“Stephening”… May 15, 2013

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0akdaleSometimes I just can’t sleep very well.

It’s not insomnia–it’s usually because I’m excited about the next day, and my brain is moving at seventy-two miles per hour in a thirty mile per hour zone. On those rare occasions, I turn on the TV.

Last night when I did so, the first thing that popped on the screen was a high-energy rock and roll concert with a young lady running across the stage, dancing and singing with vibrance and enthusiasm. I was unable to make out the words but they had something to do with how excited she was to be in love.

You see, I’m kind of a weird old fart. I’ve always liked rock and roll and still do. I even like all the transformations that have occurred and am greatly intrigued by the present crop being harvested in the music field. What struck me last night was that even though I’m not critical about how young humans entertain themselves, I am greatly concerned about their pursuit of inspiration.

Whether you like jazz, dancing, hunting, fishing, sewing or tap dance really doesn’t make much difference to me, but I do think that somewhere along the line we human beings need to come to an agreement on what is truly inspiring.

This week when I made my way to Stephenville, Texas, my mind floated back to recall the life of a young fellow named Stephen. He, too, was bursting with youth. He was selected to do a job. They put him in charge of food distribution for the hungry and told him to make sure it was done equitably. They trusted him.

Now, here’s the twist: the next time we hear about Stephen, he’s not passing out bread to the hungry, but instead, is sharing his life story and the mission of his message with the masses.

And then, in our next encounter, he is speaking truthfully to the powers that be, and because his words are so convicting, he ends up being killed.

Quite a transition.

It got me thinking about what I think “Stephening” is. For I believe this–if you’re a young human, interested in rock and roll, movies, video games and technology, more power to you. But somewhere in your soul, there has to be a kernel of awareness about the world around you and your part in helping to make it better.

Stephen had that.

  1. He had a yearning to take care of the needs of others.
  2. But he also was not going to be limited to that, and freely stepped out of the box prepared for him, to do something of his own heartfelt desire.
  3. He shared with others–he didn’t hold the truths that were working in his life inside himself, but instead, freely communicated his joy to the world around him.
  4. And finally, he wasn’t afraid.

True success is when we walk away from tradition and also avoid walking toward “the world.”  We find out where tradition has failed, and instead of pursuing the foolishness of abstract materialism and bad habits, we forge a path towards inspiration.

Tonight I will be at the Oakdale United Methodist Church in Stephenville. I am so delighted to be with them–and I’ll be curious if there are any folks there who are interested in “Stephening.”

Because if you don’t decide to care for others, step out of the box, open up your heart to the people around you and not be afraid, you either become a slave to tradition–or a puppy dog chasing the world.

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

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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

Andrew It Out … April 27, 2013

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fiVe loavesAs I get older I realize it more and more.

The game is not fame. The game is not acclaim. It’s about leaving behind a plain path of understanding concerning your life so that others can study it, follow it and progress the idea.

Imagine how excited I was when I discovered that my Sunday would be spent at St. Andrew Lutheran Church in San Antonio, Texas. Andrew is one of my favorite Bible dudes. He is one of a quartet of fishermen from the little town of Capernaum who Jesus welcomes into his “kingdom dozen.”

Andrew was among the first to discover the message of Jesus.  Here’s an interesting fact: even though he was one of four fishermen, three of them–Peter James and John–became what we refer to as the “inner circle.”

Andrew was not included.

We do not know why. We don’t even know if there is a “why” to it. But there is no incident listed in which Andrew pitched a fit or ended up betraying Jesus because he felt cheated. What we have is a man who found his place, occupied his space, made his case and finished the race.

Andrew did three really notable things.–and as I said, as the years pass, I realize that I want to have more of the spirit of Andrew in me, and not insist on being a Peter, James or John.

1. He came early. Dear God, may I learn that in the matters of spirit, justice and equality, to arrive first and jump on the bandwagon of freedom instead of dragging my feet because my culture and prejudice have taught me to be reluctant. Andrew met Jesus and went with it. How amazing. Come early, folks. It’s not as crowded, and you get to share beautiful moments with something beginning instead of later on just being part of the maintenance crew.

