Untotaled: Stepping 47 (April 20th, 1969) Demise… December 27, 2014

  Jonathots Daily Blog

(2456)

(Transcript)

Even though I only lived a few blocks from the high school, I drove my car there–because I could.

I also went home for lunch even though it was basically against policy. Once again, because I could.

On April 20th, I decided to drive to my abode to raid the refrigerator, avoiding the cafeteria surprises. On my way I stopped off at my mom and dad’s little loan company and there was a note on the door. It read:

Closed. Family Emergency.

I knew what that meant.

My dad was in failing health. More accurately stated, he was dying. Forty-five years of cigarette smoking had caught up with him, riddling his body with cancer. So desperate was his situation that there was a quiet celebration among the family when it was discovered that the disease had spread to his brain and in doing so, had closed off the pain centers, making him less of the suffering soul.

I didn’t want to go to the house but I knew it was expected. I pulled up in the driveway and was climbing the steps to the porch when I first heard it: from the upstairs, through the walls, was the hideous volume of my dad gasping for air.

It was a death rattle.

I could not bring myself to go in. I turned around, headed back to school and was so angry–at my dad and at myself–that I skipped the next two classes.

I was furious at myself for being so cowardly, and a rotten person because I didn’t want to be near my father in his last moments.

And I was infuriated with him for destroying his body with smoke instead of dealing with his inadequacies.

I arrived back at school for the last hour of classes. After the session was over for the day I headed to a friend’s house and hung out for the rest of the evening.

Nobody knew where I was. I liked it that way.

I arrived home at ten o’clock. My older brother was waiting for me. He told me that our dad had passed away a couple of hours earlier.

I didn’t feel much, barely even noticing how pissed off my brother was that I hadn’t been there for the death-bed.

He was my dad–but I never knew him. And in like manner, he didn’t know that much about me.

Now he was dead. His ashes of ashes would turn to dust.

I cried.

Honestly, it was not for my lost parent. I cried, feeling sorry for myself.

He deserved a better son. But he should have been wise enough to realize that teenage sons don’t get better.

That is the duty and the mission … of a father.

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Jesonian: Jesus of Parkersburg … October 25, 2014

 Jonathots Daily Blog

(2393)

bearded man in headlamp big

Cara is hard at work, desperately trying to finish up an extra half-shift she has taken on to earn some extra money for her two children at home, who want to go on a field trip to Charleston with their class.

Things have been tough since her husband left early last year, without any explanation.

She’s working double shifts for single-digit dollars, trying to singlehandedly be a mother, provider, disciplinarian, and if there’s any time left over, companion to her fledglings.

She doesn’t need much.

Some encouragement would be nice.

Maybe just to not have people look down on her because her clothes are a bit bedraggled.

Maybe one night off, to laugh instead of budget.

She needs Jesus of Parkersburg.

She needs him not to be religious, but rather, helpful.

Maybe to just listen.

She needs him to tell her that she’s still only thirty-three years old, that her life isn’t over, and she’s not just a paycheck trying to fund her little tykes into an uncertain adulthood.

****

Matt has the afternoon off to go to Wal-mart to buy some incidentals–clothing and shoes–for his family. He tries to plan this trip to the Superstore once a month, taking a good bite out of his paycheck, hoping that they can make all the macaroni last as long as the cheese.

He doesn’t mind the hard work at the coal mines. He doesn’t care that often his safety may not be the primal concern of those who run the company. He has enough faith in God to get him in and out of the tunnels everyday without fear.

But it sure would be nice if Jesus of Parkersburg would lighten the load just a little bit. Not much.

Maybe give him a few extra dollars so he could buy some insulation for the house so that the winter months wouldn’t be so brutally cold and expensive.

Maybe Jesus could help him get a break on that medication that one of his young’uns needs, which the doctor insists will help with the repeated seizures.

Matt’s not a demanding sort, but he sure would appreciate a break.

*****

Calvin hangs out down next to the railroad tracks on the east side of town. He’s officially homeless, in the sense that he neither has an address nor a pillow on which to lay his head.

He begs next to the railroad tracks because when somebody does give him a quarter or a dollar, he jokingly runs across the tracks and says, “Thank you. Now, you just helped me get on the right side of the tracks.”

