Three Ways to Remain Calm… January 8, 2015

  Jonathots Daily Blog

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For all of you who are waiting for things to get better, let me tell you, I will be here to give you a quick hug when they don’t.

Things are not going to get better. We can get better with things.

I had a phone call last night from a gentleman complaining to me about being mistreated. Basically, he explained his situation in the first two minutes, but then went on for another twenty, reinforcing his points on how upset he was and how much revenge he wanted to heap on those who had offended him.

  • At no time did he ask my opinion.
  • He was not pursuing counsel.
  • He wanted to vent.

At the end of the twenty minutes, he thanked me for listening and told me it really helped. I said, “No, it didn’t. You just took the past twenty minutes to convince yourself that you are right and everybody else is wrong. You’re not calm. You’re a loaded gun with the safety on.”

Most of us are fully prepared to explode into a fit of rage if someone cuts us off in traffic. So what should we do when we find ourselves feeling attacked, and our instincts to hurt others come to the forefront and create a billowing sea of turmoil?

1. Pull out the photo album.

I guess nowadays, it may be opening up your computer and checking the wall of your Facebook.

Look at pictures. Don’t react. Don’t fester. Don’t think about what you want to do. Look at pictures of your living history. Remember feeling devastated? Then take a minute to realize that you weren’t. You survived.

Look at the wonderful tapestry of a life you have woven, and consider that there is no reason to destroy it just because you’re having a bad day.

The reason we lose our cool is because we don’t appreciate the hundreds of photographs which have brought us to who we are today.

2. Clean out a closet.

Anger is an energy. It triggers all sorts of chemicals in our bodies, causing us to become feisty and vindictive. Literally, go into your closet and start folding things up. Put your hands to work in a constructive way. Otherwise they will itch to strike out.

You can cuss in your closet. You can slam things around. You will be breaking no laws of either nature or God. And after you’re done and you’ve burned off some of that unnecessary froth, you will also have a clean closet.

3. Write a letter.

People don’t do it anymore. The lack of penning our thoughts to another person is turning us into a bunch of emotional cripples. Actually take a piece of paper and a pen and write a letter to a friend who has stood by you and knows you are not a loser.

You may never send the letter, or you may choose to find an envelope and a stamp. Either way your feelings are on paper, and when they are in ink and you read them back you will be astonished at how clear your thinking will be.

So consider your history. Life has been pretty good.

Use your energy to be constructive. Hang up your clothes.

And find a creative way to communicate your disappointment by using pen and paper.

It is arrogant to believe that what we feel is really all that important. If it were important, we would continue to feel it.

But because it comes and goes, we should find a way for it to go when it comes.

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Populie: You Can’t Trust Anybody … August 27, 2014

Jonathots Daily Blog

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ColbertI’m not so sure when it became so popular to be cynical. Under the guise of being streetwise or intellectual, we seem to have become so jaded to one another that relationships are difficult to begin.

Matter of fact, if you go to an average church service, somebody will tell a story about how bad things are and how evil people can be.

It’s difficult to go to a movie or watch television without being pummeled with a revelation of the depravity of humankind.

And politicians are always asking for trust from the public while treating us like ignoramuses.

The general population seems to agree on only three things:

  1. People are no good.
  2. Protect yourself.
  3. Matter of fact, strike first.

So the popular belief that there are dangers in the world becomes the populie that “you can’t trust anybody.”

I refuse to live that way.

To make sure that I’m not devastated by unruly individuals, here are three precepts I use in dealing with the world around me:

1. People are self-involved.

It doesn’t make them bad. It just means that if you can’t establish how your project is to their personal advantage, they will either ignore you or lose interest very quickly.

2. It’s up to me to know my stuff.

For instance, I’m going to purchase an amp today. I did my homework. I read up on it, I found out what it should cost and I have a fairly complete comprehension of what I’m willing to do. Remember–it’s not that people cheat us, but rather, we set ourselves up to be cheated by being ignorant of our material.

3.  And finally, go the second mile.

You will be astounded at how good you feel if you do your part, but also bring along a little extra in case others fail.

It’s not that you can’t trust anybody. but rather, that trust is based on the knowledge that we’ve done all we know to do, and we’re not expecting anyone else to do our part.

I do not know how we can live in a world that talks about unconditional love while simultaneously sprouting horrible attitudes toward one another.

You can choose to indulge in the nagging negativity of our society, which targets our fellow-men as losers if you wish.

I just believe it’s impossible to ask God for His grace and mercy…if all you give to your brothers and sisters is a nasty, bratty shove-off. 

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The Sermon on the Mount in music and story. Click the mountain!

