Untotaled: Stepping 24 (August 17th, 1965) Walleye… July 26, 2014

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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(Transcript)

There once was a young man named Jonathan who somewhat resembled me.

He was old enough to think but too old to be cute and thought about very much. His mother was busy and his dad a trifle old–and everything Jonathan really enjoyed was not appreciated by anybody else in his abode.

His dad and brothers favored hunting and fishing. It made them feel macho. Jonathan, on the other hand, was more “couch-o.”

But he was still willing to try.

He took the gun thrust into his hands and went out to chase rabbits. He liked shooting, but couldn’t hit any of the fuzzy bunnies.

The male members of the herd were greatly disappointed. A “stalefate.”

One sunny afternoon, he walked with a pole to the city reservoir to fish. An hour passed. Then two. Yet all at once, he had a bite on his hook. He pulled in the biggest fish he had ever conceived.

He ran home with his prize, stopping along the way to pant and catch his breath.

Jonathan’s dad was thrilled. He told Jonathan that he had caught a walleye–one and one-half pounds. The father was so impressed.

Then an hour later the newspaper showed up to get the whole story and take a picture. It was in the next week’s edition.

For a full three days following the print-out, Jonathan was small-town famous–the young man who had bagged a reservoir walleye.

For a while his dad was proud. No doubt about it.

It felt good.

 

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Published in: on July 26, 2014 at 1:14 pm  Comments (1)  
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Mayberry Passion … April 17, 2014

Jonathots Daily Blog

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andyBeing the local sheriff in a tiny village in North Carolina demands a variety of skills. Sometimes a psychologist. On other occasions a fixer of bicycles for young boys. It always requires a smile and a kind word for those passing by.

Andrew Jackson Taylor just seemed to have been born for the position.

Most folks called him Andy. He was always available with a joke or a piece of sage wisdom, but could also offer the occasional warning to those who were flirting with disrupting the peace.

And recently that had become a prime concern.

Deputy Barney Fife, who was known for his nervous twitches, was agog with fear and was trying to warn Andy everyday that this new youngBarney Fife man who had come to town was causing a commotion which was about as close to a riot as the folks of Mayberry would tolerate. Matter of fact, Barney had been on the case of this fellow named Jesus ever since he had sauntered into town.

First of all, he had long hair, which was quite unacceptable to those who sported and required buzzed white-walls around the ears. Barney explained to Andy that Floyd, the local barber, was very unhappy, because many of the young boys in the town had begun to grow their hair long to imitate the stranger.

Jesus lived somewhere out in the woods, where he escaped late at night, only to appear early in the morning, chattin’ up the locals and joining in to the freshness of the day.

Goober came from the gas station to tell Andy how this young feller Jesus, had challenged him about putting water in Aunt Beethe gasoline.

The local sewing circle, led by Aunt Bee, in an attempt to be cordial and neighborly, invited Jesus to come and share at their monthly meeting. He created quite a stir when he decided to speak up against the practice of gossip.Gomer

Barney believed that this Jesus was anti-American because Gomer Pyle, after spending an afternoon with him, had decided not to join the United States Marines.

What really bothered Barney more than anything else was a rumor circulating that the Darlings, who lived in a holler down the road, had invited Jesus to a wedding of one of their young’uns, and word has it he brought his own corn squeezins’ that he had changed to moonshine.

OpieHonestly, Andy didn’t pay much attention to it, knowing that Barney was like a bear-trap with a spring too tight. That is, until he caught Opie fishing down at the lake with Jesus right after school, and didn’t much appreciate anyone interfering with his child. Jesus explained that he was just using fishing to teach the boy the multiplication tables, but Andy was not comforted.

Also when Thelma Lou was attacked by some of the local religious sorts for a reputation she had developed while living in Raleigh, this Jesus pointed out to the accusers how easy it was to have their deeds exposed, and that it might be a good idea for humans who live in stained glass houses not to throw stones.

Barney was even upset because Otis, the town drunk, had stopped drinking so much and didn’t frequent the jailhouse anymore. You just can’t mess with traditions.

But I guess it came to a head when Andy’s girlfriend, Helen Crump, who taught at the local elementary school, allowed Jesus to share withHelen the students a motivational message which ended up being “no one is better than anyone else.” It wasn’t so much that Andy disagreed with the idea in principle—just found it totally impractical.