Ever since his wife was killed by a drunk driver, he has lost much of the will to pursue or succeed. It was just the two of them, and now that’s it just one of them, he feels no compulsion to over-produce.

But he sure could use Jesus of Parkersburg.

Maybe somebody could just come along and pop him a twenty-dollar bill so he could remember what the taste of a good hamburger is in his mouth.

Yes, that would be nice.

Maybe Jesus of Parkersburg could help him find a way to get back into life, and feel important to someone again, like he was to his loving mate.

For you see, Calvin’s not miserable. Just underused.

*****

And then there’s Tim–a young man who’s hanging out at the Dairy Barn, even though it’s set to soon close for the winter months.

He’s not sure where to go. A junior in high school, he’s not adept in sports, can’t sing in the choir, couldn’t afford a band instrument even if the school still had a band.

So he finds himself with a lot of time on his hands, with a bunch of mischief trying to tease and tempt him into some unnecessary choices.

Tim sure could use Jesus of Parkersburg.

Just someone to come along, put an arm around his shoulder and say, “Listen kid. Let’s go out, find what you can do really well, and then get you to doing it.”

He might rebel against such interference, but considering that Jesus is so compassionate and full of good cheer, he just might listen.

For after all, when the Dairy Barn closes, where is he going to go?

*****

You see, the problem is, there is no Jesus of Parkersburg.

There’s no Messiah walking around healing the sick and raising the dead.

For the next twenty-four hours, there’s me. Makes me feel sorry for the good folk of this town. They deserve so much better.

But since there is no Jesus of Parkersburg, I’m going to think, pray, laugh and try really hard, in my own clumsy way, to be Jesus… in Parkersburg.

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Untotaled: Stepping 35 (May 8th, 1967) The Sanbobs … October 11, 2014

Jonathots Daily Blog

(2377)

(Transcript)

They were called the Sanbobs.

They were one of three rock and roll bands in our school, although I use the term “band” loosely, to cover a multitude of whims.

They were headed by a guy named Chip Sanford. He worked with a fellow named Bob Wigglesworth. Thus, the Sanbobs.

Now, Chip did not like me, which caused Bob to follow suit in loyalty. I think the reason Chip didn’t like me very well was that he was chubby, wore glasses, and people were constantly saying that we “could be brothers,” which is a certain way to make sure that people won’t have an affinity for each other. I think another reason was that Chip played piano and so did I. I used my gifts in the gospel field, while he was drawn to the Troggs, the Beatles and the Kinks.

The Sanbobs had four members. As I already told you–Chip was on piano, Bob Wigglesworth on guitar (knowing an amazing five chords), Mark Jackson on drums, who was highly recommended for his loud playing, and Larry Mankins on bass–even though he couldn’t afford an electric one, so instead thumped on a stand-up, which left him appearing to be very vigorous, but unheard.

The biggest happening in the spring of 1967 in our school was that Chip got a new electric organ. It was so cool. So it was decided that the Sanbobs would be scheduled to play for the spring dance, and the diligent members of the quartet went out and learned six songs.

The only problem was that one of the songs they selected was Louie, Louie–which had already been banned by the state of Indiana for having obscene lyrics. Now, we lived in Ohio, but certainly did not want to seem immoral by advocating such a “loose tune.” When word got out to the principal’s office that the Sanbobs were planning to play the piece, a meeting was held and it was forbidden.

The FBI had investigated the lyrics, and had come to the conclusion that they were basically unintelligible. (The Kingsmen had made sure of that.) But just to play it safe, the song was still considered to be nefarious.

On the night of the dance, after they had played each of their five songs three times over, the Sanbobs decided to rebel against authority, and began to play Louie, Louie. The girls screamed in delight and the young men clapped their hands, peering at each other lasciviously.

It took a few minutes for the adults to figure out what was going on, but when they did, they proceeded to the stage to stop the performance. To my surprise, about twenty-five of the kids rushed the platform, locked their arms, and forbade the teachers from getting near the band, as the Sanbobs continued to croon the bewildering poetry.

(I was one of the participants who scattered to a corner of the gym in horror, like a mouse being chased by the handmaiden’s broom.)

When the teachers were unable to get through the “Red Rover, Red Rover” line-up, they decided to kill the electricity, which left the gymnasium encompassed in darkness.

