Tanks of Thanks … November 21, 2013

Jonathots Daily Blog

(2074)

tanksBefore we gather together to ask the Lord’s blessing, performing our hastening and chastening–yes, just prior to going through the normal list of fundamentals of gratitude with family, friends, finance, faith and freedom–and certainly just short of chomping down on that first bite of turkey and taking a crescent roll to sop up the gravy, may I suggest that we quickly consider and review some lesser-known blessings that often escape inclusion in the quick prayer uttered for Thanksgiving dinner?

1. Of the 12,420 diseases known to man, I have successfully negotiated myself through another year of avoiding most of them. (It appears I am somewhat immune).

2. I am happy to report that I squeaked by from 76 near-collisions in traffic, making it possible for me to not have a “bender in my fender.”

3. Interestingly enough, I almost tripped 54 times without falling on my face–or any other body part, for that matter.

4. Are you ready for this? I successfully found my keys 243 times without cussing.

5. I rejoice in the fact that I have had more good night’s sleep than not.

6. I am not too much fatter than last year.

7. How about this one? I didn’t get audited.

8. I was not caught sleeping during Sunday sermon.

9. My family is mostly healthy.

10. Much to my glee, I didn’t have the job of explaining the government to anybody.

11. I ate some delicious fish, poultry, beef, pork and seafood without feeling too guilty around my granddaughter, who now insists she’s a vegetarian.

12. Laughed more than I cried.

13. More “car running” than “car repair.”

14. Said hello more to new friends than good-bye to old ones.

15. I am delighted to note that I prayed more than I cursed.

16. I learned more than I forgot.

17. Praised more than I complained.

18, Believed more than I doubted.

19. More sunshine than rain.

20. And finally, even though I sometimes acted like a turkey, I still kept my head on this Thanksgiving.

My dear brothers and sisters, I have tanks of thanks.

All I can say is: Dear God, come and fill ‘er up.

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

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

Middlin’ … September 14, 2013

Jonathots Daily Blog

(2005)

last night bowI was sitting in the left lane on my drive over to Chesterfield, Michigan last night to share at Grace United Methodist Church, backed up behind a bunch of cars, wondering why someone had created a light that only stayed green to give enough time for three cars to turn. It was a curiosity.

I also watched carefully as some cars passed me, trying to get further up in line and stick their noses in to make greater progress. I felt my human ire rise over their presumption. And then I realized that I had departed in plenty of time, that I wasn’t any better than anybody else and that everyone was having to wait their turn–and though I saw a number of cars in front of me, when I looked behind me, I saw there were even more cars to my rear.

I was in the middle.

That’s where we spend most of our time. Usually we don’t win the race; we’re not first place. Fortunately, we’re usually not in last place, either.last night crowd

We spend most of our lives … middlin’.

If we would learn to enjoy that, deal with it and find great comfort in being surrounded by fellow “middlers,” we might just end up becoming more pleasant and easier to get along with. But we live in a society that pushes us to be first place and tells us to cover up our mistakes if we end up being the caboose.

So we never enjoy where we are.

I’ve had a fantastic week, meeting amazing people. It’s been my great excitement to write jonathots to you everyday.

Yet yesterday a friend of mine asked what I planned to do to expand my work. You see, friends are not always friendly. They think they’re being ingenious when they pipe out the last night wind machine upsentiments of our culture, which basically tells us that “we’re all good” while simultaneously applauding only those who gain notoriety. Here are the two things I know to do:

1. Find a place where you can do what you’ve been called to do, perform it excellently, don’t hurt anybody else and relish the people around you.

2. Don’t be afraid to try something new if it comes your way–but don’t be frustrated if beautiful things continue to happen, yet they don’t seem to be terribly expansive.

There you go.

Tomorrow I go to First United Methodist Church in Mount Clemens. It isn’t, by the way–I mean it isn’t the first United Methodist Church ever, and it certainly won’t be the last. The truth of the matter is, it’s the Middlin’ United Methodist Church, filled with middlin’ people, who will have great lives if they learn to enjoy their surroundings and the folks standing next to them … as they wait for their turn in the road.

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

Please contact Jonathan’s agent, Jackie Barnett, at (615) 481-1474, for information about personal appearances or scheduling an event

Quietly … September 9, 2013

Jonathots Daily Blog

(2001)

teaTaking four one-dollar bills and placing them on the night stand in my motel as I leave the room, to benefit the hard-working maid, and doing it quietly.

Changing the toilet paper roll quietly, even though it has a few more sheets on it, and could be passed off to the next bathroom pilgrim.

Quietly waving my hand to allow another human being to go ahead of me in traffic–because after all, arriving three seconds later is not that big a deal.

Sending a note to a friend who’s going through a hard time, even though that friend has not been particularly friendly of late–because he needs it more than I need to maintain my minimal grudge … quietly.

