Untotaled: Stepping 27 (June 15th, 1966) Piano Boy … August 16, 2014

Jonathots Daily Blog

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(Transcript)

The Shelby Valley United Methodist Church tracked me down and invited our little quartet to come “two Sundays coming” to sing at their church during the morning service.

I almost swallowed my heart, which had leapt into my mouth. Without me knowing, we had become famous.

I was so thrilled that I ran and told my friends and were all jumping up and down over the prospect of becoming a “travelin’ band.”

Now, the Shelby Valley church was a tiny, white clapboard construction just south of town, sitting on the corner of Shelby Valley Road, thus giving it both its charm and name.

Our quartet was accompanied by a lovely young girl named Paula, who was always being hit on by the hormonally drugged young men singing next to her. She liked it. We liked it too because she never picked a favorite, but flirted with all of us.

Now, her father, Elder Kenneth from our church, found out about our performance opportunity. He became enraged because he wasn’t about to let his daughter go elsewhere on a Sunday morning, especially not to a United Methodist Church, where they ignorantly ignored immersion.

He raised such a fuss that I was brought before the pastor and elders of the church to explain the situation. Even though I waxed a bit eloquent with enthusiasm and received approval from the governing body, Kenneth still refused to let his daughter play piano for us, feeling that he had triumphed by removing the music from our singing.

Actually, all he succeeded in doing was pissing off this big, fat white boy.

I grabbed a young friend of mine from our church, the brother of one of our singers. We usually ignored him because he had the foolishness of being a year and a half younger than us. I said I was going to teach him to play piano. His name was Andy–and he was thrilled by the notion of becoming an ivory tickler, even though he had never taken a single lesson.

I, on the other hand, was the veteran of three years of both Shaum and Thompson book training, and so was thoroughly qualified to become his instructor.

We asked the Shelby Church if we could make it six weeks in advance instead of two, and I took that time to work with Andy. And would you believe that by the time we stepped in front of that congregation of “sprinklers” (their preferred baptism method) we had learned six songs with Andy, and he played them perfectly?  (Unfortunately, they asked for an encore, and we had to opt for a capella, which actually made us look quite diversified.)

Andy continued playing piano, within months becoming better than me, and when he graduated from school, played professionally for a while before settling into Illinois, to delight the Illini State with his talent.

What I learned from this experience is that the only way to defeat stupidity, ignorance and bigotry is by coming up with better ideas and proving to them that you really don’t need their help.

Unfortunately, Paula just cried.

 

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What I Learned on my Summer Vacation … September 2, 2013

Jonathots Daily Blog

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first day of school

It’s just about time for the bell to ring.

The first day of school is nearly over when the teacher lifts her hand, commanding silence, and informs the classroom that the only homework required for that evening is to write a 250-word essay on, “What I learned over my summer vacation.” She tells the class that the little journals will be read aloud.

So in the spirit of that memory, I will tell YOU what I learned over my summer vacation.

Candidly, I didn’t vacate anything. In other words, I didn’t go on vacation. I continued my occupation, which includes enough travel that one might think I WAS in the midst of some sort of leisurely activity.

Actually, I signed up for the TMMMIII package: Texas-Missouri-Minnesota-Michigan-IowaIllinoisIndiana.

It’s what most people would refer to as “The Heartland,” even though I’m sure the Lone Star State would object in being included with such Yankee stock.

What I learned was very simple:

1. People are everywhere. They are not going away. They are not here to aggravate us, nor necessarily bless us. You can call them self-involved, but really, what they possess is the natural need for survival.

2. People are the adventure. I somewhat pity individuals who need to get on a roller-coaster ride to convince themselves they are acquiring excitement. For me, I can perch on a bench in a mall and watch humanity walking by, and within moments find plots and subplots for movies, plays and certainly, jonathots. Yes, people are underrated as a source of entertainment and inspiration. Also:

3. People don’t charge admission. On the other hand, if you take a trip to Disney World, you can spend $200 a day–easily. But besides my grits, gravy and well-positioned pillows, my odyssey doesn’t cost much as long as I’m willing to accept the show provided. The danger in life is becoming so stuck in your ways that you need everybody around you to be a certain style or you can’t find joy in them. I’m only human. There ARE people I prefer over others, but I do find all of them intriguing, and I’m very grateful that they don’t try to tap me for funds to participate in their three-ring circus. Which leads to:

4. Enjoy the show. I am thoroughly convinced that our earth journey is about learning to enjoy what comes our way, who comes our way, how it comes our way and even why it comes our way. Too much philosophy makes you grumpy. Too much religion makes you prejudiced. And too much knowledge puts you on a search to uncover the ignorant. I enjoy easing up a bit and allowing myself the chance to take in the main stage of everybody’s life, and let them make their case.

It’s been a fantastic summer, and as I sit here on this Labor Day, I can barely call what I do hard work. To some it would probably seem arduous, but I guess I’m just having too much fun … taking in the scenery.

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Last Night … June 7, 2013

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Arriving back at my motel room after an exciting evening with the dear souls of Primrose United Methodist Church, along with the visitors who gathered for the occasion, I received a phone call from a friend. She asked me what I had done that evening, and I told her I was finishing up a two-night revival at a church.

