Cracked 5 … June 29th, 2019

Jonathots Daily Blog

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Cracked 5

Take-Aways from the First Two Democratic Debates

 A. Two grandpas, a grandma, a few curious uncles, some eccentric aunts and the rest of the little kids

 

B. Yelling isn’t selling

 

C. Not a party—more like an awkward family reunion

 

D. Self-promotion sure sounds like bragging

 

E. TRUMPED!!

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Reverend Meningsbee (Part 57) Epilogue… June 4th, 2017

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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Reverend Meningsbee

It was at a rest area in the state of Oklahoma, on I-35, that the Rettner family stopped to enjoy some lunch before traveling on to their home in Dallas, after visiting Grandma in the great state of Missouri.

Grandma had made turkey sandwiches and was known for putting some butter on the top piece of bread and cranberry sauce on the bottom. They were always scrumptious.

So Bob Rettner and his wife, Jenine, along with their son, who they called Little Mike, had decided to take advantage of the unseasonably warm weather, to sit outside at a picnic table and talk about the beauty of their Christmas and munch the delicious delicacy prepared by Grandma.

But Little Mike was a bit fidgety. He brought a ball with him and was kicking it along when it bounced against a car and rolled out into the thoroughfare at the rest area.

The little boy didn’t even think twice. He started chasing the ball when suddenly a pick-up truck was bearing down on him. It was a tragedy in the making.

Suddenly, from nowhere, a man came running and snatched the boy up, lifting him out of harm’s way just in time. He set him back on the ground and they walked over together to retrieve the ball.

By this time, the parents, who had been watching in horror, unable to do anything but shout, ran up to thank the stranger.

The mother grabbed Little Mike and the father shook the gentleman’s hand. “Thank you so much. I don’t know what to say.”

“You already did,” said the stranger. “Thank you is quite enough.”

The mother interjected, “We’re just sitting down here eating some delicious turkey sandwiches left over from Grandma’s table…”

“Grandma’s table?” queried the stranger.

“Yes, the best you’ll ever eat,” said the father. “Would you join us?”

The stranger paused, looked over at the little boy, who smiled at him. “Yes. I would be honored,” he said.

They all walked over to the table and introductions were made.

“I’m Bob Rettner, this is my wife, Jenine, and this is our son. We call him Little Mike.”

The stranger gave the boy a hug and said, “Little Mike–ball chaser.”

They all shared a relieved laugh.

“And what is your name?” asked Bob.

“They call me Richard.”

“Are you returning from Christmas vacation?” inquired Jenine.

“Yes. Yes, I am. I’m returning, I’m going, I’m coming…I guess we all are, aren’t we?”

Bob handed him a sandwich. “Thank you again,” he said. “We’re a family that believes in prayer. Would you like to lead us in grace over these wonderful sandwiches?”

Richard thought for a moment. “Bob, I, too, believe in prayer. But you know what I’d like? I would like Little Mike to pray. Because… well, because I like to listen.”

 

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Reverend Meningsbee (Part 41) There’s Always a Space … February 12th, 2017

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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Reverend Meningsbee

When Meningsbee’s wife, Doris, died, a minister friend counseled him to take some time and give himself the luxury of grieving.

So for six months, Richard permitted his heart, soul and mind to reminisce and dream delightful thoughts about his dear friend, Doris.

There seemed to be a healing. It got a little easier to consider her gone, though there was never any real “ease” in the notion.

After the six-month grieving period, Meningsbee decided to reenter his life of writing and pastoring, only to discover that the emotional stitching he had done on his internals busted loose, and he was flooded with a deluge of remorse.

He thought he was crazy. He even thought he heard Doris moving about the kitchen.

Sitting at breakfast, his mind wandered. He saw her perched in the chair across from him, with her feet tucked up under her butt, with her long, graceful fingers caressing a coffee cup–closing them around the handle, bringing it to her lips, sipping slowly and then giving a seductive little contented shiver. It was so beautiful.

Her peace of mind made him feel like a man.

Even one Sunday at church, during a communion service, his eyes filled with tears. The congregation thought he was moved by the experience with the Holy Meal, but actually it was the scent of the communion wine that brought a memory of a green lotion Doris once applied to her feet–to heal her corns. He giggled inside, remembering her smearing the fluid on her feet and quipping, “I was a girl. Now apparently I’m going to become a grandma with corny feet, and completely skip woman.”

