Cracked 5 … December 1st, 2015

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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Things I Don’t Want For Christmas

A. A cow donated in my name to a tribe in Africa.

 

B. Anything you made by hand with paint, glue, macaroni or “love.”

 

C. A picture of you and me together, smiling for some reason which we no longer remember.

 

D. A certificate to get anything that I don’t usually get, or will have to wait to get.

 

E. Anything I personally have to assemble.

 

Cracked 5 Best of Best

 

 

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Bank On It… August 25, 2013

Jonathots Daily Blog

(1986)

bankOne of the rituals we actively and faithfully follow in our travels across these United States is to arrive about twenty minutes early to our gigs. The reason for this is quite simple–actually numerous.

First, we get away from that “heated rush” so that our demeanor can be cool, calm and collected.

We also allow for the unexpected, like traffic, or in some of the more rural locations, a reluctant cow or horse crossing the road.

It also gives us a great opportunity to trim down our egos and low-ball our expectations about the evening’s event–whether we will be inundated with audience, awash, sprinkled or barely drizzled.

Normally we find a park, an abandoned building or some out-of-the-way little space to pull in, roll down the windows and chat for those few minutes.

But Wednesday night in Portage I spotted a mailbox in the parking lot of a bank. I was delighted because I had a couple of pieces of correspondence I wanted to drop in. Well, since I was there, I decided to go ahead and park underneath the shade tree in the back of this well-known lending institution.

We were just talking away as Jan took out her oboe case, made sure all the pieces were in the right location and began to soaking her reeds for the evening’s performance.

It was finally time to leave, and I backed our big, black van out and turned toward the exit, only to discover that an orange cone had been placed in the road, with a policeman standing there, peering at me quizzically. I didn’t think much about it and attempted to pass on by, when he ordered me to halt.

I rolled down my window and asked him what I could do to help. He was curious why we had been sitting in the back lot of the bank for so long. It had stirred interest among the employees, who were trying to figure out why a bunch of folks were sitting in this dark vehicle with out-of-state plates, perched in the rear of their establishment just at closing time.

I explained to the policeman about our habit prior to heading off to a performance. He grinned, now realizing there would be no need for a SWAT team or helicopter coverage from above. Actually, he became inquisitive about the nature of our journey and asked for one of our pamphlets so he could check out our websites. He waved us on and we headed off to our destination.

As I pulled out, I looked in my rear view mirror and saw a whole collection of nervous, twenty-something, bank-teller-type individuals, who had obviously been wondering if there was going to be a shoot-out between our gang and the local Portage police.

I don’t know if they were disappointed or not, but I did promise the police officer that in the future, I would certainly avoid using a bank for my peaceful repose.

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Flakies … July 12, 2013

Jonathots Daily Blog

(1941)

big snowflakesA snowflake only exists in heaven. When it falls to the earth, it is simply SNOW.

The same is true for human beings.

Our Father in heaven recognizes us and knows the number of hairs on our heads. But on earth, we’re just another “harried participant.”

Failing to realize this and insisting on specialized, individual treatment for each one of our quirks and anomalies is what creates dissension among people instead of the universal proposed utopia of self-esteem.

There are three statements which have seeped into mainstream thinking of all people in the United States of America. It doesn’t matter if you go to the First Baptist Church of Tuscaloosa, Alabama, or if you attend a meeting of the ACLU in Hollywood, these statements are simultaneously adapted and dangerously executed.

1. “There’s nobody like me.” Actually, my friend, there are eight billion and counting. Separating yourself from the herd does not make you any less a cow. The beauty of our race is in our similarities, predilections, inadequacies, intelligence and fellowship. The power is NOT in isolating our whims as curiosities.

2. “I was born this way.” You may want to go ga-ga over that statement, but you must realize that you cannot maintain the sanctity of free will and also believe you are under the influence of the elixir of your DNA. As a Christian, I must realize that the person who gave me my philosophy told me that I need to be born again.  In other words, our race does not progress if the children are enslaved to their own genetic codes instead of breaking out, by their own freewill choice, to discover personal freedom.

