Just Talk… March 9, 2013

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allAt 9:15 A.M. yesterday, I found myself tooling through the grocery store in search of those final ingredients that escaped my initial purchasing from earlier in the week. One of the things I was looking for was an inexpensive package of shrimp which I could add to a can of New England Clam Chowder, transforming it from a poor bowl of soup to go along with a tuna sandwich, into a meal fit for a Gloucester fisherman.

So I eyeballed the frozen foods and headed in that direction, discovering an older woman unpacking boxes nearby. She seemed a bit bedraggled by her task.

This is where I am probably weird. Maybe it’s that I’m arrogant–but I just don’t believe there’s any power in seeing someone under the weather or depressed and leaving them alone, hoping they’ll work it out by having an inspiring evening of prime time television. So I ventured a bit of conversation.

“How are you?” I asked

“Fine,” she replied, making her one-syllable answer sound even shorter.

You see, that in itself was a noble effort. But I didn’t leave it alone. “Are you sure you’re fine?” I chuckled.

She looked up from her mountain of boxes and gave me a small smile. She launched. Yes–she started to talk. In the two-and-a-half-minute conversation, I learned her entire financial situation, her frustrations with Medicare, her worries over the President and Congress, and the fact that her husband’s pension doesn’t cover much of anything.

Now, I will admit to you that there IS difficulty in finding a way to extricate yourself from the flood of words that proceed from people once the “dammit” is broken. But it’s worth it.

Because when I came around about five minutes, I paused to take a look her way.  Her pace had quickened and she was humming a bit to herself.

You see, it’s not that I am such a good Joe for talking with people. The point I’m trying to make is that we have become a nation instructed to listen and watch as OTHER people talk, giving us no outlet for our feelings, frustrations and especially, our ideas.

So when you see folks trudging along, there are three dark clouds that encircle them:

  1. “Nothing matters”
  2. “No one cares”
  3. “Never mind”

You may think this is no big deal, and often it isn’t–until you accidentally cross one of these storm clouds with all of this negative energy bottled up inside.

When we are not allowed to talk, we become creatures of silent defeat–and depending on the mental health status of the defeated one, it can lead to anything from reclusion to stepping into the marketplace with a semiautomatic rifle and opening up fire.

Just talk.

It has to be more than a tweet. Our new social media forces us to be brief and clever, instead of forthcoming and honest. Matter of fact, I would suggest that the church become a forerunner fo this great idea. Instead of projecting images on the wall that people sing and recite, cueing them on when to stand and clap, let’s have an hour sometime during the week when human beings can talk and share their hearts.

As the old verse says, we certainly ARE “saved by the word of our testimony.”

My words may encourage you, but it is your own words that motivate you.

The Bible may offer a great sense of comfort, but it is your interpretation and re-speaking of truth that makes it a reality.

There may be nothing greater that we can do for each other than overcoming the silent defeat that settles into the human soul because we don’t get the chance to talk about our feelings, and we begin to insist that nothing matters, no one cares and never mind.

I left a woman singing a song. That’s pretty good for this fat boy. And until we realize that watching and listening is no any replacement for feeling and sharing, we will have a country that is saturated with a sense of desperation–exhausted before it even begins to work.

Just talk. Just share. And make sure that any sensations of sadness have a chance to escape before you become convinced that we were meant to be lonely.

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

Lower Seat… October 30, 2012

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I couldn’t reach it.

I had a sudden splash of exasperation mingled with a giggle that stirred together inside my heart. You see, I had wheeled myself into a local grocery store and was shopping around via “the chair” for the first time. About a week ago, I took the leg holders off of the apparatus so that could use my own legs to propel myself, along with the aid my arms. I was doing quite well.

That is, until I got to the lunch meat section and saw that they had 98% fat-free bologna, which ended up being just beyond my grasp. I sat back in the chair for a moment, trying to decide if I wanted to wait for Janet to arrive to reach up and get the prize, or if I was going to figure out how to do it myself.

