Good News and Better News… January 9th, 2017

 

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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good-news-fix-it

It is reported that animals can smell fear.

I do not know if this particular “sniffology” is passed along in the human family, but I am fully aware as I travel and interact with my brothers and sisters, that there’s a strong apprehension in the air.

It’s not so much an odor as it is a loss of confidence and a disconcerting sense that doom looms too close to the home fires.

So in a season when the church should be rallying from its stagnancy because of the yearning of the human spirit to relieve tension, our ranks still seem to be filing out the back door.

There are those in theology who conclude that it’s due to a lack of serious religious reflection, and others who believe that we’ve not yet struck the right chord with the younger generation concerning traditions and the teaching offered for their children.

If you will allow me, I will tell you:

  • We have too much God and not enough Father.
  • Too much Christ and not enough Jesus.

It’s similar to a chemistry teacher who constantly gives tests on formulas while never having the students do lab work.

Church is boring because the idea of God is stifling.

Church seems insipid because a Christ who offers eternal salvation doesn’t give us a Jesus who offers us Earth solutions.

We are stymied.

For fear of losing our “worship credentials,” we have sacrificed our human appeal.

The heavenly Father is a Creator, not a manufacturer. Not everything can be taught in a six-week series from the pulpit as we expound upon every reference in the Bible about love, and hope that folks will draw a pious conclusion.

Jesus was our brother–tempted as we are in every way and touched by our infirmities long before he became salvation through the cross. Thirty-three years of life can not be ignored because of three hours at Golgotha.

Until we have more of the Father and an abundance of Jesus, our churches will be full of dead men’s bones and promises that seem to have been “rain checked” until after death.

The good news is that God is our Father, Jesus is our brother and the Holy Spirit is not a ghost.

The better news is that the Holy Spirit has come to remind us about the goodness of our Father and the genius of Jesus.

 

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Good News and Better News … October 10th, 2016

Jonathots Daily Blog

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good-news-holly-sign-facesWhether you’re promoting the idea that Mexicans are rapists or insisting that your political opponents should be stuffed in a basket labeled “deplorables,” you have basically failed to recognize the central meteoric truth of life on Planet Earth:

Our human journey is about getting along with humans.

The ministry of Jesus is capsulized in how we treat others. Also, our relationship with God is determined by how well we welcome those who have been deemed worthless.

When I arrived at the Holly Calvary Church to meet the energetic and engaged Pastor Cliff and his congregation, I was fully aware that nothing I have to share has any value if I am a grump.

Yes.

  • I am my Gospel.
  • I am my message.
  • My facial expression is what I think God feels about people.

And my attitude is certainly my theology.

During one of the prayers, a word came to my mind: exceedingly.

good-news-holly-sign-namesLooking back on the past week in America, there have been people who are exceedingly mad. They want to get even. They want to hurt somebody. Their energy is fueled by fury.

There are people who are exceedingly sad. They’ve given up. They’ve decided to settle. Despair has become their cry for retreat.

What we desperately need–and what I shared with the good folks in Holly–is the message of Jesus: rejoice and be exceedingly glad.

What does that mean? Why isn’t “glad” enough? Why does it need to be “exceedingly?”

Because mad and sad people try to cover up their true motivations with missions which seem to be legitimate. So if our gladness doesn’t spill out of us like cold water from melted mountain snow, then it will be difficult to set ourselves apart from those who snarl and sigh.

Pastor Cliff is encouraging his church to get back to the Word of God. I agree. That “Word” is personified in the lifestyle of Jesus. He is the Word. And he wants us to be glad.

How do we know when we’re being glad?

  1. We decide to love everybody even if it seems ridiculous.
  2. We refuse to judge anybody even if it appears necessary.
  3. We determine to help everybody find their abundant life.

I truly believe if the absolutely amazing individuals I met yesterday in Holly will generate love, stop judging and aid their brothers and sisters in finding life, which is grounded in the Word, they can also be free of religious chains.

That’s the good news.

The better news is that “exceedingly glad” does come with the additional benefit of personal smiles and inner joy.

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Jesonian: Reverend Meningsbee (Part 18) It’s Not Good For A Man To Be… August 28th, 2016

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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Reverend Meningsbee

Alone.

More than lonely.

The frightening realization of having no one.

Unable to get the personal attention of another human being.

Meningsbee had settled in for his afternoon time of reflection, which usually started with pulling up some news stories on the Internet and reading some articles to sharpen his insight.

But there was a dark side to this ritual. Ever since he had lost his wife, Doris, the lack of intimacy had driven him to a nagging temptation to peruse pornography.

He hated the word.

When he pastored back East, he often counseled people who were completely obsessed with the practice.

He knew all the right answers but the loneliness overtook him–the sense of abandonment caused by losing his love.

For you see, Doris died as she had lived–suddenly.

She had an infectious spirit with a childlike quality that manifested itself in the belief that her whim was the same as God’s will. If bananas were on sale at the grocery store, Doris believed it was ordained to make banana splits.

Although Richard was a bit put off by the theology, he benefitted from the glow of her enthusiasm.

