Fairfield’s White Unto Harvest… November 12, 2012

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Life is awkward.

Nothing of any significance will occur in the reading of this essay unless you understand this. Life is filled with moments of inconvenience which can either mount up in your mind and seem unconquerable, leaving you in despair, or can be taken on one at a time, with a tenacious sense of humor and be overcome.

It’s really that simple. Those who try to supersede the awkwardness of life by avoiding nervous encounters end up in a smaller and smaller world with fewer and fewer possibilities and more predictable friends and circumstances–which annoy them because of how bland they are.

Now, I had a fabulous Sunday morning in Fairfield, Ohio. It wasn’t fabulous because everything worked perfectly. It wasn’t astoundingly delightful because the cosmos came into synchronicity with my purpose. No–it was awkward.

Arriving at the gig, I discovered there were three big steps leading to the platform. Right now I don’t do steps. Sometimes I can successfully pull it off without looking like a worm ascending a plank–if there is a handrail available. You guessed it–no handrail.

Awkward.

On top of that, before we came on to share our bits and pieces, there was a march of children bringing in boxes of toys for the needy and a very well-produced salute to the military by the chancel choir, complete with veterans standing up in correlation to their particular armed services song.  Let’s review: marching children, a salute to supporting our troops.

Awkward.

Following the introduction by our dear sponsor, we received no greeting of welcoming applause, so I had to begin my show in total silence. It would be difficult to explain to you how awkward that feels without placing you in that position–which I mercifully do not desire to do.

Did I mention that life is awkward?

At the end of my program, during my final song, the ushers suddenly decided to start collecting the love offering used to defray our expenses. I have a particular hatred for this. It makes me feel like I’m either singing for my supper or I’m trying to drain the audience of finance by emotionally stimulating them with one of my musical selections. I gently requested that they stopped passing the plate, but they ignored me. It bothered me enough that I missed one of my lyrics, but then I shook it off and completed the song.

I want you to understand that this is not an indictment of Fairfield or an attempt to get you to feel sorry for me. This is life at its best–awkward as hell, waiting for me to bring a little heaven.

If you’re going to live on a planet that decides to rain whenever it wants to, using machines that have parts that break down, surrounded by fellow travelers who are convinced they have the right of way and subsisting in a body that is racing towards death, you might want to adjust your thinking and be prepared for a bit of evolution.

I loved those people yesterday–but what I want them to understand is that our country will never be what it was or become what it needs to be without them first learning to take awkward and change it into possibility. As long as you run away from awkward, you will run right into the arms of defeat.

Life is about overcoming awkward moments.

Take this morning: we are packing up our headquarters, loading it into a van, and driving down to Louisville, Kentucky, to unpack it and start another week. There are folks who would be convinced that is virtually impossible, and if not impossible, certainly a hassle– and henceforth unwarranted. As long as you maintain that mentality, you will be at the mercy of tribulation and under the control of those who have figured out a way to survive a moment’s fussiness.

Nothing is easy. I have been on a food regimen now for a month. So yesterday, I decided to go to the pot luck dinner provided by the church. It was lovely, generous and delicious, but NOT low-calorie. So the amount of food I was able to put on my plate and still maintain my regimen would have caused a hummingbird to complain to the restaurant management. It made me a little grumpy in the afternoon when I didn’t have any calories left to consume.

Awkward.

We as human beings have no way of gauging our success unless we can look back on how well we handle ourselves in awkward moments. I was hesitant to write about this today because I don’t want the folks I fell in love with yesterday in Fairfield to think I am complaining. Quite the contrary–I relish them. How will I ever get a chance to prove the value of my philosophy of life if what I believe and think isn’t challenged?

I feel good this morning–not because every aspect of my plan came off with utter precision. It’s because I devised a scheme through a series of well-placed chairs to mount the stage and get to my keyboard and off the stage and into the wheelchair, cruising on to my book table, without falling flat on my face. Glory be to God and praise the Lord and pass the ammunition (in honor of Veteran’s Day).

I am grateful that when the offering plates were passed, completely against my wishes, that my wilfulness did not win out, but instead, I went with the flow and the sun still shone and the earth revolved. Not everything has to be done my way in order to end up working out for my good.

I am overjoyed that I survived a church potluck and somehow or another made it to 5:15 that evening, where I was once again permitted to be a consumer and enjoy additional nutrition.

Life is awkward.

As Jesus said, the fields are white unto harvest but the laborers are few. Why are the laborers few?