Suddenly I had this comprehension of one source of both our victories and our failures. Do we step out of the box and try something beyond our present ability, or do we wait for someone more qualified to perform the duty? Great question. It may seem noble to keep trying impossible things and beating your head against the wall, but often you can end up bloodied instead of productive.

I found myself in a lower seat.

You would be astounded at how short you feel when you’re sitting in a wheel chair. After all, your legs are more than half of your height. You start seeing things through the perspective of a five-year-old. Everything at eye level is child-friendly, child-accessible and therefore, eliminates a lot of adult possibilities from your reach.

Now, Jesus talked about “taking the lower seat.” It is one of his stories that gets very little attention, because it appears to be anti-human. After all, don’t people in general want to sit in the highest seats, receiving the highest honors, eating the best delicacies and sensing an ongoing atmosphere of improvement? Who would WANT to take the lower seat? Is it an attempt to appear to be spiritual, when deep in your heart, you resent the hell out of it?

As I sat there in that moment, with the bologna peering down at me, I realized that the power of the lower seat is that you don’t have to advertise that you can do more than you really can. (That’s what makes me shake and quake in my boots when I hear our two Presidential candidates make such broad claims about their abilities and promises about resolving our nation’s conflicts. It is not only arrogant, it is bone-dead stupid.) There is always something that life can come up with to make your original plan seem short-sighted and your talent appear to be wanting.

I realized, sitting in the chair and trying to decide what to do about the problem over my head, that I was alone. No one was paying any attention to me. Matter of fact, the normal profile of individuals who eyeball someone in a wheelchair is to divert their glance. It is an action of politeness–so as not to stare. So I had a full thirty seconds of complete solitude in front of those processed meats, to decide for myself what I wanted to do, sitting in my lower seat, without scrutiny and minus the pressure to impress anyone.

It was magnificent. I understood.

The little story that Jesus tells about taking the lower seat is not a step of false humility–to deny your own abilities–but rather, an intelligent move to take the spotlight off of yourself so you can think through what you want to do, come up with an adjusted plan and achieve your goal without ever looking like you came up short.

My solution for achieving my task was quite simple. I scooted to the end of my chair, reached up with my fingertips, flipped the bologna pack in the air from its holder, and caught it. Actually, it looked like I planned it… rather athletic, if I do say so myself. Problem resolved.

Right now, my friends, I find myself in a lower seat. I have not lost my mind. I have not lost my talent. I have not lost my sense of humor. I have not lost my family. I have not lost the capability of being creative. I have not lost comedy and drama. I have not lost the ability to drive. I have not lost the blessing of going to the bathroom. I have not lost my health. For this particular season, what I have lost is the function of standing tall, walking proud and running the race.

I am in a lower seat. It grants God and those around me the option of calling me up to a higher position. I do not know if that will happen, but in the meantime I plan to have great fun with my shortcoming and the immense gift thrust upon me, to see life from the perspective of a toddler. After all, that’s what Jesus told us we were supposed to do–become like little children. To achieve that we have to do two things: stop being grumpy adults and get a little lower.

I’ve done that.

My trip into the grocery store was an immense success. Counting the movement with my legs and arms, wheeling myself around, I got a great little workout and I took care of the balogna–both the one on the shelf and some it in my own prideful heart.

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

Missing Ingredient … July 24, 2012

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It was named Chicken Groovy.

Many years ago, Ben and Josey invited Dollie and me over to partake in a new delicacy they had come up with from their own imaginations.  Chicken Groovy.(For those of you born after the invasion of the bell bottom, groovy means something really fine or absolutely sublime.) Continuing my story, Ben and Josey

English: Logo of the Groovy project

English: Logo of the Groovy project (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

requested that we bring three pounds of fresh boneless and skinless chicken breasts to the party–and they would do the rest. So I went to the store, picked up the meat and we headed over to their house with our recently deceased, disassembled birds.The evening started out terrific. Music was playing, giddiness was in the air, conversation was rich … when suddenly Ben came out of the kitchen, horror written all over his face, asking Josey where… Well, I forget what was missing. Some sort of spice. It could have been parsley, sage, rosemary or thyme. It became obvious that Josey had forgotten to pick up this particular ingredient at the store. Ben was devastated and informed everyone that the evening was ruined because the meal couldn’t be completed due to the absence of this mystery spice from the East.