2. He brought a friend. Yes, the Bible tells us that Andrew brought his brother, Peter. Every night when I walk onstage and share my thoughts, I realize that they may never gain international attention, but there is always the possibility that I will inspire the mind and spirit of someone in the gathering who has the capability of doing things much greater than me. Sometimes the best thing you can do for the world is to stimulate somebody else who has the power to change it.

3. Andrew encouraged young humans. When it was discovered that five thousand men needed to be fed, Andrew was the one who found a young lad with five loaves and two fishes and brought him to Jesus. He gave this fledgling kid a chance to be the hero of the day. He gave him a lifelong memory. He gave him a place in the Bible.

There are two ways to become old: you can become old and grouchy or you can become old and hip. If you’re old and grouchy, you think everything young people do is stupid. If you’re old and hip, you look at what young people do, remember what you did, laugh and encourage them in their better choices.

I want to be Andrew. I want to ignore the inner circles of life. I want to show up early, bring a friend and encourage young humans.

If that’s what’s going on at St. Andrew Lutheran Church, they are on the verge of revealing the Kingdom of God.

Andrew: enjoying your portion without needing the whole platter.

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Remembering…

why

February 27, 2013

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I love because it’s important and not easy

I am a father because children came along and needed someone to appear like he knew what he was doing

I am creative because repetition is the wallpaper of hell

I believe in God because sometimes a fruit basket is not enough to comfort my friends

I chase dreams to outrun the nightmares

I welcome strangers because they are related to God

I laugh more than I cry because tears are messy

I limp on ahead because my knees gave up too soon

I challenge others, hoping they will return the favor

I exhort because effort and excellence give me a thrill

I perform because I have not yet been adequately replaced

I keep traveling because the road, and need, never stop

I live and breathe because air is available, hopes are alive and God is patient

I die because the story continues with a new cast

I think, therefore … I’m remarkable

I remember why so I won’t judge this world by the present solitary moment

 

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

Two Speeches (not from the stump) … September 23, 2012

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I don’t agree.

Political parties and pundits tend to aggravate some little open wound in my soul which refuses to heal, becoming calloused to the bizarre. I guess the popular thinking is that a certain amount of lying, cheating, attacking, fussing and maneuvering of truth is necessary to win an election. I not only disagree with this premise, but I wonder if anyone has actually ever tried to utilize the facts faithfully to a conclusion before giving up early in the pursuit to strike back over a recent smarting smack.

What I will share with you today are two speeches–one from each of the men running for President of the United States. These discourses don’t actually exist, of course. They are what I feel each individual candidate might want to express if he was intent on winning the job on both merit and humility. I will begin with the incumbent:

My name is Barack Obama. I would like to continue being your President. I guess, in a manner of speaking, you could say that I won the job four years ago. I have learned that there is a difference between winning and succeeding. I was not ready for all the surprises. No one can be prepared–because, dear folks, there is a world of problems out there in what we call the world. It is impossible to understand that in entirety until you actually get in the position where you need to make decisions that affect the lives of millions. But I have learned. May I tell you this–it is not easy to learn. You are tempted to explain your mishaps and trumpet your victories. Here is an assessment: some of my decisions were good. Others are still working out. Some of my choices, though, didn’t completely address the need. Once again–learning. To be President of the United States, in my opinion, means you have to know the difference among those three conclusions. I will tell you, after four years, I understand so much better what is going to be effective and what is a waste of energy. So let me tell you what I would like to do, should you grant me four more years:

1. Abandon all bad choices and pursue the path that is fruitful.

2. Listen to all people who actually want to help the country, no matter what affiliation or what party.

3. Be a President of the conservative, the liberal, the independent and anyone else who is blessed to be an American.

4. Tell you the truth, even when it makes me look bad.

I ask you to give me a chance to use what I have learned. Thank you for your trust.

Another offering:

My name is Mitt Romney. I want to be President of the United States. I have no experience in this job. I have lived a full life. I have a collective understanding of business and commerce, discovered through my work,  family and adult journey. I am rich. It doesn’t make me better. It also doesn’t make me the enemy. I understand that when you are given much, much is required of you. I realize that I will be taking what I have experienced and using it the best I can, while learning how to be a good President. I will need help–not because I am helpless; it’s just that some of the assistance will need to come from Republicans, Democrats, independents and Americans of all types. I will need to listen to all of these voices because they are you. I will:

1. Abandon all bad choices and pursue the path that is fruitful.

2. Listen to all people who actually want to help the country, no matter what affiliation or what party.

3. Be a President of the conservative, the liberal, the independent and anyone else who is blessed to be an American.

4. Tell you the truth, even when it makes me look bad.

Thank you for your time. I can’t promise you an easy solution–I can tell you that we will be able to do this together. I will bring all I know and a heart to learn more. Thank you for your trust.