Quietly taking a moment of prayer, knowing that the only person who will know is in heaven … unless He makes it known by graciously (and quietly) answering my request.

Picking up my underwear and socks quietly instead of waiting for someone else to do the job, even though it might not make any difference, is something you can place in your being, to let you know that you’re alive, breathing and thinking instead of just going through the motions.

Quietly reaching your two thousandth  jonathots essay without blowing a trumpet, dancing around or even portraying that this day was any different from any other day. After all, they’re just twenty-four hour periods that the Lord has made.

“Quietly” is precious because it is an acknowledgment that the work itself brings joy, without having to clamor, plead, beg or cajole for attention.

“Quietly” is when we’re at peace with ourselves instead of waiting for something else to make us peaceful.

“Quietly”  is spiritually having tea and toast … with God.

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

Please contact Jonathan’s agent, Jackie Barnett, at (615) 481-1474, for information about personal appearances or scheduling an event

The Third Story… August 30, 2013

Jonathots Daily Blog

(1991)

Story One

constructionI was driving along in Grand Rapids in my 1997 Toyota Tercel, late to pick up my wife from her shift at the Meijer Grocery Store. As often happens when one is running late, I looked ahead and they had closed off one lane, the road diminishing to one passageway, with traffic backing up. The last thing I needed was to be late again. Last week I had arrived tardy to pick up my lady, and she told me how frustrating it was to sit at the picnic table outside the store waiting for my arrival after a long shift, with her friends asking her if everything was okay. I did not want to be a jerk again.

As I neared the closing of the lane, I looked up and suddenly a big, black van pulled out in front of me, causing me to slow up my progress. I even had to brake. The person in the van needed to realize that his vehicle required more clearance, so I pulled into the next lane, even though I had only 100 feet before it closed. He speeded up so I was side by side with him, and I had to cut him off because he wouldn’t let me take my place.

When the road widened about two lights later, the driver in the big, black van–a  fat, bald guy–wouldn’t even look over at me, apologize or acknowledge his mistake. It really pissed me off.

I arrived five minutes late and explained to my wife that I had been delayed by a stupid dude with Florida tags who thought he owned the road.

Story Two

Stopping in to pick up some groceries at Aldi, Janet and I were heading out of the parking lot towards our headquarters and home when I noticed there was a sufficient space to pull onto the road in front of a Toyota Tercel. I realized that he might have to slow up a bit for my entrance, considering how large the van is, but thought he might not mind since the second lane was closing, and all traffic was having to adjust accordingly.

I acquired my place in the flow of traffic and was surprised to notice that the Toyota had come up beside me, even though there was no remaining lane. I didn’t know whether to slow down to let him in, or speed up to try to get him to go behind me. Because I delayed my decision, when the lane closed he swerved in front of me, barely missing my front bumper. I slid off the berm to miss him.

When I arrived, two lights later, past the construction, and was about to turn, I saw that he had pulled up next to me. Not wanting any confrontation with a local, I looked straight ahead and turned right.

I didn’t give it much more thought–but it did seem a little bizarre.

Story Three

When a big, black van is about to enter a flow of traffic that is closing down to one lane, the driver needs to know that like it or not, he probably should make eye contact with the next car to see if it will let him in. Whether he sees a space is  immaterial. And local people driving Toyota Tercels should realize they represent their community and offer a little graciousness, even if it means they might be forty-two seconds later to pick up their wife at work.

Evaluating your own character by choosing one minute of convenience over mercy is not necessarily a very good trade-off. And pulling a very large van out in front of a Toyota Tercel whose driver had not motioned to give permission for such an adventure is certainly failing to recognize the right of passage.

You see, this is life. As long as we have our own story and those who confront us have their story, and no one discovers the third story, we are constantly at each other’s throats, believing the worst.

May I learn and know … we just can’t afford the unnecessary conflict.

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

Please contact Jonathan’s agent, Jackie Barnett, at (615) 481-1474, for information about personal appearances or scheduling an event

Bank On It… August 25, 2013

Jonathots Daily Blog

(1986)

bankOne of the rituals we actively and faithfully follow in our travels across these United States is to arrive about twenty minutes early to our gigs. The reason for this is quite simple–actually numerous.

First, we get away from that “heated rush” so that our demeanor can be cool, calm and collected.

We also allow for the unexpected, like traffic, or in some of the more rural locations, a reluctant cow or horse crossing the road.

It also gives us a great opportunity to trim down our egos and low-ball our expectations about the evening’s event–whether we will be inundated with audience, awash, sprinkled or barely drizzled.

Normally we find a park, an abandoned building or some out-of-the-way little space to pull in, roll down the windows and chat for those few minutes.

