A Bookmark … December 18, 2011

(1,365)
 
 
 
I am a child of God
The heavens reverberate with a shudder of grief when I am in tears
The angels from a million pinnacles give a shout when I find joy
For I am part of a universal plan
A determining factor in His Almighty decision
Whether I fly by night or drive by day
All of heaven is hushed and brought to action
When I am in need …
 
This is a poem I wrote on a Greyhound bus when I was twenty years old, on my way to meet up with a friend who was in need. I had a can of Vienna sausages stuck in my pocket, two containers of Zesta crackers and a can of Diet coke–with exactly $1.25 in my wallet for other incidental expenses. I didn’t care. After all, I liked Vienna sausages. I also didn’t care that I had $1.25 in my pocket.  And truthfully, I still don’t.
 
I wake up this morning sixty years of age–my birthday.
 
Sixty is significant. First of all, you’re no longer fifty, which is that in-between number, where you’re not quite an “old codger,” even though you’ve passed any possibility for male model or stud. Sixty is the gateway drug to Medicare, or perhaps that would be better phrased, the gateway Medicare to free drugs. There are sixty seconds in a minute, sixty minutes in an hour. Sixty is three twenties, six tens, four fifteens, twelve fives … and now I’m just getting ridiculous.
 
The reason I shared the verse with you at the beginning of this essay is that I could have written it today and it would have been just as fresh and true. I still believe it. I still believe that I am a son of God–not in the sense that I must be careful handling my water glass, lest it gain alcoholic proportions, but a son of God because I am included in the mind of my Creator and Father.
 
Everybody in our generation is concerned about “liberal” and “conservative,” right and left–but honestly, my friends, I’ve always prayed for a straight, plain path and avoided the drastic turns based on society’s pressure to conform.
 
In the 1960’s, when I was  teenager, it was posh to cast a jaundiced eye towards civil rights and social reform while rallying around the American flag about Vietnam. It just never made sense to me to go halfway around the world to kill off the people in a small country in the name of democracy when we hadn’t yet given full rights to all of our citizens.
 
In the 1970’s, it was all about partying and lavishing oneself with platitudes of perfection and dancing the night away. Since I knew I wasn’t perfect and wasn’t a very good dancer, I chose to work on my personality, principles and trying to practice what I preached.
 
In the 1980’s, while the religious community was becoming obsessed with social issues, I continued to expound upon the notion that since God does not look on the outward appearance buts looks on the heart, we should spend more time working on our own internals and not so much about our own morality falling into the majority.
 
Likewise, in the 90’s and even coming into the 2000’s, I just could never become a “signer on the dotted line” of the Contract with America–to be self-obsessed.
 
You see, it’s because I know how limited my faculties are, how fragile my talents and how weak my resolve that I find the will and determination to avoid movements that extol the great panorama of potential in the individual. What I mean is, the problem with self-esteem is that it easily loses its steam and always has to be boiled up again, leaving us totally self-involved, with no awareness of our true self or the needs of others.
 
Today I am sixty years old.
  • Starting at my feet, they feel about seventy-five.
  • My ankles are hangin’ in there at about fifty-two.
  • My knees are about ninety-one.
  • My hips maintain a really cool forty.
  • My waist … well, let’s not go there.
  • My heart is a mystery, but certainly has more creaks than it used to.
  • My face has a myriad of ages, depending on how much sleep I get.
  • My eyes are a split vote–the right one an octogenarian, and the left one, still floating around thirty-five.
 My emotions are daily cleansed so they’re like a newborn.
My soul is always attempting to be as old as God but as young as a child.
And my brain … well, my brain is still twenty years old, riding on that bus, believing that God cares …  about me.
 
Don’t be so concerned about the right and the left. Look at where you want to go–and steer your life straight ahead. Because after we’re gone, no one is going to discuss our faults, only our good points. If we don’t leave behind much of a record of righteousness, we probably won’t be mentioned at all. What I want people to remember is that I started out doing something and on the morning I passed, I was still doing it.
 
So let me call sixty a bookmark. I have fewer chapters to write than those that have already been edited. But that means I have the complete capability of going for a great twist in the end.

***************

Here comes Christmas! For your listening pleasure, below is Manger Medley, Jonathan’s arrangement of Away in the Manger, which closes with him singing his gorgeous song, Messiah.  Looking forward to the holidays with you!

