Barking Dogs… January 14, 2012


I’ve only been working on it for about a year.

Honestly, I’m not very good at it. But I still continue to pursue the idea because I realize how valuable it is–and perhaps even necessary to my own well-being and certainly to my fellow-humans. For many years I knew it was something I should consider, but candidly, I just thought people should take care of their own business, be grown-up and not involve me in their messes.

But here’s the truth–lots of people don’t take care of their own affairs. People tend to wear their feelings on their sleeves and then become easily bruised and upset when you bump into them. It causes strife, fighting, feuds and just a general feeling of discontent among the populace.

So that is why, for the past year I have been trying to listen to and note the barking dogs that hound the minds of my fellow-travelers. Because if I take every nasty attitude that’s thrown my way and assume it was meant for me, I am an idiot. People arrive in our presence already cocked to go off like a gun, with feelings of resentment, remorse and insecurity that have absolutely nothing to do with us. They may choose us as a dumping ground, but unless we take the time to suck up some air and consider their plight, we will explode all over them, further confirming their belief that life sucks. It is a step of maturity that I am ill-prepared to undertake–but I do acknowledge that it’s required in order to move forward. People have “barking dogs” on their heels all the time that they’re running from, causing them to be less than considerate, pre-occupied, frustrated and often incompetent.

Let me give you an example. Several weeks ago, I finished performing in a church and a lady came by my book table in a wheel chair and rolled on down the hallway towards a restroom. She sat in front of the restroom for a few moments and then tried to roll to the door but was unable to open it, and after two attempts, backed her wheelchair up and disappeared around a corner, out of sight. It got me thinking. I wondered if she was around that corner trying to figure out how to get into the bathroom, yet completely stymied by her situation and, for whatever reason, unwilling to ask for assistance. I took a chance. I knew she wouldn’t allow me to help her into the bathroom, so I asked a teenage girl nearby to do me a favor. I quickly explained the situation and inquired if she would be willing to go find the lady and see if she was sitting there and ask her if she would like some assistance getting into the restroom. The young girl looked at me like I was a little crazy, but since she thought it was a “worthy” nuttiness, she complied. She disappeared and short moments later, reappeared rolling the lady to the restroom, completing the mission. I don’t know how long that woman would have sat, trying to figure out how to get into the bathroom, allowing the “barking dogs” to create greater and greater dissatisfaction in her soul. But I was glad I could silence the hounds in her mind on this one occasion. You see, in the midst of a society constantly trying to judge the actions of other people based on outward appearance, the more intelligent path is to listen for the barking dogs that hound people into being less than what they really desire to be.

I find it difficult to write about the subject because I am in such an infant stage of discovery that my explanation probably sounds like baby-talk. But this is what I know–ninety per cent of the people who are mean to me are so because they think they’re attacking somebody or something else. If I retaliate solely based upon what they say or do to me, I start an unnecessary war. If I pause for a second and wonder what vicious consequence of life has caused them to arrive in such a foul mood, I allow my compassion to take the forefront instead of my retaliation. It doesn’t always work–but when it does, I offer salvation to my friends instead of incrimination.

Can we tune our ears to hear the barking dogs that are hounding the minds of those we meet? Perhaps it’s a pipe dream. You might even consider it a piece of foolishness. But I know this–to spend my whole life judging things by what I hear and see and never look deeper into the heart is to remove the essence of God from my journey.

Because it is always God’s will to look inside … instead of judging the book by its cover.


Jonathan wrote the gospel/blues anthem, Spent This Time, in 1985, in Guaymas, Mexico. Take a listen:


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

Tales of Whales… January 13, 2012


I don’t want to be a curmudgeon. The condition is usually characterized as an aging person who has become jaded and grouchy about the enjoyment of youthful passions and delights. That’s not me. But every once in a while something crosses the landscape of the American cultural-bus-tour that requires some comment–maybe even of a disgruntled sort.

I, for one, am fed up with the glorification of animals–especially to the exclusion of energy that could be spent in aiding our own race (that being the human one.)

How many movies are we going to make about whales that need to be saved? How many times do we really need to Free Willy? Do we need another scene of teary-eyed proponents of the animal cause, weeping over some creature that’s being thrust into captivity? AND we’re so type-specific! We seem to care about the porpoise getting caught in the tuna net without ever giving a thought to the thousands of tuna which are being eaten! Dogs and cats gain great favor with us, while mice and possums can be discarded alongside the road as necessary casualties of progress. What is the obsession?

