How to Make a Mistake: Three Easy Steps… October 3, 2013

Jonathots Daily Blog


cookingIf revenge is a dish best served cold, then mistakes are brats, piping hot off the grill, with a side of pickle.

I would love to believe that my mistakes are innocent fumbles caused by either a lack of information or a willingness to do what’s right which went astray.

But it isn’t true.

All mistakes are stirred up from a recipe of attitudes which should have been addressed long ago, but we have convinced ourselves if they were removed, our   arms and legs might fall off.

Here are the three easy steps that lead to all mistakes:

1. Be sure you are right. It is almost impossible to convince someone of a better way if they think all of their thoughts are heavenly. I know we extol the value of confidence, but often it is just arrogance, trying to get in the door wearing sunglasses.

2. Ignore history. Ninety percent of the mistakes we make are revisits. Somewhere along the line, we convince ourselves that THIS situation is unique, and not like the last failure whatsoever. Not only do we fail to take into consideration the ridiculous practices of our ancestors, we also do not include our own experience in creating our new possibility.

3. Refuse to change. Yes, there are human beings who believe they are better than others because they will not alter the course of their determination. I have to ask myself if there is ANYTHING I believe today that is exactly the same as twenty years ago. If you and I were truthful, the answer would most certainly be no. It is not so much that the world is changing as it is that we don’t completely understand our world. So the stubbornness that causes us to refuse to change spits in the eye of God and punches Mother Nature in the nose. You might expect some throwback.

So that’s how you make a mistake in three easy steps. But to swing this to a more positive conclusion, let us say that we can avoid many foibles by realizing that we could be wrong, counting the cost, factoring in our experience before making a decision, being ready to change our attitude, expand our knowledge, and increase our prospects.

There aren’t as many accidents in heaven and earth as the average mortal would like to portray.

We are blessed because we are given the bowls, spoons and ingredients to whip up a great dish for ourselves.

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Countdown to Joy … September 7, 2013

Jonathots Daily Blog


10. — Minutes before I leavecountdown

9. — Things left to be done

8. — Pieces already complete

7. — Memories of yesterday’s blessings

6. — Mistakes, now corrected

5. — Friends contacted with love

4. — Fits of foolishness avoided

3. — Delicious strips of turkey bacon

2. — Friends along for fellowship

1. — Mission to charge the day

0. — Worries

Equals: Joy

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Please contact Jonathan’s agent, Jackie Barnett, at (615) 481-1474, for information about personal appearances or scheduling an event

Quatrain of History… August 13, 2013

Jonathots Daily Blog



We have one life

Life happened before us

Mistakes were often made

We can learn much.




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Published in: on August 13, 2013 at 12:12 pm  Leave a Comment  
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All Right… November 3, 2012


I was glad she called.

Janet did all the talking with her, but I listened carefully. I have known her for over thirty years. Most of the time I found myself in the position of being a benefactor of finance to her well-being. That’s good.

I listened carefully as they exchanged information and caught up on the phone. What was I listening for? What I’m always listening for–especially when re-winding the tape of my own daily dialogue and speeches. Are things really getting better?

After all, if you ask anybody if they want to see improvement, they will give you a resounding yea and amen. Everything sounds good until you sit down and count the cost of what it takes to achieve it.

Here’s what we all share in common: We want to be all right.

In other words, we are hopin’, wishin’ and prayin’ that whatever we are doing will work our fabulously, so that our first guess at an answer will be sufficient to the need. Nobody wants to take a second crack. Nobody wants to back off, reconsider and come up with a different angle. We just want what we’re doing to work.

It’s the underbelly of the Golden Rule. We DO love ourselves–rather exclusively.  Jesus was simply suggesting that we extend that courtesy to others and in the process, realize that we are both strengthened by our resolve and weakened by it at the same time.

So as I listened to this lovely woman talk on the phone, I realized that even though she is delightful, intelligent and talented, she is stuck in the mud of her past errors and transgressions, because to escape them would demand that she acknowledge them as errors and transgressions.

There is only one thing that hurts more than making a mistake, and that is admitting it. Yet the lack of coming clean leaves us all dirty.

Human beings love to be all right–matter of fact, it’s the easiest way to manipulate individuals and flatter them, by lavishing praise on them for their selections, planning and decision-making. We all puff up and become prideful at the notion that what just popped out of us was not only sufficient to the need, but actually might have been divinely inspired. Simultaneously, deep in our hearts we know that what usually merely “pops” from us is not worthy of public inspection.

It is the game. Can we get along with each other, steer each other in a particular direction, or avoid repentance by continuing the lie that our present course of action needs no revision?

During the conversation, this dear friend lamented several times mistakes made by her–but rather than taking complete personal responsibility for them, she placed herself in the position of “victim.” She didn’t want to be the architect of her own foolishness.

It doesn’t matter who you blame, the end result is that you are admitting failure.

