Jesonian … September 11th, 2018

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I think you’re right, Johann.

Turning the other cheek can be scary on many levels. Some people think it’s ridiculous–they contend that if you don’t fight back, you’ll be destroyed.

But here’s the problem with fighting: nobody fights to lose.

Did you hear that? That means if a discussion becomes an argument and ends up being a fight, the individual who is trained the most to be violent and has the greater stamina will win the day.

Do we really want that?

Some years ago I stumbled on a fist fight in an alley in a large city. A little crowd had gathered because two men who were obviously over-soaked in alcohol had decided to square off.

The whole affair lasted less than thirty seconds, because within fifteen seconds of swinging at each other–and mostly missing–they were so out of breath that they had to crumple to their knees just to gain air.

God forgive me–I laughed.

We want to come across so tough, yet are we actually willing to fight? And if we decide to fight, are we going to get ourselves in shape at a level of anger to win?

There are three things for certain:

If you’re going to destroy an eye in someone else, you have to be willing to lose one yourself.

If you’re going to kill the enemy, you must be prepared to die.

And if you’re going to get physical with your retaliation, you must have the skill to overcome the person that is coming at you.

Johann, Jesus said this was unrealistic. Who has the time, in the middle of trying to live a joyous, giddy and peaceful life, to go into the gym and train to be a killer?

So sometimes, instead of punching back, you lay back, and see if conversation can return instead of taking something to blows.

It is scary.

It’s scary for the person who has to do it, and it’s very scary for the person who is facing such courage.

Turning the other cheek is not an option. It is the only doorway available for most of us humans who don’t want to spend our lives lifting weights and punching bags.

*****

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Catchy (Sitting 64) One Year Persisted… September 2nd, 2018

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365.

An odd number–a peculiar collection of time to signify the passing of one year of human life.

Matthew got well.

Not better. Not what a physician would call a “marked improvement.” Rather, Matthew took the little piece of liver from the life of Michael Hinston and generated it into a new human form. He was grateful–especially at first.

At Michael’s funeral, he wept like a baby, testifying as Lazarus, who had risen from the dead, of his appreciation and humility over being afforded such a gift.

He mourned. In the process of mourning, he found comfort in his old friends, who he once believed to be adversaries trapped in a religious fervor which frightened him.

But as time passed, and it did, he was less and less concerned about the past and more and more curious about what might lie in the future.

He was unable to find Leonora. She had done the impossible–disappeared. He checked musicians unions, concert halls and even companies that sold oboe reeds, to see if they had any information on his Leonora. She was gone–and if her goal was to make her retreat clean and complete, she had been successful.

Matthew tried to bury himself in the work. Even though his thankfulness had an air of spirituality to it, his human doubts had grown even stronger with the death of Michael and the loss of Leonora.

He feigned appreciation. He imitated faith. It wasn’t completely absent from his soul–just waiting in line behind hundreds and hundreds of unanswered questions.

Carlin became his good friend. The work of Terrance Eldridge, with his book, “Amerikin,” had spread into the Hispanic community, and also the Asians. There was a move to see Mr. Eldridge run for President, and rather than taking on the mantle of either party, he began “the Lincoln Party,” with the slogan, “Ameri-Can when Amerikin.”

He was rising in the polls daily, but more importantly, at least to Carlin, a true dialogue on the roots of racism had spread across the country, producing both solace, and at times, violent reactions.

Terrence Eldridge’s nephew was assassinated at one of the rallies. The act was caught on film by the networks. The shooter was a member of an emerging and marauding group of citizens who called themselves “The Migrators.” They were unashamedly advocating for an Anglo-Saxon, white America, and were gradually moving their families to Montana to escape the insanity of “racial blurring.” Thus, the name, “Migrators.”

Jubal took his meeting with Milton, and began to market the word Jesonian like a new cereal from Kellogg. Everyone seemed to love a term that described belief in Jesus without an allegiance to the religious system. Matter of fact, many of the Protestant denominations began to advertise themselves as “Jesonian Baptists” or “Jesonian Methodists” or “Jesonian Pentecostals.”

Jubal tried to visit Milton once a week to get a burst of inspiration, clarity and enthusiasm, to take out into his Jesonian rallies, which now offered a definition for what once had been a frat party with a Bible.

