeping endures for the night, but joy comes in the morning.” It is how we are hard-wired–and we are certainly not aided by anemic psychologists and theologians who insist that the above questions have no answers.

I am a very simple man with limited education, but I can assuredly tell you  the answer to each of the questions:

1.Why did this happen? It happened because we missed a warning sign. Maybe we ignored one. Maybe we were asleep at the wheel when the scenery told us that things were changing. But the true beauty of life is that things are evolving. And the true danger in life is that things are evolving. If you pay attention to the world around you, you usually end up escaping about seventy per cent of your difficulties.

2. Why didn’t God do something? This question only exists because we teach the ridiculous notion that “God has a plan for everybody’s life.” The Bible and all that’s sensible lets us know that human beings are free-will creatures. What God offers is a system called the natural order, which can be studied, learned and even manipulated, by the way, to our benefit. If you don’t want to study and you don’t want to learn, you will find yourself at the mercy of some aspect of these processes, lifting your hands to heaven, asking God to save you from your own lack of involvement. Once you understand that we are free-will creatures and that God has set in motion a magnificent universe of possibilities, then you will become a student instead of a victim and realize that God blesses by giving us wisdom.

3. Why me? It was your turn. I don’t know if you want to call it “luck” or refer to it as “time and chance,” but sometimes we are at the wrong place at the wrong time, which needs to happen to balance out the numerous occasions we celebrate being at the right place at the right time. Everybody takes their turn at the wheel. Sometimes that wheel is success and sometimes it’s adversity.

So how can we keep from being why-ny–constantly reliving our lamentations about the conditions in which we find ourselves? Here is a simple three-step process I recommend:

A. Love what is true. Don’t be afraid of the truth, even when it’s not favorable. It will swing around and STILL make you free.

B. Hope for something new. Never convince yourself that you’re stuck where you are–as long as you have enough talent to be multiplied by taking on fresh experiences.

C. Have faith in what you do. Trusting God is a good thing as long as you trust the part of God that’s in you, which is called your talent. God is unable to help anyone who thinks they are without resource. Keep doing what you do, even while you’re seeking for something new and loving what is true.

If you do this, you won’t find yourself “why-ny.”

If you don’t, be prepared to have lots of time on your hands to further commiserate … because no one will want to be around you.

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If I Were a Republican … May 10, 2012

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If politics were farming, the farmer would rise from his bed in the morning, sow salt in his own field and by lunchtime, be complaining about how the former landowner had ruined the property. By dinnertime, at a fundraising banquet, he would be asking everyone to vote for him as “Farmer of the Year,” having never planted one seed.

Just my opinion.

But setting aside personal assertions and convictions, let me take one day and tell you what I would do if I were a Republican.

  1. I would take specific responsibility for my part in the present “Bungle in the Jungle.” The beginning of this century was a difficult time in this country and decisions needed to be made–some of which were overwrought. No one really denies that except when they want to portray that they are squeaky clean and the other side is stained with guilt. Any Republican politician who would take on the specific errors that were made during the previous eight years of administration and isolate them off, while temporarily ignoring the faults of the adversarial party could look like a freaking genius.
  2. I would keep the discussion on governing and stay out of religion. A quick opening of the history book will show you that whenever religion and politics have mingled, the results have been dastardly, if not lethal. Governing demands the ability to see the view of all of your citizens instead of trying to climb the Tower of Babel, to look down on the hapless masses who are lost, without a savior. Traditionally, the elephant is the symbol of the Republican Party. The creature has big ears and a long nose. The Republicans would do better to focus on their ears, to hear, and stop being quite so nosy. Is it possible to be a good Christian and be a politician? It is if you know when to render and how to render–like Jesus said. What I believe cannot be what I enforce. The minute it is, it is no longer true faith–it is legalism.
  3. I would discover a historical sense. If I were a Republican I would stop trying to be the party of Ronald Reagan, and rather, emphasize that I was the party of Lincoln. Ronald Reagan, like all Presidents before and after him, found his own unique way to place our country deeply in debt. But Abraham Lincoln did three things the Republican Party could still use–and advertise–instead of allowing the Democrats to claim Honest Abe as one of their own.  (a) Lincoln taught the sanctity of the union over the preeminence of state’s rights; (b) he freed the slaves even though he, himself, was hardly absent bigotry or misconceptions. Why? Because it was the right thing to do; and (c) he used government to keep the people in power instead of allowing corporations and business to control the issues. If I were a Republican I would talk more about Lincoln than Reagan.
  4. I would stop the battle between men and women. I do not understand what politicians think they’re going to achieve by continuing to propagate a struggle between the genders in our species. Any party that comes along and generates equality between men and women, and refuses to join into the foolish cultural battle of the struggle between the sexes will gain the respect of both sides. You can’t win an election with just men. And you can not win an election with just women.
  5. And finally, I would focus on finance. If you really believe in the free enterprise system and smaller government, favoring businesses to prosper instead of going into bankruptcy caused by the difficulty of obtaining start-up cash and high taxes, then stay on point. The issues of abortion and gay rights will not be settled in a political campaign. They will be discussed and ultimately concluded in the judicial branch of our checks and balances. So drop all of the pretense of self-righteousness–and focus on money. Do I think the Republicans have an advantage over Democrats with this issue? If they don’t naturally, they surely can promote it as such. If I were a Republican, I would never stop talking about the economy and the steps necessary to return us to a sense of responsible capitalism.

Absent of these five steps, the Republican Party greatly resembles the organization of our moms and dads, with no understanding of the current top forty. My parents were staunch Republicans. But all of my brothers became Democrats, except me–who is apolitical. The party loyalty did not continue to the next generation. Why? Because it appeared that the organization was always defending instead of leading.