Then, three weeks ago Matrisse’s sister from Chicago came to town, and a blind date of sorts was planned. She was an extraordinarily attractive woman–intelligent and the general manager of a corporation in the Windy City. But because she was just coming off a divorce, she ended up discussing her misgivings and in no time Meningsbee found himself counseling and consoling her instead of considering her. The movie was cancelled and she expressed her gratitude for his words of wisdom with a peck on the cheek.

Meningsbee realized there’s no such thing as “getting over” someone you loved.

There’s always a space–always something they did that was so unique that it couldn’t be duplicated by the actions of another.

Exactly three days before she passed away, Doris rose in the morning after they’d had a fussy tiff with each other the night before, bounced into the room, hugged his neck and said, “Reverend Richard Meningsbee, you are my favorite annoyance.”

How can you forget that?

Somewhere along the line, the preacher just decided to stop fighting the urges to love her.

People are not replaceable–we just learn to appreciate what other people have to offer.

There’s always a space–a space forever occupied with visions of Doris.

 

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Cracked 5… December 30, 2014

  Jonathots Daily Blog

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cracked 5 logo keeper with border final

 

Rejected New Year’s Resolutions

A. Learning Greek from a Zionist rabbi in Baghdad

B. Eating from only the white and tan family of foods

C. Spending more time listening to my senile grandma share romantic tales of her youth

D. Installing “clappers” for the lights in funeral homes

E. Devouring more pickled calamari

Picture by Smarttie Panntts

Picture by Smarttie Panntts

 

 

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Where’s Ya’ Goin’? … December 8, 2013

Jonathots Daily Blog

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older boy with SantaAt twenty-two years of age, I was an unsettling blend of fun-loving, lazy, irresponsible and unfortunately, just talented enough to have reason to pursue a dream that was trying desperately to elude me. What happens in this type of situation is that normally you do quite well–until you run out of money.

Finance is not the most important thing in life, but it does buy you time to think about the important things.

So at Christmas time, I decided I needed to go out and make some candy-cane funding for my little family, and opted to pursue being Santa Claus. I was built for the position. Matter of fact, when I applied at the department store, they were delighted because the costume fit me perfectly and they didn’t have to add padding.

Honestly, I was pretty good at it, being Santa Claus. It involved acting, joking, caring … and could all be done from a seated position. The best of all my worlds.

Still, because cash flow was tight, I wasn’t able to afford money for lunch, so I lived on candy canes from my bag, which I gave to the children. I carefully tried to insert them into my mouth past the synthetic beard provided for me to accentuate the part. As you probably have already visualized, candy canes are sticky, and I was often unable to push the candy cane past the beard without including some hair in the process. It was yucky, but it was sweet.

Every three hours I was given a break, and would go down a freight elevator to enjoy some water and free time. One day, much to my surprise, a young boy about six years old followed me to the back of the store to the freight elevator, and surprised me when he piped up, “Where’s ya’ goin’?”

I was shocked. But wanting to maintain integrity, I continued my role.

Ho! Ho! Ho! Santa’s going to go feed his reindeer!” I said with abundant joviality.

“Where’s are dey?”

“Just down this elevator in the basement, waiting for me to bring them food.”

“Is dis the magic food that makes dem fly?” he inquired.

“Yes. I mean, no. Not yet. After all, don’t want ’em to fly until Christmas Eve.” I produced another ‘ho-ho-ho.’

“Which reindeer do you like best?” he continued.

(We were in the midst of a conversation which was quickly becoming an interview. I not only was losing my quiet time, but realized that in a few short moments, I would be beyond my expertise.)

“I like them all the same,” I shared with equity.

“I like Blitzen,” he said with assurety.

“Why is that, young man?”

“Such a cool name. And also, I think he helps Donner pull the sleigh, because sometimes Donner’s a little weak because he’s getting older. Just like my Grandma.”

Wow. This was getting way too deep for a department store Santa Claus.

“Well, I gotta go now,” I said, trying to inch my way to the elevator.

