Good News and Better News … March 5th, 2018

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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A Jesus mask: Putting the face of Jesus on things we have decided are nice, easy, positive or comfortable.

In doing this, we attempt to transform the Gospel into a social message which is palatable for our chosen lifestyle, never really asking ourselves if it has a universal flavor.

Honestly, I almost didn’t write about this today–there are so many examples that I didn’t know how to isolate them off to the number of paragraphs you would be willing to read–but I trust that you might be willing to do some investigation on your own. So let’s look at three of the masks:

1. If you work real hard, you can get whatever you want.

You hear this on every talk show. During the Olympics it became a mantra. The variations, like “dream big, get big” pepper the common dialogue of the average day.

We put Jesus’ face on it. We decide it sounds like Jesus. But Jesus spoke a startling phrase: “To those who have, more shall be given, and to those who have not, even the little they have will be taken away from them.”

2. Giving to the poor is the highest form of charity.

It makes for a great nightly news story–some individual or organization passing sandwiches out to the homeless, complete with a hygiene kit of toothbrush, toothpaste and a small washcloth.

We’re moved to tears. We put a Jesus mask on it.

But Jesus said “the poor you have with you always.” They’re not going to go away. “Do for them what you can” but don’t make it an all-encompassing mission.

Poverty is more than a lack of things. It is often a lack of understanding.

3. God has a wonderful plan for your life.

Now we’re really crying, because even though we’re going through these huge problems, in the long run God will pluck us out of our pain and place us on higher ground. Unfortunately, although we put the Jesus mask onto this concept, his message was quite different.

Jesus said, “Except ye repent, you will perish.” In other words, ladies and gentlemen, you are in the middle of an evolving situation and an evolving planet, so you’d better evolve or you will dissolve.

Jesus is not against positive thinking. Jesus just wants us to understand that thinking good thoughts and clinging to them by faith is not the same as “letting your light so shine before men that they will see your good works and glorify the Father in heaven.”

The good news is that the Gospel is meant for humans.

The better news is, the Gospel makes us better, not things better.

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G-Poppers … October 23rd, 2015

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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Jon close up

G-Pop is a wee bit concerned.

His children are once again choosing up sides, sniffing out the dogma of their favorite political party and barking out beliefs.

Issue by issue, debates are offering a collage of opinions with no real respect for the central issue that should permeate the hearts of all humanity:

Are we killing people?

Nothing progresses until we stop killing:

  • No financial campaign is worthwhile if there’s a death toll.
  • No honoring of traditions or regaling of the Constitution is noble if we’re filling up body bags.
  • The central issue of the human race is learning how to talk to one another instead of pulling a knife, citing some righteous motivation.

For 16 years, two Presidents from two different parties have ruled and reigned in this country.

Even though G-Pop is sure that each one could present a resume of his efforts, in the long run, one of these men began a sermon of death and the other has trailed behind with his own chorus of “amens.”

President Bush and President Obama have both pursued a fruitless campaign of irreconcilable mayhem in the Middle East, which has paralyzed this country with the preoccupation that we are a superior military power–as we continue to lose battles. Not since World War II has the United States been part of a full-fledged victory through military conflict.

So we must cease to believe that the Republicans are good because they stand for God and the Democrats are evil because they allow for atheism. And we also must realize that merely taking stands on social issues or giving health care to the masses is of little use if we’re taking the children of the poor and placing them in harm’s way in a foreign land.

G-Pop will tell you why he believes in Jesus: Jesus angers both Republicans and Democrats.

In one moment, Jesus forgives a woman caught in adultery, infuriating the right.

In the next moment, he refuses to give money to the poor, insisting that it’s a never-ending process which should be pursued with wisdom rather than wild abandon, causing every liberal to object tearfully.

Jesus had one central theme: “I have not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them.”

So the same Jesus who believed that “those who live by the gun will die by the gun” also contends that children are sacred and reflect the beauty of heaven.

Just as little ones should not be killed at their elementary schools, we should also find a way not to kill them in the womb.

Obviously, this approach pisses off both campaigns.

So G-Pop challenges his children to escape the futility of joining a side to instead pursue a purpose:

1. Is there any way to consider all the facts before we start following the fad?

2. Is there any way to favor one side in this particular case without offending the other permanently?

3. Can we move forward without rejecting what we know is true for the human family?

There is only one issue in the next presidential campaign: what is the best way to stop killing?

As long as we’re killing, no matter how noble we may feel our mission, we have become the enemy of the One who created us.

