Untotaled: Stepping 53 (October 27th, 1969) Drummond Park… February 7, 2015

 Jonathots Daily Blog

(2496)

(Transcript)

Murray Gregory, a man with two first names,.

He was a deacon in our church, yet every once in a while he’d get himself an “alcohol rub” in his soul and go off two or three days binge-drinking and end up in the drunk tank in downtown Columbus.

Folks from the church would go bail him out and by Sunday morning he would be at the altar, crying his way back to Jesus. Everything would be fine until the next time he got the inclination to jump in the bottle.

My opinion was that he was a sloppy drunk and a mean deacon. I will tell you this–he didn’t like me at all.

I bring this up because the bikini friend I had begun dating the previous summer had become my girlfriend, and we were beginning to experiment with one another.

Neither one of us had learned the facts of life–I never told, and she confused by parents who were over-clinical. Health class in high school only served to stimulate our interest without truly explaining our “stimulators.”

The young lady and I were not sure of the depth of our commitment, but completely enthralled with the width of our passion.

So there were a bunch of little parks that speckled the Central Ohio area, which had nothing more than a few picnic tables, an outhouse, and of course, a place to park.

One Indian summer afternoon, my girlfriend’s father allowed us to use his Corvette, and we, feeling that we ruled the world, ended up at Drummond Park, and decided to probe one another’s private parts. We had no intention of “going all the way.” That was un-Christian. But eyeballing the “land of promise” did seem within Biblical proportions.

So we studied each other with a fervor we had not had for education since discovering the glories of construction paper and paste in kindergarten.

Meanwhile, back at Drummond Park, we had just finished up one of these sessions. She had returned to her seat and I had restarted the engine, when Deacon Gregory came walking by the Corvette. We both had no idea where he had come from; he did not speak to us, just headed to the outhouse to do his business.

I did not wait for him to come out to find out what he had seen–or heard, for that matter–but made my exit as quickly as possible. We drove home, trying to figure out what trouble we were in.

I always felt like he was following us. I had no proof. But it did give us plenty to think about.

But the juices that were squeezed that day in Drummond Park released a drug in our systems, of human sexuality. Once it has been injected, it is very difficult to stop being a user and very easy to become addicted.

And as far as I know … there is no rehab. 

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Jesonian: Don’t Call Me a Dog… January 18, 2015

 Jonathots Daily Blog

(2477)

doggy under table bigger

It is rather doubtful that Jesus was able to grow up in a small village, surrounded by Jewish tradition, without absorbing a little of the local prejudice.

I didn’t.

I was born in Central Ohio and spent my youth there at a time when civil rights was being argued in the country. So as an adult, when I went out and tried to become open-minded to ethnic groups, I found it very awkward, my attempts riddled with clumsiness.

I made mistakes.

My heart was right, but the verbiage and training in my mind were tainted by false concepts.

So … when a Greek woman–a Gentile–asked Jesus to heal her daughter, the young Nazarene tried to ignore her. “Maybe she’ll just go away.”

She didn’t.

So then Jesus tried to explain to those around him, his faithful, why he was ignoring her–because her kind of people were beyond his scope of outreach.

She persisted.

So finally he told her directly, “I can’t help you because you’re a dog. A Gentile dog. And it wouldn’t be right for me to assist you and take my energies, which are reserved for my people, to help you.”

This is what we call an impasse. We have many of them in our society today. They happen when prejudice comes face-to-face with insecurity and defensive attitudes, generating volatile situations.

But in our story, this woman is not insecure. She doesn’t scream, “Don’t call me a dog! How dare you, you Jew bigot!”

Or even, “You’d better damn well respect me!”

For you see, screaming an objection at bad training is wasting words on the deaf.

Instead, she reasons:

“Okay. You think I’m a dog. But don’t the puppies get to eat the crumbs that fall underneath the table from the children’s plates?”

An amazing answer.

A metered response.

And even though she caught Jesus on a bad day, when a little too much of his childhood prejudice was creeping through, she also happened to be talking to someone who was moved by faith.

The Good Book says Jesus told this woman that because of her answer, the daughter would be healed. Insight: Jesus made a mistake but didn’t get stubborn about defending it.

