Musing City USA … November 20, 2012

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Just about a third of my life.

Driving down I-65 South yesterday heading to Nashville, I realized I had spent twenty years–in two stints–living in the country music mecca. It gave me pause–because I am not a country music artist, nor really am I what you would call a conventional gospel picker. I am just kind of my own thing, which is often the best excuse for being truly erratic. So I had to ask myself, how did I end up spending so much of my life in this Tennessee capital?

Growing up in Central Ohio, I had a predilection for gospel music, so it did seem logical to me, when I graduated from high school, to at least take a stab at where such sounds were not only permissible, but promoted.

I remember the first time I drove into Nashville and went to Dickerson Pike–to Jimmy Snow’s church. Jimmy Snow is the son of Hank Snow, a legend in the business. I was a punky, inexperienced yokel–but you see, I had this new song, called Resurrection Day, and I decided to perform it with my nervous little green combo–and received a standing ovation from the audience.

I recall the first time I drove to Hendersonville, Tennessee, to record at the House of Cash, and during the session for our album, Johnny, himself, walked in, introduced himself, and struck up more than a polite conversation with us bunch of confirmed nobodies.

I had to laugh to myself when I considered the number of times I walked up and down Music Row, from one publisher to another, sharing my songs with bored office employees, who more often than not, found a bit of glee in dashing my hopes with negative comments.

Then I remembered meeting Dottie Rambo. Dottie was that beautiful combination of earthy, spiritual and humorous which rarely comes our way in the human family and should always be treasured. She loved me–plump bundle of insecurity that I was–and even graciously recorded one of my songs on her album. It’s quite an astonishing honor to have one of the greatest gospel songwriters cover your tune.

Then there was Marijohn Wilkin, who wrote One Day at a Time. She was my mentor and friend. She recorded an album for me that enabled me to chart on the religious radio stations.

Taking another trip up to Hendersonville, my van passed by the city park, where we took a 25-piece orchestra called the Sumner Pops, of our own founding, and in the presence of five thousand folks, put on a July 4th show, melding local talent and our ability at arranging and conducting.

There isn’t a school I pass on the way in that doesn’t conjure a memory of a performance, in which we took a very special show to the young humans, encouraging them to be creative and open-hearted to their fellow-man.

I had a house on Bayshore Drive, where I built a swimming pool, a couple of additions, a circular driveway and tossed in a gazebo. Of course in the long run, it was rather ludicrous, because nomads like myself make very poor landlords. We’re just better with sheep and goats.

Yet in that city, I wrote ten books, recorded fifteen Cd’s and penned thirteen movies. It was a strange sensation to return to Music City after all my touring this year. I’m coming back to have Thanksgiving dinner with my family, which is congregating like a bunch of misguided birds to a location where we can nest and fellowship for a few days.

But as I drove into town, I thought to myself, “I lived here for one-third of my life, but it was never my home.”

The realization did not sadden me. Nashville is a place where I built a house of faith. Sometimes that’s the best we can do, folks. We may not be able to change the world or even redecorate the rooms. The best we can do is leave clear evidence of what we thought was important, what we believed and how fruit was born through our lives.

Nashville was never my home. I saw too much of the underbelly of lingering prejudice and false piety for me to ever embrace the community and kiss it square on the mouth. I saw a false sense of security over Southern hospitality, which was often dished out in sparing helpings to those who had stood in line the longest. I experienced a reluctance to change, simply because the word connoted something other than the fraternity philosophy. I always loved the people, I just didn’t always buy in to the pills that were being swallowed.

It’s good to be back, though. It festers memories, good and bad, joyous and sad, but in all cases, earth-shaking and ultimately fulfilling.

I would like to have been closer to this town where I hung my hat for so many years but I always found it a bit difficult to join into “whistling Dixie”–and maybe it’s just not in my character … to “look away.”

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

Taking the Leap… February 29, 2012

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It happens every four years–and I’m not talking about me purchasing socks.

Leap year–the confirmation that our calendar was put together by human committee. (“Oops! We have one extra day! What should we do??”)  Since it is such a special occasion, let me go ahead and take the leap.

In January, 2000, my mother-in-law passed away, leaving behind an inheritance. It was not a lot of money but to us it was a fortune. We wanted to use it wisely. (No one ever gets a large sum of money and says to himself, “How can I squander this as efficiently as possible?”) We took precautions. We took suggestions. We followed the common advice of the day and entered the stock market–and even purchased real estate.

Yes, at forty-eight years of age, I bought and moved into the first home I had ever owned. Up to that point I had rented quite gleefully. And we found a good deal–an amazing deal for the year 2000. I was so thrilled with the house that I set out to become a great “lord of my own manor.” I put in a swimming pool, a circular driveway, a series of attractive deckings and placed a gorgeous gazebo in the front yard–built by good Amish farmers. It was a stunning property.