She giggled a bit and said, “Boy, that sounds old-fashioned

It got me thinking. For after all, to produce the pucker of the kiss of death on ANY idea, all you have to proclaim is that it’s “old-fashioned.”

So it made me wonder if the two nights I spent in Little Rock, Arkansas, really WERE old fashioned.

  • Is it old-fashioned to gather with people you don’t know, with the aspiration of coming out of the experience a little better?
  • Is it old-fashioned to tap your foot to music and release a tear when a lyric to a song lands with truth on your heart?
  • Is it old-fashioned to share a piece of pizza with a new-found friend, content with the simplicity and never wishing it was lobster in drawn butter?
  • Is it old-fashioned to laugh out loud, without fear of being considered boisterous?
  • Is it old-fashioned to clap your hands in appreciation, and also in praise to a God who has decided to be your Father?
  • Is it old-fashioned to contend and come to agreement that “NoOne is better than anyone else?”
  •  Is it old-fashioned to listen to music you’ve never heard before, and instead of rejecting it because it isn’t in the normal rotation of your tunes, you listen and receive a blessing?
  • Is it old-fashioned to welcome strangers in and work real hard to make sure that when they depart they know how much they are loved and welcomed back?
  • Is it old-fashioned to offer a tank of gas to a traveling group of troubadours so they can make their way up to Illinois?
  • Is it old-fashioned that even though you are the pastor of a church, to get out of your car to wash the windshield of their van, as a symbol of your appreciation?
  • Is it old-fashioned to come to the front of a church and sit in a chair to receive prayer because you’re not quite sure that there ISN’T room for improvement?
  • Is it old-fashioned to believe–and experience–more people coming out the second night of a meeting than were there the first?

You see? You can feel free to call me weird, and you can try to keep up with each trend that comes and goes in our society, but whenever I run across anything that claims to be “new and improved” I ask myself two important questions:

  1. Does it help people?
  2. Does it make us better?

I don’t believe there ARE things that are old-fashioned and others that are up to date. I just believe there are things that bless–and the more you pursue them, the fresher they become … every day.

P.S.: Thank you, Primrose United Methodist Church.

P.S.S. Happy thirty-seventh birthday to my son, Jerrod.

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Just One More… November 17, 2012

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Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, California, Nevada, Utah, Colorado, Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia.

All of these places have been my home this year. I have established a temporary address in each one in an attempt to achieve some permanent results. It has been Tour 2012–and it finishes off tomorrow morning in New Albany, Indiana. You will probably never visit New Albany, Indiana. You don’t have to go … because I’ll take you with me.

At one of my stop-offs in Grand Junction, Colorado, a man asked me what my favorite scripture was. I thought he was just trying to make conversation, so I turned the tables on him and asked him to tell me his favorite passage. He said it was a toss-up between for God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son” and “nothing can separate us from the love of God.”

I told him I thought those were excellent choices. He pursued. “But what’s your favorite one?”

“My favorite one is found in the gospels,where it reads, ‘and Jesus went to another village.’

He looked at me, perplexed. I didn’t expect him to totally understand. For you see, the power of the gospel does not lie in the establishment of a church–the organization of religion into practices and rituals. The power of the gospel is that it travels well and is best expressed when it’s moving. It’s why Jesus said, “Foxes have holes but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.”

My traveling enables me to come into a town and love people, bring some incentives, make a few suggestions and exhort the areas where they are pursuing better paths–and then leave, allowing them, as mature people, to assimilate the message into their lives as they deem powerful. The danger of remaining in one community and believing that you can make a difference is that we all have a tendency to settle…and meddle. We “settle” into a series of repetitive actions determined to be normal, and then, when other people don’t follow our structure, we have a tendency to “meddle” in their affairs, taking away their freedom to be who God has made them to be.

Sometimes we use politics, sometimes we use corporations, but usually we use religious conviction as a club, attempting to hammer people into submission to the will of our local village.

It is most unfortunate.

Traveling as I do, I don’t have to “settle” for anything. I can live my life as I choose and share my discoveries with others without feeling the need for them to either condemn or affirm my purposes. Therefore, I don’t hang around long enough to meddle in their affairs or critique their concerns when those particular selections are not to my favor.

So you might ask me how you can do the same thing–to escape “settling and meddling”–and still maintain the integrity of a local post office box. That’s really easy. God gives every one of us a “tour schedule.” The beauty for most of you is that you don’t ever have to leave your own home. That tour schedule is called Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

Yes, all of you can be on a tour–as long as everything that happens on Monday is not carried over to your next stop, on Tuesday. So you have your Monday tour and then you climb into your wonderful tour bus of sleep to journey onto your next gig, which is called Tuesday. Now, if you take along the problems of Monday or celebrate too many of the victories, without being fully aware that the next tour stop will have its own conflicts, then you make a huge mistake. But as long as you live within the day, not worrying about tomorrow, and you don’t fuss over the affairs of the last performance from the day before, you can find yourself in the same position I do–touring.

