Before (1,199)

July 6th, 2011

Before me is a week in which I will share six presentations in five locations. Tonight I am going to Tallmadge, Ohio, a suburb of Akron. But before I go there, I must do all the things that are necessary to do before I have the great privilege of fellowshipping with new friends.

It begins with a shower. A shower is like so many other things in my life as I get older—it always seems like a good idea, requires a bit more motivation than I first thought, but the payoff, generally speaking, makes me wonder why I raised such a fuss in the first place.

Dried off and reasonably dressed, I have a bit of breakfast. I order bran-crisp crackers that have the same amount of fiber as they do carbohydrates, and I adorn them with some fat-free cream cheese or sugar-free jelly, along with half a grapefruit. I didn’t really think what I had for breakfast would interest you, but it is a good way to remind myself to continue to be a ham WITHOUT porking up.

After breakfast, I write this essay—jonathots. Sometimes an inspiration comes to me in the middle of the night, which may rob me of a little sleep. Occasionally I get it during that shower, and there are even occasions when, right up to the time of writing, I have absolutely no idea what I’m going to espouse. All the various ways that inspiration arrives are equally as endearing, as long as we’re able to survive them.

After jonathots is written and given a cursory edit, I move on to a series of daily emails to family and friends, which is my way of staying in correspondence with them. I write once a week to each person, with bits of information, wisdom and hopefully some humor—to let them know how much I love them and a little bit of what I’m doing (short of perpetuating boredom). My list of people continues to grow, so this takes a little bit of time and I’m always grateful to Jan for allowing me to dictate the words so I don’t have to stumble about the keyboard with my what I call my “double hunt and peck.” (If you’re curious, that’s my left index finger dangling over the “a” as my other hand tries to find the other letters.)

After this, it’s time to plan for the departure for the evening event, including preparing clothing for the show, eating lunch, and of course, my one luxurious insistence—taking an afternoon nap. The afternoon nap may be the greatest piece of inspiration that I leave behind on the planet earth for those who have an ear to hear and a pillow to embrace. I must admit that I look forward to my afternoon nap with great zeal, because I know that I don’t always get enough sleep in the nighttime, being awakened by the spirit of jonathots, or some other idea nibbling at the corner of my mind. So my little snooze is always most appreciated.

Then it’s time to go to the date. As I said, today it will be in Tallmadge, which is about an hour from where we are headquartered. Traveling, performing and ministering to people is all about arriving with a confident package of who you are—not needing those you are about to meet to provide any particular emotional bolstering. This is what Jesus meant when he said “he didn’t come to be served, but rather, to be a servant.”

When I arrive at an engagement to present a program I place no expectation on the folks who greet me, nor do I anticipate the red carpet to be rolled out in my honor. Matter of fact, there usually isn’t carpet of any type, but rather, concrete parking lots and cement sidewalks.

All of us human beings have one very fallacious notion, ingrained in us through our early Anglo-Saxon training—and Anglo-Saxon is not limited by color or culture. It is an American trepidation over meeting strangers which causes us to live by the erroneous philosophy: “better safe than sorry.” So rather than embracing each other with great zest, we instead ease into our initial meeting, sporting a bit of suspicion, with a “wait and see” attitude which inhibits warmth and tenderness.

I do not point this out with any anger, misgiving or even a desire to see it change, for I decided long ago to live by a different approach, which is: “better sorry than safe.” I would much rather be wrong and end up looking foolish while extending a hand of grace, mercy and joy to another human being than to remain at a distance to confirm pedigree, quarantining them from my affection.

I have two rules when I arrive at a gig: (1) love, and (2) adaptlove in the sense that I’m going to produce a smile and a hug for these strangers I am meeting for the first time; and adapt by realizing that this is their turf, and that I, as a visitor, will be most welcome as long as I can play by the house rules. It is really great fun.

When you believe that God has given you a talent, you don’t have to walk around trying to prove that you have value. Your gift will make room for you. My sponsors, although usually a bit timid at first, help us carry in and set up our equipment and graciously provide a bit of fruit and some water. Equipment set up, we do a sound check, and over the years I have learned to request that this happen in a room alone. I suppose you will understand if I tell you that a PA system sounds much louder in an empty auditorium than it does when bodies arrive to absorb the waves—and unfortunately, sponsors are convinced that “loud” is always “too loud” and once that notion is introduced, they are reluctant to abandon it, even when proved erroneous. Let me just put it this way—it’s best to do the sound check privately.

Sound check completed, we head off to the green room, with the fruit and water, where we sit for a moment and allow the spirit to rejuvenate us before we change clothes. Sipping and munching, we proceed to prepare and put together those pieces of the art that we want to share with this particular gathering of souls. Yes—what shall we share tonight?

Well, it begins with a simple, little formula we have, which is . . .

Published in: on July 6, 2011 at 12:41 pm  Leave a Comment  
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