I simultaneously joined my friend, Janet, in founding a symphony in our town, which ended up doing some amazing things with very little financial benefit coming back our way. Let me clarify that. “Very little,” in this case, is a nice way of saying “none.” And meanwhile, I continued to do what I always have–I traveled the country sharing a message about how God has a reasonable concept for us to be happy. I raised four sons in that house and helped to establish my other two offspring onto paths towards prosperity.

I thought I had it figured out. When I only had one left in high school, I planned to put the house up for sale, redeeming my profits from the investment, paying off all my credit card debt and thereby possessing a nice little nest egg with which to continue my work, as I went back to being a member of “Renters Anonymous.”

But I got talked into waiting until the last son graduated, which placed me in 2007. When he received his diploma, something else came up. I don’t remember exactly what it was, but we basically decided to wait a little longer before selling the house. Once again, I continued to do what I do. I expanded myself by beginning this jonathots column, which is reaching tens of thousands of folks. I started writing a weekly letter to the pastors and church workers I had met, encouraging them in their faith, while giving them a little bit of exhortation and insight.

Then came 2008.

My house, which was once worth more than half a million dollars, was nearly overnight halved in its value. Actually, it ended up not being worth the payoff. So not only did I fail to have enough money to pay off my credit cards through my investment–as it turns out, I didn’t have enough money to pay for the house itself.

I had to make a decision.

Now, I am a firm believer in responsibility–but my first responsibility is to my calling. So I sat down with the bank and told them I was not going to live on the property anymore, and signed it over to a broker who more or less became my free agent to dispose of the house in the best way possible–to cover the indebtedness. And I went out to do what I’m supposed to do.

I got all the belongings that I liked down to a simple unit of travel, and in December 2010, I took off across this country–to see its people, to bless its inhabitants and to learn how to be a better human being myself. Now, the bank, the government and my broker seem to be having great fun figuring out how to trick one another into the best deal possible for each one of them concerning the property once mine. Matter of fact, sometimes when I get little updates, I giggle at their contortions.

Meanwhile, I move down the road. People always ask me, “Where are you guys from?” Well, see … here’s the truth: we have an address in Florida, for mail. But our life is right here–with you.

My needs were always simpler than the requirements that were placed upon me by those who deemed themselves to be more mature than myself. It’s amazing–once you have peace of mind and satisfaction in what you’re doing–how little you actually need.

For I will tell you, it’s not so much about “when life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” That still requires water and sugar. Often, it’s learning how to develop a taste for lemons, while being grateful that you have the freedom, the gifts, the initiative, the talent and the wherewithal to move forward successfully.

I think we’ll become a better country if people are able to tell their stories honestly, without fear. I realize there may be some venture capitalists out there who will hear my story and deem me either a rogue or a vagabond. So be it.

What I have done is simplify my life down to my talent, my passion, my love and seven changes of underclothes. Meanwhile, I get to meet thousands of people and share my heart with them, and maybe just encourage them–that telling the truth without shame and anxiety is the best way …  to take the leap.

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Below is the first chapter of Jonathan Richard Cring’s stunning novel entitled Preparing a Place for Myself—the story of a journey after death. It is a delicious blend of theology and science fiction that will inspire and entertain. I thought you might enjoy reading it. After you do, if you would like to read the book in its entirety, please click on the link below and go to our tour store. The book is being offered at the special price of $4.99 plus $3.99 shipping–a total of $8.98. Enjoy.

http://www.janethan.com/tour_store.htm

Sitting One

 I died today. 

I didn’t expect it to happen.  Then again, I did—well, not really.

No, I certainly didn’t expect it.

I’ve had moments of clarity in my life.  Amazingly enough, many of them were in the midst of a dream. For a brief second I would know the meaning of life or the missing treatment to cure cancer.  And then as quickly as it popped into my mind it was gone. I really don’t recollect dying.  Just this unbelievable sense of clear headedness—like walking into a room newly painted and knowing by the odor and brightness that the color on the wall is so splattering new that you should be careful not to touch it for fear of smearing the design. The greatest revelation of all? 

Twenty-five miles in the sky time ceases to exist.

The planet Pluto takes two hundred and forty-eight years to circle the sun. It doesn’t give a damn. 

The day of my death was the day I became free of the only burden I really ever had.  TIME.

Useless.

Time is fussy.  Time is worry. 

Time is fear.  Time is the culprit causing human-types to recoil from pending generosity. 

There just was never enough time. 

Time would not allow it.  Remember—“if time permits …”

Why if time permits?  Why not if I permit?  Why not if I dream?  Why not if I want?  Why does time get to dictate to me my passage? 

It was time that robbed me of my soulful nature.    It was time that convinced me that my selfishness was needed. 

I didn’t die. The clock in me died, leaving spirit to tick on.  

So why don’t we see the farce of time?  Why do we allow ourselves to fall under the power of the cruel despot?  Yes, time is a relentless master—very little wage for much demand.

I died today. 

Actually … a piece of time named after me was cast away.

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