So with all this ruckus being raised by this stranger, who most people believed must have come from Mt. Pilate, it fell Andy’s lot, as keeper of the peace, to take Jesus for a little drive down the road. He brought along with him a bus ticket and thirty dollars.

Andy explained to Jesus that it was nothing personal, just that it was his responsibility to maintain the dignity and order of this town, and that things just weren’t working out too well with young Jesus being among the citizens.

Jesus listened carefully.

About a mile outside town, Andy pulled the squad car over and handed Jesus the bus ticket and the thirty dollars, and told him he really wasn’t welcome in Mayberry anymore. Andy, being the insightful sort, suggested Charlotte—where there were many more people who just didn’t pay as much attention to one another.

Jesus took the bus ticket and the thirty dollars and climbed out of the car. He started to walk away and then turned and said, “I guess I’m finished here. I hope your memories of me, after a bit of time, will end up being pleasant.”

He waved, turned on his heel and ambled down the road.

Andy watched him for a few moments, and said under his breath, “What a peculiar fellow.”

He turned the squad car around and headed back to town.

It was date night with Miss Crump.

 

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Jesonian: Making a Mark … March 30, 2014

Jonathots Daily Blog  

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Sometimes it’s best to go back to the beginning if you’ve arrived at a conclusion which doesn’t seem to be in line with the facts provided.

The Christian religious system which is presently revered by the remaining faithful has stayed rigorous to a plan of salvation, but somewhere along the line has misplaced the heart of Jesus–to create followers who are the “salt of the earth, the light of the world” and an obvious “city on a hill for all to see.”

So if you’ll allow me, I’d like to go back to what is considered to be the first gospel written about Jesus’ life, and not do some elaborate teaching trick, but instead, just outline the elements of the first chapter as it beautifully lays out the purpose for the ideas and goals of the Master.

It is the Gospel of Mark (even though modern theologians have robbed John Mark of the authorship. You’ve gotta keep an eye on those religionists.)

And you don’t have to go any further than the first chapter to understand what the writer believes the journey with Jesus should be all about:

1. The gospel invites spirit into human life.

2. The gospel brings repentance.

3. The gospel is sensitive to humans, fishing for them.

4. The gospel is astonishing.

5. The gospel scares away evil.

6. The gospel causes a stir.

7. The gospel finds time to be alone.

8. The gospel travels well.

9. The gospel cleanses.

10. The gospel draws people.

If we are going to have a Jesonian movement of spirituality in this country, where we honor the life, times and mission of Jesus, we might want to take a good, long look at that list and ask ourselves if we are welcoming such a message into our midst, or merely celebrating an idea of salvation.

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James, More or Less… November 9, 2013

Jonathots Daily Blog

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There were two of them.james the less

At least that’s what the Good Book shares.

Out of twelve disciples, two of them ended up being named James. Over the passage of time, to distinguish between the fellows, one gained the title of James the Greater and the other, James the Less. It’s something we just accept–that is, unless you were the James named the Less.

I suppose it would be a little frustrating to pass the muster of graduating from being one of the five thousand that Jesus fed to being one of the seventy he sent out, to finally be honored by receiving the accolade of achieving the top twelve, only to be referred to as “James the Less.”

Such is life. Sometimes you get to be more and most of the time, you get to be less. The trick is finding out how to be the same person with the same values and the same passion no matter which title is temporarily bestowed upon you.

Something we rarely consider is that Jesus, the ultimate, cool “fair” guy, did bestow more significance on three of his disciples, more than the other nine. Whenever he went on a secret mission, he took Peter, James and John, leaving James the Less and his other eight buddies behind. What was that like? (Matter of fact, it’s a little surprising that only one of the disciples decided to betray him, considering human nature…)

I’m sure there was grumbling. We know they were especially upset when the two “fishing brothers,” James and John, campaigned to become the favored two: “Let us sit on your right and left hand when you come into your kingdom…”

That was their request.

So how DOES it work? What can I learn from this as a human being filled with my own concerns, desperately trying to discover a noble thought within? Because I know this–sometimes I get to be James the Greater and sometimes I’m James the Less. Here’s the odd thing–what I do when I’m James the Less is more valuable and important than what I do when I’m James the More.

Truthfully, the popular people in our country, whose names are splashed across the television screen twenty-four hours a day, are completely unable to solve our problems. So what’s the advantage of being famous if you’re a gunky-flunky? On the other hand, although my operation is small, and I’m not nationally known, I’m pretty pleased with the fruit of my labors.

