Sixty-Eight Days… December 16, 2012

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Jon Signing

In search of a miracle.

Which one of these better defines a miracle? A left-legless man grows a new limb, or a left-legless man grows the will and intelligence to still find a way to get around and be valuable. Probably some of you may try to be cute by saying, “Both would be miracles. One’s just bigger.”

There IS only one miracle–it is called life.

But don’t take my word for it. Just drive to Connecticut and ask any of the young parents who lost children this week through the injustice of the murdering rage of an infidel in Newtown. They will tell you. The miracle is life. They would love to have back every annoying question posed to them at inopportune times by their over-curious young’uns.

Yet short days earlier they would have told you that a miracle would be an improvement on their finance or maybe getting that second mortgage on their house–or picking up a couple extra thousand dollars for Christmas.

Sixty-eight days ago I realized that I could not walk anymore. I mean, I could still kind of creep along, but it was painful, ugly and too slow for even Joe. And my balance was gone. I prayed. Yes–unashamedly, I besought God for a miracle.

Sitting here this morning, I can tell you that I have received it. The miracle is that I’m alive. A second miracle is that I’m healthy and still doing what I’ve always done, with just as much panache and style.

The ability to define “miracle” may be the most important step any one of us takes. It leads us to the doorstep of another important revelation: understanding responsibility.

I have been 175 pounds overweight for my entire adult life. If you multiply that 175 pounds times even twenty years, you come up with 3500 extra pounds of pressure that has been placed on my knees in just two decades. That would be similar to walking outside and putting a car on my back and trying to take two steps. You see what I mean?

I have a responsibility in my own need for a miracle. It is the fruit of repentance that I must bring to confirm to myself, the world around me, and ultimately, to God–that I am serious about receiving newness of life.

For sixty-eight days I have stayed faithful to a plan of eating that has now benefitted me with weight loss and less pain. This ushers me into a ballroom of blessing, where I may celebrate progress. I may never tap dance again, (which is fine–because I never did before.) But I am finding it easier to do everything in my life than I did sixty-nine days ago. I am sleeping better, I am thinking better, I am creating better, I even have a better disposition. I am landing exactly where I need to be: in reality.

For after all, an optimist is someone who just hasn’t yet tried out his or her ideas. And a pessimist is someone who has tried out his or her ideas, but is unwilling to evolve them. I am a realist. I do not have functioning knees. I have remarkably strong thighs, calves and feet. Three-quarters of my walking mechanism are intact and ready to pick up some of the load. Amazing. But the reality is that right now, I am able to get around much more fluidly by occasionally perching myself in a wheel chair to get from Point A to Point B so that I can do Activity C.

I learned a long time ago that life is not a marathon–it is a sprint. I am prepared for the sprint. Please don’t sign me up for 26.2 miles.

After sixty-eight days, my sweet friends:

  • I have learned to define a miracle. It is called life.
  • I understand responsibility. Do what you can and don’t complain about the rest.
  • I celebrate progress: feeling better certainly does seem to be an answer to prayer.
  • And I stay real. I am neither a pessimist or an optimist, but rather, find great joy in what is afforded me by the privilege of still breathing.

Just an update from the front lines of my life. No bullets are flying … I’ve just dug into the trenches for the siege.

The producers of jonathots would humbly request a yearly subscription donation of $10 for this wonderful, inspirational opportunity

Fairfield’s White Unto Harvest… November 12, 2012

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Life is awkward.

Nothing of any significance will occur in the reading of this essay unless you understand this. Life is filled with moments of inconvenience which can either mount up in your mind and seem unconquerable, leaving you in despair, or can be taken on one at a time, with a tenacious sense of humor and be overcome.

It’s really that simple. Those who try to supersede the awkwardness of life by avoiding nervous encounters end up in a smaller and smaller world with fewer and fewer possibilities and more predictable friends and circumstances–which annoy them because of how bland they are.

Now, I had a fabulous Sunday morning in Fairfield, Ohio. It wasn’t fabulous because everything worked perfectly. It wasn’t astoundingly delightful because the cosmos came into synchronicity with my purpose. No–it was awkward.

Arriving at the gig, I discovered there were three big steps leading to the platform. Right now I don’t do steps. Sometimes I can successfully pull it off without looking like a worm ascending a plank–if there is a handrail available. You guessed it–no handrail.

Awkward.

On top of that, before we came on to share our bits and pieces, there was a march of children bringing in boxes of toys for the needy and a very well-produced salute to the military by the chancel choir, complete with veterans standing up in correlation to their particular armed services song.  Let’s review: marching children, a salute to supporting our troops.