Let us never forget that it also says:

  • Jesus grew in wisdom.
  • That’s right. He wasn’t born with all of it.
  • He learned obedience. Just like us, it didn’t come naturally.
  • He was moved with compassion. It wasn’t infused into him by his divine mission.
  • And he was touched with our infirmities.

He realized that such an intelligent, well-meaning, creative and enduring lady deserved to be respected and blessed.

May I share this? Nothing good happens in the church from insisting that Jesus was perfect. We all hate perfect people.

Jesus made mistakes but caught them before they cemented into horrible habits and sin. That’s pretty perfect. At least, as perfect as human beings get.

And even though, in a moment of weakness he proclaimed this woman to be a dog … she was still able to bark out the right answer.

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Untotaled: Stepping 39 (March 23rd, 1967) The Gospel Brothers–Dreamy, Cute and Darling… November 8, 2014

 Jonathots Daily Blog

(2407)

(Transcript)

If you live in Central Ohio, the month of March is a beacon of hope–not just of the arrival of spring, but the burgeoning reality that summer cannot be far behind. It makes everyone want to shed their parkas, remove their long underwear and run naked through the streets, clapping their hands to some great Woody Guthrie folk tune. (Well, maybe not that far, since we tend to be a stoic, bashful Germanic sort.)

The month of March was also the time when we had our annual youth rally, held at the Ohio State Fair Grounds, featuring an array of speakers no one remembered, seminars when we passed notes to each other, and venues when the young people could express themselves through music, which had to be gospel.

Last year our group was the hit of the conference. The guys were slapping us on the back and the girls were swooning. We felt we were studs, ready to conquer the world.

But this year, when the poster arrived advertising the event, there was a new music group on the slot, from Boardman, Ohio (up with the rich folks) who obviously were named Dreamy, Cute and Darling–since that’s what all the girls said as they lingered, drooling over their picture.

I thought they were ugly and obviously could not sing, since visually they did not exude any tonal quality.

Jealous, I decided to bad-mouth them, and found that the only allies I had were the other members of my group, who were equally as intimidated by the “beauties.”

Making matters worse, when we arrived at the conference, the three little dweebs were nice. Their rich daddy had just purchased them a Shure Vocal Master System, fresh off the assembly line, which they proudly reported was the twenty-fifth unit available. Only a few famous rock groups were ahead of them numerically.

They were so expansive that they allowed us to use their new PA system, explaining how it worked and encouraging us during rehearsal.

This did not keep me from hating them, and as hate often does when it links with jealousy, it wipes our mind clean of any thought and talent, making us look completely incapable of achieving what we originally were easily able to accomplish.

In other words, we stumbled all over ourselves trying to be better than people who were already better than us because they were nicer.

Yet unwilling to relent from our jealousy, we tried to gossip about them, garnering no audience other than the Grumblers Four.

I learned a lot at that conference.

And although they wanted me to learn about King David and his mighty sling against Goliath, what I learned was that jealousy makes you look small, resentment robs you of your talent, and gossip gives you an ever-shrinking market.

I retain that to this day.

The brothers never went on to pursue a musical career and I have. I assume they did continue to be handsome, and I continued to be … well, determined.

 

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Untotaled: Stepping 31 (December 18th, 1966) One Last Time … September 13, 2014

Jonathots Daily Blog

(2351)

(Transcript)

My home was just two blocks from school, so when the bell rang, dismissing classes for the holidays, I hung around. I was in no hurry to make the trek to my house.

It was my birthday and I was vexed by a bit of melancholy.

Maybe it was the reality of turning fifteen and still not loved by any girl, and kind of shoveled to the side by a family that had more pressing concerns.

I borrowed a basketball from the boys locker room and shot some hoops. I was temporarily invigorated by the fact that I set a new personal record for free throws–eight in a row.

When the janitor came into the gymnasium, he frowned. I realized he was going to ask me to leave, so I redeposited the ball back into the slot where it belonged, grabbed my books and headed towards my abode.

Darkness was already beginning to fall on the little central Ohio community. Clouds were clumped in the sky like folded dirty towels, haphazardly stacked on the shelf, precariously threatening to tumble on the floor in the linen closet.

It was gonna snow.

It didn’t take me long to get home, although I shuffled my feet most of the way. I had never seen that little stretch of road so vacant. Everyone had settled inside, lit their fires and were preparing to endure the forecasted six inches of the white stuff.