That in itself would have been enough “over-wrought” for me, but the failure to acquire the purchase from the grocery store led Ben and Josey into a deep discussion–in front of us–about many of their internal problems. I was fine when they were discussing the poor choice of a couch in the living room. I remained silent when she expressed her displeasure over him leaving the toilet seat up. But when the conversation moved into frustrations about bedroom technique, I decided it was time for me to get to my feet and do something.

So I grabbed the chicken, a salt shaker and headed off to the kitchen, acquired a frying pan and started to make my own evolution of Chicken Groovy. (By this time, honestly, any chicken or food whatsoever would have been groovy.) Ben and Josey were a bit shocked by my presumption but didn’t sense that they would be able to stop my progress, so I cooked up the chicken and we ate it. They were a bit disgruntled because it wasn’t REALLY Chicken Groovy, but we finished the food and left.

I never forgot that night. It amazed me how quickly we went from being contented individuals to completely enraged and argumentative, simply because there was a missing ingredient. There wasn’t even a discussion on how we could improvise with something else. After all, catsup covers a multitude of inadequacies.

The trouble is, when people want things to be perfect, they convince themselves that the key to that perfection is in surrounding themselves with the elements. Big mistake.

In like manner, I was born a twelve-and-a-half pound glob of pink, hairless “homely.” Since then, I have only added poundage to that perplexity. Somewhere along the way, though, I received a calling in my heart to use my talent to try to enrich my own life and touch the borders of the human beings around me. Honestly, I wasn’t visually suited for that, for human beings are notorious for looking on the outward appearance instead of the heart. I had a missing ingredient. But I chose to ignore it. I placed myself in the vulnerable position of being criticized initially for the possibility of being a blessing later.

About ten years ago, my knees and legs started wishing to retire. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how you look at it) my mind, heart and spirit were not ready to play shuffleboard. So I find myself touring around the country, daily convincing my lower extremities to participate as they reluctantly joined the quest like a grumpy old man complaining about the available choices at a Tex-Mex restaurant.

I have a missing ingredient to being a traveler–my legs don’t work very well. I suppose there are folks who would use that as an excuse, or even as a sign from God, to cease peddaling. I just find it a humorous diversion to a necessary mission. This is why I am of a firm belief that life really boils down to one of two choices:

1. Am I going to wait for all the ingredients to arrive so I can pursue the recipe of my desire and complete it to my own satisfaction?

2. Am I going to ignore the lack of possibilities available to me and try to piece together something that resembles my desires with what has been provided?

Isn’t that it? The first group spends most of their time explaining why they don’t do things; the second group never offers an explanation, even though you might wonder how they have achieved as much as they have, considering the lack.

I guess the question I should have asked Ben and Josey that fateful night was, Which came first–the chicken or the groovy?” Is the chicken made groovy because you have found a particular gravy to make chicken palatable? Or is the groovy made possible because the chicken, itself, is hard to screw up?

It’s a big question, folks–one we all must answer. Otherwise, we will spend most of our lives on the sidelines with a very good discourse to share about why we never did what we really wanted to do. We can cite family responsibility, minimal funding, health issues, a dearth of breaks, and even insist that perhaps it was never the will of God. But the truth of the matter is, there was some missing ingredient we thought was necessary in order to make our particular goal a reality, and we chose to sit out the contest instead of using what was available.

Here’s my philosophy–I’m going to go ahead and plant, hoping that somebody else comes along and waters, believing in my heart that God will actually get off of His throne and give us some increase.

