Catchy (Sitting 48) Suite 1002… May 13th, 2018

Jonathots Daily Blog

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Jubal humbly requested that conversation be held to a minimum on the flight back to Vegas. It seemed agonizing to make small talk, and any attempt to relive the moment of the catastrophe was too painful.

So when they deplaned and Matthew arrived with a bucket of questions, Jubal stayed just long enough to extend politeness, then excused himself to take a taxi back to his room at the casino. Suite 1002–just two doors down from the Promenade. His room was a little smaller, but no less elegant.

Jubal quickly put his key card into the door with frenetic energy. Entering the room, he slammed the door, and threw his bag on the bed as his eyes fell on the full decanter of cognac which was offered in his room as a courtesy. He had never used it.

He didn’t drink much. As a young man, he occasionally went out on the town, but found himself to be a testy drunk with a nasty disposition, and had to apologize to too many people the morning after a binge.

So long before he settled in to a marriage, he determined to keep alcohol for only cuts and bruises.

Sitting in his chair, he got his wallet and pulled out two pictures. One was a woman with long, gorgeous hair and a sparkling smile. It was his wife, Lydia. The other well-worn photo was of a little girl about ten years old, equally as vivacious as her mother–his daughter, Carissa. He laid them on the table and stared at them, as he had done many times before.

But tonight it was even more significant, and unfortunately, more agonizing.

Jubal, a struggling musician, had met Lydia in Troy, New York, trying to discover a way to make a living while progressing his career in percussion. There was never a question as to whether they were in love–perhaps not love at first sight, but more an understanding that they would take it slow to make it look authentic, even though in their hearts, they were both convinced that the search for a companion was over.

Within the year they were married, and the next year they had a daughter and named her Carissa. They joyously struggled–that’s how Lydia viewed it. Money was difficult to come by, but there was always that little surprise that came just at the right moment, which pulled them through another week, another month and eventually, another year.

Jubal tried to supplement his gigs by doing some telemarketing, but there were few commissions. His heart was in the drums, not in drumming up business.

Lydia, on the other hand, got herself on a fast track as a free-lance assistant to legislators in nearby Albany, the capital. She found the job through a fellow named Barclay. He insisted that she refer to him solely as “Barclay.” She never knew if it was his first or last name.

The money was helpful, the work was rewarding, but the relationship with Barclay was aggravating. Lydia shared with Jubal that Barclay was always just a little too close–a touch on her shoulder when simply pointing in the right direction would have sufficed. And standing next to her, he would periodically bump his hip into hers–just enough to be intimidating, but not enough for her to proffer an objection.

She was simultaneously overjoyed and miserable, keeping the misery to herself.

Then one Friday afternoon, Lydia’s mother, Cheryl, came into town from Florida for a surprise visit. Jubal, Carissa and Mom were waiting for Lydia to come home from work to begin an exciting weekend. An hour passed. Then two.

In the third hour, Jubal decided to make some phone calls. He discovered that Lydia had left Albany hours earlier. He was concerned. Yet Cheryl comforted him, saying she was sure it was “just traffic” or “something had come up.” It made sense. Friday afternoon was always a time for back-ups.

But as night set in, Jubal decided he needed to investigate the situation. He asked Mother Cheryl to take care of Carissa and said he would stay in contact.

As he came down the stairs from their simple, two-bedroom apartment, he noticed that Lydia’s car was in the parking lot. He peered around to see if she was anywhere in sight, but saw her nowhere. He headed over to the car. He was about to open it with his spare set of keys, when gazing into the back seat, he saw his lovely wife–his dear companion–lying face down, motionless.

He quickly opened the door, reached across the front seat and shook her gently. No response.

Instinct kicked in. He eased into the front seat, started the car and drove to the hospital. Ten minutes later she was declared dead on arrival.

It took two hours for the doctors to come out to talk to him. He decided not to call back to Cheryl, since the information he had contained no answers.

All at once, he was confronted by a doctor, with a policeman standing next to him. They both had questions. Some of the things they wanted to know Jubal could answer–but mostly the missing time from when Lydia left work to when he found her was a complete mystery.

The doctor explained that she had been sodomized and smothered to death. When Jubal heard those words, his knees buckled. He grabbed a nearby chair to keep from falling over. He barely comprehended when the policeman asked him his whereabouts, unaware of how fortunate he was that Lydia’s mom afforded him an alibi which, as it ended up, he needed.