Is it because people are lazy? Absolutely not.

Perhaps people are looking for a handout and don’t want to work? I don’t believe so.

I believe it’s because people are scared hopeless over the prospect of the shifting sands moving beneath their feet, changing their circumstances and creating an environment they were not prepared for. So they try to play it safe.

You have to decide–is life a shooting range where you stand at a distance and aim for paper targets, hoping to achieve a bull’s-eye? Or is it a forest where deer hunting season is in full progress and you’ve just discovered you’re a buck? Yes, the buck starts here.

Thank you, Fairfield. I am so grateful for you proving once again that love is not a confirmation of what we believe, but rather, an extremely awkward process wherein we continue to believe, often without ANY confirmation.

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

Somer-salt … October 29, 2012

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Today‘s story is in two parts, so please grant me the courtesy of staying around for both tellings.

Yesterday morning I was introduced, and our dear sponsor invited the congregation to make us welcome. What followed was silence. Now, I don’t consider myself an authority on human customs across the globe, but I am pretty sure that silence, as a form of greeting and welcome, is universally considered to be hostile. I paused for a moment before striking the keys of my piano to begin my opening song. Was I going to say something? Was I going to request that they give me the basic courtesy of the gentle acceptance normally given to any stranger? Or would such a demand come across as crass and pushy? I opted to go ahead and just share my song.

The reason I made that choice? This was NOT a normal situation.

I was in a church.

And for some inexplicable reason, we have convinced ourselves that God expects us to act anti-human when praying in His presence. I don’t know how this got started. It would seem to me logically, that since God is our Creator, He would not only anticipate our need for enthusiasm, but encourage it. Yet I am often led to believe that applause in a church is not only optional, but often inappropriate. This belief has flourished even though the Bible screams at us, “Clap your hands all ye people! Shout unto God with a voice of triumph!”

What cranky grandmas got together with a bunch of malevolent old widowers to conjure the rule that being in the presence of God demands silence, reverence and apparently, giving tribute to eighteenth-century classical music? I don’t know. But it does not make better people–and if it doesn’t make better people, it can’t be God.

For instance, that’s why I stay out of politics. I have never seen anyone become more generous and creative by running for office. But I have also never had the experience of observing human souls who have been cleansed of their sins by baptism free themselves of being introverted and frightened of being successful.

Here’s the way I read it: we are to love God with our heart, soul, mind and strength. I looked out at those faces who refused to welcome me with even a tiny round of applause and saw beautiful, gorgeous, delightful fellow-travelers who, for some reason or another, got “stuck in neutral” through perching in a pew.

This leads me to the second part of my story. The problem is not the people. The problem is what we ask the people to be.

Human beings were never meant to be dry,  somber and withholding. If you don’t believe me, just go to a football stadium. They don’t sit there and sip coffee, staring at the field, barely acknowledging the activity before their eyes. We LIKE to clap. We LIKE to cheer. We LIKE to be happy. It’s our nature.

Here is the formula for having a successful venture when it comes to dealing with human beings. I don’t know–maybe your organization is trying to gear its approach to melancholy, intergalactic aliens. I would have no idea what these creatures from outer space would require to make them tick. But human beings are heart, soul, mind and strength. Therefore may I present a list? We need:

  1. To feel more.
  2. To believe something.
  3. To think deeper
  4. To live bigger.

If we do these things, we can escape the limitations of the culture of our upbringing, and at the same time, enhance it–by feeling more, believing something, thinking deeper and living bigger.

I have grown weary of hearing people say that “certain parts of the country have certain personalities” and will not adjust to any unfamiliar offering. It just ain’t so.

I was in Somerset, Ohio, a village of fifteen hundred people. Yes, I am sure they have ways of doing things. Undoubtedly, they pride themselves on NOT being part of the big city down the road. But church is not about duplicating the mindset of the community around you, while ignoring your own personal needs to excel and be joyous.

Jesus says we are the salt of the earth. Could anything be any simpler than that? Try to cook a meal without salt. You may have just discovered the menu of the cafeteria from hell. Salt is flavor; we are salt. We are the good taste to those around us. So we are supposed to teach people who love God to be salt. It doesn’t mean they walk away from their loved ones or even some of their choices. It means they feel more, they believe something, they think deeper and they live bigger. They choose Jesus over their culture. They always select love over fear and they produce joy as a remedy for disappointment.

