Things I Learned from R. B. (September 6th, 2020)

Jonathots Daily Blog

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Episode 31

July 19th.

R. B.’s birthday.

It arrived with a horrific sense of timing. In the midst of his daily demise, how would it be possible to foster a celebration of his birth? Yet I was fully aware that R. B. knew it was his birthday. He didn’t need leave this planet feeling he was absent sentiment.

So I planned it.

I picked up pulled pork barbecue, which was his favorite, a chocolate cake with butter cream icing (which was my favorite) and got permission from the hospice to use the dining room for a private party of about twenty-five people. The facility also graciously offered kitchen facilities for our use.

I took the precaution of talking to each person attending about the nature of the situation. In our family, it is customary to give a verbal tribute to the person being honored at birthday celebrations, telling them how valuable and precious they had been during the year.

Trying to avoid awkwardness and also R. B.’s fatigue, I suggested that the guests share one sentence stating their favorite part of R. B.

Considering how bizarre the circumstances were, the party ended up being rather intimate, especially when one of the young children told R. B. that he was very sad that his friend was dying.

This was too much for R. B.

His eyes burst forth with tears, which had been held in reserve for some unpronounced occasion.

He wept.

He sobbed.

And through his tears he proclaimed, “I don’t want to die.”

The room was hushed—emotions thick with tenderness and pain. Nobody ate much of the barbecue. The cake was sampled. It seemed that the circle of souls who came to salute R. B. moved in closer and closer as the afternoon pressed on.

I guess if a man has to die and is granted a send-off, this could have been one of the better ones ever to be conceived.

After about an hour-and-a-half, one of the nurses arrived to take R. B. back to his room.

It was time for final thoughts. Something needed to be said.

I was trying to come up with a spirited closing for the event when Lily, my granddaughter, piped up with some wonderful four-year-old wisdom. “See you tomorrow,” she said with the cheeriest voice I’ve ever heard.

Everyone applauded, laughed and clapped some more as R. B. made his exit from the room.

As he was leaving, I thought to myself that I was probably the world’s greatest hypocrite.

For I certainly did not honor this fellow. He had been cruel to me—perhaps treacherous. What did I think I was achieving by hosting a party for my enemy?

As I was standing there, staring off in the distance, one of the guests came up and hugged my back. She leaned up and whispered in my ear, “Congratulations. You gave him what he needed.”

Exactly. She was right.

It wasn’t about me.

Of course.

It wasn’t about me.

 

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1 Thing You Need to Know About Perfect People … July 20th, 2020

Jonathots Daily Blog

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No One Likes Them

Years ago in my Junior High Sunday School class, I remember telling the church deacon, who was teaching us young ones, that I believed Jesus was not perfect.

My statement sucked the air out of the room.

I continued. “Jesus disobeyed his parents when he was twelve, yelled at a whole lot of people, whipped some folks in the Temple, and broke all sorts of Jewish Sabbath rules. But because he hung around and worked on his life instead of getting angry and defensive, he grew in wisdom and stature and favor with God and man.”

My teacher was at a loss for words. So like most people who find themselves wordless, he insisted that the last thing he said was absolutely right.

“Jesus was perfect,” he bellowed, “and in our church we declare him to be.”

To this day, I do not know why we want Jesus to be perfect.

He lived a human life.

The Good Book says he was tempted like we are, touched with our infirmities, and he was a “son of man.”

In other words, just one of us.

What I clearly need to know is, what did Jesus do when he looked at his life and felt the need to change?

The Gospels teach me that he went off by himself in the wilderness to work out his temptations.

He also chose to be baptized, like everyone else. (Please don’t tell me that he was baptized as a mere symbol, or for a pretense. Isn’t that just annoying, if not sacrilegious?)

Jesus knew that to be human he had to repent like we do, and perfect his life instead of insisting he was already perfect.

Now, that’s a dude I can follow.

Perfect people are almost always brats.

It’s mainly because they think they’re perfect.

And we know, for a fact, that they are not.

1 Thing That Will Teach You the Power of Not Knowing

Understand what is considered normal good behavior.

1. “I don’t know.”

2. “Let’s find out.”

3. “Gee, that’s interesting.”

Human beings are attracted to each other when ignorance is in pursuit of deeper understanding.

Unfortunately, sometimes when we arrive ignorant, we decide to hold a barn dance to celebrate our deficiency. Worse, we call our ignorance “greater understanding that has not yet been fathomed by the masses.”

But when we get together as people and share a common “I don’t know,” it opens the door to “let’s find out.”

Then, in the midst of finding out, we form deep, meaningful relationships. Therefore, when we do uncover some mystery, we can hug each other and say, “Gee, that’s interesting.”

Otherwise, we get stuck in a logjam of personality quirks which make us desirable to only a few.