The power of being James the Less is that nobody really wants your position, so you can call your shots with more freedom, and therefore determine your destiny.

When you’re James the Greater, the spotlight’s on you, everybody has an opinion and you are granted less privacy to choose your path. Oh … and did I mention? James the Greater was so popular that Herod Agrippa decided to behead him to gain kudos from the Jews. (Now THERE is a distinct disadvantage to being promoted.)

church of st jamesSo as I go off tomorrow morning to St. James United Methodist Church in Miamisburg, Ohio–a small congregation–I wonder if they can take advantage of being “the Less” without pining to be “the Greater.”

I am curious if they can maneuver themselves into a position of revival instead of following the mediocre philosophy of our generation. I am desirous to uncover their heart–because James the Less lived out a life as one of the twelve without needing to make the “top three.”

That’s me.

And because I have learned to be Jonathan the Less and do the best I can, making my own decisions through my faith, I have been granted great opportunities, and by the way … haven’t lost my head.

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“Stephening”… May 15, 2013

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0akdaleSometimes I just can’t sleep very well.

It’s not insomnia–it’s usually because I’m excited about the next day, and my brain is moving at seventy-two miles per hour in a thirty mile per hour zone. On those rare occasions, I turn on the TV.

Last night when I did so, the first thing that popped on the screen was a high-energy rock and roll concert with a young lady running across the stage, dancing and singing with vibrance and enthusiasm. I was unable to make out the words but they had something to do with how excited she was to be in love.

You see, I’m kind of a weird old fart. I’ve always liked rock and roll and still do. I even like all the transformations that have occurred and am greatly intrigued by the present crop being harvested in the music field. What struck me last night was that even though I’m not critical about how young humans entertain themselves, I am greatly concerned about their pursuit of inspiration.

Whether you like jazz, dancing, hunting, fishing, sewing or tap dance really doesn’t make much difference to me, but I do think that somewhere along the line we human beings need to come to an agreement on what is truly inspiring.

This week when I made my way to Stephenville, Texas, my mind floated back to recall the life of a young fellow named Stephen. He, too, was bursting with youth. He was selected to do a job. They put him in charge of food distribution for the hungry and told him to make sure it was done equitably. They trusted him.

Now, here’s the twist: the next time we hear about Stephen, he’s not passing out bread to the hungry, but instead, is sharing his life story and the mission of his message with the masses.

And then, in our next encounter, he is speaking truthfully to the powers that be, and because his words are so convicting, he ends up being killed.

Quite a transition.

It got me thinking about what I think “Stephening” is. For I believe this–if you’re a young human, interested in rock and roll, movies, video games and technology, more power to you. But somewhere in your soul, there has to be a kernel of awareness about the world around you and your part in helping to make it better.

Stephen had that.

  1. He had a yearning to take care of the needs of others.
  2. But he also was not going to be limited to that, and freely stepped out of the box prepared for him, to do something of his own heartfelt desire.
  3. He shared with others–he didn’t hold the truths that were working in his life inside himself, but instead, freely communicated his joy to the world around him.
  4. And finally, he wasn’t afraid.

True success is when we walk away from tradition and also avoid walking toward “the world.”  We find out where tradition has failed, and instead of pursuing the foolishness of abstract materialism and bad habits, we forge a path towards inspiration.

Tonight I will be at the Oakdale United Methodist Church in Stephenville. I am so delighted to be with them–and I’ll be curious if there are any folks there who are interested in “Stephening.”

Because if you don’t decide to care for others, step out of the box, open up your heart to the people around you and not be afraid, you either become a slave to tradition–or a puppy dog chasing the world.

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*****

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Rabble and Rubble… March 31, 2013

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church inside biggerSome were killers. Others watched. The rest ran away in terror, except for a tiny handful, which stuck around to stow the mutilated corpse in a tomb.

I didn’t know what to do. I was no killer, didn’t have the stomach to watch, couldn’t run as fast as the cowards and wouldn’t wrap my mind around a “grave” conclusion for my best friend.

So I just walked.

Actually, I’ve been walking for twenty-four hours, now. Of course, I exaggerate, but it sure seems like an endless odyssey of meaningless meandering. I walk and I look.

I don’t know exactly what I’m looking for–I guess some sort of sign of shock, revulsion or horror over the atrocity just committed on that hill so far away. But truthfully, life seems to be going on. Nothing is canceled. No one discusses postponing local events to consider the murder of an innocent man. I even came across a wedding in progress, with the sound of jubilation and music. The Passover is in full swing. The Romans are in control and religion has dressed up for the day.