At first there were some “oohs” and “aahs” and screams, which gradually became whispers and culminated in silence. The teachers, not sure what was going on in the dark, restored the juice and discovered that the students were making out with each other.

So it became a choice–which vice did you want to promote? Louie, Louie, with its garbled goodies, or a make-out session in the high school gym?

So the Sanbobs were allowed to finish their song, but an early termination of the dance was proclaimed.

Of course, as the years have gone by, it is obvious that nobody was really defiled by a single rock and roll song. It was prejudice, fear, apprehension and narrow-mindedness which did that to us.

 

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Parallel Universe … October 21, 2013

Jonathots Daily Blog

(2042)

oxen“What are the cool kids doing?”

I thought that question would be a phenomenon of high school and would disappear, or at least dissipate, in importance when I entered the unknown realm of “Grown-ups-ville.” Now that I’ve occupied that territory as a resident for several decades, I will tell you that we are still oppressed, possessed and obsessed by “what the cool kids do.”

Perhaps the most annoying factor in this scenario is the process by which we determine who the cool kids ARE. Normally three ingredients:

  1. Popularity
  2. Money
  3. What they get by with

So much to my chagrin, as I travel across the country, I see perfectly wonderful, kind people under the spell of a temporary haze of confusion by a political arena that is back-biting and ferocious and a spirituality which only offers flavors in bubblegum and castor oil.

It is most unfortunate.

It is rather doubtful if we will be able to deter people from chasing the ways of the cool kids. Our only hope would be to change the roster of that particular group of people.

Yes, to a certain degree we are all victims of this quandary, in which we have a tendency to imitate the people in our society who have power, money and who get away with things, performing it in our own little homespun three-act play.

So churches, organizations and even families are plagued with much more bickering, fussiness and dogmatic attitudes because we are told by our media pundits that this is the “way of the world” and is the best avenue for getting what you want.

It will take some awfully brave people to counteract this misery. Therefore I woke up this morning and asked myself: who do I want to be?

I guess I would like to have the strength of an ox.

I chose the ox NOT because of the age-old reputation, but because the creature is deliberate, mighty and uncomplaining. For I’m sure that an ox has aches and pains, but nothing will deter it from its labor.

For me, I want the mind of Jesus.

Why? It blends wit and tenderness, which will win the day if given the opportunity to perform.

I guess I would like to have the spirit of Abraham Lincoln.

For as you study his life, you realize he was a gentle soul with an iron will, a sense of humor and more questions than answers about his faith. There’s a healthiness to that which keeps your spirituality moving forward instead of settling into your favorite pew.

And emotionally, I would like to be the perfect merger of a child and a soldier:

The simplicity of a child’s curiosity and honest about my own needs, and the bravery of a soldier, who realizes that sometimes my wants are negated by reality, and I need to march on.

Where I see these attributes in my society, I will praise them. Where I don’t, I will avoid them.

  • I want to be a strong ox
  • with the mind of the son of God
  • and the spirit of an emancipator
  • while sporting the simplicity of a child and the courage of a soldier.

This creates my parallel universe to our present earth-bound logic.

If you’re looking, that is where you’ll find me.

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The Day After… July 5, 2013

Jonathots Daily Blog

(1934)

The day after I was born, I was a squalling, moody, pink blob of pending poop.

The day after my first kindergarten class, I was confused by the ABC’s, hoping and praying we would spend more time with round-tipped scissors and delicious paste.

The day after puberty began, I was greatly enamored with my abilities and appearance while frightened that I had five more years of school and celibacy.

The day after I graduated from high school, I was shocked by how little the world cared.

The day after I got married, I realized that my wife needed a man, and I had no idea whatsoever where to find one.

The day after my first son was born, I was surprised that no one would let me be a child with him.

The day after I nearly died, I concluded that life is brief and unsympathetic to the procrastinator.

And …

The day after they signed the Declaration of Independence, very frightened patriots probably wished they could take it back.

Fear is what intelligent people do to buy some time to gain courage.

The day after I die, I will know if what I believe is real–or just a bunch of crap.

Scary.

Lord, grant me the time … to muster bravery.

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Laughing or Lying … June 15, 2013

(1913)

smiling sonsI do wish I would have learned it sooner.

