25 Smackabonies… January 16, 2014

Jonathots Daily Blog

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I'M book coverIt takes two different desires to write a book. Well, at least it should:

  • First, a vision of something to say.
  • And second, an arrogance that you actually have a right to say it.

I decided I wanted to write a novel. It went swimmingly until I splashed down in self-doubt.

What you may not know about the writing process is that you pen many, many pages which will never be used or are simply edited down in your completed manuscript.

Mine was a simple telling of the “greatest story ever told.” I wrote a first-person account of the life of Jesus–him telling his own story–including possible scenarios of what may have happened during “the missing years”–between the ages of twelve and thirty.

In 1993, I reached a juncture in the story where I was about to enter the last days of his life. I stalled. I didn’t want to write something predictable. I didn’t want to share the story of the final moments in the life of Jesus of Nazareth in a traditional way.  So I did what all writers do when they’re poised at a fork in the road.

I stopped.

My two oldest sons, who had just moved to Nashville and started working, were greatly concerned. They loved the book and wanted to see me finish it. So unbeknownst to me, they found an empty apartment in our complex which was fully furnished and was rented out to visiting parties for $25 a night. They rented one day’s lodging for me.

This was quite an achievement. It cost twenty-five dollars–hard-earned money they really didn’t have. (We jokingly referred to dollars as “smackabonies.”)

They came to me, handed me the key, and said, “Dad, get away. Go write.”

I was moved by their generosity, but was also fighting a severe bout with a urinary infection at the time. I had a sting in places on my body which were never meant to be stung. But rather than disappoint them, I took my old manual Royal typewriter with  an “a” key which failed to finish its bottom, and headed off for the seclusion.

I have honestly never had such a transforming experience. Sick, with a mild fever, in great pain, I sat behind that typewriter and hammered out seventy-five pages of my book, taking me through the betrayal, the trial, the crucifixion and the resurrection of my dear friend.

It was amazing.

The pain I felt only helped to feed the passion of the moment. Page after page flowed from me, almost like automatic writing, if there is such a thing.

I don’t know what my sons expected, but when I walked out the next morning with nearly ninety fresh pages of my book, they were in tears. They spent the next several hours reading the fruit of my labors and the grapes of their generosity.

It was just 25 smackabonies, after all.

But to them it was a gold mine. And to me it was a treasure chest.

I have never forgotten it. And it makes me realize that the greatest accomplishment in life is discovering that God, your friends and your family not only love you … but are prepared to invest in you. 

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

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

The Spirit of St. Louis…. June 28, 2012

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It seemed like a good idea.

Good ideas are like athletes. They all seem to be in great shape until they compete in the race against other formidable opponents. Then all of their weaknesses come to the forefront as they surprisingly finish dead last.

I had amazingly accumulated $931.26. Now, these were 1978 dollars. I had set them aside to move my family and my music group, Soul Purpose, from Centerburg, Ohio, to Nashville, Tennessee, where the first fruits of a budding career were sprouting many possibilities. I had just released my first national record album and had my book, The Gospel According to Common Sense, published. It was time to move closer to where the work was bringing benefit instead of finding myself eight hours away from my next possibility.

Everything was going along swimmingly until I floated into Nashville and discovered that our three-bedroom apartment was not going to be ready for occupancy for two weeks. So I decided to take our music group and my family on the road for that fortnight to try to sustain our livelihood–and maybe even expand our momentous treasure. As I said, it seemed like a good idea–except for the fact that the other participants necessary to make this notion complete failed to comply.

We got on the highway and couldn’t get any bookings, and ended up spending our money to survive, and by the time we landed at the last weekend before returning to Music City, we only had $314 left of our initial nest egg. Only one opportunity had been afforded our way. It was on the last Sunday morning and was at a start-up church in St. Louis,

English: Under the back of the Spirit of St. L...

English: Under the back of the Spirit of St. Louis. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

being held in a local junior high school and only had forty people in attendance. It seemed unlikely that I would be able to recoup my $931 need from these three-dozen-plus souls.So I cried, laughed and relaxed. This has proven to be a great combination for me. It’s always a good idea to cry first–get all the self-pity drained from the pus deep in your soul, lest it try to ooze out later, at a time when you need dedication instead of sympathy.