I feel like I’m about to go insane over the calmness that’s settled in on a world gone mad. Jesus loved the rabble. He embraced those souls the world deemed riff-raff. He met them in their hour of need, saved them, healed them and even raised them from the dead. Yet when he reached his critical moment–when he required the support of these who were benefitted by his mercy–they accepted the wisdom of a Council which they normally mocked, and they screamed in unison for a murderer and robber to be released to their fellowship. They chose the allure of darkness because it was closer to the coloration fo their own souls.

Mostly I’m disgusted with myself. Because the absence of knowing what to do is not the presence of an excuse for not doing anything. It may seem that way in the moment, but it is a lie.

I don’t know where to go. Some of my friends went fishing to take their minds off the dilemma. There are a few hiding out in an upper room–simulating prayer, but really shaking in their sandals over every rustling outside the door, wondering if it is the Romans coming to slice them into pieces.

I just can’t be with any of them. The rabble disgusts me because they denied their own best solution. And the rubble of a once-great “kingdom movement” is so insipid and vacant of ideas that I can’t tolerate sitting in their presence, commiserating.

I feel so alone that I’m taunted by the specter of suicide. Yet I won’t do that. That would require a certain amount of courage which I lack, and an insanity which I refuse entrance.

I walk on.

Has it really come down to the simplicity of the rabble and the rubble? My friend Jesus dedicated his life to protecting the lost and innocent, only to have them choose cowardice in his hour of need. Likewise, he spent hours and hours instructing people like me–his followers–but when he was confronted with evil, he only found frightened little Jewish boys and girls, who had learned much but acquired little.

Now hours have passed. I must have dozed off, although I would have sworn I was incapable of sleep. The Sabbath is over and the first fruits of the light of dawn are creeping into the velvety haze of darkness. It will soon be morning. What will I do?

Even though I used to enjoy the beginning of each day, now the sun mocks me because it shines its light on my indecision. Do I go and resume my life among the rabble–pretending that the little piece of misfortune that happened on Calvary was a thing of the past?

I can’t do that. Too many miracles. Too many blessings. Too many hugs. Too many roads. And too many reasons to remember.

I guess I will head to the tomb. In the long run, it is better to be with the rubble–the remains of a great idea–than with the rabble, lacking any inclination toward solution.

Sunday morning. I will go to the tomb.

After all … it is the last place I saw Jesus.

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A Creeky Encounter … January 12, 2013

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Jim and HuckIt was a stream of water that ran by the road in my hometown. It was no more than four feet deep at its braggart’s point and so narrow in some locations that you could step across it on four rocks protruding from the water. Most people didn’t pay much attention to it. For some reason, they named our local high school after this brook–Big Walnut.

Most of the good white folk stayed away from it because it was a hangout–well, it was a place where some of the “negroes” from nearby Columbus would come to congregate on the weekends. There were a few fishermen’s shacks which had been erected near the water, where these darkened visitors would sleep and relax as they cast lines into the nearby flow, seeking to capture a particular style of varmint called a sucker. Now, a sucker was an ugly fish–big huge mouth, with what looked to be thick lips and humongous, bulging eyes. Yes, the good white folks of our town were very careful not to spend much time on the banks of the Big Walnut, or to ever even consider consuming a sucker.

I occasionally went down to look at the water because it wound its way through a very pastoral setting of trees and rocks. On one of those occasions, when I was gazing from the bridge down at the creek beneath, an older fellow saw me and motioned to me to come down and join him. I was terrified, surprised, frozen and intrigued, all at the same time. For you see, he was a negro.

I was fifteen years old and had never spoken with a negro. I had seen them. I had even tackled one in a football game with a nearby city school which was intergrated. But I had never had an actual conversation with anyone of that color persuasion.

He motioned to me again, and because he was an older chap and I felt deep respect for folks of that ilk, I picked my way down the hill to join him at the waterfront. As I arrived, he got a bite on his hook and right then and there, pulled up one of those ugly sucker fish, which looked to be nearly a pound and a half in size. He gave a hoot.

Negro:  Would you look at that, son? Halleluia! I have supper for tonight.

(I pulled back in terror at the sight of the ugly fish.)

Negro:  Have you ever eaten a sucker?

Me:  My dad says they taste terrible and have too many bones.

Negro:  Well, I probably have too many bones, and I’m not so sure I taste good, either. But if you smoke ’em, they are delicious.

