Old Dogs … January 17, 2013

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polkaThe old dog scampered, skittered and slid her way to the door to greet me, depositing a dribble of pee on the ground as a symbol of her devotion. Then she stood at my feet, blocking my entrance, until I was able to shuffle away with her trailing behind, wheezing, panting, trying to keep up with her favorite person–the one who’s the filler of the bowl, the patter of the head and the distributor of treats.

She perched herself in front of me for review and also for affirmation of stroking and petting. Honestly, she offers little in the way of reciprocal affection, other than the unfailing stare of adoration.

Suddenly, as if on cue, the old dog turned and ran towards the glass door, seeing her reflection and being haunted by a mythical competitor. As dinner is served, she made her way to my side, offering me her undivided attention as I consumed my evening repast while she begged for morsels from my portion.

She remained totally involved until the last dish was cleared and conversation ensued. As I began to share my findings of the day, stories of my experiences and little anecdotes of blessing and hassle with the room, the old dog found her way to my feet and lay down in a great big heap, expressing her indifference for the glories of conversational interchange.

In no time at all, she was asleep–but her presence was still made known through snores, which rattled the room, farts, which aired her incessant fragrance, and snorts, exhibiting the effects of an ongoing, contentious struggle with a rival dream-beagle.

She is an old dog–not terribly interested in most of the life going on around her, but she still finds a way to wiggle in to acquire her needs and establish her worth. She is an interesting combination of companion and aggravation, depending on the situation, and even proximity.

Old dogs are everywhere. Old dogs have already established the maturity of their turf and only occasionally will gnaw on your shoe in flashbacks to puppyhood.

You see, it’s not so much that old dogs can’t learn new tricks. It’s just that old dogs are so challenged by their old tricks that they still think they’re new.

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

A Chili Reception … February 20, 2012

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Suddenly it all made sense.
 
As I gazed into the container tenderly caressing my luncheon possibility, I realized how it all came to be. For you see, this weekend I found myself in Rose Hill, Texas, during the annual, nearly world-famous chili dinner, which also featured everyone wearing western clothing and cowboy hats–and of course, in addition, Janet and I were there performing. (I don’t say this as a lamentation. For after all, even third billing does get you into the party.)
 
The people I met were fantastic. Now, I do understand that the word “fantastic” doesn’t really mean anything, similar to such other descriptions as “wonderful,” “really great,” “neat,” “interesting” and one of my favorites–“appropriate.”  So let me tell you what I mean by fantastic.
 
I discovered that the people of Rose Hill,Texas, made a great pot of people, so it should have come as no surprise that they concocted an equally inspired pot of chili. And what struck a chord in the music of my heart was how much the ingredients that go into being good chili-makers are also necessary in the process of generating good human beings.
 
Because when I arrived at my motel room to enjoy the chili I had purchased from the establishment, I immediately recognized three outstanding attributes of the concoction:
1.  It was obviously put together by humans who possessed willingness. How do I know that? Because of the way it was presented, the flavor and the texture. Somewhere along the line in “Chili Making,  One,” somebody turned to all the constituents and said, “Listen, we’re going to take this first year and learn what everybody likes, and we darned tootin’ better be willing to change.” My dear, sweet friends–don’t ever forget that willingness may be the most important ingredient that goes into making either chili or people. Because if you’re not willing to change, you’re going to end up digging your heels in and having only friends who are related to you and are therefore stuck with you, and serving a pot of chili that no one likes but you and yours. I say this to you because this particular batch of chili that was given to me was so thick with meat that it could have passed for Sloppy Joe or good barbecue. Somebody told these folks that the best part of chili is the hamburger meat, and rather than arguing with their customers, they decided to comply.
2. The second thing I noticed about my delicious lunch was that they separated the beans from the rest of the chili, placing them in a different container, just in case you didn’t like beans with your chili. You could put in as many beans as you wanted to, and adjust it to your liking. A chill went down my spine as I reveled in the knowledge that I was in the presence of people with awareness. Because after you have a willingness and you know there may be a need to change, you must have the awareness to acknowledge and follow through on the better choice. After all, we all know people who tell you what they should be doing, yet we are fully cognizant that they have no intentions of ever doing it. Not the good folks of Rose Hill. They separated their beans from their chili. So if you wanted chili with beans, you could stir them in to your heart’s content. And if you wanted it more “meaty” than “beany,” you could keep your beans on the side and nibble like a hamster. It also amazed me that the chili just had a little zing to it, but not enough pepper in the pot to scare away novices and those of delicate palate. You can always add more hot sauce, but it’s difficult to take it away. I was almost tearful about the amount of awareness the good folks of Rose Hill had put into their recipe. They had a wilingness to change and an awareness of the better choices.
3. And finally, as I sat there and ate my chili in utter delight (with a FORK, may I add–that’s how thick it was), I realized that some absolutely enlightened people had put a tremendous amount of affection into each and every bowl. Now, what is affection? “I will love myself enough to love you. I will not serve you a bowl of chili that I would not want to gulp down myself. I will put the best of what I have into what I do in order to guarantee a smile on your face.” And my grin was made even broader by the fact that the amount of food they gave me was enough to turn into a second meal sometime later in the week–due to their generous concept of a serving.
 
