Confessing … May 9th, 2015

 

  Jonathots Daily Blog

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I.

I confess so I can heal.

If I deny, I remain sick.

Some years ago, my two sons joined a junior high soccer team at their school–a program which was a perennial loser.

It turns out that my fellows were quite good and joined others in rejuvenating the team to victory.

It was very exciting. I don’t believe I ever missed a game.

On one Thursday afternoon, I was sitting in the stands with family members and a bunch of other excited parents as our home team literally obliterated the other visiting squad, 12-1.

The boys were so thrilled.

Everybody was jumping up and down, shouting and hollering, with all sorts of victory catcalls–until the opposing coach walked over and strongly requested to be able to address both teams with some of his reservations.

The young men who had been so jubilant suddenly found themselves sitting in the middle of the field on the ground, being lectured on good sportsmanship by the guy who just lost the game.

It lit my fuse. I lost my cool.

I walked out on the field, yanked my boys from the circle and headed them toward the car. The preaching coach asked me what my problem was.

I turned around and said, “You’re the one who needs the lecture…on how to be a better loser.”

There was a cheer from some of the nearby parents, so I felt justified.

On the way home I railed against the coach in front of my children, being further energized by my own sense of self-righteousness.

But I was wrong.

You see, sometimes I feel justified about being wrong because I’m convinced I’m not as wrong as someone else. I’m only responsible for my wrong–not the wrongdoings of the entire planet.

I spent the next week in turmoil, my conscience challenging my irrational behavior, until I finally apologized to my children, my family and also went to the nearby school and offered my repentance to the coach.

It felt good to confess.

But even as I tell the story today, I am curious if there is any part of me that still welcomes that infuriated, pompous ass who spewed his anger on the field that day.

I don’t really grow until I take what I’ve done wrong and murder it off every day when it tries to resurrect.

Am I capable of becoming incensed over the foolishness I see around me? I’m on the hunt to find it–because joining the insanity does not aid the treatment.

We have enough people in the asylum.

What we lack are caregivers.

soccer devil

 

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UNTOTALED: Stepping 7–Tackling Laziness (September 4th, 1965) … March 22, 2014

Jonathots Daily Blog  

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(Transcript)

Starting the seventh grade scared the crap out of me.

Actually, that particular cliché doesn’t fit very well because when you’re entering junior high school in a new building, the idea of any sound or bodily fluid coming out of your being is completely terrifying.

You want to simultaneously be invisible and also appreciated, which of course, is not only socially impossible, but scientifically implausible.

I had spent the week before school began begging my mother to allow me to go out for the football team. She was afraid I would get injured. This was a maternal prophetic sensation, long before the recent onslaught of concussions and head injuries. What was comical, though, about this assertion on her part was that I was nearly six feet tall and weighed three hundred pounds. The coach joked with her, when trying to solicit her support, that it would be more likely that I would hurt other children.

I whined, cajoled, pleaded, promised, praised, complimented and cleaned my room up enough to get her to agree to allow me to try out for the team.

So September 4th, 1965, was not just the first day of horror in the new junior high school. It was also my first day to go out after school and practice with the football team.

The trials continued when they were unable to find a pair of football pants to fit me.  (This was the era when men’s sizes stopped at extra-large, and anyone who needed anything bigger must order it from the sheep herders of Tibet.) So I wore a pair of tennis shoes and blue Dickey work pants to work out with the other guys, who were in suitable apparel. (They did find a helmet that fit my head, since the term fat-head is merely an urban legend.)

It became obvious to me immediately, on that small practice field, what I liked and what I didn’t.

  • I loved the game.
  • I loved tackling.
  • I loved thinking about what was going to happen next.

On the other hand, I hated exercise in all of its contorted, convoluted and fastidiously constructed forms. After all, every exercise program is really geared to skinny people–even the ones which insist they are trying to appeal to the obese. Their speculations always exceed our limitations.

I hated sprints, calisthenics, too much running of any type, and all the drills which they insisted were essential for becoming a great football player.

I endured the sport for three years, but finally my laziness regarding exercise overtook my love of the gridiron.

Maybe if I’d had the right kick in the pants from an authority figure, or perhaps mercy at the right moments and toughness at others, I might have continued playing the game. I don’t know.

But because I didn’t tackle laziness on the football field, it took me too many years to overcome that gooey, drippy vice that drags one down, draining off potential.