***************

To see books written by Jonathan, click the link below! You can peruse and order if you like!

http://www.janethan.com/tour_store.htm

Published in: on December 18, 2011 at 1:22 pm  Comments (1)  
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Transitions … November 18, 2011

(1,334)

Live, outdoors in Ambler, PA

 
I met a young woman.

When I was a kid, that phrase conjured images of the first day of school, discovering I had a new teacher to deal with who didn’t seem young at all to me, but rather, old and stern, reeking of musty books, with a diabolical stare. I remember praying, “I hope my new young-woman-teacher is pretty … or even nice.” Unfortunately, the normal was just … pretty nice.

I met a young woman.

Time progresses and I’m twelve years old. Why is it that God has us discover the greater potentials of our body below the waist before we uncover the mysteries and intricacies of what lies above the neck? I would assume, for His amusement. Anyway, I’m only twelve years old, but those girls of sixteen and seventeen sure look good. But all I can get them to do is ruffle my hair, pat me on the back and treat me like a little brother. Still, the touch of their fingertips registers in areas that I shan’t share. But none of them notice me. I’m too young.

I met a young woman.

Time marches on. I am no longer theorizing, but am in the midst of full evolution and those wonderfully gorgeous young girls are now my age, but because I have a bit of the look of the predator, they’re afraid of me and I must find ways to flirt with them without being overtly obvious about my intentions. Dating. Oh, how I wish it were as easy as shimmying up a palm tree to acquire fruit. There’s nothing easy about it–and the payoff is often not worth the effort. But that doesn’t stop me from pursuing it.

I met a young woman.

Actually, I ended up marrying her. I was engorged with passion, overwhelmed with anticipation and greedy for the pleasures of what relationship could bring. Even sometimes, conversation. I am a young, married man who suddenly notices that all the women around me are all at once attracted my way because I am “taken” and seemingly, no longer a threat. They are all my age, all of them beautiful, it seems, and of course … all of them forbidden. My turmoiled consciousness presses on, desperately trying to keep myself out of situations where I might slip and “fall on purpose” and have to come up with a reason why it was accidental.

I met a young woman.

Older now, settled. Lost some of my hair, but not my vigor, if you know what I mean. All those luscious women are now about ten years younger than me and they think I’m an old man, but I know differently. I want to wink and flirt, but such overtures are met with uncomfortable silences or giddy laughs from the lasses, saying things like, “Oh, sir … you’re so silly.”  Yes, I am silly. I am an aging, silly young man who has not yet discovered that I’m getting gradually decrepit. It is depressing but still well worth living–and viewing. All of these young women have become temptresses. (Gee whiz. I didn’t even know there was a plural for temptress.) But there sure is in my consciouness. I have become too old to be considered, too young to retire, too vibrant to give up and too many birthdays to still keep my candle lit.

I met a young woman. 

Just yesterday. I am so glad that age has afforded me the benefit of looking at this human being before me as a person–really, a daughter. I don’t even notice her physical virtues because I’ve grown old enough now that I actually see through her eyes, down into her soul that is so confused because she is looking for a knight in shining armor, riding a Harley Davidson, chewing tobacco, stopping every fifteen or twenty minutes to read a poem by Shelley or Keats underneath a juniper tree. (My God, he also might be a vampire.) Obviously, such a creature does not exist, but in her innocence, she still dreams.  I am glad to be free of such foolishness.  I am glad I am still viable, but not under the spell of the variable of lustfulness. We talked. I was her father and she was my daughter.  So much more pleasant. So much easier.

I met a young woman.

It will not be long before all the fair maidens of the land will be my granddaughters, running up to assist me to rise from my chair, to come as quickly as I can to see their new cars or their new boyfriends, or to give my wise and seasoned opinion on the materials for a wedding dress. I will be the sage who survived all age to turn a new page to be the oracle for all wisdom.  Will it even cross their minds that I was once as young as they are, filled with the vim, vigor and vitality of pure insanity?

I met a young woman.

Yes, she is coming this morning to anoint my body with spices and ointments for burial. It is over.

Wait! … perhaps I have one bit of magic still left in me.  Maybe I can surprise her … and resurrect.

