A System, Not a Plan… October 10, 2013

Jonathots Daily Blog

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fourGod has a wonderful plan for your life.”

I’m sorry. Just not so.

After a billion years of pursuing human free will and “raining on the just and the unjust,” God has no intention of revising His perfect system by forfeiting His authority to a small group of contemporary theologians, filmmakers, greeting card producers and novelists.

It is impossible for God to be “no respecter of persons” and then turn around and delegate mission, talent, ability and position to specific human beings. What He came up with is brilliant.

It’s a system. A climate. An energy in which we all live, to rise and fall on the merit of our abilities and attitudes.

“As long as you shall live, there shall be seed-time and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night.”

I refer to this conglomeration as The Natural Order.

It’s what we all share in common–and because we do, we can share in common. OR we can try to express our supremacy over one another by insisting that the Universal Creator has singled us out above all others for some unique posture which sets us apart from the rest of humanity via our traveling orders.

Ridiculous.

1. Seed time and harvest.

In other words, we have the same soil, so it’s important that we get the right seed. For instance, this is not a great time in the history of mankind to stubbornly pursue intolerance. It is also fairly foolish to follow the bandwagon as it marches down the road repeating old tunes, old ideas and old arrangements instead of creating new music. Get the right seed. That’s how you gain your personal advantage in this life.

2. Cold and heat.

Set the temperature. Sometimes it’s important to be hot and passionate. On other occasions, wisdom tells you to cool your heels–relax and trust what you’ve already planted to grow, instead of becoming impatient. Setting the temperature for your endeavors grants you the insight of surviving the wait without feeling the weight.

3. Summer and winter.

Learn the seasons. As Ecclesiastes says, “to everything there is a season.” What does that mean? It means you should not be harvesting when you haven’t planted and you shouldn’t insist on pursuing ideas which have proven to be ineffective simply because they favor your party line. Study the world. Study the faces of the people around you. See what is conducive to change. See what change is conducive to the people.

4. Day and night.

One of the ways we know that young humans have actually grown up is that they stop feeling the need to stay up all night in order to prove their independence. The human experience requires compartments of time. I believe there are two things you should do every day to create faithfulness, two things you should do every day to generate adventure, and two things you should do every day to remind you to be merciful. Work the clock.

This Natural Order is the four-part system given to every human being, and NoOne is better than anyone else. Learn it, use it, expand with it and honor it. You will succeed.

  • Get the right seed
  • Set the temperature
  • Learn the seasons
  • And work the clock

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

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.

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

Elizabeth the First… November 15, 2012

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Ill-suited.

Similar to wearing a turtleneck and a cardigan sweater to a Metallica concert. That was me last night.

I arrived in the tiny burg of Elizabeth, Indiana, to a church that planned a concert with us, but had focused its efforts on bringing in an audience of children to view the performance. It was not a malicious act on their part–they have a rich and fulfilling ministry of reaching out to neighborhood youth on Wednesday evenings, with a meal and a time of kindness, so as to express the church’s tenderness to the kids. The pastor just wanted to afford these fine young ones a new experience.

Unfortunately, I found myself ill-suited.

I was suddenly thrust in front of fifty or sixty young humans between the ages of seven and fourteen. Understand, the last time I was their age, Lyndon Johnson was President and the Beatles had just invaded America. Neither one of those particular insights would be valuable to this present crop of offspring.

I had three immediate emotions–I was a bit frustrated with the fact that I had ended up in this dilemma, unable to share freely from my given talents and resources. Secondly, I felt a tad diminished, and perhaps even insulted, to have my abilities displayed in such a limited and specific capacity. And third, I felt like an absolute brat for feeling the previous two.

I was at war with myself. I had no idea how I was going to transform my material into the kind of vernacular and visual comprehension that would reach this particular generation of earth-dwellers. On top of that, the handful of adults who attended the event–teetering between chaperones and prison guards–were so preoccupied with their positions as instructors or overseers that they were not of any particular assistance in increasing the attention span or cultural depth of the room.

No, it seemed this was going to be a show for kids. What was I supposed to do? Of course, my worst fear was boring them. I think the reason we fail most of the time with young humans is that we have a two-fold agenda, instead of seeking out a single purpose. Especially in the church, we not only want to welcome these fledglings into our presence with entertainment and excitement, but also feel a necessity to indoctrinate them into our religious system at the same time. We must understand that religion is a hindrance to true spirituality. It doesn’t matter whether you’re six years old or sixty. You waste time by trying to get children to believe in God by teaching them the etiquette, stance and correct posture for praying. My job was NOT to convince these dear children that the church is the answer to their problems. Not only would such an endeavor be fruitless, but also not particularly honest.

In the few moments before I was introduced, I realized that the mission of the evening was not that much different for these little ones than it is for an average adult congregation.

  1.  See if you can get them to step out of themselves for a few moments and think about the beauty of life.
  2. Show them that good cheer is not an occasional option to relieve tension, but the only way to live to avoid it.
  3. Make sure they understand that Jesus came to side-step religion and offer the option of a personal relationship.

