Iz and Pal (Bedouin Buddies)


Iz and Pal

Jonathots Daily Blog

(4154)

Sitting Thirty-Five

Karin found it difficult to discover what to do with herself on the Wednesday before the rally. An uneasy sense of doom and gloom had settled in her soul and was gnawing at the corners of her mind.

She could not shake it.

She resorted to one of her favorite solutions. She purchased a pint of Mackie’s Cherries Fairies ice cream and ate it in one sitting. It had been known to soothe many an aching need. But on this day, even the delicious confection couldn’t aid her in dispelling the sensation that something very idiotic might happen on Thursday.

Karin was not given to depression, but optimism was certainly not one of her strong suits. Her faith in humanity had been shaken early and hard. She found it difficult to believe there were people who could muster either the mercy or the wisdom to bring about a happy ending to any tale, especially one involving two young men in the desert who were defying the structure of their rickety culture.

She actually considered praying for rain. But she always felt funny when she prayed—she could never figure out which parts of faith were childish dreams and what portions might be linked to some divine order. It was difficult for her to imagine why the God of the Universe would take time commiserating with bitching mortals.

But she decided to go ahead and pursue a prayer life one more time—just maybe for an earthquake to come along. A tiny one. Not to hurt anyone. Just strong enough to knock over some file cabinets at City Hall and overturn a few chairs in people’s homes. A convenient earthquake—something to distract the hysterical masses.

The prayer actually made her feel better. For about an hour she grew content with the notion that things might just work out. But for Karin, praying was like Chinese food. It got inside, but an hour later she was fretting all over again.

Scouring her brain for anything resembling an idea that might contribute to sanity, she decided to go and meet the families of the two boys. After all, she had heard Iz and Pal’s side of the story but had never given their fathers a chance to clarify their position or make their case.

Her mind was eased simply by pursuing the research which she so loved chasing down. Today it took her to the hall of records, where she discovered that Amir’s (Pal) mother had died three years earlier from breast cancer. Amir had only one brother, older—Talsan, who attended the university with aspirations of becoming a doctor.

A fascinating piece of information turned up when she perused data on Iz’s parents. There were two parents, but with separate addresses. Karin could find no evidence of a divorce decree or any other children.

It gave her a place to start. She set out into the city on a quest to uncover some truth. Yet a short two hours later, she returned to her apartment, deflated and even more perplexed. The plan, the visit and the result turned out to be a wasteland.

Amir’s father refused to see her, speaking through the door, “I am in prayer. I cannot view a woman at this time.”

Pada was not at home and Talsan was unavailable, attending class. The only person she was able to meet face-to-face was Shelah, Iz’s mother, who lived in a small apartment just down the street and around the corner from where Iz and his father dwelled.

Shelah explained to Karin that although there was no divorce, she and Iz’s father had separated over financial disagreements and contentious arguments concerning raising the boy. She didn’t even know that Jubal was gone. Pada hadn’t told her.

Karin did not know what to do with Shelah. She possessed that Middle Eastern woman surface submission, masking a dark cloud of rage. Karin invited the mother to the rally but Shelah declined, saying she feared a confrontation of great magnitude would occur if she made an appearance. At no time did Shelah ask about Jubal’s well-being. She did not inquire as to his status, his health or his heart.

Karin was desolate. No one really cared for these two boys, just as people. They were viewed as either burdens or bedlam—bothersome or brats. But certainly forsaken and forgotten.

She was exhausted. Sitting down on her bed, slipping off her sandals and swinging her legs around, she lay down flat on her back—but her mind was actively trying to save the world.

She closed her eyes, hoping for relief. Rest was needed—for it would be necessary for her to be alive, sharp and prepared for tomorrow’s foolishness.

 

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Jesonian… May 13th, 2017

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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jesonian-cover-amazon

 Their minds and hearts drift back so readily to Galilee–to friends, family, loved ones and labors of love.

For the traveling is exhausting and drains the passion of purpose. Going from town to town, the folks they encounter are able to treat them as strangers, leaping to establish tribal superiority and regional domination. So there’s always a little bit of loneliness creeping into the corners of swelling doubt.

It threatens to extinguish the desire to speak peace to the perishing.

Each night they gather by the fire at the end of the day. Yes, devoted. But devoid of energetic will, not wanting to be too close to me.

After all, I am the teacher.

I am the messenger.

I am the reason, beckoning them from their safe memories of normalcy.

So in deference to their need for privacy, I excuse myself from the common fellowship. They require an opportunity to reminisce together, question their calling without condemnation, and whisper wishes across the embers.

I have a place I go.

After all, I have my own memories of childhood.

I, too, have a family that misunderstands my meaning. In that private space, I speak to God. He’s a good listener. Honestly, He doesn’t often contribute or elaborate, but in His own way, He helps me to clear my thoughts.