Soos mourned Michael Hinston. Matter of fact, money was provided for a permanent memorial in Salisbury, North Carolina, called “Soulsbury USA,” dedicated to Michael Hinston. Since no charges were filed against him before his death, those pursuing the indictment quickly faded away, figuring that any incrimination cast on the man would only create a backlash for them.

Jasper labored with Mickey Kohlberg at the Sinai Club. It was not easy. Gradually, comedians from America and even pop stars made the pilgrimage to the site, under heavy guard, to share their talents and add their agreement. It was one of those things that was popular for a few months, until things went back to normal.

Mickey continued to hold nightly comedy routines at the club. There were threats and occasional bombings, but he persevered. Finally, both the governments of Israel and Syria condemned the project and made it illegal to participate. For a few weeks, some faithful Arabs and Jews persisted, but eventually it was just Mickey.

One night in June, with the stars and the moon as witnesses, he walked into the club, which was empty, stood on the stage, and he launched into his routine.

Jasper was due to arrive the next day to discuss future plans on how to transform the seeds of the idea into an international movement. But Mickey decided to go to the club one more time, faithfully, as he had done every night since its inception.

He was standing onstage, talking to an empty room with a microphone in his hand, when a young fellow–no more than a teenager, clad in black robes and a black hood–stepped into the back. He lifted up an assault rifle, aimed it at Mickey and began to recite prayers.

Mickey, knowing there was no escape, said loudly into the microphone, “So now I will know what it’s like to die onstage.”

The young man fired and fired again, and fired a third time, even though Mickey had fallen to the ground dead.

In happier news, the movement of Careless, with the billionaire donors and the E.I.O. farms, had sprouted great victories. Careless had succeeded in putting together what he referred to as “The Faithful Five,” a quintet of billionaires determined to change the world with their dollars. Not only did they use their money to fund great ideas, which offered cures, answers, plans and relief, but they also pooled together to quietly, behind the scenes, purchase the two largest providers of medicine in the United States and the free world.

Upon gaining controlling interest of the companies, they immediately lowered the cost of the drugs necessary to keep people alive and thriving. They challenged hospitals to stop being profit-making machines and return to the position of sanctuaries for the sick.

It was a drastic transition. Everybody in every corner of the world felt the impact, both in their pocketbook and their sense of well-being.

There was a split in the Catholic Church. Sister Rolinda becoming a priest had created such great havoc that those of the ancient ways felt the need to separate themselves from the apostate.

It was very simply dubbed, “Old World Catholic” and “New World Catholic,” divided rather evenly geographically between East and West, and poor and solvent.

The Old Church kept the old world with the old problems of old destitution.

The New World Catholics rejected the need for a Pope, maintained the cardinals and bishops, but made it permissible for priests to be married. They ushered in forty days of fasting and prayer to repent over the atrocities which had been committed against women and children over the decades. It was an amazing vision of the world giving up its power in order to produce lamentation and the first fruits of joy arriving in the morning.

Carlin was catching Matthew up on many of the happenings across the world, while also reporting that of the 250 million dollars provided by the deceased billionaire, there was still 73 million left. Although Carlin admitted a lot of money had been spent, so very much had been accomplished.

They were in the middle of their fellowship, sipping on fruit juice and seltzer (Matthew’s new drink of choice) when there was a knock at the door.

Matthew, who was very comfortable on his couch, motioned to Carlin to see who it was. Opening the door, there stood Jo-Jay, Soos, Jubal and Jasper, smiling and carrying trays of food and drink.

Jo-Jay pushed past Carlin and the others trailed behind her, dropping off their goodies onto any available surface. Once the clatter ceased, Jo-Jay turned to the room and spoke.

“I don’t mean to interrupt what’s going on, but interrupt I shall.”

Everybody laughed, found seats and prepared for one of Jo-Jay’s comedic, but often long, dissertations.

“I will not take long this morning,” she said with a giggle, “because I shouldn’t. And the reason I shouldn’t is that too many speeches at a wake makes it hard to stay awake.”

The room groaned. Jo-Jay scratched her chin.

“I thought that would be funnier,” she said.