(I must have had a comical, perplexed look on my face because he laughed.)

Negro:  Do you know what smoked is?

Me:  Cigarettes?

(More laughter.)

Negro: No! You’ve eaten ham, haven’t you? Smokin’ meat is like puttin’ it near the fire instead of on the fire, and lettin’ the hickory flavor do the cookin’.

(I nodded my head–not because I understood, but because I was bored.)

Negro: Do you like to fish?

Me: Yeah, kinda. My dad and older brothers are nuts about it. I like to catch fish.

Negro: Me, too. By the way, my name is Marsh.

Me: Pleased to meet you Mr. Marsh.

(I was speaking to him from a distance of about six feet, so as to give myself the first fruits of an excellent exit. He stuck his hand out across the distance.)

Negro: No, it’s not Mister. Just call me Marsh.

(I was staring at the hand of a Negro. It was big. I could see callouses protruding from every knuckle. I quickly glanced down at my hand, which more resembled a medium-sized, damp white terry wash cloth. What was I going to do? He kept his hand extended, determined to make connection. So I cautiously inched forward and shook his massive paw.)

Marsh: You come down here often?

Me:  No–because …

(I stopped in mid-sentence. I almost let it slip–that the community generally considered this to be reserved for Negroes and not available to the whites.)

Marsh: (interrupting) Let me guess. You don’t come down here because people who look like me seem to own this place, right?

Me: We call it Monkey Hollow. At least that’s what my dad said.

Marsh: He did, did he? Well, we people of a different point of view call it Goshen’s Point. Do you know the story of the place?

(I shook my head.)

Marsh: Tale is that an escaped slave arrived here with his wife and didn’t feel it was safe for him to live among the white folks, so he settled here by the creek, built a cabin and started to raise a family. He called it Goshen because that was the land where the Jews were safe from the Egyptians.

(Once again I nodded my head. I wasn’t really interested–just fascinated by being in the proximity of this aged Negro. I stepped a little closer–honestly, just to find out if he smelled different. I was told they did. He ended up smelling like fish and the residue of earth worms, which was not unusual for people who frequented the sport.)

Marsh: What is your name?

Me: Jonathan.

Marsh: That’s a good Bible name. Jonathan–the best friend of King David. A good young man who got himself mixed up in family loyalty. Instead of siding with his friend, David, he followed his dad…to death.

(I crinkled my brow a bit because I knew the story, but found it more interesting coming out of the mouth of this wrinkled alien.)

Marsh: Is this the first time you’ve ever talked to a nigger?

(My expression must have been worth a million dollars, because Marsh laughed like he had just discovered a treasure.)

Marsh: You have heard us called niggers, right?

Jonathan: Well, once or twice, I guess, but never … near one, if you know what I mean.

Marsh: I do, son, I surely do. Usually they call us Negroes, right?

Jonathan: I guess. If that’s all right.

Marsh: I guess there’s a name we call every person to their face and another one we use behind their back. What do you think, Jonathan? What would Jesus think about that?

Jonathan: I don’t know. Are you a Christian?

Marsh: I sure am. But not like you.

Jonathan: What do you mean?

Marsh: You see, Jonathan, I’m a Christian because I need to be one to survive and get along in this world. You’re a Christian because there’s a church down the road where your friends go, that has some mighty good pot-lucks from time to time.

(I was offended.)

Jonathan: I believe in God.

Marsh: I know, son. I know. It’s just that my faith allows me to believe that God believes in me, too. That God somehow or another is able to escape staring at my color and sees right down to the tiptoes of my soul.

(I frowned, making him smile. Marsh held his freshly caught fish up to his face)

Marsh: Don’t you think this sucker looks just like me? Big lips and bulgy eyes?

(I didn’t know what to say.)

Marsh: You run along. I sure have enjoyed our conversation. I just hope you know that we Negroes–niggers, or monkey, or whatever you hear us called–are able to talk and really don’t bite or hurt nobody.

(I bit my lip because I couldn’t think of an adequate retort. Marsh turned around and started fishing again. I wanted to say something meaningful, warm or profound, but ended up pulling myself up the hill in silence.)

Marsh was the first Negro I ever talked to. Since then, I have purposefully had thousands of other conversations in honor of my initial “creeky” encounter.

I also have grown up and left my small-town, both in location and in thinking. Truthfully, I never did eat a sucker, smoked or otherwise.

But I did somehow manage … not to become one.

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