Confessing… July 4th, 2015

Jonathots Daily Blog

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IX.

I confess so I can heal.

If I deny, I remain sick.

Mack was gay.

Actually, in 1980, such a term did not exist. The nicest word we had for people who pursued that lifestyle was “homosexual.”

Mack never told me he preferred men. I never asked him.

Mack was my friend but also my benefactor. He believed in my ability to be creative, and thought the things I came up with were worth promoting.

So when I wrote the musical, “Mountain,” Mack got right behind it, insisted we put together a cast to tour across the country, and on his own, raised $10,000 to fund it.

After the tour we parted our ways but not our affection.

A few months after we had finished our business, he called me and told me he had a lead on someone who wanted to sign my musical and publish it.

He only required one thing from me. The publishing company wanted a score of the music. In other words, they wanted all the music written down on staff paper in a fashion that could be read by musicians and performed.

It was at that point that I should have told Mack that even though I was able to compose music, I had no idea how to score it.

I didn’t. I didn’t tell him.

Oh, I had my reasons.

Since I had last seen Mack, I had moved away and was working in a terrible situation. One of my children had been hit and run by a car, and I was in the midst of moving to another community to acquire a new job.

It’s the classic situation–when we transform our circumstances into excuses, which we turn into reasons. But the reasons soon lose their power and have to be fortified by lies.

So at first I just cited my circumstances to Mack. He was understanding, but persistent. So I made promises.

But then when I failed to meet my deadlines, I had to move to excuses and then try to manipulate them into reasons, and ultimately ended up lying.

And of course, the greatest lie was when I sat down and tried to write the score of the music with my limited ability, and ended up with the manuscript equivalent of manure.

I sent it off anyway.

Mack trusted me, so he forwarded my work to the publisher, and ended up humiliated because the material made no sense whatsoever.

Mack forgave me–but we never did business together ever again.

I tried to justify it. I remembered the few occasions that I told him I didn’t know what I was doing instead of recalling how I insisted I would do it anyway.

I owe this fine person a huge apology.

I also need to realize that every time I’m tempted to pretend I’m something I’m not just so everyone in the room will feel that I am “hip” or part of “the gang in the know,” that I do much more damage than I ever thought possible.

The truth is, God has blessed me.

If I don’t think His blessing is enough, my exaggerations and lies will not make it any better.

 

Mountain Music

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Taking a Decision … February 10, 2014

Jonathots Daily Blog

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decisionThere is no such thing as making a decision.

By the time committees, opinions, selfishness and reluctance are factored in, progress is brought to a grinding halt in order to maintain some silly notion of “consensus.”

Some things are just too important to leave to the mass hysteria of voting.

It’s all about taking a decision.

In 1970, I took a decision to fly out to Arizona to pick up my girlfriend, who was pregnant, even though the counsel from all my friends, family and certainly her family was for us to be apart. Forty-four years later, there are a lot of exciting human beings walking around because I took that decision.

In 1972, I wrote two songs and decided to go into a recording studio to make a 45-RPM record. Young boys from Sunbury, Ohio, were not allowed to do such things–at least that was the opinion of those I asked for help. Forty-two years later I am still making music all across America. Matter of fact, I sang one of those two songs on Saturday night.

In 1975, everybody had a bad mood about me leaving Centerburg, Ohio, to move to Nashville, Tennessee, to seek a greater platform for my writing. I took the decision and ended up getting my song signed and making the gospel charts.

In 1980, I took a decision to hire nine actors and book a 25-city tour of the country with my musical rendition of the Sermon on the Mount, called Mountain. I was told that the market would not allow for a “religious” piece, which sported dance and peppy music. I ignored them.

In 1984, society was shocked when I took my children and wife on the road as a family band, traveling across the country, especially since one of my sons was disabled and had to be carried around from place to place. Six years later, when we finished the journey, tens of thousands of folks were appreciative that we took the decision.

In 1991, in the midst of great financial solvency and success, I took a decision to leave the road with my family, so that my sons, who were getting older, could have lives of their own instead of mirroring their father’s pursuits. It didn’t add up on paper. But it was the right way for us to multiply.

Again, in 1996, the propriety of the community in which I lived frowned on the concept of me taking on a female musical partner and including her three children in my family. Such things were simply not done in Hendersonville, Tennessee. Eighteen years later and at least twelve tours across the country, the heavens rejoice and America is a little bit different.

In 2001, it was against all sense to start a symphony orchestra in the middle of “Country Music USA.” Once again, I “passed” on policy. Because I did, the Sumner Pops Orchestra existed for eight years and provided funding, opportunity, entertainment and inspiration for an entire county.

In 2006, the cynics chuckled when I joined with my son and daughter-in-law to make independent films. Those involved in the film industry mocked us for attempting to make twelve feature-length films in a year. But taking this decision put us on the map–and they are still benefitting from that journey today.