Understand the “Know Flow”

A. “I know it all.” (Good luck.)

B. “I know lots of things.” (Be prepared to be challenged.)

C. “I know certain things.” (Your information needs to be spot-on.)

D. “I know this.” (Please be humble if you find out you’re wrong.)

E. “I don’t know.” (The freakin’ door to wisdom.)

 

1 Thing You Can Do to Start Having the Best Christmas Ever

Stop Being So Religious

It is really annoying.

You don’t have to purify the occasion by talking so much about it being Jesus’ birthday, or saying “Happy birthday, Jesus.”

You won’t win over a generation of cynics by imagining a huge cake with 2019 candles on it.

I caution my friends in the faith to do something very helpful in learning how to truly be a Christian.

Sit down every once in a while and just read the Good News.

There is an incident mentioned, in which the disciples of Jesus came upon a fellow who was having a real good time—celebrating off of the Nazarene’s success. Yet he was not giving any real credit to Jesus himself.

They confronted him, scolding him and saying he needed to come over and follow Jesus and do things the right way. Lo and behold, this independent spirit refused.

Well, the disciples ran back to Jesus in a full-blown-church-lady tizzy. “How dare he snub us and not give honor to you?”

They thought Jesus would rebuke the fellow, or perhaps even kill him for his insolence. Instead, Jesus said, “Leave the dude alone. For those who are not against us are for us.”

Yes, that person at the mall who only loves Christmas because he gets 80% off on electronic devices—he’s one of us.

And the family down the street who look on the December celebration as a commemoration of the Winter Solstice—they are with us.

And all the elves, Santa Clauses, mistletoe, fir trees, choirs, fundraisers and decorated plazas—they are with us, too.

It doesn’t matter what they call it.

It doesn’t matter if you think they don’t offer enough respect to the Bethlehem baby.

For one month out of the year, we stop teaching, breaching, preaching and impeaching and allow ourselves to consider “peace on Earth, goodwill toward men.”

Whatever wisdom people come up with themselves for December 25th, it will lead them to the Star in Bethlehem.

 

Sit Down Comedy … November 29th, 2019

Jonathots Daily Blog

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Sit Down Comedy

I thought I would sit down and talk to you dear hearts about the It’s Fits. There are three of them.

It is a trio of common phrases uttered to relieve pressure, take away criticism and often to become overly optimistic.

If we begin to believe that these “it’s” have any capacity whatsoever to bring solution, we will certainly find ourselves in fits.

1. “It’s not fair.”

Whining is never attractive. We are completely repulsed by the fussy, teary and defeated profiles of others.

“It’s not fair” is like twirling around in every direction and pointing a finger at all the culprits who have prevented you from receiving your best.

Could it be your children? Maybe it’s your wife plotting. Your husband is nothing but a barking dog. Your company is insensitive to the needs of its employees. Or there must not be a God, because if there were a God, He would never have allowed this atrocity to occur.

Because we’ve been convinced that nurturing one another is the way to say “I love you,” we have babied all the human “house plants” into environments where they cannot stand to actually live outdoors in the sun.

Endurance

This word is necessary for human life: Without endurance, we give up, begin to blame others and become erratically annoying.

The truth is, it may not be fair, but it is learnable. The Earth has its ways and if you study them, you can change your whiny to win.

2. “It’s needing more time.”

Failure arrives to inform us that our direction is not favorable, but instead of learning from the correction, we decide that if more time were given—using the same plan—things would most certainly improve.

Sometimes the Earth speaks.

That’s why we need this second phrase in our journey:

Common sense

In other words, if it didn’t work, it didn’t work. Pressing harder or selling more doesn’t change anything.

The Earth is good to us by telling us quickly when something is shitty.

3. “It’s not my fault.”

Everyone has been in a meeting where a failure is dissected—all participants slicing at one another to be guilt free, punctuating their summary by saying, “It’s not my fault.”

Actually, the more quickly you take responsibility for your part in the failure, the sooner the pain goes away and the healing begins.

It leads us to a third word:

Responsibility

An irresponsible person is unstable in all his or her ways. Ultimately, such a person can get nothing accomplished.

So I realize you want to nurture your husband, your wife, your children and your closest friends, but the best way to do this is to encourage their endurance instead of accepting their excuses.

It is to praise their common sense instead of standing watch while they continue to hit their heads against the walls.

And finally, it is to demand responsibility instead of allowing people to slither away like snakes in the grass to hide in their holes.

  • It’s not fair.
  • It’s needing more time.
  • It’s not my fault.

These are the “It’s Fits”—which keep each one of us from the endurance, common sense and responsibility that allow the second go-round to be drenched in good cheer and fueled by wisdom.

 

 


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Sit Down Comedy … September 13th, 2019

Jonathots Daily Blog

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Sit Down Comedy

The government the forefathers envisioned–being of the people, for the people and by the people—has devolved into a puzzle of political pandering.

Perhaps the worst part of the scenario is that those people the government was supposed to serve have accepted the bastard that’s been birthed and deemed America.