“Can I go with you?”

I should have known this was coming and prepared myself with a good answer. But I was twenty-two years old and punching a clock, even if it was for the North Pole.

“No, you can’t.” That’s all I came up with.

“Why?” he asked.

Once again, a predictable question. I decided to be honest.

“It’s because Santa Claus is tired right now and needs to put his boots up so he’ll be ready to talk to other boys and girls and find out what they want for Christmas.”

Much to my surprise, he accepted this and nodded his head.

“Can I ask you one more question?” he said softly.

“Sure.” He was so adorable I couldn’t turn him down.

“Are you the real Santa Claus?”

He looked up at me with a glance that any Hollywood producer would require off of a child actor, but unfortunately never get, no matter how many takes are procured. What should I say to him?

I thought about the standard fare:

  • No, I’m not really Santa Claus. I’m just one of his helpers.
  • I’m just filling in for him today because he’s busy making toys.

But momentarily inspired, I replied, “What do you think?’

He crinkled his nose, squinted at me, and said, “I think you are.”

“Then you’re probably right,” I concluded.

He hugged my leg, turned on his heel and strolled away, singing.

I thought to myself how wonderful it was to be childlike. What a disadvantage to be so old that I couldn’t believe like him anymore, and so young that my lack of belief would cost me for quite some time to come.

In all my life, I never met anybody who was better off for doubting. I have never seen atheists, agnostics or even overly zealous thinkers walk away singing.

Maybe in the vast spectrum of reality they are better off possessing knowledge, but for me, I want to be like that little boy:

Chase my dreams, talk to my ambitions and walk away … singing.

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Please contact Jonathan’s agent, Jackie Barnett, at (615) 481-1474, for information about scheduling SpiriTed in 2014.

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259 Steps… October 19, 2012

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Live from October 1st filming

Her name was Sada. She was my grandma.

Looking back, she was about as cranky as they come. I guess she wasn’t terribly thrilled about having three daughters of her own, so the second crop coming out of the field didn’t exactly impress her. She did two things really well–kept her house clean and she made blackberry pies.

I thought they were the best in the world. Of course, being ten years old, I had no point of reference, nor had I ever attended a bake-off. So about every two weeks, I asked her if she would make one of her delicious pies for my enjoyment. Her response was always the same. “If you want a pie, you’re going to have to go pick the fruit and bring it to me.”

I hated this. I never enjoyed picking blackberries. Built into the consciousness of every blackberry is a decision to reap as much havoc with its thorns as possible in exchange for being extracted from its home. Hanging around the patch were also bees, which scared me to death because I was ten years old and a had the backbone of a jellyfish. In addition,  it takes quite a few blackberries to make a pie and often I brought back only enough blackberries for my grandma to sneer at, saying, “Humph. There’s not enough there for a tart.”

I didn’t know what a tart was, but assumed it meant I was not going to be eating any pies soon. So I eventually discovered that a little orange pail I used for Halloween candy was the perfect size to make two pies when filled up to the top. But every time I asked her if we could just buy the blackberries from the store, she would just shake her head and repeat,”You bring the fruit and I’ll make the pie.”

This story came back to my mind over the past twelve days while I’ve been battling with my legs and walking. As I have told you, at first I fully intended to exercise my God-given right to be discouraged over my ailment. Then I took some time to think about it. You see, thinking is an annoying process. When you get to the end of reasoning out some matter, you always discover that it wasn’t what you thought it was in the first place, and that much of the problem is you.

I believe this is why most people skip the step of thinking and immediately leap to worry. Worrying grants you the dignity of blaming everything under the sun except yourself. As I did my thinking, I realized that at sixty years of age, being extremely obese and continuing to pursue my lifestyle of travel and sharing with great vigor, I was accidentally killing myself off.

It’s not that I have a death wish. (None of us actually has to wish for our demise. It will eventually come.) Rather, it was a piece of stubbornness that insisted that I should be able to freeze my mission in time because the end result of doing it was helpful. Therefore, God needed to overlook my age, my weaknesses and the fact that I was a “fatty-fatty-big-butt” and honor me with reasonable health “because I was doing my best to bless others and serve Him.”

It was downright bratty.

But it didn’t feel that way. I called it faith.