So the next time you run across a kid who has ability, but not much drive, please don’t assume that you should leave him alone.

I was left alone. And fascinatingly enough–it was just lonely.

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My Little Improv… January 5, 2014

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masksSome rules are good.

They help people understand better ways to do things to welcome success and happiness.

On the other hand, some rules are bad. They’re put in place–sometimes in stone–to control folks, eliminating the creative passion that allows us mere mortals to touch the face of God.

I’ve tried to figure out which one is which for most of my life.

When I was a kid, they had a rule in our church that young students in junior high school couldn’t be on the Bible League competition team until they got into the ninth grade. I suppose somebody who originally came up with the idea imagined it was a good thing–to make being on the team a reward, and also that probably most youngsters in seventh and eighth grade were not mature enough for such an endeavor.

It was a bad rule. I objected, complained, lobbied, got it changed and was the first thirteen-year-old on the team.

It doesn’t matter where you go. There are people who enjoy their work so they try to make it more accessible to themselves and others, and then there are those who are a bit miserable, who feel it is their duty to pass on the sullen attitude.

Music, religion, politics, corporations, clubs, schools–all of them have their share of “grumpy grumpers” who really hate their lives and want to make sure that everybody hates equally.

So when I sat down to plan what I wanted to do in my sharing this year–and also how I wanted to expand–I came up with three very important criteria:

  1. I need more time at every stop-off to spend with the audience, to make a greater connection.
  2. I need to work on defining the message instead of allowing the confusion of present philosophy and theology to leave people devoid of feeling.
  3. I need to purposefully break some bad rules.

So yesterday, as I thought about what I’m going to be doing Sunday night–a drama entitled Front Porch U.S.A.–I realized that I was truly blessed with a piece of great improv.

I call it a “three-active play.” By that term I mean that each and every time I perform it, the message, the pursuit and even much of the plot will remain the same. But the words, stories, conflict and resolution will be different each and every time.

There is no script.

I’m going to allow myself to be led of the Spirit, to share what’s on my heart in the moment, as will my fellow-thespian, Janet.

It’s breaking the rules. In theater, you’re not supposed to be too improvisational. You’re not supposed to interact with the audience too much. Blocking, staging and scenery are to remain the same.

I plan on breaking all these rules. Why?

Because I think the three greatest things we possess as human beings are often buried under form and tradition.

  • We have a story.
  • We have a spirit.
  • And we have an imagination.

So every Sunday night, I’m going to trust my journey, my faith and my heart to give an audience, at the conclusion of my weekend, a fresh piece of myself that no other gathered congregation has ever heard.

I’m so excited I can hardly stand it.

In conclusion, don’t be afraid to follow good rules that help people discover their humanity and the breath of God inside them. But don’t be timid in using your improv, and challenge rules that were put in place to stifle and foster “fussy fussers.”

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Click for details on the SpirTed 2014 presentation

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Please contact Jonathan’s agent, Jackie Barnett, at (615) 481-1474, for information about scheduling SpiriTed in 2014.

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The Spirit of St. Louis…. June 28, 2012

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It seemed like a good idea.

Good ideas are like athletes. They all seem to be in great shape until they compete in the race against other formidable opponents. Then all of their weaknesses come to the forefront as they surprisingly finish dead last.

I had amazingly accumulated $931.26. Now, these were 1978 dollars. I had set them aside to move my family and my music group, Soul Purpose, from Centerburg, Ohio, to Nashville, Tennessee, where the first fruits of a budding career were sprouting many possibilities. I had just released my first national record album and had my book, The Gospel According to Common Sense, published. It was time to move closer to where the work was bringing benefit instead of finding myself eight hours away from my next possibility.

Everything was going along swimmingly until I floated into Nashville and discovered that our three-bedroom apartment was not going to be ready for occupancy for two weeks. So I decided to take our music group and my family on the road for that fortnight to try to sustain our livelihood–and maybe even expand our momentous treasure. As I said, it seemed like a good idea–except for the fact that the other participants necessary to make this notion complete failed to comply.

We got on the highway and couldn’t get any bookings, and ended up spending our money to survive, and by the time we landed at the last weekend before returning to Music City, we only had $314 left of our initial nest egg. Only one opportunity had been afforded our way. It was on the last Sunday morning and was at a start-up church in St. Louis,

English: Under the back of the Spirit of St. L...