This has primarily been brought about by the assertion that the more complicated a thing is, the greater the chance that it will succeed.

So imitating the worst parts of former kingdoms which had emperors, senators, dignitaries and conquering, we have accumulated a history of pursuing a dream which has gradually left us sleepless.

America has boiled down to three P’s

  1. Party

The political party you identify with, which means you concede to accept the universal platform

  1. Plans

How can we make it seem that we’re addressing the difficulties in our nation and the world around us, without ever explaining step-by-step, how it will be initiated day by day?

  1. Personality

We are obsessed with rooting for our candidate-tainted-with-scandal while condemning your candidate-tainted-with-scandal.

Our leaders should be selected on the following:

A. Could we work side-by-side with them on a job?

B.  Could we work for them if they were our boss?

C.  When problems arise, what demeanor do they take on?

There’s the word: demeanor

The Presidency, the Senate and the House of Representatives should be voted in based on the demeanor of the candidates who will need to mull great quandaries yet find ways to simplify them for immediate attention.

So what is meant by demeanor? It begins with one simple principle:

Don’t attack

If you feel the need to bring down your adversary in order to make yourself look strong, then you do not possess the demeanor to be part of the leadership of this great country. Therefore, the people with the correct demeanor also:

Refuse to retaliate

For such defensiveness is a sign of avoiding looking foolish instead of persevering with great ideals.

Case in point: Does anyone think we are doing good in the Middle East?

The argument presented is that “bad things will happen if we leave.” We should pose a question: Since we know what we’re doing is foul and we don’t know that leaving will make it worse, why do we continue to stubbornly pursue the inefficient?

We are led by people who first attack and then retaliate.

You should not vote for anyone based on their policies or their political party. Ask yourself if you could work with them, if you could work for them and if he or she carries a pleasant disposition, seeking ways to solve problems instead of losing perspective and exacerbating the situation.

A leader of the United States of America must possess the wisdom and wit to have good cheer.

It was not Thomas Jefferson, John Adams or George Washington that launched our country in the correct direction. What held everything together in the beginning was what we need now:

The congenial cleverness of Benjamin Franklin

Franklin never saw a problem where he didn’t create an invention. He couldn’t even stand to watch lightning without inviting it down to explain itself. This is what we need.

Our candidates are pugnacious.

It is exactly the opposite of what makes good leadership for democracy.

So when I watch the debates or I look at Washington, D. C., I ask myself, could I work side by side with this person? If he or she were promoted, could I enjoy them as my boss? And, are they looking for a simple answer to begin the journey to completion, while maintaining a sense of “all is well” with good cheer?

 

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Sit Down Comedy … July 5th, 2019

Jonathots Daily Blog

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It is not so much what as it is how.

Knowing what needs to be done may be insightful but discovering how to do it is the essence of wisdom.

In our time, the argument over what our problems are is quickly overthrown by a ferocious debate over how to address them.

I put this to the test.

While working on my latest novel, I came across a scene where two of my characters are embroiled in a disagreement. I sat down and wrote the entire passage with back-and-forth dialogue which was laced with animosity. At no time did I introduce foul language.

So the reader, after finishing this particular interchange, might well be alarmed by the severity of the debate—but certainly not frightened that the two souls involved were going to launch into anything other than aggravation.

Then I sat down and rewrote the scene, except in the midst of the fiery comments I inserted expletives, like “damn, shit, fuck and hell.”  As I moved along from line to line, I realized that the discussion had changed, and was now on the verge of violence. In other words, it would have been very easy to end with a murder.

The what was the same. The standoff was identical.

But how it was implemented changed it from a fussy situation to a dangerous dilemma.

In the pursuit of trying to get attention, gain influence and bring fame and fortune in our direction, we may be guilty of taking situations which could be handled more simply, and complicating them merely for the purpose of making ourselves look righteous.

Consider this:

Is it possible that an aging, well-seasoned politician who earned his stripes decades ago might not know to keep his hands to himself, and that instead of sexual assault, it just might be innocent ignorance?

Could it be that in trying to establish reasonable relationships with notorious dictators we could represent our willingness to sit down and prattle over the issues without jokingly referring to the two parties as being “in love?”

Might we possibly consider the myriad of problems that create gun violence rather than cursing all guns or insisting that the situation is just “the criminal mind?”

It may be admirable to know what a situation is, but it is divinely inspired to find the best way how to manage it.

I think this even goes into our relationships with government and faith.

Is it possible that what John Adams and George Washington considered to be of primary concern in 1790 might be better thought through by more educated souls in 2019?

And suffice it to say that a book that was written before Christ and some that were written after his birth might certainly do well to be mulled over and discussed in more detail before we decide on how to conduct our spirited decisions today.

Knowing what is good. But choosing how to solve it is better.

And of course, the best is knowing that the what and the how always have to be tempered by the why.


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