Here’s a story. About five years ago, I wrote a movie called The $6 Man. Many of you may even own it. It is the story of a father who loses his financial security and finds himself on the street with his eleven-year-old daughter, attempting to live on six dollars a day, while also organizing and assisting his fellow-street-dwellers. I love this movie. It is full of heart, humanity, mercy, humor, pathos and all the good things that make a terrific flick. But when it came time for it to go to film festivals and be considered for distribution, it was rejected by many because it wasn’t “family fare.” Let me get this straight: three whales stranded under an ice floe, assisted by a young boy, is called a “miracle story for the whole family.” But on the other hand, an actual family stranded under a  freeway overpass, trying to live in a trash dumpster and love each other is “not suitable for children.”

Is this really the message we want to convey? Because when I challenged those powers-that-be about their decision, they explained to me that the situations were “too adult” and parts of the movie characterized the government and people around the homeless as being uncaring. Amazing.

I watched a television show the other night where a gorilla was seeking personhood because the animal had been taught to do sign language–and his leathery, hairy face seemed to have expressions of sadness. A quick search on the Internet will tell you that gorillas are violent, and chimpanzees (which many folks consider to be our closest ancestor) will rip your face off at a moment’s notice. Now, I have met a lot of human beings who are not particularly favorable, but none who have ever ripped my face off.

And here’s another strange thing–this issue seems to be one of the few that liberals and conservatives agree upon: family fare is any entertainment that involves animals being treated correctly, fantasy, warlocks or unlikely scenarios about young people in difficulty, trying to solve problems.

Where are we teaching our next generation to be human? Because I will tell you right now–caring for a whale, a gorilla or even a kitty-cat does not make you a quality human being. Learning to love someone who has the ability to speak his or her mind–and not necessarily love you back just because you bring them a bowl of food–is the true measurement of our earth worth.

Conservatives love to perch their children in front of “safe” movies, where animals are valued and there is a happy ending, which makes the children giddy, although ill-informed. Liberals likewise fear exposing their offspring to any practical realities of life, feeling it’s better that these experiences be “gradually” filtered into the learning process. So saving a whale or hugging a gorilla seems to be an acceptable two-hour-long baby-sitter as the parents go into the other room, sipping some wine and watching old Scorsese movies. As bad as it is to see conservatives and liberals arguing, it is even more frightening when they unite over inhumanity.

Give me a movie where a young boy discovers three homeless people–or decides to visit a trio of housebound retired folks after school. Let us explore his experiences  with these individuals. I can write it just as heartwarming, real and touching as the “whale tale.” But you will never see it–for we choose to throw money at the homeless problem rather than addressing the real need.

Homelessness in America is a three-fold issue:

1. Many of the people need social reclamation. In other words, they’ve just forgotten how to get along with other people.

2. Others lack the skills necessary to leap back into society and make a living without working all day long to still end up lacking a roof.

3. And candidly, there are mental health issues. Thousands of these individuals who are disenfranchised are struggling with their own minds, insecurities and mental lapses. They need attention.

I realize my little essay doesn’t mean much in the vast spectrum of the pursuit of “family fare entertainment.” But I don’t think we can expect humanity to improve if we don’t spend that much time with humans. And I will continue to speak out on the issue, risking being referred to as ‘the old grump,” hoping that someone who has an ear will hear, and allow their children a real education on how to be alive.

Because let me tell you, I have met many people who adore animals–and hate folks. But I’ve never found anyone who loves human beings who doesn’t stop long enough to give a bone to a stray dog.


Jonathan wrote the gospel/blues anthem, Spent This Time, in 1985, in Guaymas, Mexico. Take a listen:


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

Sure–October 26, 2011


Driving through the beautiful countryside of North Carolina last evening on my way to spend time with some wonderful folks, I received a phone call. It was a friend of mine, just calling to catch up with me–so he asked me what I was up to. I told him I was on my way to present a program at a little Methodist church in North Carolina. He snorted a bit. “North Carolina?” he inquired.  “What’s that like?”

I knew what he was getting at. There seems to be a universal pulse in this country that wants to pump out the heart-felt notion that we’re all so “different” and that one region of the country is ignorant while another region of the country is spewing with intelligence. So people in New York think that people in North Carolina don’t wear shoes or have indoor plumbing, while folks in North Carolina are prone to believe that individuals that live in California go to the beach all day and abort their babies, while eating a lot of tofu.

Of course, the media does little to alleviate this train of thought, because keeping people in tension towards one another is a great way to keep them tuning in and buying cars and hamburgers. Let me be flat and honest with you. It really doesn’t work out that way. I’ve traveled all over the country. The accents are different. Sometimes their ways of greeting strangers–like me–vary. But when you get past the outer skin of cultural reaction, inside is the image of God that was ushered in by His breath.