It would have been advantageous to apply this priceless principle to all seven of my sons in the process of training them to be human beings, instead of just sporadically stumbling upon the idea.

It’s really quite simple: people are much more likely to tell the truth in an atmosphere of levity, laughter and good cheer than they are in a climate of challenge, seriousness and intimidation.

It’s a mistake every parent has made. We scare our children away from telling the truth because we walk into the room with a stern face and ask them to sit down as we explain in vivid detail how important it is to share the real story, brows furrowed.

It scares the truth right out of them.

They will do anything in the world to change that disconsolate face in front of them back into an understanding, gentle parent-visage. They want to say the right thing, so in the process they end up saying the wrong thing: a lie.

You even see it in the Garden of Eden. God made the mistake of walking in and saying, “Why are you hiding from me?” instead of joking with them about how their fig-leaf aprons were not very attractive.

People tell the truth more quickly if they’re surrounded by the reassurance that nothing is going to be taken too seriously, and redemption is possible because joy is already present.

When I was in high school, a bunch of my friends would get together to laugh, and in no time at all, we were telling deep secrets to each other. But if anyone had walked in and in an austere voice demanded that we tell our stories and become transparent about our feelings, we would have returned to the Kingdom of Lying, telling tales we believed to be pleasing to our intruder.

Can I make it this simple? When it comes to human beings, it’s a choice between laughing or lying. If you can’t get people to relax through good cheer and laughter, realizing that nothing is the end of the world, they will always resort to some sort of misrepresentation of the facts, just to try to get things back to normal and hopefully, restore the comedy.

As I said, I wish I had learned this sooner–as a parent. There were times that I actually WAS tickled by how stupid my children’s actions were, so I mocked them, getting them to laugh over their misdeeds, and in no time at all they were confessing other wrong things they had done.

But every time I walked in with that growly face of disapproval, I scared them away from being open to me. No wonder people who believe in an angry God spend their whole lives in deception. It is not surprising that folks involved in a threatening relationship are constantly lying to one another.

Laughter or lying–it’s why I always try to get my audiences to “lighten up” and chuckle at the world around them, and even the world inside them. Then a release valve permits them to unload their real feelings instead of manufacturing safe choices.

So on the eve of this Father’s Day, keep in mind that you can try to be the big boss of your household and scare your family into submission, but what you’ll end up with are words thrown your way to please you … which usually have nothing to do with the real heart of the matter.

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******

 Jonathots, Jr.!

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******

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Lame Excuses… October 25, 2012

(1,679)

Live from October 1st filming

Woosies, wimps and weenies.

Truthfully, we all probably take our turn donning one of these unfortunate personas. As human beings, we aspire to be sympathetic toward the weaknesses of others, but privately, we really desire that people suffer quietly and find their own means of overcoming. When they don’t, at first we muster a reserve portion of compassion that we save for such an occasion, and then, after an hour or so, we want to either excuse ourselves before we blow our brains out with a gun out of boredom, or accidentally say something mean.

You may not feel as strongly about this as I just stated, but overall, most of us do admire bravery and kind of shrink back from cowardice.

This is why, when I have pulled up lame recently, I have been careful to share–both on jonathots and in my personal life–a sense of well-being along with my candor about my exploits. So I went into my performance last night feeling quite brave and filled with a shield of valor over mixing the joy of honesty with the power of faith.

But you see, somewhere in the cosmos there is a little creature. I envision this booger to be about two feet tall, with fuzzy blond hair sticking straight up, a turned-up nose, a silly grin and big feet, similar in appearance to those of a rabbit. This being seems to have one function–to run into our lives in the midst of what we consider to be an outstanding presentation of balanced living and intelligent choices, and to hop up and down on everything around us, destroying all of our plans while giggling hilariously at his own antics.

I have even given this creature a name. He is a jeeber. His job is to take human beings who have become self-righteous, self-involved, self-piteous or self-aggrandizing about their own efforts, and expose the woosie, wimp and weenie lying beneath. He is so annoying that some people have actually referred to him as the devil, but in reality he possesses no Satanic attributes whatsoever–just a naughty predilection for disruption. Let me give you an example based upon last night.