She loved him. She loved him all the way. If she was dissatisfied, Richard never knew it.

She laughed more than she cried; she planned more than she complained, and in the bedroom, she had the steaminess of the Queen of Sheba mingled with the mercy of an angel.

She granted Meningsbee the role of Midas. Everything he touched she called gold.

He never had a chance to doubt himself–until one morning, she sat straight up in bed and said, “My head hurts.”

They were her last words. She crumpled to the side, the victim of a simultaneous massive stroke and heart attack.

No history of disease, just a demise.

So now Richard was without his Doris, yet still needing the comfort and consistency of a gentle love.

He was repulsed by the images he saw on his screen. He was only interested in “peek-a-boo porn”–in other words, pictures of beautiful women yearning to be loved. But every time he pulled up an innocent profile, his inbox was inundated with popups of violent rape and sexual mayhem.

Strangely, he both hated and pitied himself at the same time–hated because he knew he was wrong, but pitied because he was forced into the wrong by an evil twist of fate.

He was more than ashamed.

He was intellectually disgusted by his choice.

He was spiritually bewildered by his weakness.

And he was mentally dissatisfied with the antidote provided to him via the Web.

So at the end of each one of his afternoon sessions, he scrubbed his browser and walked away from his computer feeling a little more decayed each time.

What right did he have to preach the Gospel when such desperation tormented his soul?

Meningsbee was in the midst of a fresh burst of incrimination when there was a knock at the door. He was startled.

He quickly made sure there was no evidence of his iniquity, and went to see who it was.

Matrisse.

He was so glad to see her.

She was like a supernal presence drawing him back into what he wanted his reality to be.

“I need to talk to you about Sassy,” she said solemnly. Meningsbee nodded his head and invited her in.

Once again, Matrisse was the needful distraction to draw him away from his own foolishness.

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Ask Jonathots… August 25th, 2016

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ask jonathots bigger

I want my kids to have a spiritual upbringing but I don’t feel comfortable with a lot of the churches available to us. How do I ensure that I am instilling spirituality in their lives?

Your question is really in two parts.

First, what should I do about the church, and second, how do I instill spirituality in my kids?

Let me start with the second question. There are three steps to true spirituality:

1. What do I truly believe?

I will tell you something shocking. The less you believe in, the better the chance will be that you will follow it.

This is why, in the Good Book, the entire sixty-six units boil down to a single phrase: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

The truth is, when you love your neighbor as yourself, you’re already putting into practice at least fifty principles. But if you focus on loving your neighbor as yourself, you will be honoring a thousand ideas.

2. How does what I believe affect me?

The absence of an abundant life is the presence of a crappy belief system. It was Jesus who said that fruit would be borne in our lives through what we believe. If you are miserable, irritable, grouchy, complaining, bigoted, self-centered, short-sighted and selfish, you probably need to go shopping for a new belief.

3. How does my belief affect others?

Our belief was never intended to be a preachy condemnation of the lifestyle of our brother or sister. It is a light that shines in place, available for those who wish to emerge from their darkness.

In other words, if you’re teaching your children to love their neighbors as themselves, use their beliefs to progress them emotionally, spiritually, mentally and physically, and allot mercy and tolerance to others while affording a helping hand, then you have spirituality.

Now, when it comes to the church, the spiritual representation of that idea has been lost in the implementation of the organization. But here’s the truth of the matter: if you have a good heart, a willing spirit, an open mind and an active desire, you can go into any church and affect the theology simply by being a worker instead of a critic.

There is no way that people with true spiritual insight can be ignored in a religious system that stumbles over its own clumsy rules.

So once you get your children in an attitude of understanding what true spirituality is, then go to church and let your light shine–because that beam of confidence will soon put you in a position to change the mediocre surroundings.

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Good News and Better News… September 28th, 2015

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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map of Sheboygan

Many years ago, I sensed a voice within me, encouraging me to go out and share my heart and abilities with the world. Some people would say it was the voice of God, while others would probably insist that it was just me, declaring my own bidding.

I don’t care.

I heeded the call, and that decision has taken me on an exotic adventure.

Kindness. I deeply love that word. It saddens me that it has been equated with weakness. There is actually nothing that takes more human strength than to be kind. It threatens to attack us if we dare consider it.

I spent the weekend in Sheboygan, Wisconsin. I felt kindness–whether it was the surprise bowl of homemade chicken noodle soup given to me with the meal I purchased at the restaurant or the warm-hearted folks strolling across the green at the Farmer’s Market, sniffing the tomatoes and pondering a pumpkin.

Then we arrived at the church, with half a dozen folks, ready and able to help us carry in our equipment and assist us in any way possible. They are shepherded by a man named Rick who has a gentleness which oozes the aforementioned kindness.They received the strength of my teaching while being sensitive to the weakness that presently inhabits my body.

I am moved at their interpretation of the soul of Jesus. I am so in love with this particular congregation that I will tell you, they are on the precipice of discovering a greater understanding. And what is that greater understanding?

