Three Ways to Know a Change is Needed … March 26, 2015

Jonathots Daily Blog

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John Mayer with guitar

Many people are afraid of change because it risks their dollars.

They’ve grown so accustomed to a procedure which gives them a minimal satisfaction that they’re frightened to move from an unfulfilling position to a new possibility.

The first thing you have to remember is to get rid of the guilt when you find yourself stuck in the mud. Guilt tends to lead us to one of the most unfruitful human profiles: defensive.

Once we’re defensive we put up our walls and become impenetrable. There’s no shame in being stuck in a rut as long as you don’t spin your wheels.

Here is a clue–a change is needed when we either believe that no God is necessary to aid our human development, or that there is no human effort required to aid and assist God.

Either way, you’ve created an extreme which leaves us unfulfilled and basically looking for a way to be nasty to one another.

There are three simple questions to ask when determining whether a change is needed:

1. Have people stopped thinking?

Yes, it is possible to be in an environment where thinking is discouraged or is thought to be sacrilegious because it challenges some holy principle that must be honored without question.

If we don’t allow ourselves the ability to reason together, we start reacting. And when we react, we fall prey to our own moods, instead of the moving of spiritual renewal.

It was one of Jesus’s favorite phrases: “What do you think?”

Without thinking we react–from ideals which may or may not be part of our true conviction.

2. Have people stopped believing?

Our rendition of believing in the religious system, and even our secular corridors, is repeating. We have somehow convinced ourselves that the more we repeat traditional attitudes or platitudes the better off we are and the more we are expressing true faith.

Remember: “Faith without works is dead, being alone.”

In other words, merely repeating what we think should work without seeing the fruit born through our belief is not only futile, but ends up being the true definition of fatalism.

3. Have people stopped feeling?

When we forbid ourselves the ability to let our hearts be involved in our spirituality and let feeling enter into what we believe, we end up with a lifestyle that is just reacting to the stimulus sent our way. That’s not what we’re meant to do.

  • We’re meant to be doers.
  • We’re meant to be people who joyously exhaust ourselves in the adventure of our own pursuit.
  • We are meant to feel.

It is the joy of our faith that gives us strength. Not repetition. Not even love. We require joy–a feeling–to propel us as human beings.

When you live a life that is merely reacting, repeating and reciting, you close the door on true thinking, believing and feeling.

There is a change needed in our lives when we become defensive about our faith. For truly, faith without works is dead, being alone. We need something to point to which is a byproduct of our own spiritual energy to confirm to ourselves that belief in God is viable.

There are no words written by prophets that have the power of a single paragraph of personal testimony. 

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The Alphabet of Us: A is for Anger… December 8, 2014

  Jonathots Daily Blog

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Baby block A bigger

All human beings possess a heart, a soul, mind and strength.

Nothing of any true significance can be achieved unless this is understood.

  • Trying to deal with our emotions by thinking our way out of the situation is doomed to failure.
  • Becoming emotionally involved with mathematical equations is equally sunk in the bog.
  • And ignoring our spirituality, hoping to physically dominate in every facet of our lives, is just downright exhausting.

Every human being gets angry. Beware of those who insist they don’t–they are ticking time bombs, having stuffed all of their frustration down inside, likely to explode at a most inopportune time.

Anger is an emotion. To take a class in anger management is the belief that we can control that emotion by using better thinking.

I must disagree. As an emotion, anger must be handled emotionally.

So in pursuing the alphabet of us, let’s look at how we should handle our anger:

1. Be verbal.

Emotions should not be trapped without speech. It is “out of the abundance of the heart that the mouth speaks.” What you want to ensure is that you can speak in a climate where you don’t have to be judged by your adversary, but can sound off to a friend and hear your feelings expressed in syllables.

That’s right–practice. Rehearse your anger–in the mirror, to a friend, to God or to anyone who is not the source of your resentment.

2. Listen to yourself.

There is nothing worse than being in the middle of an argument and hearing yourself voice your misgiving for the first time, and suddenly realize how stupid it is. Then you’re stuck in the midst of a fight, with your pride trying to win the day.