I was feeling very self-assured that I was handling my current situation with my legs with fortitude. Now, I did have a set-back earlier in the week, when I got my emotional cart before my physical horse and tried to do too much, and ended up falling down in the parking lot of my motel, wallowing for a few moments in the left-over grease of a 1996 Ford Escort. But I was able to recover from that little piece of embarrassment, make better choices and literally regain my footing.

So as I headed off to the church last night to do my show, Janet revealed to me that this particular building had no ramps, so I would be required to roll in and then climb up five or six steps on my ailing limbs. This would also have to be accomplished in front of a few strangers, so I sucked it up, thinking that I was being extraordinarily broad-minded in expressing supernatural willingness.

The the jeeber showed up. The jeeber had all sorts of things planned for me last night in an attempt to expose all of my woosie, weenie and wimp. The steps were not easy, and then, arriving at the top and preparing to do our sound check, I discovered that the power amp for our public address system was not working. Reaching over to try to pick up the amp to do some repair, I jammed my thumb into the piano and began to bleed. No Kleenex could be found to help staunch my bloodiness, so I took a piece of paper to cover up my leakage.

We took the amp back into a room, where I planned to rewire the plug, and the knife I was working with to achieve this purpose slipped from my grasp and I cut the thumb on my left hand. Now I was bleeding in two places. It wasn’t a great loss of blood, just a continual reminder.

I could hear the jeeber laughing.

So I worked on this power amp for about fifteen minutes, realizing the true depth of my intelligence and the full extent of my ignorance. In other words, I couldn’t fix it. So I had to humbly ask our sponsor if we could use one microphone from their system, and Janet procured an amplifier from our car to play her wind machine and we quickly glanced over our program to see which songs would sound just short of horrible without our own security blanket of sound system.

Meanwhile, people were arriving and I was trying to hide my blood flow from the masses, which I think is always an act of extreme courtesy. It was obvious that we were not going to be able to make any kind of normal entrance onto the stage, as most performers are permitted to do, but instead, we remained in the front of the auditorium, trying to piece together a program, resembling janitors cleaning up confetti after a political convention.

While I was trying to figure out how to sop up some of the excess blood from my thumbs, I looked up and suddenly there was a woman standing in front of me, greeting me with the frightening statement: “Do you remember me?”

I could hear the jeeber laughing.

I don’t know how I did it, but I was able to retrieve her name. She was one of my comrades forty years ago in high school. She looked absolutely lovely, and was filled with great spirit, and I looked beleaguered, and perhaps in need, at this point, of a blood transfusion.

I had no idea what was going to happen.

“Woosie Jonathan” wanted to show up and make excuses. He is very good at that, especially when there is so much material available to justify the reasoning. I resisted him.

“Wimpy Jonathan” suggested that we make some sort of joke about the cuts on the hands to gain both sympathy and possibly make an adequate diversion from the lacking of equipment and sound. I dodged him.

Meanwhile, I could hear the giggling of my jeeber from the corner of the room.

Then “Weenie Jonathan” made an appearance. He’s the one that always makes the point that things “aren’t fair.” He wonders why God has allowed additional hassle to arrive when there seemed to be a sufficient arsenal of the weaponry of pain already stockpiled. After all, I was battling my legs, I climbed the stairs … My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken me?

It was a bit of a struggle, but I finally defeated Weenie Jonathan. For here’s the truth. Here is why jeebers exist. They are life’s way of reminding us that we are not as weak as we think we are. If everything actually went according to our aspiring notions, we would never experience any scenario that puts our abilities and talents to a complete test.

The evening was beautiful. The people were luscious. And woosie, wimp and weenie were shuttled off–exit, stage right. I think, around nine o’clock, I saw jeeber stomp out the front door with his big feet flopping, disappointed that he had not gotten more ha-ha’s out of my flaw-flaws.

Anybody can make an excuse, especially when you’re lame. Thus the name: lame excuses. But even though we think we have a case for being a woosie, a wimp and a weenie, there are no feelings of accomplishment when we give into the jeebers. All we feel is typical.

So jeebers, creepers–where’d you get those … well, I’m not sure. But I know this. Because we’re never tempted beyond what we can bear, when it seems that extra hassle arrives, it is one of those rare opportunities to find out if our talent has enough water … to get us through the desert.

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