But Wednesday night in Portage I spotted a mailbox in the parking lot of a bank. I was delighted because I had a couple of pieces of correspondence I wanted to drop in. Well, since I was there, I decided to go ahead and park underneath the shade tree in the back of this well-known lending institution.

We were just talking away as Jan took out her oboe case, made sure all the pieces were in the right location and began to soaking her reeds for the evening’s performance.

It was finally time to leave, and I backed our big, black van out and turned toward the exit, only to discover that an orange cone had been placed in the road, with a policeman standing there, peering at me quizzically. I didn’t think much about it and attempted to pass on by, when he ordered me to halt.

I rolled down my window and asked him what I could do to help. He was curious why we had been sitting in the back lot of the bank for so long. It had stirred interest among the employees, who were trying to figure out why a bunch of folks were sitting in this dark vehicle with out-of-state plates, perched in the rear of their establishment just at closing time.

I explained to the policeman about our habit prior to heading off to a performance. He grinned, now realizing there would be no need for a SWAT team or helicopter coverage from above. Actually, he became inquisitive about the nature of our journey and asked for one of our pamphlets so he could check out our websites. He waved us on and we headed off to our destination.

As I pulled out, I looked in my rear view mirror and saw a whole collection of nervous, twenty-something, bank-teller-type individuals, who had obviously been wondering if there was going to be a shoot-out between our gang and the local Portage police.

I don’t know if they were disappointed or not, but I did promise the police officer that in the future, I would certainly avoid using a bank for my peaceful repose.

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

Please contact Jonathan’s agent, Jackie Barnett, at (615) 481-1474, for information about personal appearances or scheduling an event

Factory … April 29, 2013

(1,866)

factory“The kingdom of God is within you.”

It’s too bad that statement is so doggone religious. It contains all the language that we associate with church, godliness and piety.

Actually, if you separate off its true meaning, it is so explanatory of life on earth that it puts a chill down my spine. Here’s the truth of the matter: as long as I believe that my destiny, my circumstances and my fruitfulness are determined by factors beyond myself–be they traffic, failure, weather, man, demons, angels or even God–I will become incapacitated from time to time by the perspective of what seems to be pending doom. If I’m reaching out to the world around me to explain who I am, where I am and why I am, I find myself at the mercy of the system, instead of taking control of my life and making a difference, as God intended.

If I could rework that phrase–“the kingdom of God is within you”–to update it to our time, I would probably construct it to say the following: You are a factory. Work on your wheels and keep turning.

For after all, the choices we are given in this day and age in considering a philosophy of life are frustrating and meaningless.

Choice 1: I stink, you stink, we stink, God is good.

Choice 2: I’m ok, you’re ok, we’re ok, who needs God?

Choice 3: Life is tough, I’ll be tough, you be tough, because the tough survive.

As you can see, Choice 1 leads you to believe that you are worthless–that no good can come out of yourself. Choice 2 causes you to think that you’re fine the way you are; it’s just that you’re waiting for the correct opportunity to cash in your chips. Choice 3 puts you on the defensive, around defensive people, constantly defending your defenses. These are the reasons that human interaction comes to a stalemate in our society.

Here’s what I think the correct philosophy of life should be: I’m human, you’re human, we’re human, God became human.

Nowadays we use the phrase “I’m only human” as an excuse for everything from being late for a dinner party to being the justification for a serial killer. Here’s the truth about being a human:

1. We are given talent, and if we use it, multiply it and balance our lives between critique and praise, we will have room to establish ourselves in prosperity.

2. NoOne is better than anyones else, so as long as you’re not trying to be superior, you are not a threat to your fellow-humans, and therefore, can get some breathing room to do what you want to do.

3. If I believe that both the solution and the problem lie within me, I have the control and authority to promote the good parts and to gradually address the weaker ones.

4. The key to being appreciated is to learn to be a person who appreciates.

There you go.

When I finished up with the beautiful people yesterday at St. Andrew‘s, I viewed absolutely delightful human beings who just need to understand that the kingdom of God is within them.

Each one of them is a factory. If they will stop waiting for their “gospel ship” to come in, cease blaming other people for their problems, and simply and quietly address their own vision and circumstances, they can be productive human beings filled with joy.

Praise God, I’m a factory. I am not an abandoned building. I am not living in the penthouse of a high-rise apartment.I am not a church with a steeple. God made me to be fruitful, multiply and replenish the earth.

Blow the whistle, start your shift, and let’s begin.

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

Tossing the hot potato…. June 27, 2012

(1,559)

It got tossed my way yesterday morning. The hot potato, that is.

In actuality, I think I’ve only played the game “hot potato” once in my life. I was eleven years old and a family in our neighborhood befriended me, inviting me to go on a camping trip, because, I think, they thought I was a fat lonely kid and a trip to the woods might do me some good–and who knows? Maybe Mother Nature would choose to adopt me.