Awkward.

Following the introduction by our dear sponsor, we received no greeting of welcoming applause, so I had to begin my show in total silence. It would be difficult to explain to you how awkward that feels without placing you in that position–which I mercifully do not desire to do.

Did I mention that life is awkward?

At the end of my program, during my final song, the ushers suddenly decided to start collecting the love offering used to defray our expenses. I have a particular hatred for this. It makes me feel like I’m either singing for my supper or I’m trying to drain the audience of finance by emotionally stimulating them with one of my musical selections. I gently requested that they stopped passing the plate, but they ignored me. It bothered me enough that I missed one of my lyrics, but then I shook it off and completed the song.

I want you to understand that this is not an indictment of Fairfield or an attempt to get you to feel sorry for me. This is life at its best–awkward as hell, waiting for me to bring a little heaven.

If you’re going to live on a planet that decides to rain whenever it wants to, using machines that have parts that break down, surrounded by fellow travelers who are convinced they have the right of way and subsisting in a body that is racing towards death, you might want to adjust your thinking and be prepared for a bit of evolution.

I loved those people yesterday–but what I want them to understand is that our country will never be what it was or become what it needs to be without them first learning to take awkward and change it into possibility. As long as you run away from awkward, you will run right into the arms of defeat.

Life is about overcoming awkward moments.

Take this morning: we are packing up our headquarters, loading it into a van, and driving down to Louisville, Kentucky, to unpack it and start another week. There are folks who would be convinced that is virtually impossible, and if not impossible, certainly a hassle– and henceforth unwarranted. As long as you maintain that mentality, you will be at the mercy of tribulation and under the control of those who have figured out a way to survive a moment’s fussiness.

Nothing is easy. I have been on a food regimen now for a month. So yesterday, I decided to go to the pot luck dinner provided by the church. It was lovely, generous and delicious, but NOT low-calorie. So the amount of food I was able to put on my plate and still maintain my regimen would have caused a hummingbird to complain to the restaurant management. It made me a little grumpy in the afternoon when I didn’t have any calories left to consume.

Awkward.

We as human beings have no way of gauging our success unless we can look back on how well we handle ourselves in awkward moments. I was hesitant to write about this today because I don’t want the folks I fell in love with yesterday in Fairfield to think I am complaining. Quite the contrary–I relish them. How will I ever get a chance to prove the value of my philosophy of life if what I believe and think isn’t challenged?

I feel good this morning–not because every aspect of my plan came off with utter precision. It’s because I devised a scheme through a series of well-placed chairs to mount the stage and get to my keyboard and off the stage and into the wheelchair, cruising on to my book table, without falling flat on my face. Glory be to God and praise the Lord and pass the ammunition (in honor of Veteran’s Day).

I am grateful that when the offering plates were passed, completely against my wishes, that my wilfulness did not win out, but instead, I went with the flow and the sun still shone and the earth revolved. Not everything has to be done my way in order to end up working out for my good.

I am overjoyed that I survived a church potluck and somehow or another made it to 5:15 that evening, where I was once again permitted to be a consumer and enjoy additional nutrition.

Life is awkward.

As Jesus said, the fields are white unto harvest but the laborers are few. Why are the laborers few?

Is it because people are lazy? Absolutely not.

Perhaps people are looking for a handout and don’t want to work? I don’t believe so.

I believe it’s because people are scared hopeless over the prospect of the shifting sands moving beneath their feet, changing their circumstances and creating an environment they were not prepared for. So they try to play it safe.

You have to decide–is life a shooting range where you stand at a distance and aim for paper targets, hoping to achieve a bull’s-eye? Or is it a forest where deer hunting season is in full progress and you’ve just discovered you’re a buck? Yes, the buck starts here.

Thank you, Fairfield. I am so grateful for you proving once again that love is not a confirmation of what we believe, but rather, an extremely awkward process wherein we continue to believe, often without ANY confirmation.

The producers of jonathots would humbly request a yearly subscription donation of $10 for this wonderful, inspirational opportunity

The Running List… October 18, 2012

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Live from October 1st filming

Eleven days ago, when I awakened with the startling notification that my legs had decided to become non-supportive of my endeavors, my first instinct was to become discouraged. (I personally relish discouragement. It is comforting. Discouragement is the emotion we select when we really don’t want to look much deeper into the situation, but instead, would prefer to believe that we are the offended party.) It does have its dark side, however. It only has one door. Yes, it has an entrance but provides no exit, while simultaneously dimming all the light around you. So I immediately rejected discouragement and instead leaped to my running list.

My running list has five items: God, Mother Nature, people, friends and me.

