Catchy (Sitting 30) Visiting Hours…January 7th, 2018


Jonathots Daily Blog

(3545)

Jo-Jay’s memory of her past two weeks was like a jigsaw puzzle dumped out in a dark room. There were moments when she was almost able to connect thoughts, but then, as she described it, a dark cloud would come over her consciousness, stealing the information.

She was certain of three things: she woke up in the middle of the Amazon jungle, she was rescued by missionaries, and somebody named Joshua was a son-of-a-bitch.

Jubal and Matthew listened patiently, but were unable to garner enough story line to pursue any solution. Jo-Jay was still weak from her bout with disease, and agitated over being abducted, abused and thrust to the point of death.

There was a fourth thought which she shared with Matthew and Jubal. She believed Michael Hinston was involved in some sort of conspiracy against the “Carlos Revival”–that’s what the press was beginning to call the movement which was quietly sweeping the nation. Some had referred to it as “Jubal-ation” but Jubal was careful to play down the silliness, while trying to bring to the forefront what could be accomplished simply by believing instead of cursing.

“So what do you think Michael’s got to do with this?” Matthew asked with a furrowed brown.

“You don’t believe me,” squealed Jo-Jay. “I can see it written all over your face. Do you think I’m crazy?”

Matthew reached for her hands but she pulled away. “I don’t think you’re crazy,” he said. “I just think you’ve been somewhere you never intended to be which led to you getting a disease nobody knows anything about, which took you to the brink of death. So yeah. I guess you’re allowed to be a little eccentric.”

Jubal stepped in to soften the conversation. “I think we should listen to her. I think she’s got a story in her mind and if we hang around long enough, we’re gonna get all of it.”

Matthew was pissed. “Oh, you do. So you think we should sit here and listen to a person who’s just come back from the dead explain to us in a common-sense way the logic we should pursue.”

“You’re such a little shit,” said Jo-Jay.

“I’ll have you know I’m a big shit,” Matthew retorted.

Jubal laughed–not because it was particularly funny, but he thought laughter might tenderize the moment.

Jo-Jay swung her legs over to the edge of the bed. “I’m telling you. There’s something about Mikey, Joshua and something else called the CLO that’s just not right.”

Jubal leaned forward and asked, “Why would these people care? What difference does it make to them? Why would anyone try to hurt you simply because we’re off here goofing around with the Gospel?”

Matthew chuckled. “Now there’s our title. Forget about this Carlos Revival thing. ‘Goofin’ Around with the Gospel.’ We should go with that.”

Jo-Jay would not be deterred. “You guys can joke all you want to. You didn’t wake up with a snake kissing your cheek.”

Matthew frowned. “Do snakes kiss?”

“With lots of tongue,” said Jubal, laughing at his own joke.

Jo-Jay reached for a glass of water and nearly drank it dry. “I don’t know what to tell you fellas. I think we’re all in trouble. After all, if we knew what trouble was, we would avoid it. It’s trouble because we never know what it is, right?”

Matthew smiled. “You know, I came close to understanding that. Listen, Jo-Jay, I never particularly liked Mickey. Or Michael. But I don’t believe he would do anything to hurt you.”

Suddenly from the doorway came the voice of a new visitor. Standing there, in a three-piece suit, with a bright red tie, hair slicked back, holding a bouquet of roses, was Congressman Michael Hinston. “So why don’t you like me, Matthew?”

Matthew was stunned. Jubal, anticipating a violent reaction from Jo-Jay, moved closer to her bedside.

“Speak of a son-of-a-bitch, and there he is,” she said breathlessly.

“Well, this is awkward,” said Michael. “Actually, I was just coming to pay my respects and see how you were doing. But I sense that I am not welcome.”

“Who is the CLO? Who is Joshua? Why are these people trying to stop us? What’s wrong with what we’re doing? How did I end up in the Amazon jungle? And why, for the love of God, are you standing here in my room?”

Jo-Jay spouted her array of questions. Michael turned to walk away, but Matthew stood quickly and grabbed his arm. “I guess this is how she wants you to pay your respects,” he said.

Michael turned, and with great sincerity, responded, “I don’t know what you’re talking about. I have my own opinions on what you guys are doing. I think it’s foolishness. I think it’s going to upset the wrong people.”

Jubal stepped forward. “And who are the wrong people, Congressman?”

“You are very young,” said Michael. “To you, everything is black and white. It’s not really that way, you know. I thought when I came to Washington I would be involved in compromising. Most of my time is spent attempting to thaw out frozen thinking, so that maybe a single drop of inspiration can be achieved.”

“What a crock,” said Matthew. “And what an attempt to avoid this issue. Jo-Jay thinks you’re dirty. Are you dirty, Congressman? Michael? Have you hooked up with some really bad dudes? Did they pay you well to betray your sister?”

“My sister?” asked Michael.

“Yes,” Jo-Jay said. “That’s what you used to call me in college. We were all brothers and sisters.”

“We were also constantly drunk,” Michael inserted. “So I can’t really be certain what I felt one way or another. But I’m here–something tugged at my heart to come and see you, wish you well.”

Matthew walked over to the window and stared out into the night. “This is just crazy. Think about it. The guy who Jo-Jay thinks might have put her in a jungle prison which nearly took her life is now standing in front of us–and we’re trying to discuss whether we got too drunk in college. Yes, Michael–you are a politician. You have learned to avoid the truth at all costs.”

Michael turned and looked at Jubal. “You know, you do look a little like Jesus. Not the Jesus people would be comfortable with, but probably the way he might have looked when he was here on Earth. If he was here on Earth. There are many schools of thought.”

Jubal patted Michael on the shoulder and said, “Many schools of thought. But faith demands that we all graduate to some sort of belief.”

Michael stepped back. “I don’t like where this is going,” he said. “My common sense tells me it’s time to go. If I may leave the flowers–by the way, they’re not poisoned–and just wish you…Well, wish you all well.”

Jo-Jay stood to her feet for the first time, wobbling to the side and falling into Jubal’s arms. She regained her footing, stepped forward and pointed her finger at Michael’s chest. “I know who you are. And as soon as I figure it out…”

She paused. Michael was waiting for a conclusion, and when it didn’t come, he looked at Matthew, then at Jubal, hoping for further explanation. He shook his head, then patted Jo-Jay’s shoulder. “Get well. Sickness is a crazy thing. I remember when I had kidney stones. I thought the devil was in the room, whispering in my ear.”

Jo-Jay leaned forward, nearly fell again, held up by Jubal. She whispered, “Maybe that devil is still talking to you.”

In the midst of a very tense moment filled with uncertainty and the unpleasant smells of a hospital surrounding, a bright-spirited nurse’s aide entered the room, announcing, “I’m sorry. Visiting hours are over.”

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Confessing … October 17th, 2015


 Jonathots Daily Blog

(2725)

XXIV.

I confess so I can heal.

If I deny, I remain sick.

I could.

I should have.

I would … next time?

Guilt is often just acceptable self-pity.

It is a decision to appear responsible without ever really taking responsibility.

I shall refrain.

The night my son was hit and run by a car, I kept waiting for the hero in me to show up. I expected “Super Dad” or the cunning of Spirit to steer me in the right direction. I was waiting for my paternal instincts to engulf me in an adrenalin which would bark out commands, take control and become the victor.

Instead, I found myself embarrassingly self-conscious.

I felt as if everybody was watching my actions, like a movie, and they were curious about how I would escape the tragedy.

I felt insufficient and was completely convinced that everybody knew it.

So I blabbered on, bouncing between conjuring memories of better days with my wounded child, or pronouncing epithets of faith, which now fell off my lips insipid and meaningless in the darkness of my surroundings.

When they finally finished operating on my boy and told me the severe state of his injuries, and moved him to a room in Intensive Care, I noticed that there was a chair right next to the hospital bed.

It was empty.

Even though I was confused and frustrated, I knew in my heart it was supposed to be my chair. It was intended to be my place of residence for the next few days or weeks, while I waited for my son to come out of his coma.

Yet I was frightened.

Or maybe I was lazy.

But mostly, I think I was just unsure that I was suited to fill the chair.

So when the doctors and nurses told me there was nothing else I could do that night, and I should go home and get rest, I put up some passive resistance, and then left the hospital, greatly relieved.

When I arrived the next day, the morning nurse told me that Joshua had cried out in pain all during the night, and she wondered where I was. I explained to her that I was instructed to leave.

She just looked at me like she knew it was a lame excuse, given the situation.

I walked into his room, and there was the chair.

I occupied it during the day, but at night I left him.

I wasn’t up to the challenge.

And because I wasn’t, some very bad things happened to him that ended up robbing him of the possibility of new life.

I was afraid of the empty chair.

For you see, there’s always an empty chair. It is rarely filled because it demands such a level of commitment that it frightens away all sitters.

My son needed me and I was not prepared to be the man I needed to be.

I am very sorry.

But I have spent the rest of my life … looking for the empty chair.

 

confessing chair

  

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G-32: Protector … July 11, 2014


 Jonathots Daily Blog

(2288) 

battling JewsShortly after Joseph died, his friend, the Pharoah, passed away, bringing a new monarch to power, who had an inordinate interest in building pyramids.

A project of such magnitude demands labor, preferably cheap. And the best way to acquire this workforce is to convince one group of people that they’re superior to the other, and to intimidate the other conglomeration of souls into believing that they’re inferior.

So the created human beings who had found provision under Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Joseph suddenly found themselves strangers in the land of Egypt and were gradually subjugated to be servants of the locals.

Since they had been a people provided for by their Creator, they didn’t make very good slaves. The sense of entitlement caused them to rebel against the oppression, creating an ongoing conflict and growing hostility.

Even though the Father in Heaven had found great joy in being a Provider, He now found Himself in need of becoming a Protector.

Through Moses, Joshua and David, the people were freed from Egypt, wilderness bound, conquering Jericho and gradually became a warring tribe, attempting to secure what they considered to be their “Promised Land.”

So the Creator who had regretted making human beings and repented by deciding to provide for them, now found Himself protecting them, only to discover that the instinct to conquer is an overwhelming vice in the human spirit, turning us once again to abstract violence. (Matter of fact, when King David wanted to build a Temple, God refused to allow him to do so because his hands were covered in so much blood.)

It was an awkward situation.

The people weren’t dissatisfied with their status as aggressors, and they deeply believed they were pursuing both a nationalistic and a religious goal by destroying the heathen. But since the root word of Creator is “create,” the Father found himself very saddened by the destruction of other human beings in order to protect a tiny handful.

And as violence often does, it led to other depravity.

What was the answer?

  • Certainly being a father means you need to provide, but such provision can make for spoiled children.
  • And because they’re spoiled, they can become eccentric and need protection.
  • But protecting them makes them feel superior to the surrounding families of man, creating a climate of war and calamity.

What was the next step in learning how to be a Father to Your children? 

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Arizona morning

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Twenty-eight Years Later… April 24, 2014


Jonathots Daily Blog

(2212)

jon with lightningIn my calendar of life, 1986 was a year that arrived, determined to leave its mark and remembrance.

I was in my sixth year of being a paternal care-giver to my twelve-year-old son, who had been struck by a car in the summer of 1980, leaving him in a persistent vegetative state.

  • State–no change.
  • Vegetative–present but uncertain response.
  • Persistent–no end in sight.

I also discovered that my wife was pregnant with our fourth child. It dawned on me that in short months I would be traveling on the road around the country speaking and sharing my heart with an entourage of a sixteen-year-old, a ten-year-old, a disabled child, a recuperating wife and new-born baby.

Honestly, I just chose not to deal with it.

It was in the month of June that Joshua, my “special” child, suddenly contracted pneumonia and died.

My new baby was born two months earlier than expected, in a hospital in Peoria, Illinois, and shortly after that, a promise given to us to use a house for the holiday season was removed one hour before we arrived to occupy and be a celebrating family.

We were stunned by it all.

We ended up in Lexington, Missouri, in motel rooms, feverishly attempting to generate yuletide cheer.

But 1986 was not yet satisfied with all its provided turmoil. On Christmas Day, my wife slipped and broke her ankle, side-lining her for two months, while I took the two older fellows back on the good ole’ gospel trail.

Tonight I return to Lexington, Missouri, for the first time in twenty-eight years.

I have good news for these delightful human travelers: I can tell them of a certainty that we, as people, can not only survive, but prosper in our trials.

It’s not that there’s a silver lining to every cloud or a new dawning after the blackest night.

It’s just that sometimes, each one of us needs to know what we have inside of us–or we assume we are empty.

The trial of your faith worketh patience. And patience intends on doing a perfect work–showing us that struggle is the only thing we all share in common.

I am of a belief that this realization should be a valuable contribution … to my Missouri friends.

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Forty-two Months… May 24, 2013


(1,891)

ShreveportIt was a hot, humid, May evening in an area of the country that only knows how to be hot and humid in May.

It was the night that I first met my partner, Janet Clazzy. She was the principal oboist in the Shreveport Symphony and came out to a press conference I had put together to publicize my musical, Mountain, the Sermon on the Mount set to music. I was twenty-nine years old–energetic and just stupid enough to believe that great things could be done with little effort.

This initial meeting came to my mind last night as we drove into Shreveport to do a gig.

The first time I arrived in that town, I was a refugee from a year of my life which had been crowded with too much activity and laced with disaster.

1980.

I moved from Nashville, Tennessee, traveling the country with my Broadway-style show, Mountain, to twenty-five cities. After that I took a position at a church in Alabama. My second-oldest son, Joshua, was in a hit-and-run accident with a car and suffered a massive brain trauma. I left Alabama and moved to Shreveport to take a position at a small Bible college, which appeared to be getting smaller all the time.

I was damaged goods.

I did not know the extent of the buffeting that had occurred in my soul, but I was fully aware of the residue of the bruises. I stayed in Shreveport, Louisiana for forty-two months–in what I would call a complete human overhaul. It was more than healing–it was a rediscovery of my self, my talents, my faith, my potential and certainly–my limitations.

Nearly all the people I met when I was in Shreveport during those forty-two months are still in my life in some capacity. Some of them are close to me, a few have abandoned our former relationship, and most have moved on, taking bits and pieces of what they learned in that season and salting their lives with the experience.

When I finished up last night, walked out to my van and looked at the skyline of the city, I was grateful. It was in Shreveport that I remembered I could write again. I composed songs, penned dramas that were aired on the radio and was called “pastor” by a handful of loving souls.

I learned to fight for what I believed in without becoming aggressive. I became a producer of videos for public access TV and argued with the zoning commission of the town to permit us to have a location for our tiny fellowship. I found myself going down to the county jail in the middle of the night to help people who had fallen through the cracks, and practically begged companies to give food, bread and blankets for us to distribute to the hungry and needy.

I grew a soul.

A soul is like anything else that grows–it requires seeds. Some of those sprouts are unconventional–things like tears, pain, heartache, disappointment and anguish. Yet they all produce beautiful fruit when they are allowed time to mature. But the laughter, joy, cleverness, creativity and the unexpected blessings also were sown into my spirit, “bringing in the sheaves,” rejoicing.

I would not be the man I am today if it were not for that forty-two months I spent in Shreveport–in “spiritual rehab.”

Even though my son eventually passed away and the little work I began there as an outreach is no longer intact, the manifestations of that effort are still evident every day in the lives of my friends and colleagues.

So I am grateful.  I am grateful to Shreveport.

I am overjoyed that instead of giving up on the idea of God, I decided to reinvent faith … inside my tattered being.

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Crossroads … May 28, 2012


(1,528)

I was looking for a space

Within this earthly place

To wisely put my face

And gently make my case

To the surrounding human race.

Who isn’t?

But where does one begin?

Well, for me, it was school—more out of legality than desire. I showed up, did my mediocre best, and found after time that they did offer answers—but rarely to MY burning questions.

Graduating from that experience, I decided to take my little dab of talent and portfolio of songs and go to the bar to perform. Seemed right. They always needed music. They always wanted some troubadour to perform while the patrons enjoyed the fellowship of the dimly lit room. But every time I tried to sing one of my songs—or worse, speak between selections with a thought or two—I  was told by the management that the patrons wanted to hear Proud Mary and Mustang Sally—not one of my made-up ditties.  I was also informed that this was a drinking establishment, and people came here to escape their daily concerns, not rehash them. It became obvious that the bar was not for me. It was a venue to drink, not think.

It may sound unlikely, but for a brief season I thought maybe politics and public service was an opportunity for me to share my ideals and talents. But I soon discovered that supporting the party and making sure it was provided with adequate favors was the goal rather than the pursuit of truth. I was not discouraged.

There were still many possibilities dancing in the distance—such as the corporate world. I scoured the countryside for an organization that would have a product beneficial for the common good, and then I joined up with great enthusiasm, to change the world around me, one product at a time. But alas, I discovered that the business world was not about constantly improving the quality and increasing the value of the products, but rather, getting rid of the present inventory, even if it wasn’t as good as what we could do. Yes, the business world was tell and sell—and I was quickly unable to maintain the top of my game for its bottom line.

Then I thought maybe I could find a market for my music if I scheduled events in concert halls, where the audience would gather for the sole purpose of hearing my material. A brilliant thought. But always remember, there are two things that stand in the way of great ideas—weariness and apathy. They resemble each other in body language, but weariness usually comes after someone who is overly zealous encounters the indifference of the world around him. Concerts were scheduled, but no one came because no one knew my name. And those who did come always preferred that I play, not say.

First fruits of discouragement were beginning to etch across my features. I did have the wisdom to know that the greatest enemy of creativity was cynicism, so refusing to be jaded, I went to my local Chamber of Commerce and decided to get behind its efforts, to instill pride in its citizens. At first it was great fun. I felt a part of something. And then, as life does, the obvious need for change within our little burg became evident, and as people often do, the fear of such a maneuver is avoided at all costs. The Chamber of Commerce is a wonderful place to visit as long as you’re willing to repeat the mantra: “Our city is pretty.” But if you see where energy could be used to produce greater results, you could quickly become an annoyance to anyone who is determined to chant.

I will not lie to you. By this time I was so disappointed that I was flirting with giving up. I escaped into my own home and family. There was nobility to it—a sense that I was establishing my own personal Garden of Eden, with my own off-spring, giving something of quality to the world around me as I boldly proclaimed, in the spirit of Joshua: “As for me and my house, we shall serve the Lord.” Although I experienced many beautiful moments and was able to nurture fine souls, the world around me continued to age and wrinkle in its own boredom and I realized that our little personal utopia, built on top of a hill, was more or less just a “fuss about us.”

But infused from the success and the jubilance of being with my family, and having launched little ships onto the sea of possibility, I packed up my belongings and I headed off to find the last great possibility. I arrived there yesterday, in Grand Junction, Colorado—at Crossroads.

It’s a church. People there don’t drink, so there’s nothing to inebriate them, to keep them from thinking. They have a school that they hold on Sunday, but you’re still allowed to ask questions if the right answers have not been provided. Politics are discouraged, although, because they do have a board, there is an ongoing danger of too many votes. It’s not a concert hall, so you are allowed to play your music and still explain why it’s important to you. It’s not a business, even though they do collect money. It’s not exactly a Chamber of Commerce, where they insist that their particular conclave of believers is always the prettiest in town. And it is certainly not a home, because everybody who attends already has one of those.

It’s not perfect. Honestly, it’s not even close. But what it is, is a place that is so ill-defined by human terms that God still has a chance to offer an opinion. It is a building where people sit as far to the rear as possible but still have arrived with an opening in their hearts that proclaims, “We want more.”

What an apt name for that church I visited yesterday—Crossroads. Because that’s exactly what the church should be—a place where people gather without fear, without too much agenda, without a drink in their hands, without needing to vote, without requiring a certain level of beauty, without believing they have all the answers, and without making too much of a fuss about themselves—just allowing an hour to refresh the brain cells which have been bombarded by repetition.

I have tried all the doors into the household of humanity. Many are locked.  Some are doggedly guarded. Others, quite frankly, are rusted shut. Yet I found a stained-glass window in the back of the house that was left open and I’ve wiggled through it.

It’s called the church. It is a crossroads. And what is a crossroads, you might ask? It is a place to sit in the middle of an overly positive and terribly negative world and start believing, thinking and working … for something better.

 

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