3. “Think the best about yourself.” I do not know why an audience applauds when someone makes an unrealisitic statement about his or her ability. Truthfully, in mere moments, the proclaimer will have to back up the statement. Humility is not a virtue, nor is it a way of lessening our potential, but rather, a means of survival. Large statements demand even larger proof. That’s right–we must EXCEED the expectation in order to convince people that we have actually met it.

On top of that, always thinking the best about yourself pretty much closes the door to repentance. And back to my friend, whose teachings I follow–he said that unless we repent, we perish–not in the sense of dissolving into thin air, but rather, by imploding–because we put a thick candy shell on the outside, when inside is nothing but hot air.

It will not be popular to change these irrational mantras even though they are constantly disproven by how our system works. After all, the race is run by many, with only one winner. But everybody gets in shape.

Snowflakes may be individualized if you can get them under a microscope. But only God has a microscope which can discern such intricacies about human beings. Basically, to each other, we are a “fellowship of snow,” trying to learn to drift in the right direction.

Rejoice.

There are many people like yourself. You are not alone. It doesn’t make you less valuable. It gives you the opportunity to set yourself apart by the fruit you bear. Even though you were born of flesh and have a particular ribbon of DNA flowing through you, spirituality sets you apart from the other animals on the earth, enabling you to be born again by your own free-will choice.

And thinking the best about yourself does not make it so, but maintaining a necessary humility which allows for repentance will keep you from perishing on the earth.

I am proud to be human. I’m not ashamed of my similarities with my brothers and sisters. And I am ready to do my part to make this world a sweeter place in which to live.

Would you like to join me?

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The Waxahachie Project… May 18, 2013

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WaxahachieWaxahachie, Texas.

The name “Waxahachie” comes from the Native American tongue, meaning “Buffalo Creek” or “Cow Creek.” Honestly, I have nothing to say about that. Sometimes it’s better to leave things like that alone, and certainly resist any temptation to be clever or draw deeper meaning from the context.

Here is what Waxahachie means to me: I have three-and-a-half hours to spend with a few hundred people, to communicate my heart and soul, and to leave hopefully having edified them and encouraged them in the better parts of themselves. If you didn’t know, that’s two hundred and ten minutes. It’s not very long. There certainly is no time to waste being picky, fussy, careful, suspicious or opinionated.

I have decided that there are five things I would like to accomplish during my brief stay with these delightful human examples of why God loves the world and hopes the best for it.

1. I’d like these folks to know that we have more in common than we in difference. We are killing each other with the religion of “uniqueness,” which is only giving us license to murder attempts at commonality.

2. The gospel is earth friendly because God is people loving. I guess you can feel free to focus on the parts of spirituality that have nothing to do with human beings, but rather, deal with angels, demons, heaven and hell. But considering the fact that we ARE not yet in the realm of the supernatural, it is perhaps wise to make sure that we focus more on natural pursuits.

3. Good cheer is our best offense in reaching the world. Matter of fact, if you want to act worldly, the most obvious way to achieve that goal is to establish a grumpy disposition. It is rather unlikely that we will be able to help people if we suffer from the same disease of disappointment that infests their entire beings.

4. Meanness gets meanness. I don’t know where we got the idea that we could actually “out-muscle” our competition, or find a way to be nastier than the nasty.  Once you establish the fact that you are trying to get what you want and are willing to do anything to do it, you create the kind of enemies who never forget how you attacked them and lie in the weeds, waiting for a chance to wreak their vengeance. I cannot promise you that you will always get “nice” back from being nice, but I can guarantee that you will always get “mean” back for being mean.