I so appreciated the folks in Rose Hill, because as we worshipped God together, they had a willingness–knowing that all of us need to change. They fostered an awareness. In other words, if you gave them a better choice, they were ready to move in that direction. And they generated legitimate affection–they loved themselves enough to include me.
 
And the beautiful thing is, it even showed up in their chili.
 
So as I finish my stay in this part of Texas, I will always remember the “chili reception” I received in Rose Hill–certainly not in the sense of being given the cold shoulder, but because fine folks had the willingness, awareness and affection to receive my message–and also to put the same loving kindness in their chili.
 
So if you ever come to this area of Texas, don’t forget to enjoy some Rose Hill chili. It is tried, tested and proven to be people-friendly. And let’s be honest–if we’re not people-friendly, it’s very difficult to get God’s approval anyway.
   
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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.

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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.

Dirty Bowl… January 28, 2012

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From Miami, Florida

I had a hankerin’ for some oatmeal. (I don’t normally say “hankerin’,” but since it’s an election year I thought I’d follow the leading of the political candidates and try to “rural up” my language.)
 
As I was saying, I wanted some oatmeal. I don’t buy my oatmeal in those round containers with the picture of the austere Quaker, with a bit of a grimace on his face. I get the pre-packaged kind, usually in flavors, so I can just pour it into a bowl, add some hot water, and let the magic begin. So I did just that. I grabbed a bowl, poured my package into it, dumped in water, stirred it up and started to eat. It was delicious. I was more than halfway through my delicacy when I noticed there was something black at the bottom of the bowl. So I pushed the remaining oatmeal to the side and discovered a huge dirty spot.
 
It was a little disgusting. I’m not prissy, but eating out of a dirty bowl isn’t my idea of macho fare. So I dumped out my oatmeal and discovered the black splotch, stuck it under the faucet and tried to clean it. I was strangely relieved to discover that it wouldn’t dislodge itself and actually was not able to be scrubbed away. It was a permanent blotch. Matter of fact, you couldn’t even refer to it as a dirty bowl anymore. Perhaps you could call it stained. Scorched. Burnt. Discolored. Marred.
 
But I was no longer ill at ease, thinking I was consuming some sort of bacteria experiment from the depths of my oatmeal. I no longer felt like the guy who, having eaten half of his apple, suddenly discovers a half-eaten worm. Or like that one time when I reached in a package of luncheon meat and pulled out a slice that had green around the edges, foretelling of mold. (Unfortunately, I had already consumed two previous slices from the same package.)
 
No, this was different. This was a bowl which, in the process of doing bowl-like activities, had encountered some injury. My bowl was wounded. Its particular infection was not contagious, but rather, a lasting reminder of a poorly chosen activity. It was an amazing transition. I was happy that I could finish the remainder of my oatmeal without too much intimidation (though I was a little squeamish). There was really only one task that remained. Well, not really a task. More a decision.
 
Do I take my marred, discolored, stained, burnt, scorched bowl and throw it away–or keep it? I probably don’t want to eat oatmeal out of it again, but I could put a paper towel in the bottom and serve some grapes or potato chips. It is still able to encircle a food product, holding it in one place. It has not outlasted its complete usefulness. Honestly, it was too much for me to think about, having merely consumed a bowl of oatmeal. So I put it on the shelf, where it remains today.
 
I did not cast it away. I did not reject it. I did not try to make it totally clean by bleaching it and utilizing every cleanser known to man. I realized that sometimes, if you’re a bowl, and you’re in the midst of action of the kitchen sort, you just might get damaged. And if you were able to speak, you certainly would desire mercy.
 
Now, I know this is a little too much thought to give to the rights and privileges of a cheaply manufactured plastic unit. But still, it’s just nice to know that the bowl wasn’t dirty. 
 
Just … well-traveled.

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

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