Jubal made his way back to his apartment, where he had the painful duty of telling his daughter and mother-in-law that Lydia was gone.

It was a full two days later when some of the story line began to come together. It became evident that the last person Lydia saw was Barclay. To Jubal’s horror, Barclay painted a picture to the police that he and Lydia were involved in a romantic tryst, and that he had broken it off that Friday afternoon. He said that she was so distressed she threatened harm to herself.

The funeral was held the following afternoon. At no point did any of the ceremony, the prayers or the well-wishing seem real to Jubal.

Matter of fact, he barely noticed when a young woman from the church came to Carissa’s side to comfort the little girl. Carissa was weeping. The woman said, “Don’t cry, my dear. You will see your Mama soon.”

When Carissa heard this, the tears stopped immediately. She asked, “When? When will I see Mama?”

The lady responded, “Your Mama is in heaven waiting for you. She is with Jesus. They can hardly wait to see you.”

Carissa was comforted by the counsel.

That night Jubal’s beautiful daughter opened up, began to talk and ate a little dinner. After a dessert of ice cream with chocolate sauce, she said to her daddy, “I’m sleepy. Can I go to bed?”

He hugged her and held her just a little longer than usual. He couldn’t fight back the tears. He released her and said, “I love you, my sweet.”

She gave him another hug around the neck and scurried off to her room. Jubal made his way to his own bed, and spent a tormented night, his dreams offering sweet memories of love-making and nightmares full of the terror of his loss.

In the morning, he went in to see his little girl, to take her into the breakfast nook for pancakes. It seemed she was a little sleepy-head.

He came over to the bed to tickle her, but she did not respond. He took her pulse. He put his head down to listen for her heart, but her skin was cold and bluish-gray.

Carissa was gone.

Next to her, on the night stand, was an empty vial of pills, and a mostly consumed glass of milk. The prescription was for Oxycontin, which Jubal had used for a back injury. Carissa had swallowed them all.

There was a note written on yellow construction paper with blue crayon. It read, “I love you, Daddy. But I went to see Mommy.”

Jubal gazed around the room, looking for a knife so he could jab it into his heart, to end the pain.

Cheryl walked in and immediately assessed the situation. She grabbed him around the arms, sensing that he was in danger of doing harm to himself.

He shook her off and went to his room, put on his clothes and drove to Albany. He was looking for Barclay.

After a half a dozen inquiries, he discovered that the man’s name was Barclay Faxwell, and that he was at a retreat in the Poconos.

Getting all the information he could, Jubal climbed into his car and drove to the mountains. Part of him felt he should be back at home with his dead daughter and mother-in-law, but he realized there was a more important job for him to do.

Arriving at the convention center, with the hills in the background, Barclay Faxwell was pointed out to him. Jubal followed him all day long. Since they had never met, Faxwell was unaware of his presence. It was a long day, but eventually Barclay made his way to his room. Jubal trailed.

Before Mr. Faxwell could enter his accommodations, Jubal grabbed him from behind. Barclay was a big man, but mostly in girth rather than muscle. Jubal put a knife to his throat–one he had procured off of a serving tray in the hallway.

Silencing him, he walked Barclay to his car, forced him into the trunk, slammed it and drove deep into the Poconos.

After about a half an hour of driving, he stopped his car and set aside the knife. To Jubal, this was personal. He wanted to hurt this monster. He didn’t want him to get off easy. Of course, Jubal had no evidence that Barclay had anything to do with his wife’s death, but he did know the man was a liar. Lydia would never have been unfaithful–not because Jubal was such a special husband, but because she was such a special person.

He removed Barclay from the trunk and walked him half a mile into the wilderness. All of a sudden, he stopped. When Barclay tried to turn around to find out what was going on, Jubal began to pummel him with all of his anger, hatred, remorse, pain and misery. Barclay fought back but he was no match for an enraged drummer.

All at once, the rotund man grabbed his heart and crumpled to his knees. He tumbled to the ground like a giant oak.

Jubal stood for a moment, panting, wondering what in the hell was going on. When Barclay didn’t move, Jubal slowly inched over and checked his pulse. The son-of-a-bitch was dead.