How can you know when you have bratty faith? Bratty faith is when you demand that God do something for you that He is not doing for someone else because you think you’re prettier. I realized that with my temporary setback in walking, that God, like my grandma, was telling me to “get the fruit” so that He could legitimately make the pie.

I believed His phrasing would be more like: “Stop dying and start trying.”

I was asking God to keep me safe from my own devious plan of excess stupidity and ignorance, and make my only responsibility to be there for the show.

Yes, the first step for everything in life is to stop dying.

And of course, there are many ways to die. (Anybody who has ever gone on stage can tell you that.)

  • You can die in your excesses or you can die in your lack.
  • You can die in your ignorance and you can die in your arrogance.
  • You can die in your hope and you can die in your doubt.
  • You can die in your religion or you can die in your agnosticism.
  • You can die in your lifestyle or you can die in your bad habits.

Death is whenever we pretend that we don’t understand the wisdom that has been provided for us and instead, we wait for a different explanation so we can escape change.

I didn’t realize it, but inch by inch I was dying, and expecting God to do daily miracles to do CPR on my gradually decaying corpse. He, being the Gentleman He is, simply took my legs out from under me so I could use the brain half of my body instead of the feet portion. Through that, I learned to start trying.

I am on my twelfth day of an exciting food regimen which has already borne “blackberries in my pail.” Yes, I am on my way to making a pie.

I was able to get out of my van yesterday in the parking lot of Wal-Mart, and using a shopping cart, I walked 259 steps without falling over. More blackberries.

I have not missed a performance–because I have found a wheelchair which will haul my backside from place to place, to continue to impart the little bit I know to those sent my way.  Avoiding the bees, I put some blackberries in my pail.

And I have focused on health as the leading virtue towards wealth and being wise, thus avoiding the thorns and deriving fruit.

If you want to understand the ways of spirituality, you must comprehend that you have to stop dying to start trying. If you want to wait until God is forced through Mother Nature to intervene and cut you off at the knees, you may feel free to do so. Or you can look at the little pieces of death that are going on in your heart, soul, mind and strength right now–and stop the emergency before your situation becomes grave.

259 steps may not sound like much to you, but in my spiritual over-exuberance, I envision a heavenly cheer from a legion of angels.

“Bring the fruit. And I’ll make that pie.”

Exactly.

And the words from God to each and every one of us are, “Stop dying and start trying.”

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WDJD… May 20, 2012

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I said yes. I like to say yes, mainly because “no” demands too much of an explanation and makes you sound like you are hem-hawing around instead of being forthright and honest.

A lady at a church, a teacher at the local high school, asked me if I would be willing to come and speak for an assembly of the student body the following morning after my concert. She had taken the initiative to arrange it, so I had no reason to say no.

I do not consider myself to be a great spokesman to young humans–but by the same token, I don’t despise them or find it difficult to communicate once  I get over my own fears and preconceptions. Long story shortened (to allow for you to maintain your attention)  I arrived at the school and was greeted by a young lady who was to be my hostess. She carried that timidity common to the adolescent of our species. I noticed that she was wearing a WWJD bracelet. So I commented.

“Oh, I see you have a WWJD bracelet. Are you a Christian?”

“Well, kinda,” she replied sheepishly. “Actually, my grandma gave it to me along with a little booklet about what it means. Honestly, I haven’t read it yet.”

I decided not to pursue the conversation any further. The WWJD fad really didn’t last too long–mainly because it did become more of a jewelry accessory rather than a spiritual odyssey, and secondly, because most people don’t know what Jesus would do because they are so ingrained in their own personal cultures that they color the purity of that spiritual quest with their own upbringing. So I waited for my instructions concerning the assembly.

Well, things began to fall apart, as they often do whenever you enter the realm of public education. The principal came out and apologized, saying that a full assembly would be impossible because there was testing going on. I listened quietly. He said he had arranged for the drama, speech and music departments to gather in the auditorium to hear me share about the power of inspiration in entertainment. I thanked him for his courtesy and awaited the opportunity. About ten minutes later the principal reappeared and said that regrettably, the choir, music and drama departments would be unable to attend the lecture because they were preparing for an upcoming concert–BUT the speech classes were still very interested in hearing my inspiring talk.

