Lower Seat… October 30, 2012

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I couldn’t reach it.

I had a sudden splash of exasperation mingled with a giggle that stirred together inside my heart. You see, I had wheeled myself into a local grocery store and was shopping around via “the chair” for the first time. About a week ago, I took the leg holders off of the apparatus so that could use my own legs to propel myself, along with the aid my arms. I was doing quite well.

That is, until I got to the lunch meat section and saw that they had 98% fat-free bologna, which ended up being just beyond my grasp. I sat back in the chair for a moment, trying to decide if I wanted to wait for Janet to arrive to reach up and get the prize, or if I was going to figure out how to do it myself.

Suddenly I had this comprehension of one source of both our victories and our failures. Do we step out of the box and try something beyond our present ability, or do we wait for someone more qualified to perform the duty? Great question. It may seem noble to keep trying impossible things and beating your head against the wall, but often you can end up bloodied instead of productive.

I found myself in a lower seat.

You would be astounded at how short you feel when you’re sitting in a wheel chair. After all, your legs are more than half of your height. You start seeing things through the perspective of a five-year-old. Everything at eye level is child-friendly, child-accessible and therefore, eliminates a lot of adult possibilities from your reach.

Now, Jesus talked about “taking the lower seat.” It is one of his stories that gets very little attention, because it appears to be anti-human. After all, don’t people in general want to sit in the highest seats, receiving the highest honors, eating the best delicacies and sensing an ongoing atmosphere of improvement? Who would WANT to take the lower seat? Is it an attempt to appear to be spiritual, when deep in your heart, you resent the hell out of it?

As I sat there in that moment, with the bologna peering down at me, I realized that the power of the lower seat is that you don’t have to advertise that you can do more than you really can. (That’s what makes me shake and quake in my boots when I hear our two Presidential candidates make such broad claims about their abilities and promises about resolving our nation’s conflicts. It is not only arrogant, it is bone-dead stupid.) There is always something that life can come up with to make your original plan seem short-sighted and your talent appear to be wanting.

I realized, sitting in the chair and trying to decide what to do about the problem over my head, that I was alone. No one was paying any attention to me. Matter of fact, the normal profile of individuals who eyeball someone in a wheelchair is to divert their glance. It is an action of politeness–so as not to stare. So I had a full thirty seconds of complete solitude in front of those processed meats, to decide for myself what I wanted to do, sitting in my lower seat, without scrutiny and minus the pressure to impress anyone.

It was magnificent. I understood.

The little story that Jesus tells about taking the lower seat is not a step of false humility–to deny your own abilities–but rather, an intelligent move to take the spotlight off of yourself so you can think through what you want to do, come up with an adjusted plan and achieve your goal without ever looking like you came up short.

My solution for achieving my task was quite simple. I scooted to the end of my chair, reached up with my fingertips, flipped the bologna pack in the air from its holder, and caught it. Actually, it looked like I planned it… rather athletic, if I do say so myself. Problem resolved.

Right now, my friends, I find myself in a lower seat. I have not lost my mind. I have not lost my talent. I have not lost my sense of humor. I have not lost my family. I have not lost the capability of being creative. I have not lost comedy and drama. I have not lost the ability to drive. I have not lost the blessing of going to the bathroom. I have not lost my health. For this particular season, what I have lost is the function of standing tall, walking proud and running the race.

I am in a lower seat. It grants God and those around me the option of calling me up to a higher position. I do not know if that will happen, but in the meantime I plan to have great fun with my shortcoming and the immense gift thrust upon me, to see life from the perspective of a toddler. After all, that’s what Jesus told us we were supposed to do–become like little children. To achieve that we have to do two things: stop being grumpy adults and get a little lower.

I’ve done that.

My trip into the grocery store was an immense success. Counting the movement with my legs and arms, wheeling myself around, I got a great little workout and I took care of the balogna–both the one on the shelf and some it in my own prideful heart.

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

A Way That Seems Right… October 4, 2012

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Live from October 1st filming

Simply put, I liked it–speckled with pickles and pimento, with a sweet-tasting lunch-meat flavor.I was twelve years old and madly in love with pickle-pimento loaf.

We did not purchase it very often, for two reasons. My mother thought it was a little too expensive at 79 cents a pound, when bologna was 58 cents a pound. The second reason it was rarely purchased in our household was that I was fully capable of eating a pound of it in one sitting without blinking an eye (even though I am not sure what eye-blinking has to do with consumption…)

But you see, there is one little sidebar to my story. My mother and father also liked pickle pimento loaf, so from time to time they bought it and hid it–never fully aware of my skills of investigation.

Yes, I always found it.

I knew they didn’t want me to have it; I knew it had been set aside for adults only. So I carefully stole a couple of pieces from the package and then supplanted some Saran wrap underneath the remaining lunch-meat to make it appear to still be a full unit. I thought I was extraordinarily inventive–that is, until my appetite caused me to go back for more and more of the delicious treat–until eventually my saran wrap facade was unable to disguise the depleting pile.

I always got caught.

I didn’t care. I was twelve years old and working under a singular philosophy: I want what I want. It was a way that seemed right to me.