5. And finally, I will share with the dear folks in Waxahachie that every buffalo crosses the creek at the same place. I phrase it this way: NoOne is better than anyone else. As I travel, it amazes me how many people give a nod of assent to this idea, only to later resist the notion because it fails to grant them the supremacy they desire. It doesn’t make any difference. The minute you try to be better than somebody else, there is someone standing in the wings, ready to dash your hopes because they have evidence of presumed superiority.

Well, that’s about it for me. Oh, and by the way–one last thing I will impart to these folks: I love you. Because anything less is too hard to explain.

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Thick is bloodier than water… November 8, 2012

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Michael won.

I was furious. It wasn’t supposed to happen. My arrogance and stupidity got together and planned a pity party with no refreshments. I didn’t understand. I had won junior class president the year before, only challenged by one girl who received two votes–her own and that of her twin sister. I was supposed to be a shoo-in.

But before we elected our senior class officers, Michael decided at the last minute to throw his hat in the ring, and he got all of his buddies together from the Future Farmers of America (the FFA) to support him, boosting him on their shoulders to victory. This was made possible because I lived in a rural community where the FFA was the largest club in the school.

As painful as it was to lose to Michael, even more aggravating was the discovery that my friend, Howard, had gone behind my back and voted for my opponent. Howard explained to me that he felt compelled to do so because he, too, was a farmer, and the pressure from the club to get behind Michael was more than he could resist.

I was so pissed off. Howard and I were friends. Now granted, we hadn’t tilled the soil together or considered the best way to herd cows, but we had done many more important human things which should have engaged his loyalty in my direction.

For instance, we sang in a quartet together. That means there were days of rehearsal, little road trips, late-night talks about girls and how parts worked, giggling, crying…and oh, speaking of crying, I was there with Howard when he discovered that his girlfriend, Jackie, was dating Ben behind his back. (By the way, another farmer.) Actually, Howard was not sure that Jackie was being a two-timer, so one night the two of us went out in his 1958 Chevy coupe and found Ben and Jackie, parked in Lover’s Lane, necking away, with Ben plowing where Howard had already planted crops. Howard was devastated. I stayed up with him all night, talking, crying and coming to the early morning decision that Jackie was just no good.

So you see, we had history. We were friends. And honestly, sometimes being a friend is much stronger than being a relative, especially a farmer. I just didn’t understand.

Howard knew I was angry. I stayed that way for at least a month. We would talk, but I made sure that he was aware that out of revenge, I was withholding some of the better stories that I could have been sharing. Actually, within a couple of weeks, I was glad that I wasn’t president of the class. Being vice-president meant I didn’t have the responsibility, but still got out of class, still got the respect of students and teachers, but Michael was left to deal with the sticky messes. But I didn’t tell Howard that’s how I felt. No, Howard was on my crap list. And it really wasn’t a list–just Howard’s name, signed at the bottom.

Finally one day, Howard took me aside and tried to explain. He said, “You know, blood is thicker than water.”

I just stared at him. “Is there a bloodline of farmers? And what’s that got to do with anything?”

But in a moment of pity I looked into his eyes and realized that Howard was afraid. And whenever we’re afraid, we go back to patterns of behavior ingrained in us long before we are able to resist. After all, even if your parents were abusive, they were still the first ones to put a bottle in your mouth and tell you about Santa Claus. It’s hard to forget that. And if your parents are farmers and you’re a member of FFA, it makes you feel like you’re betraying your kin if you vote for your buddy instead of your barn-mate.

I didn’t exactly forgive him, but I realized he was thick. Emotion, truth, gentleness, loyalty and faithfulness were unable to get through a crusty hide of tradition and false respect.

We eventually made up. If I recall, it had something to do with him meeting a new girl, who also cheated on him–so we had to go out together and chase down the latest infidelity. (For some reason Howard had very poor success in maintaining the ongoing affection of loyal girlfriends.)

I remember this story because I always want to be reminded that not all blessing comes from my family tree. Not all wisdom comes from my little village. And not all growth can be spawned from my little garden patch of understanding.