In 2010, the dictates of my budget, housing and lifestyle forbade the possibility of continuing to use my talents to make a living. So I walked away from my house, climbed into my van and became a vagabond, sharing a message of hope for this generation, in front of what is now hundreds of thousands of people.

It isn’t that I reject input from others. But remember, counsel is only good in your life if it is given in faith.

It is a horrible disappointment when it is offered to promote fear.

Happy birthday to Jon Russell!

Join us tomorrow for: Quatrain of the Circus.

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Click for details on the SpirTed 2014 presentation

Click for details on the SpirTed 2014 presentation

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

click to hear music from Spirited 2014

click to hear music from Spirited 2014

Every Thirty-Three Years… March 15, 2013

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Ideas require patience and truth takes time. Yet no mere mortal is ever prepared for the longevity involved in taking a creative notion and seeing it come to fruition. It is a painstaking process full of pitfalls–and certainly rife with opposers.

In America, I think it takes about thirty-three years for a common piece of justice, kindness and goodness to make its way through the digestive system of the culture and be assimilated into the nutrients of our thinking.

The year was 1980–exactly thirty-three years ago. I was a young man who had already done a big sack-full of stuff and was energized on much of my own juices and ego. I had a good idea. I wanted to take the Sermon on the Mount, set it to music, put it in a Broadway-style format, select a cast, take it on the road into auditoriums in twenty-five cities,  and produce a fresh concept, both theatrically and spiritually.

I immediately received rave reviews on the music from those who were inclined to that sort of tinkling and tunefulness. I easily signed up five investors, who threw an amazing ten thousand dollars my way to bring the vision to reality. And then it was time to take it off the drawing boards, create a prototype and launch it into the atmosphere of America. I ran into some problems.

1980 America was not ready for my vision.

First of all, my play had dancing in it. Most religious people thought dancing was “of the devil.”

Secondly, the music ranged from a classical-style overture to rock and roll, in an era when diversity in music was considered to be a negative rather than a plus.

Some people were concerned that I had women in the cast. They didn’t understand how a musical on the Sermon on the Mount would require female characters. (Of course, if they’d ever read the Bible, they would have discovered that women were an intricate part of Jesus’ ministry, even footing the bill for many of his projects. –Luke the 8th Chapter)

Some folks became upset because they discovered that one of my investors was a homosexual. (That was in 1980, when you refered to people as “homos” instead of “gay.”)

Several of the venues in the south contacted me because they were “merely wondering” whether there were any black people in the entourage.

Universally, there was the constant question of whether my musical had a “conservative” agenda or a more “liberal” bend.

I was not even out of rehearsal camp and already I was dealing with issues of dancing, homosexuality, race relations, music prejudice, misogyny and the battle between liberals and conservatives.

On top of that, I caught two of the members of my cast smoking grass between rehearsals. They were shocked that I disapproved of their actions, since marijuana was universally known to be the “elixir of creativity.”

I was too young, unprepared, too cranked and much too ill-tempered to handle all this foolishness. I took one afternoon to get off by myself and think it through.

Was there anything wrong with dancing? It’s in the Bible. David danced before the Lord.

Does Jesus care if people are black? To the shock and horror of Southern Baptists, Jesus himself might have had a cocoa complexion.

How about music? Psalm 150 describes a musical combo organized for praise and worship that could have been describing Earth, Wind and Fire, live on stage, with a background of Blood, Sweat and Tears.

Is it wrong to have women in a cast of a play about Jesus? Actually, it would be evil to do anything else.

What would Jesus do with gay people? Well, I guess I think Jesus would take their money for an investment, let them come along for the ride, and see where the message took things.

Was Jesus conservative or liberal? In areas of personal responsibility, he was conservative. In areas of forgiving human beings, he was liberal.

I went on the road. It was a fabulous tour. I did not change America permanently. Matter of fact, it has taken thirty-three years for many of these issues to finally start blooming with common sense instead of common rage.

It reminds me of an idea that was birthed in a barn two thousand years ago. Although praised by a few wise men, it was scared away by the king in control and ended up exiled for a season. It snuck back in and grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man. One day, when things were ready, it immersed itself in the work of sharing the message that the kingdom of God is very near.

This idea brought compassion.

This idea brought humanity to the concept of divinity.

This idea changed the world.

For a brief weekend, it was attacked by renegade religionists who tried to snuff it out, but by Sunday morning, at the end of thirty-three years, it raised from the dead and has never stopped.

I will not see the end of my present the thirty-three years. I am taking new tolerance, new peace of mind, new openness, new joy and new celebration into the barn and birthing it. Other wise men and women will have to come and lavish their gifts, to use this infant dream to ultimately raise the dead.

And the dead will need to be raised–because every thirty-three years, having tried to kill the truth, God has to breathe life into it one more time.

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I beg NOT to differ … August 21, 2012

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I had no idea.Well, that’s not exactly true. You always have ideas. They kind of war in your brain–the overly pessimistic crowding sensation and the optimism floating around in your cranium like puffy white clouds. But when I say I had no idea, what I mean is that all my speculation was really useless, because I had no point of reference.