Can I give you the good news? I did my little “dog and pony show,” opened up my heart to these beautiful brothers and sisters, and guess what? They greeted me with their own personal victory, humanity and sense of well-being. They were lovely. They escaped religion to find God.

This is what we all have to do. You have to escape politics to find justice. You have to run away from big corporations to generate quality products. You have to refuse to succumb to committees to promote progress. And you have to ignore religion if you want to be close to Jesus.

I love Somerset. I just want to see them become Somer-salt–to live in their town but be just enough flavor to make people thirsty to drink at the waters of life. One fine gentleman came up to my table and said, “We had church today.”

We certainly did. I will never forget you folks, because you stepped out of your predictable approach and allowed yourselves to be human in the presence of God. You learned the power of true worship:

  • Feel more
  • Believe something
  • Think deeper
  • Live bigger

And if you do this, you will become the salt of Somerset. Your vision for your new community center will be more than a building, but also a great big hug for your neighbors, telling them how much you love them. And you won’t EVER sit in silence again, pretending that’s a way to welcome strangers.

I take great comfort in the fact that God made humans. And since He did, I don’t have to spend all of my time apologizing for being one.

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

The First Time… March 22, 2012

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The first time I saw the ocean, I cried–a bit of marveling mingled with the saltiness of the air.

The first time I saw a bee, I giggled–bouncing from flower to flower, suspended yet animated.

The first time I kissed a girl, my heart stopped; then every sense accelerated into high gear, yearning to race to the finish line.

The first time I got sick, I wanted to die, but was later thankful for the prudent delay.

The first time I heard applause for my work, I smiled all over, refreshed by the wave of appreciation.

The first time I made love, my body briefly left my soul, to revel in its moment of acceptance.

The first time I was baptized, I opened my eyes under the water to view the cloudiness that was my heart.

The first time I heard a choir, I rejoiced in knowing that harmony in the masses was not only beautiful, but possible.

The first time I saw a mountain, I wanted to perch at its peak, minus the climb.

The first time I made people laugh, I felt like God–right after He created the sun.

The first time I was granted a miracle, my soul gazed at the heavens in wonder, as my head remained bowed.

The first time I held my son, I was in Eden, dancing around the Tree of Life.

The first time I failed, I was in awe that the rising dawn was unaware of my inadequacy.

The first time I drove a car–honestly, I favored the brake.

The first time I ate Chinese food, I resisted thinking about our family cat.

The first time I sang, I felt as if I were whispering into God’s ear.

And every first time I have a first time, I am grateful for this time … to discover The First.

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Below is the first chapter of Jonathan Richard Cring’s stunning novel entitled Preparing a Place for Myself—the story of a journey after death. It is a delicious blend of theology and science fiction that will inspire and entertain. I thought you might enjoy reading it. After you do, if you would like to read the book in its entirety, please click on the link below and go to our tour store. The book is being offered at the special price of $4.99 plus $3.99 shipping–a total of $8.98. Enjoy.

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

Sitting One

 I died today. 

I didn’t expect it to happen.  Then again, I did—well, not really.

No, I certainly didn’t expect it.

I’ve had moments of clarity in my life.  Amazingly enough, many of them were in the midst of a dream. For a brief second I would know the meaning of life or the missing treatment to cure cancer.  And then as quickly as it popped into my mind it was gone. I really don’t recollect dying.  Just this unbelievable sense of clear headedness—like walking into a room newly painted and knowing by the odor and brightness that the color on the wall is so splattering new that you should be careful not to touch it for fear of smearing the design. The greatest revelation of all? 

Twenty-five miles in the sky time ceases to exist.

The planet Pluto takes two hundred and forty-eight years to circle the sun. It doesn’t give a damn. 

The day of my death was the day I became free of the only burden I really ever had.  TIME.

Useless.

Time is fussy.  Time is worry. 

Time is fear.  Time is the culprit causing human-types to recoil from pending generosity. 

There just was never enough time. 

Time would not allow it.  Remember—“if time permits …”

Why if time permits?  Why not if I permit?  Why not if I dream?  Why not if I want?  Why does time get to dictate to me my passage? 

It was time that robbed me of my soulful nature.    It was time that convinced me that my selfishness was needed. 

I didn’t die. The clock in me died, leaving spirit to tick on.  

So why don’t we see the farce of time?  Why do we allow ourselves to fall under the power of the cruel despot?  Yes, time is a relentless master—very little wage for much demand.

I died today. 

Actually … a piece of time named after me was cast away.

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