I need newness of life–and that includes new people with new ideas, new faces and new ways that may at first seem contrary to me, but in the long run, expand my heart and make me a better human.

Thick is what bloodies the waters.

Dear God, help me not to be thick-headed, building concrete around my brain.

Heavenly Father, help me not to be thick-gutted, padding the fat around my waist with additional reinforcements.

And Almighty Creator, keep me from being thick-hearted, protecting my emotions from the experiences that will make me more understanding instead of so doggone sure of myself.

I didn’t get to be senior class president. Part of it was because a dear cohort chose a farmer over a friend. But what I learned is that God always allows us to grow, even from our disappointments, as long as we don’t get so thick that He can’t reach our insides.

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Painted Pigs … September 20, 2012

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One of the more intriguing chores while traveling on the road is arriving in a new community, establishing a headquarters and locating a grocer who doesn’t charge too much for basic grits and gravy. We used to eat out a lot at restaurants, but that is not only expensive, but much too high in calories and filled with so many unknowns that one feels like a culinary explorer. So we find it much more healthy and wise to eat off of plates instead of styrofoam.

In this pursuit in Marion, Indiana, I was cruising along in my van and was startled to look on one of the corners and see a pig. Now viewing myself as an individual with an open mind, I was willing to accept that in a small farming town, a pig might be allowed to wander at will. But upon careful inspection, I saw that this particular pig was purple, with stripes, and had flowers on his backside. Even though I’m not a farm boy and not very acquainted with the fashion statements of the herd, I was still pretty sure that this was unusual. With a more intense second glance, I realized that this was not a living pig, but rather, a ceramic or tin one, sitting on a street corner, decorated–painted, if you will.

It looked very authentic–so realistic that I was a bit creeped out by the whole experience; because as I turned to the right, there was another one–this particular one, plaid. Straight ahead of me was yet another, adorned in some sort of bonnet.

They were everywhere.

Even though I have lived for many decades on this planet, I suddenly realized that … I don’t like pigs. I don’t know what the source of this disdain for the creature may be. Maybe it’s because I read Animal Farm. Or was it that CSI episode, where they explained that if you threw a dead human  body into a pig pen, that within twenty-four-hours the pigs would eat everything, including the bones. (You have to admit, that’s creepy.)

I kind of think it goes back to the fact that when I was a small child, Porky Pig freaked me out. He was dumb. Or maybe not. But he stuttered. And he was always–pardon the expression–the butt of every joke.

And of course, the Bible doesn’t do anything to help the image of your basic porker. Jesus says not to “cast pearls before swine.” And we also have a gruesome image of hogs running down a hill, possessed by demons, leaping off a cliff and drowning in the water below.

So as I drove through town, I realized that what they were attempting to accomplish was a cute, quaint tipping-of-the-straw-hat to the rural culture that had formed the backbone of their community. And I do have to admit that painted cows on the corners of the street would not have been any more relaxing to this tourist. But there are swans. Ducks. Sheep might even have been better. But pigs … are best “baconed,” ribbed, barbecued, and chopped. And even then, they ultimately get their revenge by hanging around to clog up our arteries and terminate our lives.

I have since been back to the Marion community three times, and have not yet gotten used to the painted pigs. I still fail to remember that they are there and that they’re not really alive, and one time even reflexively slammed on my brakes, thinking that one of them was about to run out in front of me. So if the goal of Marion, Indiana is to present something intriguing or memorable for those individuals passing through their village, they really missed the mark with me. Pigs on the corner of the street do not bring out notions of warmth–fireplaces and farm houses with grain silos filled with provision and goodness. No. Pigs are … piggy.

So in my opinion, it would be better to select some other way to bring coloration to your community. Because honestly, if you’re not supposed to cast your pearls before swine, it probably would be true that putting pearls on swine isn’t any more effective.

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