Next, I laughed–because if I thought this was going to be the last time I made a foolish decision leaving me in jeopardy, then I truly must be the king of comedy. For after all, bad decisions are just good decisions that were fairly unlucky.

Finally, I relaxed. Or at least did my best impersonation. Perhaps the greatest advantage we have in possessing faith is the childlike quality of nestling into the arms of our conviction and going to sleep, knowing that tomorrow will either bring great surprise and benefit–or defeat. But after all, even defeat requires a good night’s sleep.

Our Sunday morning church was pastored by a husband and wife team, Bob and Martha. Martha was a delightful woman who really did delight in everything. Bob was a thoughtful man who had learned how to be much more appreciative of life because he had been given a terminal diagnoses of leukemia. Honestly, there was nothing particularly special about the service or the time we had at this little congregation of people. Maybe I was tired; maybe I still was fretting a little bit over our financial need. Or maybe it was just forty people who wondered how we had stumbled into their midst.

It was warm but it was not toasty. We were appreciated, but not lauded. It was purposeful, but not terribly spirited. We finished up, an offering was collected for our journey, the equipment was packed away, and I stepped into the school’s bathroom to change my clothes, to journey onto Nashville, where there was an apartment waiting for me–which was now beyond my means.

I was sitting on the toilet seat, fully clothed–not needing to use the facility for its actual purpose, but rather, only as a perch of consideration. As I was musing my plight, I was all at once aware that Bob had entered the room and was standing outside my stall door. He thanked me for coming and told me that he had the offering. I was rather embarrassed to be having a conversation through a bathroom door, yet I didn’t exactly want to open it and emerge from the tiny enclosure to shake his hand with him wondering where it had been. So awkwardly, I continued to listen to him talk through the closed portal.

I could hear tears in his voice as he spoke. I think he took the opportunity to pour out his heart to a stranger because his personal thoughts might be too painful to those closest to him. He said, “They tell me I’m going to die, and honestly, Jonathan, I think they’re probably right. I welcome the prayers of my loved ones and family, and believe you me, I hope they are answered and I can continue to live. But truthfully, I think it’s my time. I don’t know how to tell them that. I don’t know how to tell myself that. But I wanted someone to know that I’m not afraid. I wanted someone to hear me say … it’s okay.”

He stopped speaking. I had no idea how to respond. Here I was, worrying about my lost treasure of money, listening to a man who was about to lose his treasure of life. I remained silent. To contradict his conclusions would be childish. To confirm them would be mean.

He didn’t say anything else, he just slid the envelope containing my morning offering under the door and quietly left the room. I remained seated on the little porcelain throne for a long moment, and then reached down and grabbed the gift. I opened it up and pulled out the contents. Pastor Bob had given the entire morning offering from the church to us. Checks that had been written to himself and the work had been signed over for our blessing.

I quietly sat there and counted the money and was stunned to discover that it added up to $935. I didn’t want to move. God, I didn’t even want to breathe–except that became necessary. The room was so still, so full of the presence of a generous, kind and perhaps even giggling spirit. I was being blessed and mocked at the same time.

“Oh, foolish man you are, who thinks that the power of life and death is solely within your confines and abilities. Stand back and behold the majesty of God and the generosity of another fellow-traveler.”

I drove on to Nashville, procured my apartment and began my life there. I sent a thank-you note to my new friend in gratitude from his confessor. I was overwhelmed. I had been whisked away and flown to the heavens by the Spirit of St. Louis.

Two months later, Martha wrote me a letter and told me that Bob had passed away. He was right–it apparently was his time.

I cried. They were selfish tears. Gone was a new friend who had blessed my life; and departed from this earth was one of those necessary souls we so desperately need, who now revels in his reward.

I had lost an earthly friend to gain a new witness in the heavens. The only thing I can do to honor Bob is to become Bob to the next foolish dreamer who has a really bad idea, craps out and ends up sitting … on the pot.

   

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

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