***************

Here comes Christmas! For your listening pleasure, below is Manger Medley, Jonathan’s arrangement of Away in the Manger, which closes with him singing his gorgeous song, Messiah.  Looking forward to the holidays with you!

Turn Offs–September 17, 2011

(1,272)

 

 

September 17, 2011

Jason was a friend of mine who died. (Now there was a horrible opening sentence…)

He was a few months younger than me but he insisted on getting old as soon as he saw the age of fifty looming in the near distance. He got some gray in his hair, and rather than dying it, he wore it as a badge of honor, but also carried it as evidence of being decrepit. My teenage sons hated Jason because he spoke slowly and paused frequently—doing his best impersonation of impending dementia, and became infuriated if one of the boys interrupted him because they wanted to fill the space.

He explained to them that they needed to respect him. They, being ardent adherents of adolescence, said: “Why?”

“Because I’m older,” growled Jason.

It is one of the classic turn-offs in the human family. The notion that we are improved because we’re older or somewhat fresher because we’re younger is nether true nor holds any water in the great bucket of life.

Older people haven’t done anything but age. I will agree—with age there is the potential for learning, but certainly not a requirement. Matter of fact, aging can make you become resistant to receiving knowledge and cause you to believe that you’ve retained enough data to make decisions on almost anything. “I am older than you” is one of the most useless phrases uttered from the mouth of a human being.

I live in an ageless mindset. I listen just as intently to my six-year-old granddaughter as I do to a sixty-year-old pastor with a doctorate that’s been at a church for twenty-two years. Because not only out of the mouths of babes come words of wisdom, but also often questions which need to be asked but are shuffled to the side by those who have had too many birthdays—but not enough parties.

Now, I never went to college. Even though I have performed in them and instructed in them, I never took a class in a university. I share that with you neither as a badge of honor nor as a cloak of shame. It’s the way my life went. I was married when I was eighteen, had my first son by age nineteen, and now, forty-one years later, have raised seven children—four of my own making and three I adopted. I have been rich and I have been poor, but I have always been creative and I certainly know that the smartest thing you can do in life is laugh more than you cry.

I, like you, run across people who feel it is their job to communicate to me that they are smarter. I was always uncomfortable with the phrase “I am smarter” because it usually requires a follow-up of proof. And if the proof is in the pudding, then the pudding is in the stirring. And when you stir your ideas all together and they pop out of the bowl, they’d better be both palatable AND usable.

This is one of the problems going on in our country today. Our leadership does not know the difference between paper ideas and people ideas—because there are often things that look good on paper that do not serve the needs and feelings of humanity. It is why I enjoy the gospel of Jesus—it’s heavy on spirit and light on law. It takes into consideration the fragility of mankind, yet without treating us like we’re stupid.

“I am smarter” is the second great turn-off to those around you.

So what is the best way to convey intelligence in a society of touchy, insecure fellow-travelers? Just shut up, do it—and let’em watch. Wait for the question. Never give advice to anyone unless you hear a question mark at the end of their phrase. Here’s a clue—when people see something is working, they believe. You can criticize that all you want to, but you’ll end up expressing your frustrations to an empty room.

And finally, and unfortunately, those who feel they are older and smarter often come up with some philosophy, religious jargon or perhaps even political persuasion that expresses: “I am better.”

“I am better” is why the planet suffers slings and arrows.

Until we dispel the notion of chosen people, manifest destiny, special anointing, preferred races and genetically enhanced beings, we will eventually take our aged hand and in a moment of what we consider to be smartness, push the big red button to destroy ourselves.

Write it down somewhere so you can see it every day: NO ONE IS BETTER THAN ANYONE ELSE. The reason you need to write it down is because every, single person on this planet has been brought up to believe that they’re better than someone else. You may object to that statement and cite that your parents and even your grandparents were free of that contention, but somewhere along the line, they infused into you the notion that you were better than someone in some way. And it has robbed you of relationships that would have been rich with emotion, and has crippled you with a cross you cannot bear.

“I am better.” It is the final turn off that turns on all the hatred in the world.

I thought you might be interested in this today because these three statements—“I am older;” “I am smarter,” and “I am better”—are what cause us to believe that we are persecuted.

But NOT for righteousness’ sake. Nope. It’s just for a big, fat batch … of dumbness.

%d bloggers like this: