Finding Your Alva… January 6, 2012


His name was Thomas Alva Edison, and considering the fact that he invented the light bulb, we can certainly credit him for helping to illuminate the world. We know three things about him:  he was kind, he was inventive and he had a funny middle name. What would have happened if Mr. Edison had decided to be overly sensitive about his middle name? What if he had heard the “Johnson jeers” of his young playmates as a boy and had become reclusive, burying his inventive nature and failing to birth his kind one? What if he had allowed society and the world around him to determine his reactions and destiny?

I don’t have all of the insight on Thomas, but I do know that his middle name is no secret and that it is often included as part of his whole signature. So somewhere along the line, Edison made his peace with his “Alva.”

The majority of humanity is stymied by their own obvious weakness. They become ashamed of their uniqueness, overwhelmed by critique or they just attempt to escape any further scrutiny. They are ashamed of their “Alva.” Rather than pushing their weakness to the forefront, making it obvious and developing a sense of humor about it, they become sensitive and often fail to unearth the better parts of themselves.

Yes, if Thomas Alva Edison had been intimidated by those who mocked his middle name, he not only would have failed to become kind–and an inventor–but would have remained a bitter unknown.

How about Jesus of Nazareth? He was a Galilean and uneducated–but who just happened to be the son of God. As you read his story, you discover that the world around him wanted to point out over and over again that he was “from Galilee”–and therefore meaningless–and that he had no formal education and should have been relegated to the status of a carpenter. If Jesus had a defensive nature, a fear of critique or had judged himself by the opinions of others, we would have nothing to show for him except a few artifacts of wood and maybe a partially destroyed wall. Jesus decided to make it clear that he was a Nazarene by beginning his work in Galilee, without apology. He never argued when they claimed he was not educated or not worthy to be a priest, because he ignored the standard teaching style of the religious folks of the day, and instead, just told stories. And because he was not fearful of what others deemed to be his weakness, he was able to play up his strengths. He found his “Alva”–and rather than fighting over it, hiding it or becoming despaired because he wasn’t viewed to be the “top dog,” he played up his weaknesses and the world ended up playing them down.

I have spent the past two days in a little town called Alva, Florida. The people there are isolated, not very wealthy, but tender-hearted. I will tell you the truth–if they look at themselves as isolated–stuck somewhere between Tampa, Orlando, Fort Myers and Miami–and they spend all their time complaining about their lack of funds, they will never make it into the history books, let alone create a newness of life in their own community. Just as Thomas Edison had to learn how to laugh at his own middle name, giving the world no ammunition against him, and Jesus of Nazareth embraced being a Galilean and refused to be relegated to ignorance, but instead, told stories about real life, the people of Alva must lead with their tender-hearted nature, while freely admitting they are isolated and don’t have many bucks. If they do, they will disarm their critics and fail to give anyone the bullets to gun down their spirits.

My name is Jonathan Richard Cring. I am a fat boy who has no college education but was born with a creative streak. I could have spent most of my life apologizing for my lack of degrees, or hiding away in my house because my obesity was so obvious, but instead, I decided to laugh at my tubbiness, be honest about my schooling and lead with my creative streak. So what the world could have used against me, I stole from them.

The key to your success, my dear friend, is finding your “Alva,” and rather than denying it, fussing about it or becoming extremely angry over people’s reaction, play it up so the world has to play it down. Because Jesus said it well:

“He that will gain his life will lose it.”  He who thinks he becomes stronger by being angry at the criticism of others will end up at their mercy. “But he that will lose his life for my sake shall gain it.”

Bluntly, if your foibles are already spoken into the air, anybody else mentioning them becomes ridiculous and redundant.

Find your Alva.  Be honest about your weakness–which gives you permission to play up your strengths.


Jonathan wrote the gospel/blues anthem, Spent This Time, in 1985, in Guaymas, Mexico. Take a listen:


To see books written by Jonathan, click the link below! You can peruse and order if you like!

Encouraged… January 4, 2012

Jonathan in Miami

One does not normally go to the service center at the local Ford dealership in Fort Myers, Florida, to be edified. No, it is normally considered to be an event taxing both patience and pocketbook.

I found myself there yesterday, with the back door of my van refusing to open, at the mercy of technicians who certainly had the capability of turning my mechanical hangnail into a terminal cancer. So I was a little apprehensive–especially when I walked into the waiting room and it was packed to the gills. Figuring that I would not be there long, since it was just a door lock being repaired, I perched myself in the midst of the teeming humanity to endure the surroundings.

What was I expecting? God forgive me, I have joined the carnival of human negativity that marches down the street looking for doom and disaster instead of peering into the gathered crowd for a bit of good cheer. I don’t want to be that way–but with my upbringing, influenced by a media that tells me how horrible things are–and a little bit of grumpy over having to repair my vehicle–I was primed to be fussy.

But I was alone. The room was filled with folks just like myself who were there  to get something fixed and certainly knew, just as I did, that patience would be required and money demanded. They didn’t seem to care. Matter of fact, I would say there was an air of near-jubilation in the room. People greeted one another, politely asked permission to sit down; one man offered a cough drop to a lady who was hacking away and another gentleman suggested to a mother who was trying to handle three rambunctious young ‘uns that there were some chocolate chip cookies over there that she might avail herself of to negotiate better behavior. People talked, laughed and they got along.

I was delighted, shocked, incredulous, rejoicing–all at the same time. Where ARE these depressed American people whom the 24-hour news cycle keeps telling us are being afflicted by economic woes that are rendering them immobilized? It reminds me of the comical statement, “Maybe all of us would get less sick if there were fewer doctors.” Maybe America would be better off without politicians and self-righteous religionists. Maybe our problem is that we’re always being told how miserable we should be instead of being patted on the back for choosing to get along with one another in tight quarters.

I watched for four hours. Yes, it took ’em four hours to figure out how much money they could get out of my wallet. Matter of fact, I was one of the last people in the room when they finally relented to give me back my van and let me go.

I felt paroled. But I also felt encouraged. I was in a room populated with patrons who possibly had good cause to be a little aggravated–inconvenienced. Instead, they put together a four-step process that I studied and am going to pursue more faithfully on my own:

1. “It ain’t so bad.” Complaining about life only stalls the decision to try to resolve the conflict. It does not eliminate it.

2. “You ain’t so bad.” I think the more you put people in situations where they have to solve problems together, the less bigotry and alienation we actually experience.

3. “We ain’t so bad.” I think the whole room had the sensation that I felt–that we, as a gathered host at this particular season in this particular environment, were doing pretty doggone good getting along with each other and succeeding. I do not know why politics thinks it has to find a villain to get a vote, or why religion needs a devil to make God look better. We ain’t so bad, folks. It doesn’t mean there’s no need for improvement; it certainly isn’t a case of escaping repentance. But the fact of the matter is, when we put our minds to it, we’re pretty good at repenting and we’re even better at fellowshipping. Which leads to:

4. “God ain’t so bad.” I do not know whether we can continue to promote love for a God who scares the crap out of us. There is something seriously wrong with contending that God loves us so much that if we decide not to accept Him, He will retaliate by burning us in hell. That would be similar to me asking a girl out to the prom in high school because I thought she was absolutely lovely, and upon receiving her rejection, I decide to blow up her house. I might expect to spend some time in jail for that. And if God is really so insecure that He must punish us for not loving Him, then maybe He should spend some time in some sort of divine jail also.

But God ain’t so bad when we realize that we ain’t so bad and you ain’t so bad and it ain’t so bad.

I was encouraged. I was so enthralled with the blessing of my fellow-man that I decided to avoid watching too much television to discourage my onslaught of faith. It was a good choice.

So thank you, people–and may we all learn that:

  • It ain’t so bad
  • And you ain’t so bad
  • Which means that we ain’t so bad
  • Which gives us the confidence to believe that God ain’t so bad


Jonathan wrote the gospel/blues anthem, Spent This Time, in 1985, in Guaymas, Mexico. Take a listen:


To see books written by Jonathan, click the link below! You can peruse and order if you like!

Except… December 27, 2011


Jonathan in Miami

Yesterday was the first time this year. 

 “Happy New Year!” someone called. It was jubilant, optimistic, caring and filled with good cheer. I liked it.

But it got me thinking. Forgive me for that–I spend a lot of time trying to think because when I don’t, I find myself just reacting, which drudges up memories of childhood disappointments, failures, misgivings and a few grudges I still hold against people who ended up being better than me. Yuk.

Thinking is better than reacting. And the thought that came to my head is this: the word “new,” in reference to the year, is only significant if we’ve actually dealt with our “old” things.  Here’s my contention: nothing is old as long as it still works. I, for instance, have just turned sixty years of age but I am not outdated, irrelevant or without a sense of history and an awareness of the present. So candidly, I don’t feel old, nor do those who meet me attribute any agedness to my persona.

Nothing really becomes old until it doesn’t work anymore. And honestly, calling something “new,” if it’s just warmed-over hash, is equally as useless. In that case, “new” is just the replacement for the old lightbulb in our brain that doesn’t work anymore. Because “old” is the acknowledgment that we are pursuing a way of living, a plan of action or a style of belief that just doesn’t work.

If we continue to cling to it, it becomes “cold.” I do meet some cold folks as I journey across this country! I would characterize them as looking me straight in the eye and saying, “I don’t care if it doesn’t work–I still like it!” I am not so sure what to call this particular mindset. The liberals would attribute it to the conservatives and they would certainly toss the hot potato back the other direction. But it is a chilly way to walk through our lives because we’re never enriched with the sensation of doing something that’s really successful, but rather, repeating traditions that leave us unfulfilled, while we insist that life is meant to be miserable and hard.

But I’ve even seen people change when they turn cold.  It’s all about the word “repent.” We don’t use it much because it sounds Biblical–and God knows, the less we quote the Bible and Shakespeare, the more likely we are to draw friends our way. But “repent” is when you  come across something that IS old and doesn’t work–and even though you stubbornly wish that it did, you soften your heart in a kind moment to consider a better option. Because if you don’t repent, what was old and didn’t work, which turned cold through your determination to do it anyway, can turn into “mold.”

And oh, this is where it gets really nasty. This is when old people who don’t have anything going on that’s working, become really frosty, insisting that they like it anyway, and then become aggressive and defend the failure.  Yes–mold is when you defend the failure and leave it hanging on the ceiling, even though you’ve heard it makes you sick.

It’s WHY we repent–because if we don’t, Jesus says we will perish.

I sat at breakfast yesterday morning with a spread put out by my son and daughter-in-law from Miami. Ham, Quiche, bagels–well, the list goes on. I had a half a ham sitting right in front of me, and being the weak glutton I tend to be, I peeled one slice and another off of that former porker. I have no power to restrain myself from devouring such a product. I walked out to my car–or perhaps, “rolled out” would be a better term–knowing that I had something old in my life.

Overeating. It doesn’t work. It makes my legs want to sue me for cruelty, my heart choke up with cholesterol and my sugar rise in protest.

I also had to admit that this year I had turned cold on the issue. I didn’t really care about my weight. I rather liked the process of enjoying food and hell to pay. Fortunately for me, I did stop short of mold and did not defend my failure at weight loss. So as I drove down the road toward Fort Myers, Florida, I decided to stop being cold and deal with the old year. And what made it old? As far as me getting leaner–it just didn’t work.

I’m not so sure I’m going to be a roaring success, but I do know this–I have identified the old. I am ready to repent, which will make room for the new. Because except we all do, we will begin to perish. And economic problems, bad politics and stagnant religion are merely symptoms of the disease of unwillingness to deal with our inadequacies.

Except you repent … Well, I guess that’s when you can add “Happy” to “New Year.” Because the old that didn’t work and the cold that caused us to insist we liked it, turning into the mold that enabled us to defend our failures, is suddenly exposed by turning a light on in the room. Now the question is–what do we do next?

For me, the first step is trying not to sit so close to ham.


To see books written by Jonathan, click the link below! You can peruse and order if you like!

Published in: on December 27, 2011 at 1:35 pm  Comments (1)  
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