By the time I return, my brethren are asleep. I try to do so myself. Morning will soon be here.

Another day of wandering.

Another chance to fail.

And oh, yes–another opportunity to see the world born again.

 

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PoHymn: A Rustling in the Stagnant … September 30th, 2015

 Jonathots Daily Blog

(2708)

PoHymn 9 30

A Well, Defined

Precious must confirm some value

Faith is better with substance

Love requires a commitment

Hope is energized by a vision

Kindness is empty without action

Belief, annoying minus fruit

Equality should prepare for the challenge

And peace must outsmart all war.

God is mean without mercy

Church comes alive through heart

Music is tuneless when heartless

Money mocks without a companion

Salvation begins in the here and now

Heaven, the sequel to a well-written Earth

Hell is always denying there is more

Romance, the culmination of great conversation

Failure is the chance to humbly succeed

Success, the spotlight on our remaining need

Parenting is God’s therapy for wounded children

Childhood, the time to question blind tradition

Freedom is what allows the truth to be told

Truth is what grants us the freedom to be bold

Knowledge is the book, but understanding, the eyes

Patience is the learning that makes fools wise

Time is our friend if we don’t surrender

Surrender, our savior when it’s time to remember.

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G-Poppers… June 19th, 2015

 Jonathots Daily Blog

(2617)

Jon close up

G-Pop’s youngest son asked him, “What was your dad like?”

G-Pop took a long pause. He realized that often in his conversations of discussing his childhood and his relationship with his father, he was not very generous. Maybe it’s the lot of all children–to simultaneously be offended by parents while also defending them out of tradition and respect. G-Pop wanted to be honest with his son, but not overly critical.

“My dad was like all dads in the sense that he wasn’t prepared to be a dad, but was frightened to admit that. For after all, the word ‘dad’ begins with ‘da.’ Nobody knows how to do it. Most men don’t plan much beyond their orgasm. So it’s rather remarkable that the male of our species was actually able to come up with a rendition of fatherhood that is passable enough that all the children on the earth are not permanently damaged.

My dad was quiet, somewhat self-involved, but deep in his heart wanted to be closer to his sons. But by the time he ended up with five of them, he was pretty well overwhelmed and decided to kick into survival mode. So he had favorites. And even though that sounds terrible, we are human beings and we do tend to favor one thing over another.

He also was older. He was gazing at his 50th birthday when I was born. Now that I’ve reached that age, I realize how terrified he must have been to start all over again with a new bambino. So he did what he could.

I don’t think he was always happy with my mother. One of the things that men need to realize is that children often evaluate Father based on how much Dad loves Mom. So I give him a pass. Not because he’s dead and gone and I want to speak good of his departing spirit, but because now that I’ve become a father, I realize the job is ill-suited to humans–especially men. Yet it is our job.”

G-Pop’s son sat and listened patiently and intently. There was a question brewing.

“So what does it mean to be a good dad?”

“There are three things that are involved in being a good dad–a trio of needs that every child has,” said G-Pop. “First, love the me you see. Secondly, work with the child–meek or wild; and finally, pray for the one he or she will become.

Yes, every kid born needs to believe they are loved–if not unconditionally, then mercifully. But every child needs to be worked with. Nobody comes out of the womb with any idea of what to do. And then, somewhere along the line, when they become adults, you need to pray for them, knowing that the work is done and most of the love they require will come from other sources.

It’s not that we ever stop loving our children–it’s just that our love will never be the only love they require. Instead, they need to become lovers and parents.

So you love, you work and you pray. You put each one in the right season, and then, finally, you hope that by some miracle all your mediocre efforts will pan out.”

G-Pop’s son nodded his head and smiled.

G-Pop felt good about the fact that he understood his dad’s weaknesses and had tried to improve upon them. But he did comprehend that his dad didn’t have much of a chance to find ways to be better.

Fatherhood is not a natural happening because one is a man with a sexual appetite. Fatherhood is finding the piece of God breathed within, mingling it with virility and adding the more gentle parts of the woman–in order to create a workable and helpful teacher.

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Untotaled: Stepping 17–(November 25th, 1965) Too Late to Understand … June 7, 2014

Jonathots Daily Blog

(2257)

(Transcript)

Angry. Sweet.

Gentle. Mean.

Vindictive. Giving.

These words seem to be opposites of one another but they were all part of the personality of my mother.

All through my childhood, I had endured a see-saw of emotion which was not only painful, but unpredictable.

November 25th was Thanksgiving Day. I was excited. I walked into the kitchen rubbing my hands together with enthusiasm and asked my mother “when the feast was going to be ready.”

She turned to me with a bit of fire and spit and said, “Why don’t you cook it? It’s hard work.”