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

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Untotaled: Stepping 17–(November 25th, 1965) Too Late to Understand … June 7, 2014

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(Transcript)

Angry. Sweet.

Gentle. Mean.

Vindictive. Giving.

These words seem to be opposites of one another but they were all part of the personality of my mother.

All through my childhood, I had endured a see-saw of emotion which was not only painful, but unpredictable.

November 25th was Thanksgiving Day. I was excited. I walked into the kitchen rubbing my hands together with enthusiasm and asked my mother “when the feast was going to be ready.”

She turned to me with a bit of fire and spit and said, “Why don’t you cook it? It’s hard work.”

It was cold, ferocious and beyond my understanding. I just went to my room, cussing her name.

For after all, this was a woman I had seen empty her cupboards of canned goods to help a neighbor in need and then, the next day, turn around and curse that same neighbor for dereliction and laziness. She would often come into my room and give me a hug, only to scream at me an hour later for watching cartoons–“being in her way” during vacuuming.

In my youth I heard her speak of brotherhood while referring to some individuals as “worthless niggers.”

If I’d had a lick of sense–which I didn’t–I would have realized that a human being who is angry, sweet, gentle, mean, vindictive and giving–well, when you combine them, what you end up with is confused.

In my later years, I understood.

She was seventeen years old when she married a man who was eighteen years her senior. she never got to travel, she didn’t get to go to college, was unable to flirt with either disaster or blessing and birthed five children, which from time to time seemed more of an inconvenience than a heritage.

She lived in confined quarters with limited funds, with a very stoic husband who often went on trips to Canada without providing a definite return date.

I wish I could sit down with her and tell her that I’m sorry I did not understand her plight. In today’s world, she probably would be diagnosed with some sort of neurotic condition which would be tempered by medication. Such remedies were unheard of in her day and age.

The greatest reprieve to my soul is that on the day she passed from this world, I was the last one to see her in the nursing home. We had a wonderful trip to the mall and on the way back, together sang her favorite hymn, The Old Rugged Cross.

She taught me a lot without realizing that she was instructing.

It was neither the fits of anger nor her acts of generosity that remain with me, but rather, a desire to be universally merciful to people when I don’t know their whole story.

So nowadays I would only ask three questions of anyone I encounter:

  1.  Can you admit you’re not happy?
  2. Are you willing to be happy?
  3. Will you stay with it until happiness arrives?

That’s all my mother needed–someone to give a damn.

It’s hard for me to remember her as a mom or a mother, and I certainly don’t want to look on her as a monster.

She was a woman named Mary who was given limited possibilities … and did the best she could.

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Arizona morning

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

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

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

Click here to listen to Spirited music

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G-6: Life or Strife?… January 10, 2014

Jonathots Daily Blog

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Gas, food and lodging.

These are the three items that I place at the top of my budget each and every week. I guess I’m not alone. Without these, we find it difficult to be secure, comforted and intricately involved in the process of human development.

Matter of fact, there are three elements necessary for life to exist at all–chemical energy, water and light. Without this trio of forces, life–well, at least life as we know it–cannot exist.

  • So chemical energy is like gas, fueling the possibility for growth and procreation.
  • Water is like food, feeding the endeavor
  • And light is like lodging, wherein we find our relaxation and sense of well-being.

Here’s what happens: when you mess with these three, human beings have a tendency to immediately leap from a cheerful pursuit of life into strife. When we don’t have what is necessary to breed a sense of growth, we shrink to darker corners, first becoming apathetic, then sullen and finally, vindictive.

Yet at the same time, we have a tendency in our present culture to deny the basics of life to the human family and then wonder why we end up with so much controversy, debate, anger and bigotry.

What is missing from the elixir of life in our present day?

1. We don’t mix our chemicals correctly.arguing

For instance, men and women were never created to be at odds with each other. They are interlocking portions of a human creation which requires understanding, interaction and meaningful dialogue. When you tamper with that natural order of communication and insist that it should be adversarial, you create strife. Once we have strife between men and women, it is an easy slide to establishing prejudices regarding other differences.

2. We’re taking the water out of life.

In some sort of bizarre adventure to promote the unseemly and dark areas of people-thinking, we have eliminated what keeps us wet and excited. Much as we may insist that we are absorbed in the macabre and the sinister, human emotions are actually starved for tenderness, mercy, understanding and acceptance. Where we need to have “rivers of life,” we’re purposefully drying things out, leaving  deserts.

3. And finally, we’re turning off the light.

If there is a possibility of finding a bleak representation of current facts, we will be given those little anecdotes instead of examples of goodness and purity winning the day. Here’s a case in point:

Adolph bunkerIn 1940 it appeared as if Adolph Hitler was unstoppable. A dark cloud of evil prejudice and domination encompassed the earth. People were scampering in horror. Our great nation was hiding in a corner, trying to avoid any conflict with this monster from middle Europe.