So if I were a Republican, I would strongly invoke the name of Abraham Lincoln as I led our country forward to the aspirations of even greater freedoms for its people. Of course, I’m not a Republican, and if I were, they probably wouldn’t listen to me anyway. But I thought you might be interested in some of my thoughts, although they are just as valuable and worthless as everybody else’s. To be completely fair, if you will allow me, I will take the position tomorrow of explaining what I would do if I were a Democrat.

Of course, as I have stated before … I am not.

I have always made a rule in my life to never go to any party that doesn’t have refreshments. 

  

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What’s the Problem? … May 9, 2012

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 It never works. It just doesn’t. 

I know I’m not supposed to say “never” but sometimes, if you don’t use the word “never,” you will foolishly continue to pursue avenues that cause you to slide off the road and fall into the ditch of dopiness. 

What never works? You come upon a person, or even a group of people, who are disgruntled, and ask them the question, “What’s the problem?” 

No problem in life is ever solved from a position of superiority, fear or dissatisfaction. Somewhere along the line, we have to relent to the notion that our dreams are not fast-food from McDonald’s, where we roll up, place an order and pick it up in less than a hundred and twenty seconds. 

Life is not difficult—it’s just life. It contains rules and regulations, which are frequently changed—refreshed, if you will—just to make sure that the participants are paying attention. But people become disgruntled because they feel that somehow they’ve been “dissed” and they’d like to grunt at you about it. 

You see why I say it never works? Because life doesn’t “diss” anyone, and there is no one willing to listen to perpetual complaining from another human being. What we all admire are humans who suffer quietly while they actively plan their next adventure. Now, we don’t admire it enough to actually imitate it, but we do understand the power of such a profile. 

This is why politics doesn’t work. By the time politicians and law-makers get together to try to resolve a conflict, the public is so frustrated by the situation that every overture towards solution is dashed on the rocks of cynicism. And then it becomes more entertaining to complain than it does to refrain from the insane. Matter of fact, I will go so far as to say that much of the humor in our country is merely disgruntled grumbling, which the audience nervously laughs at because there seems to be no reprieve. 

What is the answer to the economy? I hear people in a disgruntled way articulating on the elements of the situation, but no one really takes a great stab in the dark at a possible plan of action.

We have the same problem in religion. I’ve listened to countless ministers lament that numbers are dwindling—but I hear no ideas. The original purveyor of our message, Jesus, didn’t seem to have much problem drawing people to himself. No one knew he was divine—they just liked him. Does the world like the church? Does the world like politicians? 

The problem is not that we have a problem, but instead, that we are beginning to address the problem after we’re already disgruntled about it. It stymies us. And, returning to my original theme—it never works.

So I’ve decided to contribute my little portion towards the formulation of a new attitude in our world. Here’s my contribution:  I’m going to keep from being disgruntled so that I can articulate my feelings more clearly about what I desire, pray my prayers with more intelligence, and be available to enact the next good idea without negativity. To do that, I have to realize four principles about this thing called life:

1. It’s not limited. Most of the time we feel like we’re in a box that’s closing in around us. The box is our finance, which we believe is continually dwindling. The box is our talent, which we contend was too small to begin with. The box is the amount of love we receive, which we fear is uncertain. Once you believe life is limited, you start rationing, withholding, cheating and even lying. It may be difficult to allow yourself to expand your thinking to the notion that there are resources yet uncovered which can benefit your soul, yet without that boost of energy you will become exhausted every time a problem dares to lift its ugly face to stare at you.

2. Life is not for us or against us. The best way to describe life is that it shows up in the morning at work, punches the clock, does its job and then goes home at the end of the day. It has one purpose—to keep things as even and level as possible, so that every human being has the potential for success and the opportunity for failure. Trouble ensued when you believe that God is for you and the devil is against you, or the Republicans or Democrats are for you and that other group over there is against you. There is no bogey man, just creaky floorboards and dark closets.

3. Life is not sympathetic. I have stood by the side of the road staring at a flat tire for at least five minutes, wondering why the depleted rubber circle that is now completely “smushed down” will not rise up and improve its situation and bless me. I could have checked my tires. That would have helped. I could have noticed that my tires were going bald. Ingenious. So my flat tire feels no sympathy towards me whatsoever, no matter how many times I kick it, curse it or glare at it. Mercy is given to the merciful. What does that mean? To be merciful to someone else means that you are aware that life is not sympathetic—and therefore, it is your job to be so. That sensibility invigorates your entire being. It helps you in your own life—to be aware of upcoming problems. Life is not sympathetic.

4. But finally, life is not impossible. Oh, we get grumpy and fussy and insist that no one has ever suffered such slings and arrows. Job just had bad acne; we’ve got real problems. We’re just a bunch of babies who can’t find our pacifiers. I learned a long time ago—nobody I owe money to wants to put me in jail. They just want payments. The thunderstorm is not out to destroy my plans—just water the earth. And evil is not meeting in a board room somewhere, plotting the demise of all that’s good. Rather, evil occasionally books a room for the night in my heart and tries to trash the location like some traveling rock band. Yes, I am my own worst enemy, because I always give up one idea short of God’s plan to save me.

Nothing is impossible. It just takes time—and a belief that we are not limited, nothing is for us or against us, but sympathy is not available—only opportunity.

So the next time you are tempted to ask, “What’s the problem?” understand that if someone is not asking you for assistance, they are probably not ready to receive it. Instead, they are in that no man’s land, where complaining sounds like righteous rhetoric.

We can do this. We can solve all the problems in this country as soon as some brave leadership steps forward and soothes the common mania that has transformed us into disgruntled gripers. Once we do that, we will gain the faith that we are not limited, life is not for us or against us, nor is it sympathetic, but always prepared to respond to those who believe that nothing is impossible. 

  

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