It was cold, ferocious and beyond my understanding. I just went to my room, cussing her name.

For after all, this was a woman I had seen empty her cupboards of canned goods to help a neighbor in need and then, the next day, turn around and curse that same neighbor for dereliction and laziness. She would often come into my room and give me a hug, only to scream at me an hour later for watching cartoons–“being in her way” during vacuuming.

In my youth I heard her speak of brotherhood while referring to some individuals as “worthless niggers.”

If I’d had a lick of sense–which I didn’t–I would have realized that a human being who is angry, sweet, gentle, mean, vindictive and giving–well, when you combine them, what you end up with is confused.

In my later years, I understood.

She was seventeen years old when she married a man who was eighteen years her senior. she never got to travel, she didn’t get to go to college, was unable to flirt with either disaster or blessing and birthed five children, which from time to time seemed more of an inconvenience than a heritage.

She lived in confined quarters with limited funds, with a very stoic husband who often went on trips to Canada without providing a definite return date.

I wish I could sit down with her and tell her that I’m sorry I did not understand her plight. In today’s world, she probably would be diagnosed with some sort of neurotic condition which would be tempered by medication. Such remedies were unheard of in her day and age.

The greatest reprieve to my soul is that on the day she passed from this world, I was the last one to see her in the nursing home. We had a wonderful trip to the mall and on the way back, together sang her favorite hymn, The Old Rugged Cross.

She taught me a lot without realizing that she was instructing.

It was neither the fits of anger nor her acts of generosity that remain with me, but rather, a desire to be universally merciful to people when I don’t know their whole story.

So nowadays I would only ask three questions of anyone I encounter:

  1.  Can you admit you’re not happy?
  2. Are you willing to be happy?
  3. Will you stay with it until happiness arrives?

That’s all my mother needed–someone to give a damn.

It’s hard for me to remember her as a mom or a mother, and I certainly don’t want to look on her as a monster.

She was a woman named Mary who was given limited possibilities … and did the best she could.

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Arizona morning

After an appearance earlier this year in Surprise, Arizona, Janet and I were blessed to receive a “surprise” ourselves. Click on the beautiful Arizona picture above to share it with us!

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Central… August 17, 2013

Jonathots Daily Blog

(1978)

For a city, it’s downtown.CentralMuskegon

A doughnut, the hole.

The earth, the equator.

And a Twinkie, the cream.

Center of things. It’s important stuff.

As I take off tomorrow morning to do my thing at Central United Methodist Church in Muskegon, I realize that the end of my little excursion needs to make clear to this handful of souls what I believe is central, intricate, everlasting and truly necessary.

CentralMuskegoninsideHonestly, that’s easy.

Happiness.

Any time we stop believing in happiness, refuse to pursue it or think we’ve outgrown the magnitude of its blessing, we paralyze ourselves, with all of our emotions lying dormant and useless.

Life is about the pursuit of happiness. Some may call it idealism, but the lack of happiness should be a fire alarm pulled at the first sign of smoke.

Enough said. How do we get happiness? Just remember this little four-step process: don’t expect, don’t reject, don’t worry, do more.

That’s it:

  • Expectation turns us into brats, waiting for a reason to throw a fit.
  • Rejection makes us critics who have already written the review before seeing the play.
  • Worry makes us comical because we’re not energetic enough to participate and always have “egg on our face” when the omelet actually flips over and is perfect.
  • And doing more, although it seems to be futile at times, is the best way to stay busy while we’re waiting for today’s tragedy to become yesterday’s little piece of silliness.

Central is happiness.

It keeps us from becoming so grown-up that we lose our childhood dreams.

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Brother’s Keeper… October 24, 2012

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Live from October 1st filming

Mary and Russell had five children.

I was the fourth intrusion. I do not characterize myself in that way to be mean-spirited. No human being is good at parenting. Even Adam and Eve were not “Abel” and ended up raising “Cain.”

Here’s the problem: By the time we figure out babies, they become toddlers. We graduate that phase, and suddenly they’re children. Just when we grasp the concept of childhood, they escape into the great tunnel of adolescence. Some brave souls actually try to follow them into that cave–and are never heard of again. The intelligent ones stand on the outside of the deep, dark hole, pray, cross their fingers and wait for their dear offspring to emerge about eight or nine years later.

Feel free to purchase books on the subject of raising children–although some piously insist that the term should be “rearing.” Your little darlings will be more than happy to dash all theories and bring to rubble great plans for household advancement.

So it was no different with Mary and Russell. Their particular skills were stuck somewhere between the McGuffie Reader and Dr. Benjamin Spock, causing them in their confusion to be too mean when compassion was required and too gentle when my four brothers and myself were desperate for discipline.

The only regrettable conclusion of this situation is that the five brothers grew up not particularly fond of each other. We were too competitive. We were too self-involved. We were too much of everything that is associated with the word “too.”