Yet it lasted for only five more years–and declining at that. Perhaps the greatest war-machine villain, hater of God and man, who scared little children and made great leaders of nations shiver in their boots, was found dead, under the ground in a bunker, frightened to death himself.

So I’m confused. Why do we promote evil so strongly, trying to douse the light of hope, when historically, truth seems to eventually have its day?

If you don’t have the elements of life, which are water, light and chemical energy, just like if you don’t have your gas, food and lodging, insecurity will enter your soul, and you will find yourself abrasively pursuing strife instead of life.

I guess it depends on whether you want to plant the seed of possibilityor merely investigate that which is seedy.

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ProbThree: “It’s not my fault” … November 3, 2013

Jonathots Daily Blog

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Uncle SamFingers.

They perform two obvious functions: touch and point.

Touching is good. It’s a way of expressing our tenderness by putting our emotion into our fingertips. Pointing is when we try to place the blame on someone or something other than ourselves. We do this in three ways:

1. Pointing up.

Sometimes we feel so inadequate, inferior, ill-prepared and ignorant that we place all of our life concerns and journey needs on God in the sky, hoping for divine intervention. We use prayer to pass the buck to our heavenly Father. So we either procure our miracle or we get to act persecuted for the lack of attention.

Belief in God should build our character, not diminish it. It should make us more willing to serve ourselves and others instead of turning us into lazy supplicaters who feel that God has a responsibility to support us–since He fathered us.

2. Pointing down.

Some people, when they discover they don’t want to blame God anymore, decide to finger Satan, Lucifer or evil, which they can point down toward as the source of their failures. It is the ultimate superstition. Not only does it unrighteously free us of our own task and involvement, but it places good and evil on an equal footing and gives darkness too much light.

3. Pointing out.

This is very popular. When in doubt, accuse someone else. When confronted with deficiency, explain your indebtedness by insisting that another person has caused you to be a debtor. It is vindictive for two reasons: (a) it takes away the joy of achieving for ourselves, and (b) it often targets people we don’t like as adversaries, when those who really ARE against us are given a free pass because we like them better.

The three approaches of fingering–up, down and out–turn human beings into inferior, superstitious, vindictive souls.

The key to ProbThree–“it’s not my fault”–is to use your finger to point IN–not to create fault, but rather, to find your own definition of responsibility.

Here is my rendition of responsibility:

A. I have ability

B. I have problems

I will never be happy if I focus on one of those more than the other. If I only tout my abilities, I look like a jerk when it becomes obvious that I’m lugging baggage around. And if I only lament my problems, I become the buzz kill that turns every party into a departure gate at an airport.

It’s the blending of the two that creates responsibility. And responsibility allows me to point at myself without feeling the need to be guilty and faulty. Here’s how it works: I use my ability to help my problems and I use my problems to enhance my abilities.

Without abilities I wouldn’t have any way of addressing the problems that come up or possess the confidence to conquer. But I have to understand that if I never have a problem, I have no need to grow and increase my talents.

So every time I put the blame on God, Satan or others, I lose the capacity to become the beneficiary of a great life lesson. I also am admitting that I’m at the mercy of whatever I’ve fingered.

So ProbThree, “it’s not my fault,” is solved by the decision to point inward, taking responsibility and using my ability to solve my problems, knowing that my problems only enhance my abilities.

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The Big Tow… December 27, 2012

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Yesterday at 2:46 PM I walked out of my motel and into the parking lot to discover that my van had been towed away. Let me share the three steps that led to this dispersion:

1. The motel was painting the floor where I usually go to my room via the wheelchair ramp.

2. I had to find a parking place in the back near another ramp.

3. As it turns out, my selection of parking places was their tow-away zone, and rather than calling me on the phone and asking me to move my vehicle, they apparently took some glee in punishing me.

Let me make a long story short. Both Jan and I went to the front desk and explained our situation as calmly as we could, considering the fact that we were battling a bit of anger, and they corrected the mistake, took us to pick up the van and it ended up costing us nothing but a bit of time.

But it did get me thinking. (I guess if you’re going to write a daily column on the Internet, you should think occasionally. Otherwise you get boring not only to yourself, but also end up disappointing your readers.)

You see, what happened here was that a simple error was overly punished because no grace was given. We talk about grace a lot in religious institutions, and I have never been satisfied with anyone’s definition of this magnificent virtue. The classic definition for grace is unmerited favor.” Whether a church is liberal or conservative, they all contend that human beings are a lost cause and God tolerates us by offering us salvation because we’re helpless.