Listen to yourself.

That’s why we need to be spiritual. It is the soul that gives us the ability to separate out the real complaint from the blown-up rendition.

3. Clear your head.

There’s only one way to renew your brain. Make sure you take all previous experiences and set them aside in favor of a fresh encounter.

That’s what clearing your head is. It’s offering a brand new pathway, to allow conversation to produce change.

4. And finally, choose what’s really important.

Before you go have that interface with a person who has upset you, find out the core issue. Keep your anger as small as you possibly can to make it easier for the person hearing your insights to comply.

The biggest mistake we make is separating our parts–heart, soul, mind and strength–and believing they have the power to act on their own.

They are a team. They perform best as a team.

And the only way to handle anger is to use their teamwork.

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Be-Leave… January 9, 2013

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BE LEAVELife is moving fast. Often we must decide in a single breath of time whether to remain where we are and “be” or depart, to serve elsewhere–“leave”:

1. People are challenged to think. BE

2. Thinking is challenged by people.  LEAVE

3. God is loving and willing to receive.  BE

4. God has an unchanging will that leaves some people out.  LEAVE

5. Creativity is honored.  BE

6. Repetition is worshipped and revered.  LEAVE

7. Some people are better than others. LEAVE

8. NoOne is better than anyone else.  BE

9.  Feelings are expressed.  BE

10. Feelings are repressed. LEAVE

11. Political parties are promoted.  LEAVE

12. Women and men are different and at odds.  LEAVE

13. In God’s eyes there is neither male or female. BE

14. The devil and God are engaged in a great battle. LEAVE

15. There is no battle because God is in control.  BE

16. People are evil.  LEAVE

17. People are created in God’s image.  BE

18. Careful! Life is dangerous.  LEAVE

19. Stay involved without fear. Life is what we have.  BE

20. The end is near.  LEAVE

21. Let’s end the fear.  BE

22. Judge according to the word of God.  LEAVE

23. Just don’t judge.  BE

24. Be in prayer at all times. LEAVE

25. Be of good cheer. BE

Whatever welcomes people to love each other and find the simplicity of a Fathering God, BE. Whatever suspects humans of continual evil in an attempt to please a God who is obviously paranoid, LEAVE.

BE.

LEAVE.

Decide where you want to BE when change comes to our world.

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259 Steps… October 19, 2012

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Live from October 1st filming

Her name was Sada. She was my grandma.

Looking back, she was about as cranky as they come. I guess she wasn’t terribly thrilled about having three daughters of her own, so the second crop coming out of the field didn’t exactly impress her. She did two things really well–kept her house clean and she made blackberry pies.

I thought they were the best in the world. Of course, being ten years old, I had no point of reference, nor had I ever attended a bake-off. So about every two weeks, I asked her if she would make one of her delicious pies for my enjoyment. Her response was always the same. “If you want a pie, you’re going to have to go pick the fruit and bring it to me.”

I hated this. I never enjoyed picking blackberries. Built into the consciousness of every blackberry is a decision to reap as much havoc with its thorns as possible in exchange for being extracted from its home. Hanging around the patch were also bees, which scared me to death because I was ten years old and a had the backbone of a jellyfish. In addition,  it takes quite a few blackberries to make a pie and often I brought back only enough blackberries for my grandma to sneer at, saying, “Humph. There’s not enough there for a tart.”

I didn’t know what a tart was, but assumed it meant I was not going to be eating any pies soon. So I eventually discovered that a little orange pail I used for Halloween candy was the perfect size to make two pies when filled up to the top. But every time I asked her if we could just buy the blackberries from the store, she would just shake her head and repeat,”You bring the fruit and I’ll make the pie.”

This story came back to my mind over the past twelve days while I’ve been battling with my legs and walking. As I have told you, at first I fully intended to exercise my God-given right to be discouraged over my ailment. Then I took some time to think about it. You see, thinking is an annoying process. When you get to the end of reasoning out some matter, you always discover that it wasn’t what you thought it was in the first place, and that much of the problem is you.

