Good News and Better News … August 22nd, 2016

Jonathots Daily Blog

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Sue and Bill

“Things are bad.”

I’m told this continually.

And if I’m tempted to forget, then the powers that be re-tweet, broadcast, discuss and reiterate it in my direction 24 hours a day.

Sometimes I grow weary of nagging doubt and negative notions and want to refresh my brain with a baptism of hope.

I am quickly scolded and told to “grow up and be realistic.” They define realistic to be a declining world filled with oblivious people.

Then I end up spending the weekend in Orefield, Pennsylvania at Jordan Lutheran.

Many months ago while performing in Hilton Head, South Carolina, I met a couple at my concert who were wintering in the vicinity. They handed me their business card and said, “If you’re ever in Pennsylvania, please contact us because we would love to have you into our church.”

This happens to me frequently. I always tuck these cards away in my wallet and never give them another thought. Suffice it to say, I don’t usually pursue such invitations.

But for some reason when I realized we were heading to Pennsylvania, I broke my pattern, pulled out the card, gave it to our agent and said, “You might want to check these folks out.”

Sue and Bill were not only delighted that we called, but made all the arrangements for us to appear at Jordan Lutheran and became the “busy bees of benevolence,” advertising the event to all their friends.

So when we arrived on Saturday, even though we had never met the people who were sent to greet us and help us with our equipment, in the one hour that we were together, the common work joined with common sense and common humor to make us common friends.

Then, on Saturday night we went out to dinner with Bill and Sue. Can I tell you that the spiritual concept of breaking bread is even better when you get to eat it? Stuffing one’s face does seem to expand the brain.

When we arrived Sunday morning to do our shows, there was an energy in the church–a sense of expectation that together we were going to try to hatch a magnificent day.

My dear friends, we are just healthier when we try. Despair not only leaves us sad, but annoyingly boring.

The day finished with a flourish of warmth, tenderness, hugs, awe and wonder.

As I drove down the road I felt good. That’s the good news. It feels good to feel good because you did something good in a good way.

But here’s the better news: I now find myself searching for the next card dealt to me.

 

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See the Forrest AND the Trees … June 22, 2013

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color churchSue. Jerry. Lee. Paul. Peg. Maxine. June. Tom. And Corrine.

This is the list of all the people who attended my concert last night in Forrest, Illinois.

It is not often that I’m able to actually jot down the entire passenger manifest on my “Good Ship SpiriTed’s” journey. Usually there would be too many people for such a compilation. But last night these fine folks showed up for the concert … minus others. It reminded me of the saying, you can’t see the forest for the trees.

Actually, that’s not the problem, is it? Most of the time, we can’t see the trees because we stand at a distance and observe them in huge clumps and call them forests. Our society is preoccupied with creating islands of humanity which are separated from the mainland of “Peopledom,” while simultaneously insisting that we are also individuals. We just can’t seem to make up our minds.

Are we a tree–or are we a forest?

I must tell you–it is unique to perform in front of nine people. They are not a forest. They are an array of individual trees. You can either complain about the fact that there’s no forest, or you can choose to enjoy the branches and leaves provided.

Over the years I have learned not to take things for granted. Those who do soon have nothing to take. So my approach, rather than being one of sharing with an audience, was more conversational, personal and interactive.

Several astounding things came out through the experience. Once the gathered souls got over the shock of being part of a “chosen few,” they warmed. Matter of fact, by the end, when I was leaving the building, I had more people helping to load my van than I do when the auditorium is packed.

They felt a part of it. They were convinced that they were MORE than a forest from Forrest, Illinois, but instead, had been recognized as “specialized trees.” I think it’s the idea the Bible wants to get across to us about God: even though He’s the master of the universe, He craves intimacy with every one of His creations.

It was plenty intimate. Matter of fact, there were moments that were so tender that you almost had to look away.

So I am torn between the normal ego-driven marketing schemes of wanting to get my work out to more and more people so as to make a greater and greater impact, versus the simple beauty of breaking bread with a tiny gathering in an upper room.

Yes, I believe the problem is not that we can’t see the forest for the trees. Rather, somewhere along the line, we’ve lost the ability to see the trees because we have dubbed them “forest.”

I want to thank the people of St. Paul Lutheran for coming out on a Friday night on the beginning of summer to see something that they certainly could not conceive of in their minds.

Because Sue, Jerry, Lee, Paul, Peg, Maxine, June, Tom and Corrine–you are not just a forest.

Each one of you is a beautiful tree.

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Simplicity … February 17, 2013

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GE DIGITAL CAMERAIt doesn’t happen very often.

When I first started traveling, as a young man, the invitations to go out to dinner with people after a show were much more frequent. Time moves on. Tastes change. The world shrinks in latitude while growing much more separate in attitude. But last night after I finished setting up my equipment, Handlee, Julio and Liz asked Janet and I to go out for a meal. It was weird–because my first inclination was to say no. Do you know why? I was scared.

Having not done it for some time, I wasn’t sure if I would be able to handle the chit-chat and the simple conversation without leaving dead spots–or making myself look like a dead spot. But I felt foolish.

Breaking bread is really what the original concept of “communion” was intended to be–people getting together, eating food and discussing their wonderful memories of life, the joy they’ve had in living and the power of their faith in Jesus.

It is one of those rare occasions when the heart, soul, mind and strength are allowed to co-exist and feed off the same experience, without starving out one of the members. The emotions are open to sharing heartfelt thoughts as the soul expresses belief, allowing for the mind to be renewed with new ideas, different perspectives or even foreign concepts. Simultaneously, the body is sitting there in ecstatic bliss, absorbing all the food and drink it desires to help maintain attention.

It is simply perfect. Because after all, perfection is simple, or it would be beyond our grasp and therefore, just a mean taunt from a nasty God. But God is not nasty. He is practical–so practical that He lived a human life just to make sure He understood and also to make sure it could be done with grace and truth.

I don’t remember a whole lot about the food. It was good enough to eat–because I did. (Of course, I’ve eaten a lot of things in my life that really weren’t good enough but still filled space in my mouth on the way down to my tummy-tomb.)

It is the definition of simplicity–a moment I almost missed because I was afraid. And fear is the great thief of joy and satisfaction.

If I could remember that, maybe I would learn to embrace occasions like tonight and even initiate them on my own. But if you don’t mind, I’m not in the mood for making promises or predictions. I just am thankful for three new friends and the opportunity to prove that we human beings are not as separated as we think we are–just absent some good conversation … while breaking bread.

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