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G-Poppers … September 18th, 2015

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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She came into the room angry and frustrated. G-Pop asked her what was troubling her so.

She explained that she was really pissed off about how the Syrian refugees were being treated by the Europeans. G-Pop sat quietly listening, allowing her to vent for a few minutes until she ran out of steam.

When a few seconds of stillness had settled into the room, he said, “Let’s say you had just finished your dinner and you were sitting down in your chair getting ready to watch some television. Suddenly there was a knock at the door. You rise to your feet, open your door and discover a stranger standing in front of you, obviously distressed. You ask what you can do to help him, and he explains that his home has just burned to the ground and he has no place to go and needs some assistance. The first thing that crosses your mind is that you’ve never met this person before. Is the story true? How would you be able to find out? So you cautiously invite him inside the door while you consider your options. Before you can gather all your thoughts, he explains that he just needs someplace to stay until he can get on his feet and find out what he really wants to accomplish. You ask him if he has family in the area who could assist and he explains in vivid detail that he is from far away and doesn’t know anybody. So while you’re trying to figure out what you want to do, he informs you that he also has a wife and two children.

So now there are four people involved. He goes on to share that as frightened and taken aback as he is, they are completely devastated. Then in passing he mentions that his wife is also pregnant.  You have to make a decision. Trying to be wise, you inquire if he has checked with the local shelters and food banks for possible emergency intervention. He looks at you with a blank stare, not aware of how to go about such a maneuver, and still wishing that you would do something to help. So you agree to invite the family in to sit down while you make some sort of plan to help out. As the wife and two children enter the door, the man goes on to say that his cousin had been staying with them and also has a wife and one child, and is equally as abandoned by the disaster.

“Now you have seven people to deal with. What started as a quiet evening in your home, watching television, has now become an invasion of needy people who seem to be growing in numbers every minute. What should you do?

She looked at G-Pop, wanting to object, even to suggest that the scenario was not the same, but then realized that they were identical.

G-Pop continued. “We are really foolish when we think other people should do what we would not do ourselves. Honestly, there’s not much that I can do about the people who have run away from Syria. Any money sent in that direction would be a drop in the bucket and would take months to reach its destination. So my only recourse is to go into my own community and find the refugees–people without homes, seemingly unwanted humans, rejected souls and struggling families–and before their world utterly falls apart, forcing them to my doorstep, I will seek them out and do what I can.”

G-Pop finished the story and she seemed to understand.

You see, Jesus was absolutely right: the poor will always be with us.

The only thing we can do is share from our bounty before they end up on our porch–and we feel compelled to turn them away.

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A More Perfect … May 2, 2012

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People are always itching to ask.

After getting past “where you’re from” and “how long you’ve been doing this,” there is a desire for human beings to know the bend of your political persuasion. But because such discussions can often be contentious, most folks opt to believe that you’re “one of them.” So therefore, the Republicans are convinced I’m a Republican and the Democrats likewise think I fall within their mantle. But each one will usually pat you on the back and say, “Well, at least we can all agree–we’re proud to be Americans.”

I’m glad to be an American. I am not proud. 

My understanding of our founding principles as a country prohibits the introduction of pride–because it is in the Preamble of our Constitution that “we the people” set out to form “a more perfect union.”

More perfect. That’s one of those phrases that would drive my friend, Janet, crazy. She and I once had a long discussion about how there is no such phrase as “more unique.” Unique is unique, right? And perfect exists as an ultimate goal unto itself. But, as in the case of “more unique” (which by the way, IS proper) there is also such a thing as “more perfect.” More perfect is a mindset that refuses to allow us to become complacent, even when it seems that our status is satisfactory or even superb.

Pride is un-American. It is not worthy of our geneology nor our offspring.

The Preamble of our Constitution makes it clear WHY we require a “more perfect union”–because we decided we wanted to:

  1. Establish justice. Justice does not exist as a living, breathing entity without human beings supplying constant emotional CPR. If we do not breathe into our society a sense of fair play, justice will be smothered by “majority” or purchased by the wealthy.
  2. Insure domestic tranquility. Our founding fathers knew that our greatest enemies are not beyond our borders.Our fiercest adversaries is our own apathy or the belief that we can attack each other to purify our race or cause. Yes, it’s true–the founders of our country, though they insisted on the right to bear arms, also were quite diligent to make sure that we would insure domestic tranquility, allowing the citizenry to walk around without fear of being accosted, attacked or alienated. And interestingly enough, this is followed by:
  3. Provide for the common defense. Do you see how carefully they chose the words? We are supposed to establish justice–in other words, enforce a guarantee of equality.We insure domestic tranquility–a promise to our friends and neighbors that they don’t have to live in fear. But we provide for the common defense–we decide as intelligent people how much it will cost to keep us safe under normal conditions, raise that capital, provide that opportunity and then leave it at that. It does not suggest that we make up enemies or imagine weapons of mass destruction, but instead, use some good, common sense in building our walls.
  4. Promote the general welfare. There’s a word no one likes: welfare. But it falls the responsible for those who are affluent, or even desire to pursue affluence in a capitalistic society, to also be advocates for the members of our culture who are unable to join us on that journey. It’s not so much that we will solve the problem of poverty, it’s just that we cannot address poverty by hating the poor–OR by pitying them. We need to promote those individuals and organizations that have a heart for the general welfare of our fellow Americans, and make sure they are given resources to address the need.
  5. And finally, secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity. Why would we need to secure it? There is a nasty part of human behavior that feels we have “more” when we take someone else’s portion. When we believe that something is limited, we either start rationing it or stealing it. Liberty should not be in question in a country that desires to become “more perfect” in its union. There will be very few things we can actually unite around as people, but one of them must be the blessings of liberty. Let me make something clear: there are things people do that I don’t like. Maybe I don’t morally approve of them. I might even have spiritual objections. But the supreme directive of our country–and even of our heavenly Father–is to grant free will and liberty to everyone. Any absence of that is the introduction of pride, which makes us believe that we’re already perfect instead of pursuing more perfect.

I love this country because it has a constitution which within the boundaries of the same document, calls black people less than human, but then amends itself later to admit that they’re equal, and finally, that they have the right to vote. The Constitution is imperfect because it is filled with amendments–an inherent admission by intelligent people that the work of both humanity and God is ongoing in the quest of becoming more perfect.

I’m glad to be an American. I am glad that I have been afforded the opportunity to read a Preamble of our Constitution that purifies our motives in the midst of political dirty tricks. But I am not “proud,” because pride tarnishes the silver of a great idea. And as we know, silver is second place–still working to become gold. 

More perfect.

Let us never give up on the pursuit of America. Our country is not a democracy, a republic or a capitalistic monarchy for the truly wealthy. It is an idea that demands evolution based upon the genuine notion of its founding, the integrity of our goals … and the ever-changing needs of our people. 

  

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Simon’s Son… April 5, 2012

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From Safford, Arizona

Simon fathered a boy–a delightful young lad–his only son. “Proud” could not possibly describe the experience that occurred in Simon’s soul over having such an opportunity–to have an heir and a young, fertile mind in which to plant great ideas and dreams.

He taught the boy to love God, because without the love of the Divine, the appreciation of the earthly is often tainted. He taught his son to be loyal to his family. After all, there is nothing greater than family. He instructed his fine pupil in the value of loyalty to your country–being willing to stand up for liberty and independence. He shared with him that generosity to the poor is a great way to please God and also a signal to your neighbors of the purity of your motives. He taught his son that government interference in the choices of its citizens should be limited, allowing for the population to grow, prosper and expand.

He was pleased when his young fellow grew into a man and offered his talents to the resistance party. Even though his child was not a warrior, he possessed great skill in communication, negotiation–and also had a knack for finance. After all, even freedom fighters need an accountant.

He was a bit surprised when his son ended up in Bethabarra by the Jordan with a new movement that promoted the idea that repentance and immersion in water replaced debate and standing up against tyranny. Yet he never questioned him. After all, all young people go through phases and as he got older, he would return to his moorings and roots.

But when his son chose to join forces with a Galilean, it was time to object. Simon was a proud citizen of Kerioth, a town in Judea.  Now, Simon did not feel that Judeans were better than Galileans, but the natural pecking order in both the physical and spiritual worlds seemed to have produced such evidence. Galilee was poor, absent loyalty to the country and too preoccupied with sustenance to be of much use to the common good. Judeans were faithful to both God and country, and were prepared to do whatever was necessary to free themselves from the interference of government and the tyranny of foreign influence.

But Simon loved his son. He realized that there is a season of reflection, when every man questions his values and wanders into the oblivion of possibilities for a brief season, to then return to the righteous struggle.

Simon loved Judas. Nothing could change that love. He was proud that Judas had found a place of high regard in this new movement, one of the top twelve–even though it was spawned in Galilee.