The pundits would not like with these two speeches. They would insist that showing vulnerability is displaying weakness, and since they believe that politics is a jungle, that such openness would turn a candidate into a lame antelope instead of a roaring lion. Maybe they’re right. But see–we don’t know. There is no way to be sure, because no one has ever had the guts and determination to stay faithful to the understandable truth throughout an entire campaign. I will tell you this–without a heart filled with simplicity and a humble spirit, the responsibility of guiding human beings is carried out by a fool instead of a righteous king.

Two speeches–it is my offering for today. I guess my only counsel to you would be that the more you hear of these admissions from which ever candidate, the better prepared he will be for the inevitable struggle of leadership.

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Happy Feathers Day … June 15, 2012

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No, it’s not a misprint. The word IS feathers.

For after all, there has to be something more involved in fatherhood than just being present for conception and providing room and board for your chickadees. Actually, the job is to encourage the foundation and growth of good human beings. So every year when this Father’s Day holiday comes along, I like to take a look at where my family is in the context of what I deem to be important, and what I believe to be universally applicable.

Your children can be like “feathers in your cap.” They are a confirmation of your efforts, and proof-positive that you actually showed up for the job, punched the clock and did an excellent day’s work before heading home.

I’m going to give you a list of ten things that I ask about my children each year, to evaluate how many feathers I feel I can put in my own cap concerning my humble efforts with my offspring. They are more or less questions which I carefully evaluate to note progress, or on occasion, some back-sliding.

1. Do my children respect other people’s rights to privacy and choice? (Prejudice is not part of DNA. It is force-fed to children who have no other information but what they hear.)

2. Does my offspring honor excellence and challenge mediocrity? (Making excuses for poor work is the first step to lying, which is the path to all iniquity.)

3. Can they laugh at themselves? (We are living in a generation that can mock but has little ability to be meek about their own weaknesses.)

4. Do they watch AND pray? (It’s what Jesus told us to do. Don’t just piously recite prayers, but also watch and be attentive to your own life and how to make things better.)

5. Do my children believe in the family of man? (There’s a great danger in our times of becoming overly focused on our immediate genealogy, ignoring the greater fellowship in the world around us.)

6. Do they receive the truth? (The truth is always a shock if you don’t constantly remind yourself that your opinion probably needs additional input.)

7. Do they enjoy the world but also recognize when it has gone crazy and make a stand? (It’s very important to be congenial, but not a pushover when things have gone awry and principles need to be honored.)

8. Can they make a stand for what they hold true? (Often peacefulness and cowardice can be the same action if we are willing to sacrifice the power of what is proving to work in our lives.)

9. Do they know that the kingdom of God is within them? (All religion is an attempt to break down our personal responsibility to a few exercises of worship instead of using our lives as a vehicle for creating peace.)

10. Are they creative? (The true test of creativity is to have the sensibility to stop and listen when frustration is trying to make you repeat bad habits.)

So there you go. Those are the ten “feathers in my cap,” available to me if I discover each and every year that my children have continued to pursue the good path on which I tried to place them. Of course, along the way, they pick up excellent ideas of their own. That’s how the generations move forward instead of backwards.

Honestly, each and every year, the tally is a little different. Each and every child scores uniquely. I don’t judge them by this test, but rather, evaluate whether our particular rendition of humanity is blessing the planet or merely inhabiting it.

But always keep in mind, if some of these ideas were never transfused into your children when they were growing up, you still have the power–through repentance–to set a new example, even at a distance. I want my children to see that Dad wasn’t always right, but that Dad is still moving to find out what is.

So–Happy Feathers Day! Because the feather we can stick in our cap is knowing that we have unleashed on the world folks who have come through our household who are not lethal to others … and might just be ready to offer abundant life.

   

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