Strangely enough, when I got home there was no one there. The house was warm, dark and certainly well-suited to my threatening depression. I left the lights off and turned on our old television set.

There was Clara Jo’s Toy Shop. I never watched it–too “baby,” too silly, too girly, too stupid. But today I was in no mood to rise from my chair, turn the dial and find something else.

All at once, she introduced Santa Claus, to come out and talk to the kids. It was like a lightbulb went off in my head, and I realized, “Oh, yeah. It’s Christmas time.”

I cried.

I don’t know exactly why–but as I watched the man on TV pretending to be the saint from the North Pole, I suddenly wanted to believe again.

After all these years of growing up, knowing that the tales spoken of the northern elf were probably not true, I desired him in my life.

I was so lonely. I tried to play the piano, but each song just made me weep. Then I fell silent–so still that I could hear the howling wind foretelling the coming storm. The window panes in the dining room were already fogging over, promising frost.

With some tears in my eyes, I spoke out loud to the television set. “Santa Claus, all I want for Christmas is to still believe in Santa Claus.”

I cried again.

For a minute, it looked like I was going to be inconsolable. Then suddenly, it just stopped. I sniffed and peered at the television set.

I thought to myself that the family would soon be here. I was frightened that they had all forgotten it was my birthday. I didn’t think I had the heart to endure it.

Suddenly Clara Jo began to sing, in her off-key alto pitch, “Here comes Santa Claus, here comes Santa Claus…”

I allowed my mind to wander to Christmases years before. It was December 18th, 1966 and I was fifteen.

And as a chill went down my spine, I thought to myself, “There goes Santa Claus.”

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Untotaled: Stepping 21 (April 17th, 1965) Gail’s Storm… July 5, 2014

Jonathots Daily Blog

(2282)

(Transcript)

Jennifer smiled at me.

She was known for her smile–yet I thoroughly believed this particular smirk had a certain passion attached to it, uniquely sending a message of deep affection in my direction.

Love not only was planted and sprouted, but came to full bloom within the confines of my chubby-chested, beating heart.

Jennifer was beautiful–long, pale-blonde, straight hair, with blue eyes and a bit of ruddy in her cheeks that tempted tweaking. Her lips were full and her breath–well, I never actually got close enough to tell, but I would assume a delightful, slightly musky Dentyne.

I was not given to hiding my affections, so I made it clear to a few of my friends concerning my budding devotion for this flower of Olympus. One of them, Gail, decided to make it her mission to create misery in my life.

It was a two-fold process:

Sometimes Gail told me that Jennifer was interested in me, and had even inquired about some of my likes and dislikes.

My entire being came to erection.

Then the next day, Gail whispered in my ear that Jennifer and a really good-looking guy named Glen had been caught necking behind the refreshment stand at the old football field following the last game.

I went back to having a chubby chest with a dead heart.

It was back and forth, day-to-day: jubilation and devastation.

It occurred to me that Gail seemed equally as overjoyed when I was elated or deflated.

One of my friends tried to explain that Gail was just pulling my chain, but since I considered myself to be chainless, I ignored it.

Finally I decided to solve my own problem and determine the veracity of the rumors by telling Jennifer about my deep-rooted admiration.

It was the first of many times in my life that I received the standardized “you’re a really nice guy and a great friend” speech. Why is it that following that proclamation, no one feels nice or friendly?

The bizarre part of the story is that several years later, the summer of receiving my driver’s license, Gail and I drove around town on adventures, wasting time and talking for hours.

Matter of fact, one hot summer day we came inches from using our tongues for something other than gossip.

So I will never know if Gail was just a fun-loving girl who thought being mean was cool, or perhaps she was jealous of my affection for the Princess of Central Ohio.

Gail brought a storm into my life, but I survived the winds … and eventually learned how to sail the seas.

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Arizona morning

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My Body is in Temple… January 19, 2014

Jonathots Daily Blog

(2125)

First Lutheran Temple

It’s been forty years since my body has been in Temple.

Temple, Texas, that is.

I have passed by this fair town several times on my journeys, but never actually plopped down for a few minutes of food for thought, by breaking bread.

Four decades ago when I landed in Temple, it was during a brief tour when I was invited to come to Waco, Texas, to Word Records, to share my music, with the aspirations of having this fledgling company record my musical ensemble and make us famous. (Well, at least as famous as one would get by being the first fruits of a fledgling.)