Time presses on–and fortunately for my moral character, my fervor for this particular outlook matured and evolved. If it hadn’t, I probably would have become a drug dealer, a criminal, or worse yet… a politician.

Move ahead in time to when I was twenty-one years old. I started a music group. We were desperately trying to do three things at the same time, which as you know, is the definition of juggling. We wanted to be great entertainers. We wanted to make enough money so that we could continue to travel around and share our talents. And we also needed to make enough moolah to pay bills in our stationary life, so we would not be regarded as dead-beats. It’s an awful lot of pressure when you’re twenty-one.

So when I arrived at a motel one night in Smyrna, Georgia, I told the innkeeper that I wanted a room for one person when actually there were four of us. The difference between purchasing a room for one person and four was seven dollars. I wanted the seven dollars and didn’t see any reason why the innkeeper should have my money–when whether I had one person or four in the room, the room was still occupied. It made sense to me. It was a way that seemed right. After all, I was only trying to save money.

I was living under a new precept, having tempered my original “I want what I want.” I now honored “I need what I need.”

Unfortunately, one of the members of our troupe was not a very good sleuth, so we got caught with four people in the room and were asked to leave the premises because of our lie. Amazingly, I was infuriated at the proprietor and spent the next twenty minutes driving down the road, cursing him for being a greedy and selfish loser.

It would be many years before I realized that I was the culprit of mediocrity that evening. Yes, it would be some time before I abandoned the idea of I need what I need, and gained a functioning mindset for a mature adult. I did, however, eventually vacate the useless idea. If not, I would have become a small-minded, provincial individual, trapped in a little world of my own, with no perspective on the needs and feelings of those around me.

When I was twenty-five years old, a new spiritual rave was sweeping the nation. It was the belief that as long as “God was on our side, He would pay all the bills.” Yes–we didn’t need to worry about stepping out in faith and spending money, as long as our mission was ordained by the Most High. I read in a book that a famous evangelist wrote a check on a Friday afternoon with no money in the bank, trusting God to provide the funds by the following Monday, when the check would arrive for cashing. In the story, God not only provided, but gave abundance above the original written amount.

I was so impressed. I was so overtaken by the concept that I wrote my own check with no funds to back it up. All the giddiness mentioned in the story–stepping out and believing–flooded my soul. After all, I was doing what was considered to be spiritual work. I was saying to the world around me, “I believe what I believe.”

When Monday morning rolled around, unlike the testimony shared in the book, I did not receive financial manna from heaven. I had to scamper around to figure out how to cover the check and in the process, ended up setting in motion a series of very bad choices, which ultimately ended up with me deeply in debt to an individual who had trusted me, and now was stuck holding the bag of my foolishness.

I was devastated. I didn’t understand why God forsook me. After all, “I believed what I believed.” There was not a smidgen of doubt inside me. Truthfully, it would be many years before I realized that the promise for daily bread is actually a promise for daily bread. It’s not even a promise for weekend bread. I would have to shed the fantasy that believing something was like building a concrete wall and recognize that the Word of God is actually more like water–yes, the water of the word–moving along towards actual solutions instead of insisting on its own way.

When I was twelve years old I lived under the concept of “I want what I want.” It was a way that seemed right to me. The problem? It forced me to steal, lie and deceive.

When I was twenty-one, I pursued a path that proclaimed, “I need what I need.” It caused me to be self-righteous and arrogantly angry at people who insisted I follow the rules.

When I was twenty-five, I jumped on a bandwagon in a false parade of Godliness, and decided I would force the hand of my heavenly Father by writing a check in His name. I thought that if “I believed what I believed,” then God was bound by his Word, and His love for me, to perform tasks.

It has been a journey. Now I only have one moving part to my faith, philosophy and interaction with others. I pursue what is true. And you know something? It changes on me every day. It requires that I revise my thinking and shed stubborn little pieces of “I want what I want,” “I need what I need,” and “I believe what I believe,” which still try to cling to the inner lining of my soul.

  • It leaves me saying “I’m sorry” more often than ever shouting “I’m right.”
  • It makes me vulnerable, but valuable.
  • It causes me to pause instead of leap.
  • It thrusts me forward towards revelation instead of merely talking about consecration.
  • It permits me to listen to people I never thought I would agree with, and discover that they hold a piece to my puzzle.
  • It allows me to go to bed at night with a bit of uncertainty over the quality of my efforts, but rejoicing in that precious insecurity.

If I had stopped at twelve years of age and made it my lifestyle to want what I want, I could never have expanded beyond my limited appetites.

If I had insisted that I need what I need, I would have justified decisions that would have kept me from meeting the quality folks who have assisted me in discovering a better path.

And if I had locked myself into I believe what I believe, I would be defending my religion instead of living it out in joy.

I now pursue what is true. I often fail, but the failure is merely confirmation of the veracity of the mission.

“There is a way that seems right unto a man, but the end of it is destruction.” That’s what Solomon said in the Book of Proverbs.

I wonder how he knew that. Do you suppose they had pickle pimento loaf back then?

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

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