I believe this is why most people skip the step of thinking and immediately leap to worry. Worrying grants you the dignity of blaming everything under the sun except yourself. As I did my thinking, I realized that at sixty years of age, being extremely obese and continuing to pursue my lifestyle of travel and sharing with great vigor, I was accidentally killing myself off.

It’s not that I have a death wish. (None of us actually has to wish for our demise. It will eventually come.) Rather, it was a piece of stubbornness that insisted that I should be able to freeze my mission in time because the end result of doing it was helpful. Therefore, God needed to overlook my age, my weaknesses and the fact that I was a “fatty-fatty-big-butt” and honor me with reasonable health “because I was doing my best to bless others and serve Him.”

It was downright bratty.

But it didn’t feel that way. I called it faith.

How can you know when you have bratty faith? Bratty faith is when you demand that God do something for you that He is not doing for someone else because you think you’re prettier. I realized that with my temporary setback in walking, that God, like my grandma, was telling me to “get the fruit” so that He could legitimately make the pie.

I believed His phrasing would be more like: “Stop dying and start trying.”

I was asking God to keep me safe from my own devious plan of excess stupidity and ignorance, and make my only responsibility to be there for the show.

Yes, the first step for everything in life is to stop dying.

And of course, there are many ways to die. (Anybody who has ever gone on stage can tell you that.)

  • You can die in your excesses or you can die in your lack.
  • You can die in your ignorance and you can die in your arrogance.
  • You can die in your hope and you can die in your doubt.
  • You can die in your religion or you can die in your agnosticism.
  • You can die in your lifestyle or you can die in your bad habits.

Death is whenever we pretend that we don’t understand the wisdom that has been provided for us and instead, we wait for a different explanation so we can escape change.

I didn’t realize it, but inch by inch I was dying, and expecting God to do daily miracles to do CPR on my gradually decaying corpse. He, being the Gentleman He is, simply took my legs out from under me so I could use the brain half of my body instead of the feet portion. Through that, I learned to start trying.

I am on my twelfth day of an exciting food regimen which has already borne “blackberries in my pail.” Yes, I am on my way to making a pie.

I was able to get out of my van yesterday in the parking lot of Wal-Mart, and using a shopping cart, I walked 259 steps without falling over. More blackberries.

I have not missed a performance–because I have found a wheelchair which will haul my backside from place to place, to continue to impart the little bit I know to those sent my way.  Avoiding the bees, I put some blackberries in my pail.

And I have focused on health as the leading virtue towards wealth and being wise, thus avoiding the thorns and deriving fruit.

If you want to understand the ways of spirituality, you must comprehend that you have to stop dying to start trying. If you want to wait until God is forced through Mother Nature to intervene and cut you off at the knees, you may feel free to do so. Or you can look at the little pieces of death that are going on in your heart, soul, mind and strength right now–and stop the emergency before your situation becomes grave.

259 steps may not sound like much to you, but in my spiritual over-exuberance, I envision a heavenly cheer from a legion of angels.

“Bring the fruit. And I’ll make that pie.”

Exactly.

And the words from God to each and every one of us are, “Stop dying and start trying.”

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The Year of the Draggin’ … January 23, 2012

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Live in Philadelphia, PA

     

Happy Chinese New Year! And in honor of the occasion—and also to make a little coin off of a phrase—what DO a billion Chinamen care about? Actually, the same thing as three hundred million Americans:

Themselves.  It’s not a bad thing. It is fascinating to me that we think the best way to teach people to be more expansive is to enter them into some crucible of self-denial. We’re just not very good at it.  What we can do is question what parts of us are working and what units have closed down shop and ceased production.

Yes, it is the year of finding out what is draggin’ us down.