When I left in January to go out and share and I was inspired to name this particular journey “the Six Word Tour,” in reference to “NoOne is better than anyone else,” I wasn’t really sure what response I would receive to the assertion. Of course, I knew there would be some grammarians in the audience who would insist it was seven words, because “no one” is actually two words instead of one. But I checked it out in English handbooks, and actually, no one can be hyphenated (no-one), two words (no one) or used as a compound word (noone). So I was prepared for the handful of souls who pursue such logic.

But what I was NOT prepared for was presenting the concept of “NoOne is better than anyone else” to a rather quiet and perhaps tepid response. Actually, the first time I share it with an audience, they tend to just stare at me. Over the months I think I have discovered the reason why. For the past thirty-two years–really, since the 1980 election between Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan–we have divided into two very angry camps: conservatives and liberals.

Now, I understand these two have been around since the beginning of time, but never before had they blended such social, political and spiritual energy in attacking one another. What I have discovered this year is that those who are conservative do not like the concept of “NoOne is better than anyone else” because maintaining the theme of their mission statement requires that they believe in possessing a certain moral superiority. Those of a more liberal leaning don’t care for “NoOne is better than anyone else,” because to foster their creed, they insist on portraying a certain intellectual superiority.

So while the conservatives believe they’re superior morally, and the liberals contend that their rendition of truth makes them intellectually superior, we seem to have no leaders who are capable of loving their neighbor as themselves or of absorbing the attitude of “NoOne is better than anyone else.” It is why I have never been able to join either camp, though both have tried to suck me into their little conclaves.

I do not feel I am morally superior to anyone. Can I tell you the truth? Neither did Jesus. He makes it clear when he tells the rich young ruler, who calls him “good,” that there is “none good except God.” He challenges the crowd who wants to stone the woman caught in adultery by reminding them of their own failings and sins. And he warns in the Sermon on the Mount that judging other people leaves us vulnerable to equal portions of judgment.

I also have never been one to believe that I am intellectually superior to anyone else. Once again, I refer to Jesus, for he said during a particularly vulnerable prayer that he was grateful to God that the words of truth had been “hidden from the wise and prudent and delivered unto babes,” and on another occasion, “except we become as little children, we shall not enter the Kingdom of God.” And Jesus made it quite clear that there is a danger in thinking that with our much speaking, somehow or another the heavenly Father hears us more.

I do not know how we have strayed so far from both the gospel of Jesus and from plain old commonsense. Simple rational thinking tells you that the minute you express supremacy over another person, you have set in motion the seedlings of creating an enemy. If God is no respecter of persons, how do we think our particular breaking down of mankind into social orders is going to be received from the divine perspective?

If you want to do something magnificent in this generation and for the world around you, cease to be part of either the conservative or the liberal cliques. They are constantly arguing, plotting their revenge and plugging their causes. They feel they are ordained to rule–one group because of its moral superiority, and the other insisting on intellectual dominance. One will tell you that we need to return to God and the other will inform you that knowledge and education is the key to our progress.

Well, we’ve had God around for a long time and things aren’t better. And honestly, we’ve been teaching science, technology and history for hundreds and hundreds of years and we keep repeating the same script. So there has to be something else.

I know it is difficult for each and every one of us to fathom the concept of “NoOne is better than anyone else.” I was raised to believe I was better than other people. It has never helped me. When I was in the Church of Christ, I was told that those more liberal churches didn’t believe in Jesus and didn’t have salvation. When I began to interact with people of the mainline denominations, I was informed that those red-neck fundamentalists were just too ignorant to really understand the mind of God.

No one found a reason to stop differing. And that’s what I want. I beg NOT to differ.

I don’t want you to compromise; I don’t want them to compromise. I don’t want me to compromise. I want us ALL to start out our discussion with “NoOne is better than anyone else.”  It means that our arguments can not be given weight simply because we have quoted from a book or we’ve brought a twisted stack of statistics. We’re going to have to respect one another. You may call it idealism, but it is really not naive when it is a necessity.

Once again, we face an election where the conservatives and liberals are trying to get the high ground. The conservative Republicans want to tout their moral superiority and the liberal Democrats blow their trumpet about education and intellectualism. We are getting nowhere. In the meantime, the world teeters on the brink of unnecessary disaster simply because we look across the waters at other nations and find them inferior because they’re not American.

I am coming to your town looking for reasons to “love the God outta ya.” I know it’s in there–He created you in His image, and no matter how much moral or intellectual superiority you use to try to cover up the picture of His beauty, it can still be unearthed if we’ll just relax and stop trying so hard to be Daddy’s favorite kid.

I am not superior to you. I wouldn’t know what to do if I were. What I would like to be is equal with you as we pull together to find ways to agree on goals which will bring us closer to understanding.

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