I don’t think that’s what grace is. If those people at the front desk of my motel had just picked up the phone and given me the opportunity to change my own circumstances by moving my van, I would have been more than happy to do so. But to trap me in my accidental mistake and to follow through with swift judgment, with little regard for my feelings, does not make me very appreciative, even when the outcome is to my favor.

See what I mean? Telling me that God thinks I am a miserable, despicable individual who Jesus came to die for on a cross, and that without accepting his gift of blood atonement, I am destined for a hell-of-an-ending to my journey doesn’t make me particularly glad that I believe in God.

If that is the way you view our heavenly Father, you are welcome to continue to pursue that theology. I find it repulsive. I, being a father, certainly would not treat my children in that way–and I expect God to exceed my efforts.

Here’s what I think about grace, in the form of what I needed from the front desk people at my motel:

1. This person with the big black van is a guest of ours. I don’t know why he ended up parking back there–maybe he was ignorant of the rule. Let’s give him a chance to make it right.

2. Let’s not assume our guest is helpless, and let’s not believe he’s hopeless. Let’s take a moment and just believe that he made a bad choice.

3. Give him an opportunity to do better work.

You see, I don’t think God believes I am a depraved sinner. Why? Because God, for a while, wore a human body when his name was Jesus, so He knows what it’s like. He understands that it often is not an issue of temptation, but rather, too quickly choosing convenience over being smart. He doesn’t want to trap us in our moments of dumbness. He believes there is better in us. If He doesn’t, He’s a lousy Father.

Grace is giving people a chance to realize their error and do it again before any punishment has a chance to arrive. Therefore my life isn’t over when God saves my soul. I’m just given a clean sheet of paper to do better scribbling.

Because the people at the front desk decided to be judgmental instead of generous, they ended up paying for a tow that they thought would be levied on me. Such is the end of all vindictiveness.

Let’s learn grace. Grace is when we believe that people still have a chance to do good… because they came from good stock.

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Outdated … December 1, 2012

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He sat on a talk show elaborating on his present idea while hawking a new book. He is respected and popular (which in America has become the same thing).Dr. Phil

In relating a story about his own life, he explained that at one time he trusted an employee to be involved in his finances because this woman had mouthed many of his convictions and he later found out that she was embezzling money from his coffers. His conclusion from this personal fiasco was that he had “given her the benefit of the doubt”–that she was who she said she was–and in the process, he learned that this was an outdated concept.

His conclusion was slid in so quickly that if you weren’t listening, you might just nod your head in agreement and end up throwing away some better portions of the Golden Rule. After all, that is what our society wants to do.

Nobody really wants to get rid of God. God makes a profit, even if there aren’t any prophets to truly speak His message.

No one wants to get rid of church. After all, we do need a common site to marry and bury.

What we would like to get rid of is the Golden Rule. We would like to join our Jewish and Arab brothers in the consensus that being nice to one another is only plausible when nicety has previously been received. In other words, NOT “do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” but rather, “do unto others WHAT they have done to you.”

It’s quite the different concept.

You would think that someone would be intelligent enough to notice that this dynamic of “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth” has historically proven to be ineffective. But I continually hear verbal jabs against loving your fellow-man, while simultaneously there are massive screams for freedom and liberty.

I believe that the black man and woman in our country received the beginnings of liberation because they followed that Golden Rule. I believe if the gay community pursues a vindictive approach, they will fail to retrieve the liberty and justice they so desperately desire.

The Golden Rule works. It just always temporarily looks like it’s going to fail.

It’s similar to watching a football game and seeing a team dominate through three quarters, only to blow their lead in the fourth quarter and lose the game. You see, it doesn’t really make any difference that they won three-quarters of the game and it certainly doesn’t make any difference that revenge, retribution and retaliation appear to win the day initially–only to be stomped to death in the last quarter–by the Golden Rule.

The nations that are still prospering on this planet are the ones who have given place to that precious assertion. The countries which have tried to stomp it out through bigotry, anger and nationalism have been erased from the face of the earth.

It is not outdated to give people the benefit of the doubt.

I will agree there may be wiser ways to do it than turning over your entire bank account to them, but when you’ve been granted a voice of reason and you use that instrument to promote the notion of frustration and fear instead of unity and the repair of human hearts, then you are not only squandering your opportunity to make a difference, you have become part of the problem.

I’m all for technology. You can twitter your life away–I don’t care. But when you come after the Golden Rule, I have to stop you.

  • It is not outdated.
  • It is not a cliché.
  • It is not “hippie.”
  • It is not religious.
  • And it is not impossible.

It is the only way we can keep from destroying one another before we really find out what benefit we could be.

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