It is my joy as I travel to meet the most delightful people God could ever have hatched from a mere fanciful notion of “let there be …”  I have no complaints about them whatsoever, but I do have one lamentation. Many of them are burdened by the amount of baggage they carry when what they want to do is fly off to pursue their dreams. Each one of us has three compartments to our thinking:

1. What we were taught. This is a mixture of conversations with our parents, Sunday School classes in our small towns and dialogue we had with our friends growing up in our close-knit environments. Much of what we were taught was good, and even universal. But there are portions of what each one of us was instructed in that are prejudiced, errant and even destructive. Identifying the dangerous chemicals in our cupboards can keep us from ingesting the poison.

2. What we believe. Our beliefs are those thing that we’ve taken from what we were taught, the prayers and sermons that dented the armor of our resistance and the general consensus of our feelings about what has happened to us and those we love. Belief is a good thing—unless you believe in something that is harmful, restrictive, selfish or foolish.

3. What we’ve personally experienced. This is the living we have done on this orb we call earth, free of parental interference—flying solo, away from merely believing. Many young people lose all of their training and spirituality the first time they walk into a college classroom and someone begins to recite different experiences which contradict their own earlier training. That’s too bad—not because I think we should hold fast to our “village precepts,” but rather, because I contend that experience should enhance our belief and reinforce the portions of our upbringing that were truly grounded in common sense.

But as we begin this Chinese New Year (understanding that most of us aren’t Chinese) how can you take this moment and make sure it’s a year where you’re not “draggin’ yourself down?”

A. Trust your experience. The Bible says “that which we have seen and heard we declare unto you.” Honestly, my friends, I was not there when the Red Sea parted nor when Jonah was belched out of the mouth of the big fish. It’s not that I’m denying that these things happened, nor am I feverishly defending them. My faith has to be MINE—a collaboration of my own personal discoveries, as God and I together reinvent Christianity just for me. If your experiences are not primal in your life, you will fall back on beliefs that you end up defending, and training that is more parroting than lionizing. You’ve got to trust your experience. The reason most people don’t change is because they do not allow experience to reform their patterns of behavior, but instead, deny their own encounters in favor of belief and local, small-town thinking. If your experience is primal, you will find that your beliefs will be fewer, but more realistic and strong, and your respect for the parts of your childhood memories that were rich—with good tradition—will not only be upheld, but glorified.

B. Don’t try so hard to believe. There’s no magic number on the things that we hold close to our hearts and insist are true. There are a lot of things in the Bible that I don’t understand. I don’t deny them. I don’t discuss them. They are not part of my experience; they are not relevant to my life and therefore, I choose to ignore them. If people want to argue about them, I will listen in for a few minutes, but will not participate in the debate because the irrelevance the material has to my experience would make me hypocritical if I were to voice a concern in the matter.

For instance, I don’t know why the New Testament talks so much about hell. To make coin off of another phrase, I honestly don’t give a hell about hell. It doesn’t make me doubt the New Testament; it doesn’t make me believe less in Jesus. I just don’t need a hell to get to heaven. Heavenly things attract me, joy seduces me and the act of loving people entices my soul towards excellence. I don’t know—maybe some folks need the bottom to get to the top. It is not part of my experience.

When I was a teenager, I probably believed two hundred different things but now that I have become a man, it has really boiled down to one factor: “NoOne is better than anyone else.” So relax and love everybody who will let you do it, and move on from the ones who won’t.

C. And finally, honor your father and mother by doing them a big favor and ignoring all the stupid things they said because they didn’t have the information we now possess. I’m not mad at my parents because they weren’t God. I am grateful to them for so many things and I choose to focus on those instead of clinging to misconceptions and accidental bigotry that they passed along my way simply because they lacked one trip to the library or were one decade short of revelation.

So in conclusion, the Chinese say it’s the Year of the Dragon. But may I suggest that we make this the Year of the Draggin’? Identify those parts of our upbringing and belief system that are repressing us and dragging us down and instead, push to the forefront the personal experience that grants us an amendment to our constitution—that we are loved, and therefore are capable of the same.

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Jonathan wrote the gospel/blues anthem, Spent This Time, in 1985, in Guaymas, Mexico. Take a listen:

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