“Who’s the wake for?” asked Carlin.

Jo-Jay stepped over, grabbed a glass and poured some champagne, freshly popped by Jubal. She held the glass up and said, “This wake is for me.”

She confused the entire room, because no one in the world seemed more alive than Jo-Jay. It appeared to be a rather sick joke. She continued quickly.

“I have just received a diagnosis from my doctor. So to dispel all suspense, let me just say, I have bone cancer. I am dying. They gave me six months to live if I chose to go through agonizing chemotherapy, and six weeks if I choose the short way to get home. I decided that I don’t want a few extra months of vomiting, so I’m here to conduct my own wake–because I know you damn losers could never come up with a good one. You’d cry, get sentimental, question God and say stuff about me that I’m sure would be mostly true, but certainly exaggerated due to the circumstances.”

Matthew stood to his feet and moved toward her. She lifted a hand to stop him.

“Don’t you try to keep me from dying, Matthew. You have an overly emphasized sense of importance, but not even you can take the grim out of the reaper.”

Matthew’s eyes filled with tears. “There’s got to be something we can do.”

“Absolutely,” agreed Jo-Jay. “I want you to sit, I want you to eat and I want you to listen to me rattle on about how excited I’ve been to be alive, and how damn angry I am about checking out. If you can’t do that, leave me the hell alone. If you can, let’s have a party–a salute to me before I no longer am me anymore.”

Everybody in the room was on the verge of tears, but laughed anyway. Jasper grabbed a crab leg and bit into the shell without cracking it. “I’m up for it,” he said.

The gathered grabbed plates and glasses, shaking their heads and trembling over the notion of losing such a dynamic package. Matthew gently grabbed Jo-Jay by the arm and pulled her into the bedroom, where they could be alone.

Matthew looked deeply into her eyes. “You can’t die,” he insisted. “We never screwed.”

Jo-Jay glanced over at the bed. “There’s a bed, boy,” she observed. “What doth hinder you?”

Matthew broke down and cried like a little boy who failed to receive his promised bicycle from Santa. Jo-Jay held him, comforted him and stared off in the distance–uncertain of what her brief future might hold.

 

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Drawing Attention … August 29th, 2018

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Here’s a video of the upcoming schedule for Jonathots.

Press or click the middle of the screen and enjoy.

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Published in: on August 29, 2018 at 2:16 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Catchy (Sitting 63) Milton and Liver with a Side of Onions… August 26th, 2018

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Jubal hated the beach–even one as beautiful as the stretch of sand in Miami.

He had no interest in tanning any further, and ocean water gave him the creeps because of all the unknown creatures bumping up against his legs.

For sixteen days he had been in south Florida, trying to set up a meeting with Milton Crenshaw, his mission person, who had written a book called “Jesonian.”

He had been able to acquire an autographed copy of the volume from the Internet for $2.99, so most days he sat in his room reading. Every time he called Milton’s house he encountered a personable, but crusty older woman named Cully. She was a long-time friend and business partner with Mr. Crenshaw, and she made it clear to Jubal that Milton didn’t like interviews, didn’t take interviews, and basically didn’t trust interviewers.

Even though Jubal tried to explain that his intentions were pure, Cully cut him off at the pass, leading to this extended vigil of an unwarranted and unwanted stay in “Beach City.”

Jubal didn’t even favor Cuban food. He joked with one of the waiters that Cuban food was “Mexican food without a soul.” Getting some nasty glances from nearby patrons, he decided he should stop his comedy routine.

Yet on the morning of the sixteenth day the phone rang as he was sitting down, getting ready to enjoy his five-egg-white omelet and wheat toast. It was Cully.

She explained that she’d been able to convince Milton to see Jubal that afternoon for two hours. Jubal was overjoyed. He took the directions, as Cully explained that they lived in a trailer park–a simple life–surrounded by a multitude of neighbors of all cultures.

Finding himself on the doorstep of the small mobile home of Milton Crenshaw, Jubal knocked on the door. Opening up to him was a woman–Cully, he assumed–sixtyish, energetic, physically fit and absolutely grounded in courtesy.

She ushered him through the door and there he was. Sitting in a wheelchair was a big man–about 325-plus pounds–with a bald head and a huge smile. He stuck his hand out.

“Milton Crenshaw. Sorry you’re not going to get to meet my wife. She’s off working one of her assignments at a local department store.”

Jubal nodded. Cully offered something to drink and Jubal opted for an iced tea.

She brought the tea and Jubal sat down in a chair next to Milton. Crenshaw noticed that Jubal was looking at Cully, so he piped in. “I don’t do much of anything without Cully in the room, so I hope you don’t mind. If your matters are personal, and you would rather she not hear, I’ll make an exception, but other than that, let us enjoy her presence.”

Jubal glanced at both of them and once again, nodded his head.

“So what is it you want to know, young man?”

“I’ve been reading your book,” Jubal began. Milton interrupted.

“Cully,” he said, “that makes six readers…”

He laughed and so did Jubal, who realized that Milton had no intention of pretending he was something he wasn’t, nor did he expect Jubal to fudge on the truth.

Milton continued. “And I’ve been keeping up with your work, young man. You certainly have captured the fire of the Gospel in your rallies.”

“What do you mean by the fire of the Gospel?” Jubal asked.

“Well, my son,” Milton explained kindly, “the Gospel is not just the good news. It’s the explanation of why everything is here. You see, Jesus did not come to complete the Old Testament stories, linking Moses with the Christ. Jesus came to link the Creator with Earth–so his teachings are full of science, references to nature, personal awareness and an understanding that the kingdom of God is inside each of us. So what I mean is that you bring the enthusiasm, but much of what you share fails to bring the heart and the mind and the soul of Jesus of Nazareth. Yous is the strength.”

Jubal crinkled his brow. Milton continued.

“You see, I can tell by your face that you’ve fallen into the errant thinking that because you’re doing something successful, it must be complete. Nothing could be further from the truth. What you’ve done is, you’ve struck up the band and made people aware that faith should have the works of joy. But Jesus had a heart. And oh…Jesus had a soul. And of course, we’re all in pursuit of the mind of Christ.”

Jubal’s heart melted. The room was so quiet, the tea was so cold, the smile on Cully’s face was so sincere, and Milton’s voice was so soothing that as he sat there, he experienced a sensation of healing in his own soul.

For two solid hours they talked.

Milton explained that the whole message of the Gospel was simply, Your will be done on Earth as it is in heaven.

“In other words,” Milton shared, “Everything that works on heaven works on Earth. It’s just a matter of linking things up instead of acting like there’s some spiritual war between good and evil.”

It didn’t take Jubal long to realize why he was there. The Soulsbury Movement had passion but no direction. No way for people to carry the groceries of faith and hope to their homes to make real meals.

“So,” Jubal asked, “what is Jesonian?”

Milton lifted his head up and spoke. “It is the realization that Christianity has failed simply because it’s trying to follow a book instead of the Spirit. Jesonian is the Spirit of Jesus, brought into practicality in the lives of human beings living on the Earth right now. I think it’s a rallying cry.”

When Jubal heard those words–‘rallying cry’–a chill went down his spine and he nearly dropped his glass of tea.

That was it: the world needed a word to explain the yearning.

They needed a word to represent their hearts.

And they needed a word that had not been tainted by crusades, killings, bickering and molestations.

Jubal started to cry.

Milton sat quietly, looking off in the distance, giving his brother a private moment. Cully rose to her feet, offering the visitor some Kleenex. There was a juncture of sweet silence for about five minutes, as all the people in the room took time to consider good things. It probably would have continued, except Jubal’s phone buzzed with a message.

It read, “Matthew in hospital. Emergency.”

Even though Jubal knew he needed to leave, he wanted to cap his conversation with Milton with a sense of appreciation. He stood, walked over and hugged the man in the wheelchair.

He leaned down and whispered in his ear, “Listen, my brother. I want you to come and speak in front of a huge crowd of people, and tell them what you told me today.”

Milton pulled back and laughed. “It is my understanding that to ‘go into all the world’ requires a pair of legs, and knees that are not busted up–and a body that is not quite so plump.”

Milton reached up and put his hand behind Jubal’s head, pulling him close to his face. “You are my legs, brother. Just come down here every once in a while, and we’ll talk Gospel.”

Jubal wept again.

He hugged Milton and Cully, and was on his way to the airport–to fly to Las Vegas to see what was happening with his friend, Matthew.

*****

Meanwhile, one week earlier, Michael Hinston, with the aid of Jo-Jay, had discovered through blood tests that his liver was a match for Matthew. So when they received the notice that Matthew had been rushed to the hospital, Michael made immediate plans to fly to Vegas and surprise Matthew with the good news that he was a donor.

The morning of his departure, Jo-Jay discovered that the CLO was making moves to bring an indictment against Michael Hinston from the American people, for malfeasance and the misuse of campaign funds. Michael was scheduled to be picked up for questioning that very morning.

Jo-Jay kept the information from him and drove him to the airport to catch the plane. Michael had no idea that he was about to face new persecution.

Michael sat on the plane and cried, knowing that he had the blessed position of being able to offer life.

Jo-Jay stayed behind and made phone calls, setting some plans in motion. Upon arriving in Las Vegas, Michael found a limousine waiting for him at the airport, which zoomed him to the hospital in no time at all.

He stood at the bedside of an old friend–who certainly did look old.

“I have some good news and some bad news,” said Michael, taking Matthew’s hand.

Matthew sighed. In a weak voice, he replied, “Well, I don’t need any more bad news, but you better give me that first.”

“Well, the bad news,” said Michael, “is that this drama you have planned–your death–has to be temporarily postponed.”

Matthew squinted up at Michael, who continued. “Because the good news is that it turns out, my liver is a match for yours. So I’m going to give you a piece of mine. It may be the first time in our lives that we ever agreed on anything.”

Matthew laughed, which was interrupted by his crying–tears of relief and gratitude.

Michael didn’t want to wear him out, so he excused himself and headed off to prepare for the operation.

A couple of hours later the medical staff entered Matthew’s room to prep for surgery.

“Where is Michael?” Matthew asked. “Can I see him? How was his operation?”

Questions poured out of Matthew. The nurses calmed him down, gave him a sedative and he was on his way.

The next thing Matthew knew, he was waking up in recovery, surrounded by friends–Jo-Jay, Soos, Jasper and Jubal. They were all beaming.

It must have gone well, he thought.

He looked at the people in the room and even though his throat was sore, he whispered, “Would you pray for me?”

Jubal looked surprised. “What’s this? A change of heart?”

Matthew coughed and smiled. “A change of liver…” he managed.

They prayed. Exhausted, Matthew dozed off halfway through the supplication.

The four visitors left the room. Soos and Jo-Jay headed to the nurses station to get information on future treatment. Jasper turned to Jubal and asked, “When are you gonna tell him?”

Jubal replied, “I don’t know. I guess when he’s ready.”

Jasper continued. “What happened?”

Jubal shook his head. “I don’t know. All I know is that Michael passed away on the operating table.”

 

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Jesonian … August 25th, 2018

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Jesus without religion--the mindset of Jesus

Temperamental.

Yes, I do believe that would be the word that the folks of our culture nowadays would attribute to Jesus if they carefully studied his actions and reactions with the human race.

He wasn’t always sweet.

He wasn’t always kind.

He wasn’t always compassionate.

But in reviewing his lifestyle and his personal moods, you get a good glimpse of what the Gospel is truly about instead of what it’s purported to be.

We take great pains to convince people that they’re sinners, but it doesn’t make any difference–God’s grace covers it all. But if the motivations of Jesus are any indication of the mind of God, I think we’re sorely mistaken. After all, Jesus did say he “came to show us the Father.”

Based on that premise, what do we know about God through Jesus?

Jesus had no mercy on incompetence.

When he told the parable of the virgins, he made it clear that they were foolish because they didn’t think ahead and provide enough oil for themselves to last until the bridegroom came.

He also stated that people laugh at anyone who builds a foundation but doesn’t have the time and money to finish it.

And of course, let’s not forget the basic teaching of “counting the cost” before leaping into a project.

Jesus had no mercy for judgmental people.

When the Pharisees brought a woman caught in adultery, Jesus weighed the value of a human being against the sin of adultery, and determined that the soul was more important than the judgment.

He explained the same principle to James and John, who wanted to hurl fireballs from the sky down on the Samaritans. He challenged them, “You don’t know what spirit you are of.”

And Jesus certainly had no mercy on people who were self-piteous.

When the man at the pool insisted that he was too weak to get into the healing waters–that everybody beat him to it–Jesus later told him, “Be careful how you think and what you do, because something worse could befall you.”

And we must understand that Jesus never visited a leper colony. Those who felt sorry for themselves because of their disease never found the healing touch of the Master.

Christianity would prosper if we would let Jesus be Jesus instead of insisting that he fit into the mold of a Christ who salves the Old Covenant while initiating the new one.

Jesus had no mercy for the Old Covenant.

He told them their “house was left desolate,” and that they couldn’t put “new wine into old wineskins.”

Would you call that temperamental?

Maybe not–just impatient with those who make excuses and end up losing the opportunity to be fruitful.

 

*****

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*******

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Jesonian … August 18th, 2018

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There was an old gospel song that used to get the hometown folks clappin’ and snappin’. It had a lyric which proclaimed, “This world is not my home, I’m just passing through.”

I grew up in a small town that believed, like most small towns, that if the world behaved like they did, there would be eternal peace. But since the world didn’t behave, all the children needed to be careful going into the big city, or worse yet, into the world.

Matter of fact, like most small towns, over half of my graduating class still lives within ten miles of the place where they got their first kiss.

It’s easy for people who have religion to attack the world. Matter of fact, there are many preachers who wouldn’t have anything to share if they couldn’t criticize the world, sin and the souls around them. Even those practitioners of philosophies which portend to have more open-mindedness will still gladly join into a conversation of discussing how damnable things are on the planet.

Sometimes I wonder how it’s possible to be so in love with God and so hateful of the home He’s given us.

Now I remember. I forgot the lyrics: “This world is not my home.”

It makes me wonder why Jesus prayed that heavenly things be done on Earth.

God is a good Father. As a good Father, he knows His children. And the Earth is filled with His children.

He understands that the world is stuck in a rebellion resembling a sixteen-year-old: snotty, bratty, selfish, indulgent, unappreciative–but certainly unwilling to go anyplace else. That’s a sixteen-year-old.

So maybe we should walk away from our gospel songs and even our theology and take a careful look at what Jesus said about the world.

Two things:

1. “In the world you have tribulation.”

I suppose you could blame God for that–not because He steps back and lets things happen, but because He gave us free will. Honestly, if I had created beings that possessed as much intelligence as humans, I would have curtailed free will.

It doesn’t make sense. For people to have imaginations from the time of their youth, but for those musings to be generally evil, doesn’t bode well for blessings to flow across the land.

But it was God’s way.

He made us smart, with the ability to choose to be stupid.

Therefore, at one time or another, somebody is always being stupid, which makes it seem like all matter is about to fall apart. Jesus called this “tribulation”–a sense that things never find peace or settle down.

Now most religionists love that particular verse about tribulation in the world. Matter of fact, they stop right there and use it as a platform to preach against every sin that comes to their minds. They never factor in the second thought that Jesus had on the world:

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son. And He didn’t send His son into the world to condemn the world, but so that they could choose to be saved (paraphrase).

Of course, the key coupling there is “so loved.”

Not a passive appreciation.

Not a duty of being a parent of something you wish you could abandon.

But a deep emotional commitment, free of condemnation.

So here’s the truth of the matter, although I don’t want to anger some gospel song writer: this world is my home, for the time being, and I am passing through.

My job is to have good cheer when I see the tribulation, and make sure, through my face, my actions and my tenderness, that those around me know exactly how much they are so loved.

*****

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Catchy (Sitting 60) Debriefing…August 5th, 2018

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Unable to get his head around Jo-Jay’s tales of abduction, Matthew made the decision to fly into Washington, D.C. and meet with five very confused but elated friends.

Each of them had purportedly encountered similar imprisonments, leaving them suffering from amnesia except for a very specific name, which each was intended to retain.

Matthew did not want to fly to Washington, D.C. by himself. Shortly before he received the phone call from Jo-Jay, the latest blood count numbers had come back from the doctor. They were not good. His liver was not repairing–actually getting worse.

This was probably due to the fact that Matthew was continuing to drink. When the doctor discovered that Matthew was not pursuing a tee-totaling lifestyle, he explained that it would soon be necessary to pursue a transplant–or Matthew would no longer be able to remain cynical, but rather, would be quite dead.

With that rattling around his brain, he did not want to be alone, so he asked Leonora to accompany him to Washington, D.C. She was completely unwilling–until he set up an audition for her as second oboist with the National Symphony. Even though Leonora hated not playing first–feeling that the classical masters chose the second oboe part to lose their inspiration, she still felt it was a good career move, and a good step for her in advancing her dreams. She agreed to travel along.

Yet she adamantly refused to attend the meeting with Matthew, Carlin, Jubal, Jasper, Soos and Jo-Jay, feeling she would be out of place, and that after the fiasco in the Las Vegas hotel suite, they might hold a grudge against her atheism.

Matthew assured her that they weren’t that type of people, and said she wouldn’t need to stay if she felt uncomfortable. To ensure she had autonomy, Leonora rented her own car upon arriving at the airport in Washington, D.C.

It was clear to Matthew that there were many roads of communication that needed to be opened in the days ahead if he was ever going to have this lovely woman as his partner.

The two Vegas souls arrived in time for brunch, which was beautifully set up at Jo-Jay’s house. It was light but delicious, tasty but small, and consumed in no time at all.

After a few moments of conversation, wherein all five Washingtonians exhausted all of their knowledge about oboes and double-reed instruments, Carlin spoke up.

“Matthew, we’ve asked you to come here because of a very strange set of events. Considering how this whole project has been tinged with the bizarre, isolating one thing as ‘strange’ might seem a little redundant…”

Soos broke in. “But honest to God, this one is strange. This is Twilight Zone freaky.”

Leonora furrowed her brow. Soos turned to her and said, “Do you know The Twilight Zone? You know–Rod Serling?”

Leonora neither acknowledged nor denied awareness. There was an uncomfortable moment while six people waited for one person to emote.

Jubal jumped in to fill the spot. “Well, it was. It was creepy. Let me summarize so I don’t bore anyone. All five of us…” He motioned his hand around the room.

“Yes, all five of us…Well, I guess I’ll use the word ‘abducted,’ though it wasn’t by aliens…'”

Jasper cut in, laughing. “Well, they were alien to me.”

Everybody nodded except Leonora, who was staring into her cup of tea.

Jo-Jay spoke up. “I’m not good at explaining things, but I have listened to everybody’s story, so let me summarize the details we have in common. Each of the five of us were taken against our will and flown by airplane to another location. We were given drugs which didn’t do any harm to us, but for some unusual reason, refreshed us. We were interrogated…”

Soos interrupted. “And this is where it gets different. For instance, I was interrogated by a woman in a clown suit.”

Carlin noted, “My guy was a fat Alfred Hitchcock-looking fellow wearing a ‘Casper the Friendly Ghost’ mask.”

“I was interviewed by a football player,” said Jubal, “with an unknown uniform–at least unknown to me–with a mask over his eyes.”

“Mine was a little kid,” injected Jasper.

“And that leaves me,” said Jo-Jay. “My interrogator was dressed as an angel. A very dark one, wearing a black hood. It was scary shit.”

A silence fell over the room which Leonora filled with a heavy sigh, shaking her head. Matthew realized he was losing the attention of the woman he loved–or at least lusted after. He thought about trying to include her, but decided it might be better to just hurry the meeting along so they could get out of there.

But before he could speed the conversation toward a conclusion, Leonora stood to her feet and said, “The food was delicious. I shall not stay for the stories. I have an audition in two hours, and I am going to go practice and prepare. I’m sure you understand.”

She turned on her heel, and without saying another word, walked out the door. Matthew wanted to follow her, afraid of the separation.

At that moment, Matthew hated all five people in the room, and counting the Father, Son and Holy Ghost–make it eight. He was extremely tired of the whole project. He was sick of being sick.

Carlin sensed his desperation. “We won’t hold you long, Matthew.”