For after all, we’re all just visiting this place anyway. And those who put down their roots too deeply become very dissatisfied, disillusioned and discontented at the brevity of the visitation.

So I have one more stop tomorrow–but actually, I never stop. Because even as I go on to Nashville, Tennessee, to eat Thanksgiving with my family, and then climb back into my van to tour for ten days with a Christmas presentation, to finally, arrive in Miami to spend the holidays with all my kin, I am always moving on. Sometimes it’s just from Monday to Tuesday; sometimes it’s from New Albany, Indiana to Knoxville, Tennessee. The gospel works best when you don’t try to make your location concrete, but instead, understand that we’re all just passing through–one day at a time.

“And Jesus went to another village…”

A lady recently told Janet that she had come to the conclusion that we were homeless. I guess in some people’s minds it might appear that way. Of course, for fifty years now, I have been a follower of a homeless man who ended up traveling around–and in so doing, changed the whole world. I guess I rather admire his choices, and pattern some of mine after them.

So you will find me, for the rest of my life, going to another village. You may follow suit by keeping your favorite pillow but permitting yourself the blessing of traveling from Monday to Tuesday without feeling the need to worry about the former day or be too concerned about the next one.

Just remember one of the great rules of the road: it’s not polite to steal towels from your last lodging.

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Korny … March 23, 2012

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It’s what we decided to call it since we were in our early twenties and most of our smarts were south of our head.

The actual name was Kearney … Nebraska. And I was more than halfway there, crossing the Illinois border, before it finally soaked into my post-adolescent brain that we were driving too far to perform at a church with only fifty people.

But we were desperate. Now, there is a certain amount of desperation necessary to be twenty-four years old. But we had a rock/gospel group called Soul Purpose that had become a trio–nurturing a sound, writing songs and frantically trying to find people within a one hundred mile radius of our home in Westerville, Ohio, who had not heard us, rejected us, ignored us or were not already raving fans. (We originally were a quartet but soon discovered that it is chemically impossible for people of our age and maturity to co-exist in fours.) So the three of us were bound and determined to become famous for our musical abilities, writing talents and performance attributes, come hell or high water (whatever that means).

So when we were gigging at a coffee-house in Tiffin, Ohio, a young man from Kearney, Nebraska, invited us to come out to his church to share. Normal people would ask how far or how much. But we were musicians, so our only question was … “when??” It was set up, and through some careful budgeting we discovered that we would need twenty-five dollars to buy food supplies and gasoline for the journey there, which meant we would need twenty-five dollars to get home, and hopefully, if the people were generous, we could get an additional twenty-five dollars so we could languish in a motel one evening on the way back.

As you can see the plan was flawless, without error. There was only one hitch. We didn’t have twenty-five dollars. All we possessed was a birthday present one of the girls had just received from her parents, purchased at Lazarus Department Store. So with the agreement of my generous cohort, we took her present to Lazarus, returned it, got the cash and had the front money for “Tour Korny.” We went to the store and bought food supplies–baloney, bread, chips and candy (the basic four  food groups)–filled our van up with gas and launched. We were so excited. We were an American Band.

We arrived at the church and if possible, it was even smaller than our lowest expectation. There were thirty-eight people present–Nebraska farmers who stared at us a little bit like Three Dog Night had suddenly invaded their community. We sang our songs. We had some new ones. They were really good, even though I wouldn’t consider this particular group of people to be our target market. But they listened politely, kindly and even occasionally would applaud. The pastor seemed to squirm in his seat a little bit–because my hair was too long and the girls were not exactly dressed in normal Cornhusker fashion. But it was an era of greater tolerance–or perhaps simply better manners or just abundant fear.

We finished our program to an ovation minus the standing and prerequisite clapping. It was time for the offering. We needed seventy-five dollars to make the trip complete and to guarantee ourselves a nice motel room to sleep in and shower. I carried the offering plates out to my van and quickly counted the proceeds. $64.12.

We had suddenly moved to Plan B … or was it C? We had covered the cost of re-purchasing the gift at Lazarus, the money for eats and gas to return–and probably had enough left over to purchase some souvenirs to prove to our friends that we had actually left the state of Ohio. But we didn’t have enough for a motel room. I was tired, which by my standards today, I would refer to as totally exhausted. I knew we wouldn’t make it far on the road before crashing into a corn field. I didn’t want to sleep in the van at a rest area, so even though I was embarrassed, I walked up to the pastor and asked him if he would be so kind as to allow us to bunk out in the basement of the church for the evening, telling him that we wouldn’t be any trouble and would be gone before he arrived in the morning for coffee and morning prayers following hospital visitations.

He paused, wrinkling his brow. I wondered what he was thinking. I wanted to add further information, but really had none, so I just waited. He cleared his throat and then contemplated some more. Nervously, I interjected. “I’ll tell you what. We’ll even clean up the basement before we leave.”

It was so stupid that my brain wanted to run away in total humiliation. Finally he spoke.

“It’s not that,” he said. “It’s just … well, it’s just that I would want to make sure that you and the girls would not be in the lower regions of our Holy House–fornicating.” 

(To be continued)

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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.

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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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