I remember that visitation vividly. Being raised in Central Ohio, I was told horror stories about the depravity of the South and the backwards nature of unseemly locations like Texas. So up to that point in my life I had never gone any further south than Nashville, Tennessee, or further west than Chicago.jesus rally

I don’t know what I was expecting, but it was a different time. Even though Temple was a rural community, ingrained with the traditions of its heritage, a new breeze had blown through, initiated by the winds of Spirit.

Young hippies, fresh from California, had just arrived in the region to sing a new song. So it was really amazing–you had long hairs and butch haircuts side by side, finding common ground with guitars and Jesus. They were tolerant of each other and seemed fairly oblivious to the differences that might build up over hair follicle preferences.

Many of the engineers in the recording studios were good ole’ boys, and the performers were fresh off the street, many of them ex-drug addicts who had been thrust into salvation, with a movement through Jesus.

Shoulder to shoulder, they worked on beautiful tunes, laughed, shared pictures of their families with each other, and acted like they had known one another for a lifetime.

I shared in several of the area’s religious establishments and was greeted with warmth and tenderness by folks who had just come out of the field with mud on their boots, curious about whether what they had just planted would ever reach harvest.

Even though I was a very young snap-off-the-whipper, I realized that what made this thing work was finding something in common with each other and sealing it by believing in the same message of love.

So as I come back to Temple, Texas, in a much different time–when it is considered to be righteous and upstanding to be at odds with one another over miniscule issues–I want to bring that same breeze with me.

I would love to allow the Spirit to permit commonality and faith to blend together again, to make us one.

It is a piece of idealism I permit myself without apology. For I know this: the world will never be a decent place to live until we find reasons to be alike.

And I also know that we will never find reasons to be alike …  when we work so darned tootin’ hard on trying to be different.

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Mount Vernon … September 21, 2013

Jonathots Daily Blog

(2013)

Mount VernonI suppose, to the average person, the mention of Mount Vernon might conjure a hazy memory of an American history class, where the name was mentioned as the location of the home of General George Washington. Even though I, too, have that realization, to me, it was a community twenty-three miles north of my boyhood home town.

As I rolled in to Mount Vernon today, I was astounded at how much living, doing and feeling I had birthed in that space:

When I was twelve years old, we had a Bible League contest in the town, with teams from all over the Central Ohio area gathered to push buttons and light up bulbs, answering questions about Holy Scripture. We had studied every jot and tittle, and split the information apart like atoms to compete with one another for points, prizes or just the privilege of partaking of some overly sweet church punch and dried-out cake. All in all, it was a great way to consider the musings of ancient patriarchs without dozing off in the process.

Mount Vernon was also one of the first places that I promoted my own gospel sing, consisting of my group along with some others, in the Memorial Auditorium. I actually saw people arrive in cars, park them and gather to hear us all squawk and wail.

Just outside of town, in the early seventies, I got the chance to perform for the first time with a fellow named Andre Crouch, who had a group called the Disciples at the Bible College, in front of a good-sized crowd of local folks who certainly didn’t come out to see us, but tolerated what was supposed to be our fifteen-minute fronting of the main event. As I discovered that night, and also from working with Andre Crouch in the future, he was never on time, so our mini-concert turned into a forty-five-minute show, which was certainly a problem, especially considering that fact that we only knew six songs.

Mount Vernon was also the location where in my early years, when I was destitute financially, some of the local quartets gave me a dribble of money to arrange music for them, to try to make them sound a little better in front of the small congregations they were able to schedule to hear their efforts.

And last but not least, my third son, Jerrod Micah, was born in Mount Vernon–about two minutes after I walked in the door of the hospital, rushing to get there to see his arrival. (My wife never seemed to have much trouble with labor. I guess some women would insist she never went through it–more like calisthenics.)

I was nearly in awe of all the memories that just splashed in my face as I drove down the main street of the metropolis. And to think, blessed man that I am, now in my sixth decade, I get to go to Mulberry Street United Methodist Church and make another memory, tomorrow morning and night, adding a new page to my dusty catalogue of memorabilia.

Life is wonderful if you don’t get fussy.

And if you do get fussy, life is still willing to be wonderful … if you just don’t give up on a good idea.

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