I nodded my head. About three minutes later, the secretary arrived (the principal apparently too embarrassed to attend further) and she said the speech department was going to be unable to hear me, because they needed to rehearse for a debate to be held at a rival school. By this time I was giggling inside, wondering exactly who I would end up speaking to, or if I was just starting my day early to make me appreciate my afternoon nap.

About a half an hour later, I was escorted into the gymnasium, where, in a far corner of the bleachers, about six young women sat–students from a physical education class. They didn’t dress out that particular morning, because they were either sick or had forgotten their exercise clothes. They sat peering at me as the secretary gave me an overly elaborate introduction and unleashed me on these uninterested souls.

I realized at this point that I did not need to know what Jesus WOULD do, but instead, required an understanding of what Jesus DID do. What DID Jesus do when he was placed in a position where he was given lesser and lesser importance, ending up with an audience he did not anticipate or prepare for? You see, I had taken some time to study the school–understood their mascots and had even checked out their website for their sports schedules, to know the team records. At this point, in front of these six non-dressing gym students, this all seemed quite irrelevant.

What was NOT going to work was a typical human reaction based on ego–because every time we feel slighted, cheated, angry, frustrated, misunderstood or fussy, we are viewed as the villain, no matter how justified our reasoning may be. This was my audience, which had deteriorated from fifteen hundred promised students to six students–who didn’t seem to have much promise at all.

What did Jesus do when slapped in the face by reality? There’s a four-step process to understanding how Jesus communicated his message of love and faith to the world. It’s not hard to understand; it’s not difficult to grasp. The problem with religion and Christian theology is that it has a goal rather than a search. Every denomination is determined to promote its particular spin on godliness instead of  just studying the mind and personality of Jesus. Sitting in front of those six young ladies who were bored to death, I applied the Jesonian philosophy on human interaction.

1. Open the heart. You will never reach people spiritually, mentally and physically if you haven’t touched them emotionally. It is futile to reach for the brain or the soul if you haven’t first passed through the heart. Jesus was a heart teacher. If you have no emotion in your spiritual experience, you will have no soul to it, no renewing of the mind and therefore no physical evidence.

2. Tell a story. Anybody who believes they can communicate God by reading the Bible has lost all sense of reason. The communication of God has always been, and always will be, the sharing of a personal testimony from our own experience.  Everything else sounds like jumbled words from a former time written by Shakespeare.

3. Use the earth. We are earthlings–and I don’t mean that in a science fiction sense. I mean that we are all inhabitants of earth. Therefore we understand earth and earth is our best source for communication. When you talk about heaven, the wrong people listen. People who are self-righteous. People who are trying to escape responsibility. People who are ethereal. People who want to condemn other people to hell by first talking about heaven. When you use the earth, every son and daughter of Adam who has ears can hear.

4. And finally, make God human. When Jesus told stories, God was portrayed as a Father, an owner of a vineyard, a king, a fisherman, and even a sower of seed. The true failure of religion is that it is obsessed with the notion of making humans godly–impossible–instead of taking the more logical path of making God more human.

I don’t have to wear a bracelet that says, “What would Jesus do?” I have isolated off the gospels and understand his modus operandi. So when I sat down in front of those six girls, instead of being upset, I opened my heart by telling them the funny story of how my day was going so far. I related about how that happened to great people everywhere–for example, that Abraham Lincoln was deemed to be a complete failure before history called him a success. I used the earth to connect with them about how it felt to be sitting there, not dressing out for gym class, and how when I write something like a movie, I look for anything that is common in order to connect with people. And then I made God human. I told them that I believed if God came to earth today and was looking for work, He would enter the entertainment field. I joked with them that He probably wouldn’t be an accountant–too many numbers. Certainly not a politician–they all laughed. God would make a horrible lawyer because he would always want to forgive the criminals. They especially liked that.

My morning finished triumphantly–although only in front of a half-dozen folk. I left the school with most people not knowing I was ever there, but I got a chance to make friends and impact six young ladies simply because I kept my cool instead of becoming prideful. And I used the magical power of what Jesus DID do–opening the heart, telling a story, using the earth and making God human.

   

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