I will continue to pursue my vision out of stubbornness, willingness, humility and a bit of silliness, if you don’t mind. You more mature folks may wish to wait for the next bus, the next opportunity, the next splitting of the sky or Halley’s Comet, for that matter. But no one lies on his death-bed and says, “Gee whiz, I shouldn’t have tried that …”

Do yourself a favor–once you resolve who you are and who God is and how the two of you are going to get along, go ahead and solve two other questions:

1. What am I going to do today that resembles my dream?

2. How much good cheer am I willing to use when things just refuse to work out the way I planned?

This is the key. It is the way to keep things groovy. Otherwise, you end up just being chicken.

   

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

Dwelling… April 17, 2012

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A house for comfort.

A habitat for happiness.

A resting place for relaxation.

A spot within a cubicle placed strategically in a world not our own, where we can rejuvenate, regroup and rediscover.

It’s a good thing, right? Yes, I would have to agree that under normal conditions, finding a sanctuary of sabbatical for the purpose of sanity is sumptuous. Yes, it actually brings flavor to our lives, cools the brain off from over-heating, takes the soul off simmer and the emoting from emotions. But something I discovered recently was a bit of a shock to my system, while being a great revelation to my spirit. A dwelling can also be an escape from the reality encouraging us towards excellence.

I woke up this morning after having journeyed to Los Angeles, California, on my tour. I was tired. Over the weekend, I had driven nearly 450 miles–from Tucson, Arizona, to San Diego–set up my equipment, did a show, picked up a few hours of sleep and found myself back on the road, pointing to LA.

Before me was a task. We needed to go out and purchase food supplies for the week–a simple endeavor. But my weary body was not only reluctant, but resentful over such an energetic undertaking. I almost decided to go into my “comfortable, happy and relaxed” mode, putting off this responsibility until later. It would have felt good–I mean, it would have been comfortable, made me happy and certainly promoted relaxation. It was a dwelling place where my mind wanted to go in sympathy to my body.

I almost did it. But then I realized that when inevitable things are avoided in the moment of their best application, the season we select to be involved in is rarely as fruitful. Bluntly, life comes with opportunity when it’s needed–and putting it off leaves us with the arduous pursuit but often with less reward. For example, by midday it would have been hotter, more crowded at the store, and we would have a room lacking provisions. My dwelling place of comfort, happiness and relaxation was robbing me of my potential. I realized then and there that what we are comfortable with–or even what brings us happiness and relaxes us–can often be just a cop-out from getting what we truly need and deserve. A dwelling place can be a trap if it has no way of letting in the light, windows for fresh air and doors to escape when we require further expansion.

For after all, there are three things that want to settle into each of our souls and find dwelling:

(1) Prejudice. Of course, we don’t call it prejudice. Each one of us refers to our own personal prejudice as “experience.” Nonetheless, any idea that disincludes other people from having their own liberty is prejudice.

(2) We are often happy with our own insecurity.

  •  “I don’t want to go to that party–I don’t know anyone.”
  • “I don’t want to get a new job. You have to fill out all those applications and meet all those new people.”
  • “I don’t feel well, but I sure don’t want to go to the doctor. They give me the creeps.” 

Each one of us can be happy in our own insecurities, never realizing that these fears are keeping us from our better selves.

(3) And unfortunately, we can become very relaxed with failure. Here’s a definition: Failure is settling back into a position because we’re tired of trying. Failure is an old friend who makes an agreement to not criticize us if we won’t criticize him. Attempting to do new things and improve life for ourselves can be quite exhausting but to become relaxed with our failure, assuming that it’s our lot–or even worse, God’s will–is a dwelling place which becomes a cave, absent of light.

It was a good morning. I went to the store and overcame my prejudice, insecurity and failure. To do that, for a moment I had to relinquish my comfort, jeopardize my happiness and certainly give up my relaxation. The end result was that I got what I needed, I have what I want and my new dwelling place is the confidence in my soul that when choices are given to me–to remain the same or to improve my plight–I am capable of choosing righteously.

Beware of dwelling places that keep the air stale and the confines enclosed. They may make you comfortable, happy and even relaxed, but ultimately, a dwelling place can just become a prison.

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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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