Jubal perched on Barclay’s back, wondering what to do next. He realized he couldn’t report the incident without risking prison, so he scouted the terrain and found a small cave in the side of the rocks. It was about fifty yards away. Using his remaining fury, he drug the fat man to the entrance and stuffed him as deep into the cave as possible so that there would be no visible sign of Barclay to anyone passing by.

Jubal stepped out of the cave and looked in every direction. Not a soul.

Barclay would either rot in peace–or be groceries for several weeks for a big black bear.

Jubal made his way back to his car. He realized there was no reason to return to Troy. Cheryl could bury the little girl.

Barclay’s wallet had fallen out during the struggle. It was full of cash–eight hundred dollars. So Jubal, with eight hundred dollars, climbed into his car and set out to run from the nightmare which was now his life.

He pointed his car west. At first, the thought of going to Los Angeles seemed divinely inspired. Yet Las Vegas seemed a better choice. Certainly the casinos would need some sort of musician who knew how to keep a beat.

He drove day and night, subsisting on pure fury. He wrestled with his own insanity.

He arrived in Vegas, immediately took on some work, and never told his story to anyone. Rather than losing his faith over losing all he had, he gained his faith and was given a new life.

So on this night, with the tragedy of Salisbury filling his mind with rage, his history beckoned a recalling. It still hurt.

Suite 1002 was filled with sobs and tears.

After an hour, Jubal picked up the decanter of cognac and poured a shot into a glass. He walked over to his bed and lightly sprinkled the covers with the cognac.

He had no intention of defiling the memories of his loved ones by becoming intoxicated. But maybe, while he slept, the fragrance of the cognac would allow him to dream that he was drunk–and the pain was gone.

 

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Good News and Better News… October 30th, 2017

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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I have participated in thousands and thousands of …

Now, what shall I call them? For if I refer to these as “performances, shows or gigs,” religious people will give me the holy frown of disapproval because I have trivialized the spiritual significance.

But by the same token, referring to my efforts as ministry, worship leading or any other divine terminology makes me reek of pretension.

Of course, worst of all is the safe, but vanilla describer, “presentation.”

I run into the same problem when I try to decide whether to say a robust “Praise God” or a timid “thanks be to God.”

Do I go for the full dunk in baptism, or settle for some other plunk?

Should communion be unleavened bread, or a golden loaf?

Wine or Welch’s grape juice (which many denominations insist was Jesus’ preference)?

And I think the most intimidating crossroads of all is settling whether our Christian faith is ground in social commentary or revivalism.

That’s why the tambourine is pictured today. A tambourine can scare a Lutheran or a Methodist to death–almost as much as a printed bulletin with liturgy makes a Baptist tremble.

It just doesn’t seem to occur to us that defining the word “ministry” requires taking a long gaze into the lifestyle and actions of Jesus of Nazareth.

Jesus was both contemplative and flamboyant.

He had the strange notion that the profile for what he did in blessing others was contingent on what they needed, and not confined to the Book of Common Prayer.

So to one person, he said, “Be healed.”

He touched lepers.

He spit on someone else.

He stuck his fingers in another person’s ears.

And he shouted to raise the dead.

He would have upset a lot of people.

Jesus didn’t worship miracles; he didn’t minister miracles–he performed miracles.

He showcased the Gospel in stories, told with colorful description and high-flung gestures.

The church has lost Jesus because it has focused on either social gospel or revivalism.

Jesus was the Son of God, who came to teach us how to get along with each other–with a tambourine in his hand.

So the good news is that we need both social commentary and revivalism.

The better news is, when we actually mingle the two, we suddenly become more relevant.

 

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Good News and Better News… August 21st, 2017

 Jonathots Daily Blog

(3406)

I had the night off from my gigs.

I decided to take in a church service at a small pioneer work where I’m staying. It is called Renaissance Fellowship. It touts the uniqueness of being a Christian church focused on the arts. Since I’ve been known to have a brain cell or two tuned in that direction, I was titillated.

The church is held at a community center and has about twenty-five folks who attend. The people are typical “church.” About 35% of them are excited, involved, busy scurrying around, and the rest of them have the appearance of folks arriving for a seminar on an unknown subject, with the promise that they might get free passes to a restaurant at the end.

Renaissance suffers from what every church suffers from. In trying to find God, they accidentally kill passion.