He continued. “I was given a name. Terrence Eldridge. I have Googled him, studied and tried to get as much information as I could. Turns out he’s a fellow who has started a new movement in the black community, to escape what he considers to be the racist term, ‘African American.’ He wants to give his brothers and sisters their rightful place in this country. He wants to call them ‘Amerikin.’ From what I read, he is powerful, dynamic and completely unknown.”

Soos jumped in. “Believe it or not, the name given to me was Michael Hinston. You may not know it, but he was recently exonerated of all charges. He’s been given a clean bill of health by the Congressional investigating committee. His testimony before them was speckled with spirit and humility. He’s in a good place. For some reason, he is my mission.”

“Mine,” said Jubal, “is a guy named Milton Crenshaw, who lives in South Florida. That’s not the name I was given. I was given a word. ‘Jesonian.’ When I typed that word into Google, this fellow’s name came up–with a self-published book that seemed to have gone nowhere. So I assume I’m supposed to go talk to him and find out what he’s trying to communicate with his new word.”

Jasper laughed. “Well, of course, I was given the name of a comedian. Mickey Kohlberg. He’s a Jewish fellow who has taken it upon himself to take all the material of Jesus of Nazareth and rework it into a standup comedy routine, which he has entitled ‘Dying Laughing.’ So I’m off to see what he’s all about.”

Jo-Jay looked around the room. “Well, I guess that leaves me. I was given the word careless.’ Of course, dumb girl that I am, I thought it was the normal word, “careless,” but then I discovered there’s this consultant to the rich–a young man in his early thirties named Careless. His goal is to teach these very wealthy people how to redeem their sense of worth through giving–intelligently. I’m set up to meet with him next week.”

Matthew sat for a moment. Carlin started to speak, but Matthew interrupted.

“No, I don’t need to hear any more from you guys. You do understand, this just sounds like a crock of shit. The smartest thing I could do is run out the front door of Jo-Jay’s home and throw a hand grenade behind me and save the world a lot of trouble.”

“Now, I’m not much of a church boy, but I do remember that when the Apostle Paul was talking to a king one day, the monarch got done hearing him and said to the Apostle, ‘Too much learning has made you crazy.’ Do you see my point? You guys have gotten so involved–so convinced that you’re going to change the world–that you’ve just let your minds go nuts.”

Jo-Jay stood up indignantly. “You know me better than that, Matthew. You once called me the most level-headed person you had ever met. Not woman. Person. Sometimes, though, all the answers don’t fit into a bottle of booze.”

Carlin also stood to his feet and pulled Jo-Jay toward him. “That’s enough. We’re not here to hurt our friend…”

Matthew shook his head. “You’re not my friends. I could use some friends. Did you all even know that I have liver disease? Did you know that I need a transplant? That’s what they told me right before I came here. And if you did know, how much would you let that interrupt your lives as you try to save the world for Jesus?”

“Did you see that woman who left? I love that woman. At least I think so. If she weren’t so goddamn obnoxious, I’d tell her. But the way she is right now, she’d just use it against me. You guys don’t have an answer. She hates your guts.”

He shook his head. “I know what she’s going to do. She’s gonna ask me to make a choice. Am I going to be with her, or continue to be in this ridiculous adventure?”

“And what would you say?” Soos asked meekly.

Jubal countered. “Hush, Soos. That’s none of our business.”

Matthew stood and walked toward the door. He stopped short. “Jubal, you said a mouthful. It’s not your business. Not because I don’t care. Not because I don’t love you guys. But right now I need someone to love me more than they love Jesus. Do you fucking get that?”

Carlin nodded and said, “We do.”

“We do what?” asked Matthew.

Carlin smiled. “I’ll just leave it at that.”

Matthew craned his neck from side to side, relieving tension. “Listen,” he concluded. “I’m sorry. I’m not myself. It sounds like a great punch-line, but keep in mind–my liver is dying. And I’ve got a conversation waiting for me with a very angry, talented, intelligent, sexy woman. And I’m outgunned. I would ask you to pray for me if I believed those words would go any higher than the ceiling. So let me leave it like this–I’m gonna live through the next twenty-four hours. I’ll let you know how much damage was done.”

He turned, opened the door and was gone.

Five startled, loving, confused, bewildered, exasperated, terrified and worried people peered at one another, anxiously.

 

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