I remember hating every minute of it. It was hot, sticky and demanded a lot of physical activity. The day culminated in a campfire, where songs were sung and potatoes were wrapped in aluminum foil and thrown into the fire, to later be extracted and tossed around an encircled gathering of human beings in some sort of alleged exercise of fun, to escape burning your hands before you passed the potato on to another person for their potential searing.

Once again, I hated it. First, I had never played before, so I wasn’t very good. So when someone tossed me my first potato, it shocked me and scorched my hands, so I quickly flicked it off in another direction and it ended up striking the family’s four-year-old son in the head, causing him to weep profusely, greatly diminishing the levity of the moment.

I didn’t get it. Why would I want to toss around a hot potato instead of just letting it cool down, opening it up and reaching for the butter and sour cream?

But as I’ve aged, I have realized that life is just a gigantic game of “hot potato.”So back to my story from yesterday–I was pulling out of the parking lot of my motel into a busy thoroughfare, feeling that I had adequately procured a space for entrance. I accelerated, attempting to join beehive of morning activity. Suddenly I was greeted with the sound of a blaring horn, and upon looking in the rear view mirror, I saw a man in his late forties shaking his fist at me, gunning his engine and going around me as quickly as he possibly could, continuing to honk. Apparently I had displeased him. It was obvious that I had interrupted his proposed plan–to refuse to slow up until he got to his destination.

As often happens, we ended up side-by-side at the next traffic light. He rolled down his window and cursed at me, explaining that he was angry because I nearly got killed. (Actually, he was driving a Mazda and I was in a large black conversion van. My demise was unlikely.)

But as I looked at him, I realized that he had tossed me the hot potato. He had reached into the fiery coals of his anger and had thrown a sweltering spud my way. I didn’t respond. The light changed and we were off on our separate paths.

But it got me thinking. Since life IS like a game of “hot potato,” where you are thrown things without much explanation and can often find yourself in the middle of heated exchanges, it seems to be very intelligent to learn how to handle the burning questions. So there are only three things I could do after this encounter with my belligerent brother: (1) I could lower my expectations of him, assuming that his intelligence rested somewhere in his buttocks; (2) I could relive the situation in my mind, playing up my innocence until I could conclude that I was simply accosted by an escaping mental patient who crossed my path; or (3) I could realize that our human journey is a game of “hot potato” and this one was tossed my way–and I could take a moment to review how well I coped with cooling down the situation and passing it on without bopping a four-year-old in the noggin.

Yes, I do believe that one of the secrets to life is reflection. Those who perform this action actually prepare themselves for the next game of “hot potato,” becoming a bit more aware of how heated each situation can be, and therefore prepare themselves for the encounter. Those who think it’s “over-thinking”–to reflect on such trivial matters–normally end up being constantly surprised by the pace of daily activity and bewildered by the negative reaction of the world around them. They risk becoming jaded.

Here’s the truth: we cannot afford to be cynical about human beings in any way, shape or form. Allowing one droplet of sarcasm into our existence takes away our ability to both participate with our fellow-travelers and also to dominate. Because in the long run, the person who knows how to handle the hot potato the best always wins the game.

So even though you may feel it’s silly, I pulled over into a parking lot and sat for five minutes and relived my situation with Mr. Horatio Hornblower. I asked myself three questions:

1. Is it possible that I misjudged the distance and did cut this fellow off a little bit?

2. Did I communicate anger to him simply because he was angry with me?

3. Is there anything I would do differently in the future, since this hot potato will certainly be thrown my way again?

It was an amazing five minutes of reflection. First of all, upon revisiting the situation in my mind, I realized that I might not have been as careful pulling out of that parking lot as I thought I was. I could have missed something. Secondly, I had to admit that even though I didn’t bad-mouth my attacker, I did internally question his sanity and call him a name or two in my brain. And third, I realized that the first thing we do in the day is always suspect and therefore demands more of our attention instead of taking anything for granted.

My dear sweet friends, I know that the hot potato is coming my way very soon. I don’t want to pretend that it’s cold. I certainly don’t want to become offended because I’m ill-prepared to toss it in the right direction. And I don’t want to criticize the game simply because I don’t play it well.

In a few moments I will rejoin human traffic. My fussy fellow from yesterday will be on my mind. I no longer remember him as my enemy, but rather, like one would a really bad teacher from high school who still managed to get you through chemistry class. In other words, he could have done better, but because he was there, I did learn something.

The hot potato WILL be tossed your way. You can walk out of the experience with burned fingers, cursing the game, toss it off in a bizarre direction, inflictiung pain on others, or you can realize it’s coming and be prepared to bounce it in your hands, taking a moment to find where you want to place it.

It’s up to you. It’s up to me.

And even though I now understand the nature of the game much better,  hot potatoes are still favored by me when loaded with blue cheese dressing and bacon bits.

   

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