But today he had received news that his hope and dream–his prodigy and the symbol of his destiny–was dead.

Simon decided to make a journey to Jerusalem to try to trace the last days of his beloved Judas. It was difficult to find anyone who would talk to him. Apparently those associated with the new movement had escaped into private chambers or were completely unwilling to meet with the father of the man they knew as a traitor.

A traitor. Simon could not imagine his Judas betraying anyone. Loyalty to family, country and God had been the bulwark of their household philosophy.

Finally one of the women from the Nazarene‘s camp–a lady named Mary of Magdala–agreed to meet with him. He was a little uncomfortable to be discussing such important matters with a woman, but decided that something was better than nothing. He had only one question.

“Who killed my beloved son?”

Mary paused, eyeing him carefully, contemplating how to share the truth. She had no desire to hurt this father’s feelings. She had no wish to bring judgment on a man who was once a friend and now lay dead by his own hand. The delay troubled Simon, agitating his soul.  He asked again.

“Tell me, woman.  Who killed my Judas?”

Mary drew a deep breath. “I don’t know. And sir, I’m glad I don’t know. For Judas loved his country, but in the midst of his affection and devotion, his country changed. Judas loved the poor but didn’t realize that they would never go away and that merely casting coins in their direction was not a resolution to the problem. Judas believed in a religious system that was evolving from true Godliness to a safe Godliness that included greed and too much nationalism. Judas was my friend–but he forgot how to be a friend to the one who befriended him the most. So when our master asked him to stretch his mind and expand his heart to believe in things he did not yet comprehend, Judas returned to his training, his instincts and his security instead of abandoning them for the quest for the Kingdom of God.”

 Simon was aggravated. “You didn’t answer my question. Who killed Judas?” he asked.

Mary, without pausing, replied, “Religion. Tradition. Fear of being out of the mainstream. Insecurity. Selfishness. Hurt feelings. Jealousy. Nationalism. Wanting revolution instead of revelation. Money. Acceptance. And … probably mainly horror over being different for a season, to be right forever.”

Simon tried to interrupt, but Mary continued. “Your son betrayed. You see, it wouldn’t be a betrayal if the end result had been the betterment of mankind. But our master, Jesus, called him the ‘son of hell.’ I remember when I heard those words come from his lips, I thought to myself, ‘This is too harsh.’ But then I realized that hell exists whenever we believe that God is merely in heaven and not in the hearts of our brothers and sisters. And anyone who tries to stop God from loving people instead of just statues, countries and causes becomes hell’s son.”

Simon departed without saying another word. This woman was obviously deluded, as females often were. He went back to Kerioth feeling cheated and robbed of his only begotten son. Was there any truth to Mary’s words? Had he failed as a father? What was wrong with believing in God, family and country? What was wrong with objecting to government interference? What was wrong with being a patriot?

Six months later Simon passed away, still grief-stricken over the loss of his son. He never got to hear the words of Jesus. The only thing the name “Jesus” meant to him was that the son he had raised to be a good Jew was dead–because he had followed this teacher.

Simon had a son. He named him Judas–in honor of the great warrior who had fought for the Jewish people, Maccabees. His son grew up to be a man–a dastardly deceiver–the one who betrayed the Prince of Life.

**************

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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.

Hey, Buddy — September 28, 2011

12 23 OBOE THEME

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I like to sit out in parking lots, roll down my windows, open my sun roof and work on ideas, writings, scripts or whatever is on my present platter, while enjoying the surrounding sunshine and people passing by. I don’t like offices; they sniff of officious. Desks and computers are sterile. or me, just a pad, a pen and surrounding life is a nice atmosphere for creativity.

I was doing so yesterday in Richmond, Virginia, when I was approached by a gentleman who had both a need and an agenda. “Hey, buddy!  Nice car! Is it a Mercedes? How ya’ doin’?”

I don’t know exactly what to do with a flurry of questions.  What do you address first? But I did immediately know two things: this was a guy who was trying to be very friendly because he was going through a hard trial. He wanted something from me.

Now, people in need don’t bother me. Honestly, individuals who have an agenda are pretty obvious, so they don’t particularly trouble me either. But I am not fond of people who have both a need and an agenda. I told him my car was a Korean knockoff of a Mercedes called an Amante.  

He didn’t even hear me; he was in full need and agenda.  Here was his speech:

“Listen, man. I’m a Vietnam veteran and I’m on my way to work and my truck broke down. I left my wallet at my house. I believe in God and I know God’s going to take care of me, so I was wondering if you could give me a lift back to my house so I could get my wallet, so I could get some gas for my truck, which is a big truck, so it takes a lot of gasoline, so that I could get to work, so I can take care of my family, which I love very much.”