The pastor, a young man in his early forties, has a delightful desire and talent for sharing his thoughts. You can tell he is still deeply involved in the pursuit of God and the salvation of human souls, but growing a bit worn around the edges in all the well-doing. It happens to all of us.

But I heard something I liked. I heard rumblings that sounded like possibility.

Even though his message was plagued with too much preaching to the soul and teaching to the brain, I sensed that he’s beginning to reach for the heart.

For you see–human beings are not really spiritual. We aren’t thoughtful. We are emotional.

It doesn’t matter if it’s about work, play, a football stadium or church–the evidence that we are impacted is always an emotional outburst.

So I speak with great clarity to this pastor and tell him to keep reaching for the heart. Go ahead and abandon preaching to the soul and teaching to the mind. No one cares what Abraham, Moses, Joseph or any of the old patriarchs did. If the stories do not relate to family, Wal-mart and the Internet, they will not touch the hearts of American people.

Instructing the brain by pointing out clever pieces of information may once have been a path of probability, but no longer. Our brains are inundated with too much information, and of course, way too many posts on Facebook about nothing.

  • Reach the heart.
  • Touch the heart.
  • And demand a heartfelt response.

It is the only way people are healed. As Jesus said, “If you say to this mountain, be removed, and you do not doubt in your heart, it shall be done.”

The soul, the brain and the body have nothing to do with moving mountains. It is a heartfelt action.

Although I’m sure they are delightful and blessed people, many of the folks at Renaissance were doing their best imitation of being church cardboard cutouts. But becoming a church of artistry will require that the congregation that’s already there–tiny as it is–become emotionally excited with its own faith.

If it doesn’t, they will be just an average church that occasionally puts on plays.

The good news is that the Gospel is an experience of the heart.

The better news is, the pastor of Renaissance Fellowship and his congregation have a great opportunity to become heartfelt.

I have confidence in them.

For you see, the pastor is my son.Donate Button

 

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Good News and Better News … December 28th, 2015

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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Good News Fulford jpeg

Rarely do we find ourselves abused by the Devil from Hell, nor steered by the Lord of the Heaven.

Most of the time, we are situated smack-dab in the middle of our own whim or lack of planning.

It really is good news.

It would be a miserable thought–to believe that we mortals are part of a cosmic chess game between good and evil, and more often than not, end up being the sacrificial pawn.

This little piece of joy came to my mind this week as I arrived in South Florida to celebrate the birth of Jesus with my family, work on my blogs, make plans for the coming year, and do two gigs in the area.

Honestly, I had some apprehension about being able to pull off all the stipulated events with the amount of professional quality and personal touch I felt was necessary. But fortunately for me, I’ve been granted the grace of having a wonderful group of sons, daughters-in-law and grandchildren, who seem to be functioning quite well on the auto-pilot of faith.

In other words, I didn’t need to do nearly as much as I thought I would. Therefore, I was much more qualified.

On the other hand, making plans for the coming year to enhance my program, enriching the results, is a labor of love to me. The Gospel is always good news, but it is refreshing to find a way to make that revelation even more inspiring and easy to understand.

So by the time I arrived at my two performances on Sunday, I was itchy to share my heart.

The fine folks in North Miami, pastored by a delightful young man named Nathan, welcomed us with open arms, even though I’m sure we appeared at first to be strangers.

I just happen to believe that in the pursuit of loving your brothers and sisters, the best route to achieving such a sublime experience is to seek out commonality. My dear God, we have so much in common.

So by the time I got to my Sunday evening performance, I was prepared to relish the people around me, and was especially invigorated because the venue is a new church plant pastored by my son, Jerrod.

He’s always had a calling in his life, although, like many of us, it seemed a little in the distance from the everyday chores of maintaining life and limb.

But now–he’s launched.

About thirty souls came out, and we just had a festive time in our human smorgasbord.

The two churches had something in common: they were unsure enough of what they are doing to be open to the possibility of the Holy Spirit changing lives.

So I celebrated the good news, which is: there is no Devil chasing me nor God manipulating me. Rather, I am a free-will agent to pursue my heart’s desire.

And the better news is that all the fretting and fuming I may do from time to time, wondering if my abilities are sufficient, is irrelevant and quickly calmed by the realization of two beautiful ideas:

1. If it’s not my business, then drench it in mercy and love.

2. If it is my business, fill it with creativity.

 

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