Those are the elements, really, that interact with me every day of my life, since I rarely have to have a personal interchange with a goat or an elephant.

God. Who is He? God is a spirit. What do we know about spirits? Absolutely nothing–except they’re not physical. So it’s understandable that when God thinks about me, He’s thinking about my heart and spirit instead of about how I need to shed some pounds, start an exercise program and avoid pasta and salt. He is a spirit who became creative. Even to this day, we can tell something is truly spiritual if it was birthed from a creative place. And finally, being a spirit that’s creative, He has afforded us the opportunity to receive Him as a Father if we so desire, by faith.

So what did God think about my legs? Not much.

I moved on to Mother Nature. She is the enforcer, the practicality, the earthly intelligence and the evolver of planet life. She tries to create an even playing field, which requires some rules, followed by surprises. After all, if people only learned the rules, then we would just be a bunch of obedient robots, but if life were just full of surprises, we would be ducking for the cave every time we heard thunder. It’s balanced. Mother Nature has no relationship with me at all. She sees me as she sees everyone else, and because of that she is of great value in my life. What does Mother Nature feel about my legs? Mother Nature does not like sixty-year-old fat men who occasionally splurge on their eating like they’re eighteen and carry out the schedule of a twenty-five-year-old troubadour. She has an ax to grind with me.

So let’s review. God loves me; Mother Nature thinks I’m a prick. Okay. Let’s move on to people.

I love people because they have one moving part: they think about themselves. If you’re offended by that, you will probably not find yourself to be much of a people person. If you expect high-sounding virtue and great generosity of spirit, you probably will come to the conclusion that Homo sapiens should be wiped from the face of the earth. But once you understand that people are self-involved, then you can find a way to become involved with their self. So what do people think about my legs? Once again, not very much. They might consider me weakened if they saw me in a wheelchair, until I could demonstrate that I still bring value to the tribe and therefore, blessing to their teepee.

How about friends? Remember, friends are just people who decide to make you one of the things of their self-involvement. In other words, you are ONE of the ingredients (so don’t get puffed up). What do my friends feel about my legs? Being friends, and often related to me, they want to make sure they say something intelligent and meaningful. Also, just in case I fall over dead, they want to make it clear to everyone around them that they warned me. Their involvement is most valuable, with precious junctures of tenderness and prayers that go up to my Father, who would love to see my heart and spirit live on.

So let’s catch up and keep score. God does not really focus on my bad legs, but rather, is concerned about my heart, spirit and maintaining a personal relationship with me. Mother Nature couldn’t care less about a personal relationship, but instead, wants me to follow the rules better, and then she will consider whether I get to hang around. People are busy with themselves and only consider my legs a weakness if I do, or if I refuse to be of benefit to their pursuits. Family loves me, and as they think about themselves, they include me because I have become part of them and they want to make sure they have done everything reasonable to assist me without becoming overly zealous.

Then there’s me. I, being human, am also self-involved. So I am afforded two choices when it comes to dealing with affliction: Self-awareness or self-pity. Let me not be too noble here–I occasionally indulge in self-pity when I find I have too much time on my hands and get in some sort of bleak place, where I only see the lesser possibilities for my soul.

But self-awareness is a delicious combination of hope, humor and honesty. Hope in the sense that we know that as long as there’s life, there’s always a chance for something to change. Humor because we know that change will be slow and often comical. And honesty because nothing happens until we’re dealing with real, hard-core facts instead of wishes and dreams.

I decided that it was useless for me to pray for a miracle unless I had already started one. So for eleven days I have been on a fabulous food regimen, using exercise prudently, resting, drinking lots of water, and just enjoying myself to the hilt in the process.And then I have employed the following philosophy: the best way for me to honor God is by respecting Mother Nature while simultaneously attempting to turn all the people I meet into my friends.

There’s the key.

You can’t come to God and pray for a miracle if you’re ignoring the principles, the guidelines and the system of His creation established through Mother Nature. I do not know if I’m going to get better, but I do know that the process to getting better is to honor God by following Mother Nature and turning all the people I meet into my friends.

It makes the “me” part of my running list less cranky, less self-piteous and less boring. That’s where I am right now.

Have you checked your running list lately? God is waiting, Mother Nature will teach you if you listen, people are available if you’re interested in them, and friends are valuable if you give them direction on where your heart wants to go. After all, it’s not that complicated. What complicates life is when we believe too much in God but ignore His nature, or we don’t believe in God … and are stuck with ourselves.

The producers of jonathots would humbly request a yearly subscription donation of $10 for this wonderful, inspirational opportunity

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