Amazingly, he said it in one breath–yet with no real emotional inflection.

Let’s look at the story. 

  • First, he said he was a Vietnam veteran. The Vietnam war ended forty years ago–which means the youngest people who would have fought in that war would be sixty.  He wasn’t a day over forty-two.
  • Secondly, it was 10:15 in the morning, so he probably wasn’t on his way to work. 
  • And there was no truck in sight, so the story about needing gasoline for his vehicle may have been a little bit contrived.
  • “He left his wallet at his house” is pretty unlikely–although I was unsure why he wanted me to put him into my car to take him to another location. (A pretty good rule: don’t follow a potentially homeless person to his alleged home.)
  • For some reason, these individuals with the combo of “need” and “agenda” always demand that you understand that they believe in God, they’re God-fearing, or God is with them, or God is their savior, or God … whatever.  I’ve never met a person who is homeless who doesn’t have a deep, abiding, verbal faith in the Almighty.  It isn’t really a great testimony for religious participation, even though David says in the Psalms, “I’ve never seen the righteous forsaken nor his seed begging for bread.”  Sorry, David.  I have.  Actually, most of the people I have encountered who are without sustenance will tell you that God is King of the Universe–as they beg you for a dollar or two to pick up some of that good stuff for themselves.
  • And adding the final feather in the cap of his spiel, he mentions “family.”  “Family” seems to be the great elixir in our country, intoxicating us into believing that we are loving and caring people. We must realize, though, that to create a family only requires that you make children, which demands a bodily function between two consenting adults. It’s not making a family that’s special. It’s whether you can make the process meaningful to not only yourselves, but to the world around you.

I am not offended by people who are poor.  As Jesus said, “the poor you have with you always.  Do what you can for them.” I am just fed up with the politics of ANYTHING. I certainly don’t like the politics of politics–where destroying your opposition is more important than opposing what destroys us.  I certainly despise the politics of religion, where placing a candle in its sacred place is more meaningful than teaching the congregation to be the light of the world. I hate the politics of corporations, which possess no sense for the common good, but only view a line that runs at the bottom of the barrel. And I don’t like the politics of poverty. I don’t like it that a man has to lie to me about his situation just to coerce a little money out of me to make it through his day. I don’t like the fact that he has to cajole me into listening to him by using buzz words instead of admitting that for whatever reason, right now his life sucks, and he needs me to squeeze off a few singles his way.

I understand the politics of poverty. I realize that most folks think that homeless people are lazy, trifling and have chosen to be impoverished. So if the unfortunate don’t come up with a good story line, they will not only go without and be disregarded, but also will be looked upon as common, meaningless and trashy.

I just think it is our responsibility to attack politics wherever we see it. I am tired of the phrase, “Well, that’s just the way the world works.” No, my friend, that’s the way someone decided the world works a long time ago, and because nobody argued with him in that moment, and many cowards have followed since, we have ended up with a system that is insufficient to our needs and irreverent to the requirements of others.

My friend closed his little spiel yesterday by saying, “If you’re going to be here for an hour, I’ll come back and give you double repayment for what you give me.”

It was at this point that I stopped him.

“Stop it,” I said. “Let’s not do the dance. You and I both know you don’t have a job, there is no truck, if you have a wallet it has the addresses of local food banks in it, and whatever family you have needs just as much help as you do. Let me tell you, friend, I’m going to give you some money, but not because you came up with a great story or because in your mind you shot Viet Cong. I’m going to give you some money because you crossed my path, and if I don’t I would never be able to explain to myself or God why I chose this moment to be so damned stingy.”

He tried to object but I just held up my hand and he realized there was no need.  He nodded his head and I pulled out some money from my pocket, which I carry at all times for just such occasions. If you don’t carry a few singles around for the lost individuals who happen your way, then you might just be tempted to pretend that there’s nothing you can do. I gave him the money and he was on his way.

As he was leaving, I proffered one final thought.

“You see, brother,” I said, “Now we can actually talk about God and it’ll mean something.”  He smiled and disppeared into the surrounding day.

Here’s the truth: politics creates the need that makes people feel they must have an agenda to get what they want.

I, for one, am tired of it. I refuse to participate. And I am not ashamed when I run across those in need–as long as they don’t try to pretend they’re somebody they really aren’t.

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