At that point it basically boils down to two different possibilities. You run across people who are sure that everything they believe should remain intact.  And them there are those folks who will listen carefully and if something is reasonable, they will say, “Sure.”

That’s really the difference.  It’s not a liberal or conservative issue. It’s not even a “religious” or “secular” difference. I find that conservatives, liberals, religious or secular people can be equally as open or closed-minded, depending on how willing they are to conceive that there might just be more.

Last night the people didn’t know me so they took a few minutes to get acquainted. I don’t care. Some people have to confirm that you’ve had your shots before they’ll give you a good hug. It’s immaterial.  What matters is whether they are sure of themselves and therefore impenetrable to the introduction of better ideas, OR if they possess a child-like heart and say, “Sure. Sounds good.”

You may want to ask, “Are there any signs to tell you which group you’re dealing with?”

The answer is no–because truthfully, some of the coldest and frowniest people I’ve ever met have turned, within a thirty-minute period, into some of the most generous souls I have ever left behind. And some individuals I have encountered who seemed to have a lot of enthusiasm, personality and what they would deem to be openness, will just as often dig their heels in and insist that their IQ prohibits them from receiving additional information.

But I will tell you this–there seems to be a little chain of events in human thinking which transcends us from being overly sure about our opinions into having a willingness to hear something fresh and become excited enough to say, “Sure.”  It is a three-step process:

1.  Do we really believe that people have free will? If you don’t understand that free will is sacred above anything else in the universe, you will start getting aggravated because people won’t do what you want them to. The minute you are aggravated with your fellow humans, you start putting them in boxes and categorizing them, which is the beginning of all prejudice. So a belief in free will, to me, is equivalent to a belief in God. And by the way, if God has no intention of crossing the free will of human beings, who am I to question if they have the right to pursue their own paths?

2.  Human beings are God’s top dogs. And I put the word “dog” in there for a reason–people who like animals equally, or even better, than humans, usually end up being quite anti-people. Let me tell you right now, humans are not animals. Now, that does not mean I deny an evolution in the environment.  I just don’t believe humans were a part of it. If God started evolution, He was also completely able to stop it after the chimpanzee. For instance, I have had a dog in my life, but he is not equivalent to my son. There are many reasons. I was able to teach my son not to lick his behind in public. (Most of the time.) Not so with my pooch. And if I got hit by a tree during a storm and was bleeding and dying on the ground, my son would call an ambulance.  My dog would lick the blood off my face. It’s what dogs do. To me, that’s the end of the discussion. It doesn’t mean we shouldn’t care for animals–it just means there is no equivalency between the creatures of the jungle and the forest and the creation that possesses the soul of God.  Thinking of human beings as “just part of the ecosystem” is liberal gobbledygook, which eliminates the precious fact that human beings are God’s favorite workmanship.

3.  And finally, if you’re going to be a person who isn’t sure of everything and is willing to say, “sure,” you also must have an understanding that your family is not JUST those people who look like you, share your name or were birthed through your genetic essence. Human beings are all related to each other, with a common Father called God. If you don’t believe this, you’re going to think that some folks are better than others. Matter of fact, many intellectual bigots in the late 1800’s used Darwin’s Origin of the Species to prove that black men and women were the “missing link” between monkeys and men. Funny, isn’t it, that now the theory of evolution is affiliated with liberalism, when at one time it was the justification for treating a whole race of people as inferior? 

 I guess you can use anything to prove everything that you want to be sure of.

But if you believe that mankind has free will, that man is above animals in importance and that everyone human is linked to a common father–God–you will loosen your grip on your inflexible commandments and allow for the freshness of God-sent ideas.

If, on the other hand, you contend that people should do what you think, or what a black leather-bound book requires, or that animals have the same rights as humans, or that the only people you are responsible to love are those who eat Thanksgiving turkey with you, you just might end up being too sure that you know everything already … and miss a blessing.

So what would I tell my friend about North Carolina? Some people there are like everybody else in the country. They are sure they know everything. There are others who live in the Tar Heel State who are willing to hear anointed ideas from the Spirit and say: “Sure.”

Is that going to change? Not until we realize that life is a journey and not a destination. Being a journey, we will travel, sight-see and learn–until we’re taken to another place.


Jonathan sings “Let”

Jonathan Sings “Spent This Time”

Jonathan and his partner, Janet Clazzy, play “The Call”

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