True spirituality is a three-step process:

1. Listen.

That’s right. Shut up. Talking is exhausting and it’s also boring. Try to listen to what people are saying. Try to listen to the pain and the joy of the world around you. Try to be a hearer of the Word before becoming a doer.

2. Change.

Because I can tell you, as you listen to the patter of your brothers and sisters, you will feel the need to change.

When they brought the woman caught in adultery to Jesus, they explained to him that the law of God said that she should die by stoning. He didn’t argue the theology with them–he questioned the practicality. What chance is there for righteousness to grow if we kill off all the sinners?

Jesus changed, right there on the spot. Jesus altered religious fervor in deference to God’s favor. He forgave the woman.

If you’re not ready to change, don’t expect anything of quality to happen.

3. Respond.

Once you’ve listened carefully and altered your philosophy to be sensitive to humans instead of critical of them, you are prepared to respond, and that normally will be kindness.

Thank you, Sheboygan, for being kind.

Please do not grow weary in your well-doing. Donate Button

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G-Poppers… January 2, 2015

  Jonathots Daily Blog

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G-Popper

As the New Year rolled around, G-Pop’s youngest son (who is fully grown) asked him, “So what do you think about the New Year?”

G-Pop: Son, it all depends on if you think things will be better, or grow worse. I happen to believe in better because somehow or another the human race always musters an instinct for avoiding extinct.

The young man smiled and pursued, “All right. Do you have any predictions?”

G-Pop: More heart. Real emotion instead of over-stated, staged reality shows. How can we achieve more heart? I think we just need to stop being afraid of the beauty of goodness.

More soul–transforming our theology and mythology into real human action. We are actually going to explore the spiritual axiom, “By their fruits you will know them.”

More mind–starting with being mindful of each other. Inventing and creating things that inspire people to excel instead of relinquishing all of our independence and genuine thoughtfulness to technology.

More strength. You know, son, I think it’s time for us to study a “hand-to-mouth” existence, realizing that what we hand off in food to our lips is affecting our power, personality and happiness. Not only is it true that you are what you eat, but that consumption eventually eats up what you are.

More heart, soul, mind and strength.

And then we will realize that we will only see more if we dare to become more.

 

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My Little Improv… January 5, 2014

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masksSome rules are good.

They help people understand better ways to do things to welcome success and happiness.

On the other hand, some rules are bad. They’re put in place–sometimes in stone–to control folks, eliminating the creative passion that allows us mere mortals to touch the face of God.

I’ve tried to figure out which one is which for most of my life.

When I was a kid, they had a rule in our church that young students in junior high school couldn’t be on the Bible League competition team until they got into the ninth grade. I suppose somebody who originally came up with the idea imagined it was a good thing–to make being on the team a reward, and also that probably most youngsters in seventh and eighth grade were not mature enough for such an endeavor.

It was a bad rule. I objected, complained, lobbied, got it changed and was the first thirteen-year-old on the team.

It doesn’t matter where you go. There are people who enjoy their work so they try to make it more accessible to themselves and others, and then there are those who are a bit miserable, who feel it is their duty to pass on the sullen attitude.

Music, religion, politics, corporations, clubs, schools–all of them have their share of “grumpy grumpers” who really hate their lives and want to make sure that everybody hates equally.

So when I sat down to plan what I wanted to do in my sharing this year–and also how I wanted to expand–I came up with three very important criteria:

  1. I need more time at every stop-off to spend with the audience, to make a greater connection.
  2. I need to work on defining the message instead of allowing the confusion of present philosophy and theology to leave people devoid of feeling.
  3. I need to purposefully break some bad rules.

So yesterday, as I thought about what I’m going to be doing Sunday night–a drama entitled Front Porch U.S.A.–I realized that I was truly blessed with a piece of great improv.

I call it a “three-active play.” By that term I mean that each and every time I perform it, the message, the pursuit and even much of the plot will remain the same. But the words, stories, conflict and resolution will be different each and every time.

There is no script.

I’m going to allow myself to be led of the Spirit, to share what’s on my heart in the moment, as will my fellow-thespian, Janet.

It’s breaking the rules. In theater, you’re not supposed to be too improvisational. You’re not supposed to interact with the audience too much. Blocking, staging and scenery are to remain the same.

I plan on breaking all these rules. Why?

Because I think the three greatest things we possess as human beings are often buried under form and tradition.

  • We have a story.
  • We have a spirit.
  • And we have an imagination.

So every Sunday night, I’m going to trust my journey, my faith and my heart to give an audience, at the conclusion of my weekend, a fresh piece of myself that no other gathered congregation has ever heard.

I’m so excited I can hardly stand it.

In conclusion, don’t be afraid to follow good rules that help people discover their humanity and the breath of God inside them. But don’t be timid in using your improv, and challenge rules that were put in place to stifle and foster “fussy fussers.”

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Click for details on the SpirTed 2014 presentation

Click for details on the SpirTed 2014 presentation

Please contact Jonathan’s agent, Jackie Barnett, at (615) 481-1474, for information about scheduling SpiriTed in 2014.

click to hear music from Spirited 2014

click to hear music from Spirited 2014

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