My oldest brother passed away before he and I were able to make peace with each other. Sad.

The third son and I made a truce which lasted until the day he died.

My younger sibling expresses affection in my direction, which is never followed up with any connection.

But Brother Number Two has become my project over the past twenty years. He was an intelligent, promising student many years ago, who had a vision for becoming a high school English teacher extraordinaire. He pulled it off for many years, but in the mid-1980’s he had a nervous breakdown and has lived on disability ever since.

I have great devotion for him. You notice I am careful not to call it “love.” To me, “love” is reserved for those excellent earthly moments when true connection is made between souls and an unearthly understanding of the universe unfolds.

No, I am devoted to him. For twenty years I have written him. For twenty years, I have visited every chance I can–whenever I get within a hundred miles. And every week I also receive a letter from him, ranging in tone from the kindness of mundane to the anger and virulence of vicious.

I endure.

So imagine my mixed emotions this week when I arrived in Central Ohio knowing that I needed to see him, but realizing that there was a reluctance in my heart to be confronted–especially at this time in my journey–with such a malevolent presence. I always have to remind myself that he strikes out at the world around him because he feels struck. But it’s not very comforting in the moment.

So I made a plan to pick him up at 9:15 yesterday morning, confirmed it with him by phone, and drove into his driveway to discover that his entire front yard had been transformed into a giant garage sale, strewn with trash and old junk. I thought to myself that at least we had a good topic for opening conversation. As previously agreed, I tapped my horn to let him know of my arrival.

There was no response.

My present physical condition does not permit me to leap from the van and go to the door to pound upon it with urgency. So I waited five minutes and tapped my horn again. Nothing.

My mind flashed back to the last three times I tried to connect with this dear brother, and had been stood up by him with a nasty letter from him following, explaining that it was my fault that he didn’t appear because he knew deep in his heart that I don’t really care anything about him.

So I started to wonder how long I planned to stay in his driveway, tapping my horn, before leaving with the realization that once again I was to be viewed as the ugly girl at the junior prom.

Yet I persisted. After five horn beeps and twenty-five minutes, he appeared sleepily at the door and told me he would be right out. Ten minutes later, I was rewarded for my perseverance by the appearance of my brother at the side of my van, and we were off.

The next two hours that I spent with him are a study in human behavior and an exploration into the definitions of feeling helpless. For you see, the reason his front yard has been turned into a flea market is that he has allowed two vagabond young men to come in and live in his home, and they have completely taken over his abode, and are beginning to fight with him to such an extent that the police have actually had to be called to the scene.

I resisted running away in horror.

He explained to me that these same individuals have chased away his beloved cats, which are really his only family, leaving him without feline protection. One of these young intruders has also brought a homeless man into the house to stay, further complicating the chemistry brewing in the cauldron.

Then my brother explained to me that he is trying to evict one of the squatters, while said squatter is also taking him to court for reimbursement on construction supplies that the young fellow purchased to build in a living quarters–for himself–on the back porch. (Now, I realize that all of this is very confusing when written into a story form, but let me comfort you by telling you that it was no easier to understand in the original telling.)

My dear brother had no trouble whatsoever filling in 129 minutes of conversation on his own, only once asking about my doings, in passing. He has a life that is full … without having a full life.

You see, it’s what happens to all of us when we don’t decide the purpose for our breathing and moving; circumstance and crazy travelers can come in and fill in our empty space with their own trauma and terror.

This is why I pity grown people who make their children their lives. Your seed will be more than willing to destroy your garden of hopes. I am always careful to warn those who have retired to start a second career, finding a reason to get up in the morning. Otherwise, all of the insanity of the world will crash in on you, exhausting you with its nuttiness without ever granting you fruit.

My brother was exhausted but had nothing to show for it but sadness, exasperation, apprehension and defeat. They had broken his television set, taken his car and left him desolate. And because it appears that he has given these things over to them, it is impossible to prosecute the perpetrators.

I was so depleted. I remembered the lament of an exasperated brother from thousands of years ago: Am I my brother’s keeper?

It’s so easy to walk away from insanity and allow it to be turned over to the general asylum. You can disassociate yourself from it so easily, returning to your own peaceful ways.

But he is my brother. He would be my brother if we had not shared a common womb, because we share a common God.

I did my best to encourage. I did my best to bless. I did my best to promise him that I would return again very soon to renew our conversation. I did my best to give him some money so he could spend it on himself instead of squandering it on his emotional assailants.

I did my best not to cry.

Mary and Russell did their best, too. But like many of those born after the Garden, they grew some weeds. It is now the job of those stray children to find one another and make some sense of it all.

I am my brother’s keeper. It’s just that sometimes the most difficult part of caretaking … is cleaning up.

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