English: Under the back of the Spirit of St. Louis. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

being held in a local junior high school and only had forty people in attendance. It seemed unlikely that I would be able to recoup my $931 need from these three-dozen-plus souls.So I cried, laughed and relaxed. This has proven to be a great combination for me. It’s always a good idea to cry first–get all the self-pity drained from the pus deep in your soul, lest it try to ooze out later, at a time when you need dedication instead of sympathy.

Next, I laughed–because if I thought this was going to be the last time I made a foolish decision leaving me in jeopardy, then I truly must be the king of comedy. For after all, bad decisions are just good decisions that were fairly unlucky.

Finally, I relaxed. Or at least did my best impersonation. Perhaps the greatest advantage we have in possessing faith is the childlike quality of nestling into the arms of our conviction and going to sleep, knowing that tomorrow will either bring great surprise and benefit–or defeat. But after all, even defeat requires a good night’s sleep.

Our Sunday morning church was pastored by a husband and wife team, Bob and Martha. Martha was a delightful woman who really did delight in everything. Bob was a thoughtful man who had learned how to be much more appreciative of life because he had been given a terminal diagnoses of leukemia. Honestly, there was nothing particularly special about the service or the time we had at this little congregation of people. Maybe I was tired; maybe I still was fretting a little bit over our financial need. Or maybe it was just forty people who wondered how we had stumbled into their midst.

It was warm but it was not toasty. We were appreciated, but not lauded. It was purposeful, but not terribly spirited. We finished up, an offering was collected for our journey, the equipment was packed away, and I stepped into the school’s bathroom to change my clothes, to journey onto Nashville, where there was an apartment waiting for me–which was now beyond my means.

I was sitting on the toilet seat, fully clothed–not needing to use the facility for its actual purpose, but rather, only as a perch of consideration. As I was musing my plight, I was all at once aware that Bob had entered the room and was standing outside my stall door. He thanked me for coming and told me that he had the offering. I was rather embarrassed to be having a conversation through a bathroom door, yet I didn’t exactly want to open it and emerge from the tiny enclosure to shake his hand with him wondering where it had been. So awkwardly, I continued to listen to him talk through the closed portal.

I could hear tears in his voice as he spoke. I think he took the opportunity to pour out his heart to a stranger because his personal thoughts might be too painful to those closest to him. He said, “They tell me I’m going to die, and honestly, Jonathan, I think they’re probably right. I welcome the prayers of my loved ones and family, and believe you me, I hope they are answered and I can continue to live. But truthfully, I think it’s my time. I don’t know how to tell them that. I don’t know how to tell myself that. But I wanted someone to know that I’m not afraid. I wanted someone to hear me say … it’s okay.”

He stopped speaking. I had no idea how to respond. Here I was, worrying about my lost treasure of money, listening to a man who was about to lose his treasure of life. I remained silent. To contradict his conclusions would be childish. To confirm them would be mean.

He didn’t say anything else, he just slid the envelope containing my morning offering under the door and quietly left the room. I remained seated on the little porcelain throne for a long moment, and then reached down and grabbed the gift. I opened it up and pulled out the contents. Pastor Bob had given the entire morning offering from the church to us. Checks that had been written to himself and the work had been signed over for our blessing.

I quietly sat there and counted the money and was stunned to discover that it added up to $935. I didn’t want to move. God, I didn’t even want to breathe–except that became necessary. The room was so still, so full of the presence of a generous, kind and perhaps even giggling spirit. I was being blessed and mocked at the same time.

“Oh, foolish man you are, who thinks that the power of life and death is solely within your confines and abilities. Stand back and behold the majesty of God and the generosity of another fellow-traveler.”

I drove on to Nashville, procured my apartment and began my life there. I sent a thank-you note to my new friend in gratitude from his confessor. I was overwhelmed. I had been whisked away and flown to the heavens by the Spirit of St. Louis.

Two months later, Martha wrote me a letter and told me that Bob had passed away. He was right–it apparently was his time.

I cried. They were selfish tears. Gone was a new friend who had blessed my life; and departed from this earth was one of those necessary souls we so desperately need, who now revels in his reward.

I had lost an earthly friend to gain a new witness in the heavens. The only thing I can do to honor Bob is to become Bob to the next foolish dreamer who has a really bad idea, craps out and ends up sitting … on the pot.

   

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