Once I clarified those thoughts, it became rather simple. Oh, I did a few extra songs that had some pep. I told more stories than commenting on cultural phenomenon or scriptural twists and turns, and I made the show a bit more interactive than you might do at the downtown First United Methodist Church in Des Moines, Iowa, on a Sunday morning. But other than that, I simply introduced them to Jesus, who already made it clear that he loves the little ones and wants to bounce them on his knee and bless them.

I was ill-suited going into the event and equally so coming out–so I simply relied on the ideas of my favorite messenger, Jesus, who told us that each and every one of us needs to become just like these little children to enter the Kingdom of God.

I shall not drop my present outreach to become a minister to children. But I am grateful that the message I share can reach all ages, all races, all denominations and all levels of faith … or doubt. It’s because I try to keep my message as simple as possible, centered around the heart of Jesus instead of the doctrine of the church.

It was a good evening. I was so glad I experienced it because it showed my weaknesses, and gave me a chance to bolster some of my previous failures into better efforts. Yes, my friend, if you’re going to become more accomplished, you have to start out being willing to do things poorly.

Elizabeth the First was God’s gift to me–to both inform me of my inadequacy and show me that His grace is sufficient to my need.

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

Parma Jon… October 8, 2012

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Live from October 1st filming

That’s my new name. Parma Jon.

Well, at least it is for today, as I reflect back on my visit to the Parma Lutheran Church and the clipped-off version of my name, Jon. (Like so many things, the idea seemed cuter in its conception…)

There was nothing remarkable about the Parma Lutheran Church. That’s what makes it truly exceptional. While America seems obsessed with discoveirng its new Idol, X-Factor, Voice, or political savior, God is doing what He always does–searching the deserts, the villages, the huts and the crevices for anyone who’s happy being who they are, doing what they do, who might consider taking on just a little bit more possibility.

It seems appropriate to me on this Columbus Day to talk to you about discovering America. Like Christopher Columbus, I launched out to find one thing and ended up uncovering another. When I left in January, I thought that I would be going to regions of the country that were saturated with culture, preferences, political swingings and religious tendencies. I should have known better–I’m not exactly a novice in the realm of traveling and speaking. But the pundits on television are very convincing, insisting that our country is diversified and split into many sections. It just ain’t so.

Actually, it’s much simpler than that. There are those folks who still believe, pursue and persist in the Golden Rule“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”–and a contingency who have succumbed to the notion that it’s every man for himself.

In other words, whether it has a southern accent, a Yankee dialect, a Georgia drawl or a west coast coolness, “I don’t care” ends up feeling just as cold. And whether it’s Republican, Democrat, conservative or liberal, “How can I help?” is just as comforting.

I met a man yesterday who used to deliver packages for UPS. Now he stands in a pulpit and tries to deliver the best of salvation, hope, gentleness and tenderness to a congregation of people, while dodging fiscal responsibilities and fits of grumpiness from those who have forgotten the mission of the Master. You know what struck me about him? After all his years of dealing in business and now the religious community, he is still overjoyed in the pursuit of finding reasons to be joyful. Though tempted to be jaded, he instead remains gold.

I met four wonderful young humans who sat on the front row in this church and indulged in enjoyment, praise, laughter and kindness to one another without feeling the need to explain it to the old folks or make excuses for their particular profile of worship. They were intelligent and caring. They were not prejudiced against Janet and myself because we’re older, but instead, took our gift of talent and message and received it in their own space, with their own simplicity.

I met a woman who came to my book table, and because I was having a bit of trouble with my legs, brought me a cane to ease my pain in walking to my van. She also brought a beautiful hand-carved elf that her husband had whittled, which was absolutely gorgeous. He was due for surgery today, so I send out a prayer his way.

Did I mention the poet who came to the table, bringing me his recently published book? I think the reason God likes creativity is because it sparks a light in our eyes and a giggle in our souls–that we were actually able to make something instead of just using up all the natural resources around us. That was the countenance on this fine fellow.

One after another, they came before me yesterday–delightful human beings in the midst of making that very important choice between believing that NoOne is better than anyone else, or finding reasons to separate themselves from the human family.

Oh–not everyone likes me, you know. There are people who stomp out the door, angered by my presumption to mess around with perfect, Germanic Lutheranism. I do not begrudge them their opinion.

But I will tell you that the majority of the American people I have met this year, especially in Parma, Ohio, are looking for a reason to continue to believe in the idea of people and God. It is amazing.

It makes me glad that the heavenly Father has not asked me to check out of my human living quarters and move on to eternal reward. I am so honored to be part of this phase of history and to jump into my four-wheeled Santa Maria and to sail away, discovering America.

So yesterday, I was Parma Jon. Today I move on. But I want to thank all the wonderful human souls that I have met over the past four or five days in the Northern Ohio area. They have enlightened me, blessed me and made me aware that taking the time to believe in people is never wasted.

It is the only way to guarantee that you have actually tapped a little piece of the mind of God.

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

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