Untotaled: Stepping 37 (September 4th, 1967) Fair Weather Friends … October 25, 2014

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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(Transcript)

For most of the years of my youth, the fall school year commenced the morning after Labor Day. So the last hurrah of the summer was always a trip to the Ohio State Fair, to hopefully connect with friends, and enjoy some cotton candy, joke about the smell of the pig barns and see each other, so that when the academic year began we wouldn’t feel like strangers or look at each other like aliens.

In 1967 something unbelievable happened. My friend Phil asked me to spend the weekend with him and my parents agreed. That, in itself, was special. But when Phil’s father gave us $5 apiece three days in a row, dropped us off at the fair and then picked us up in the evening, I thought I had discovered the pearl of great price.

(I did take the precaution of not telling my parents what was going on, just in case they would throw a wrench into the gears.)

So we called our friends and made plans to meet up at the gate so we could spend the day marching around the fair as free men and women, knowing that in just a few days we would be on a death march to the classroom.

The fair was amazing that year because the proprietors had scheduled both Herman’s Hermits and The Who to appear in the grandstand for free. Living in a small town, I was not that familiar with either group, especially The Who.

The bands were fronted by Peter Noonan and Peter Townsend, so we guys got a great locker room giggle off of the battle of the “two Peters.” (The girls along with us didn’t seem to understand the joke or they played dumb to maintain their small-town innocence.)

Honestly, I found the concerts annoying. There were girls screaming everywhere, which made us jealous that these chicks were getting all worked up over scrawny Englishmen instead of big, burly Buckeye boys. Plus there was a little propriety swimming around inside of me from my parents, which caused me to criticize the groups because they “looked like girls, dressed funny or weren’t American.”

Matter of fact, we had a huge discussion with the females, which escalated into a fight. So we finished out the fair separated into camps of gender. The boys felt that the rock and roll bands were “sissy” and wouldn’t last long. But the girls, having better intuition, knew that this music was here to stay.

The three days prior to school that year passed way too quickly and we spent too much time eating and not enough time feeling.

But the appearance by these two English rock and roll bands did seal something deep within our hearts that would bloom much later.

My Generation was Into Something Good–and The Times Were Certainly a’Changing.

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Even Stephen … May 7, 2012

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Possibly one of the most arduous treks across this great country would be the stretch of miles along I-20 between Dallas, Texas and El Paso. Historically I have chosen to make this journey at night to avoid the heat and glare of the day. One time as I sojourned on this particular piece of real estate, I saw lights in the distance. I was approaching the small city of Odessa, and as the brightness grew in size, I assumed it WAS Odessa. But as I came closer, I saw that it was an edifice, the size of a city itself–actually invoking a sense of awe, which grew in intensity as I came closer. For me, it merged the sensations of Christmas, Las Vegas and the Beverly Hillbillies–for it was an oil rig. The largest one I had ever seen. 

Black gold.

Texas tea. 

Suddenly my nostrils were assailed by the burn of that unique, pungent odor — and it smelled GOOD. Now, there may be folks who would disagree with me, but I like the smell of fresh oil being pumped from the earth–the very energy of both power and also of prosperity. It was a visceral moment on a very long, dark journey.

I had a similar sensation yesterday doing two performances at St. Stephen’s Lutheran Church of the Valley in Palmdale, California. As I shared, I literally witnessed minds opening–like lubricating the gears on a bicycle with oil. For truly the main problem I have with traditional religion is that the inevitable result of repetition is the literal numbing of  people’s minds.Once-meaningful liturgy, through repetition, becomes mindless drone.

I would like to encourage churches everywhere to make two simple changes in the format of the church service: to replace one liturgical recitation with a moment of personal testimony from a parishoner, and during the passing of the peace, instead of offering one another a “peace be with you,” instead offer the exhortation: “Be of good cheer!”

Because just as repetition produces rusty mental gears, the sharing of personal experiences generates the oil of gladness. After all, Jesus said that in the world we WILL have tribulation. Our only job is to “be of good cheer.” That’s it. We don’t have to solve every problem today–and his job was to overcome the world. We don’t have to do that, either. We only have to understand that our place in the great scheme of things is to avoid repetition, share personal experiences and receive the good cheer that results.

Yesterday, as I witnessed lubricated gears beginning to move and saw the resulting good cheer, I saw that there is another, final culmination in the process–the oil of healing. Yes, mental freshness produces good cheer, which fosters the environment for healing–be it depression or terminal cancer.

Similar to the awe I sensed as I drove past the Odessa oil rig, with its power and energy, I felt the same wonder yesterday at St. Stephen’s Lutheran, viewing–and feeling myself–the energy of the oil of lubrication, the radiation of the good cheer and the power of healing oil passed among my brothers and sisters and back to me.

We try to make it hard. We talk about “contemporary” and “traditional.” But it is really just giving good people a chance to lubricate their rusty gears and then feel the oil of gladness and healing. After all, like the Tin Man, we all need a good oiling now and then.

Why not take the steps to make it happen?

  

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