I don’t know whether religious people could do without a devil. That’s why they fight you tooth and nail when you suggest that the main evil perpetrated on earth has human fingerprints. If we don’t have a devil to blame for all the stupidity that befalls us–if we don’t contend that some sinister Master Villain from hell is manipulating our lives through irresitable temptation, then we would actually have to come to the conclusion that the human body, heart, soul and mind that we were loaned is our responsibility, and that we failed to make payments. Many find this beyond their capability.

The other day, one of my friends asked me what I had learned through the experience of being in a wheel chair and continuing to travel and perform. My answer surprised him. “I feel stronger.”

Because I’m not trying to hide a weakness, disguise an infirmity or limit my possibilities by the number of physical steps I am able to walk, I can openly proclaim what is good about me–and what has proven to be inefficient.

Do I like it? Of course not. It reminds me of the homeless person who was given a box of pizza by a stranger on the street as a gift of mercy, and upon opening it up, eyeballs that there are pieces missing and objects, “Where’s the other half?”

Sometimes we need to be grateful that we’re given half a box of pizza because we’re hungry–and it’s what is available.

Simply put, you can’t be wrong and still be right. Truth alert–no one is all right until they learn how to be wrong. It’s that simple. And the sooner you learn how to be wrong and beat everybody else to the punch in admitting it, catching it on your own, the more ingenious you appear to be.

This is how I evaluate my business, personal and spiritual affairs.

  • I would not vote for a President unless he or she was willing to admit that they were wrong instead of finding a way to spin their decision, to make it seem right.
  • I would not go to a church pastored by a man or woman who spent more time explaining their choices instead of changing them.
  • I would not participate in a creative project with anyone who couldn’t change his or her mind, or rewrite what they have done.
  • I would not have close friendships with other human beings unless they were well-practiced in the art of quickly back-peddling when it became obvious they were heading for the edge of a cliff.
  • I would not be willing to believe in a God who didn’t think it was really dumb to have killed everybody with a flood.
  • I will not put my faith in any institution or collection of fellow-humans who don’t put repentance at the top of their letterhead as a mission statement.

I’m just like the next guy–I want to be all right. But I don’t want to call folks up on the phone with an absence of several years between our last visit and have them leave the conversation shaking their heads, saying, “That Jonathan. He’s still making the same mistakes he always did.”

The only things we can truly change in a human being is the heart. The soul refuses to be tampered with unless there’s an emotional experience. The mind does not revise its thinking without being renewed by a spiritual encounter. And the body just keeps doing all the things it was trained to do by the brain until the brain has received new orders. And the only way to change the emotions–the hearts of human beings–is to convince them once and for all that being wrong is the only way to ever be all right. Every minute you spend avoiding that conclusion is a painful detour into useless oblivion.

Janet hung up the phone and the visit was over. I breathed a prayer.

“Dear God, help my friend. Give her some way to know that the best way to be all right is to find out where she’s wrong.”

And then, to make my prayer of value, I said “amen”–and went out looking for my own stupidities.

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WEakness and EXcuses … July 23, 2012


Revelations at 4:43 A.M. are so sweet because they are simple-minded and catch us in a vulnerable emotional state between sleep and awakening, making us much more pliable to gentle nudging. I had such an experience this very day.

I stirred to an awareness that the word WEakness begins with WE.

WE. Yes, we are all in this together. If we get off of our high horse of politics, religion and regionalism, and relax with one another, we will understand that our commonality creates a delicious recipe of fellowship mingled with empathy, punctuated by a little bit of comedy. We get in trouble when we try to escape the “we” in weakness and pretend that we are incapable of error.

This made me realize that the word EXcuses begins with EX. Excuses happen when we resign from the “we” part of the human race and start believing that we are an entity unto ourselves, floating somewhere between the rest of the family of man and God, Himself. It makes us look stupid, ugly and keeps us guilty and nervous. So the more we try to be better than other people, the less we become.

Unfortunately, our educational system, churches and culture do little to alleviate this paradox. After all, you’re just as likely to learn deception in your church as in your local bar. There doesn’t seem to be anyplace in our society where the WE in WEakness is celebrated for its universality. Because of this, all sorts of evil springs up through cover-up. For after all, sin is not an action, but rather, our cunning reaction in our attempt to portray that nothing really bad has happened. So we have:

1. The beauty of “we are human.”  It should be a celebration. Just look at us. We have the emotional heart that would absolutely befuddle a baboon. We have a soul created in the image of God, a mind untapped of its vast potentials and a body that just may be the hit parade of all the best features of God’s creatures. Yet instead of immortalizing the fact that we are human, we come up with the insipid response, “Excuse me, I’m only human.” What was meant to be a compliment–being called a human being–is now degraded by our culture and art into an animalistic metaphor, turning human beings into vampires and werewolves, insisting that we’re all Breaking Bad instead of seeking good and the assumption that left to ourselves, at heart we’re vicious. It’s an awful lot of bad publicity we create–just so we can have the opportunity to use it the next time we’re late for an appointment.

2. The second powerful part of the WE in WEakness is “We don’t know.” That’s why they call it faith. We don’t know.

  • We don’t know if there’s a heaven.
  • We don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow.
  • We don’t know if our abilities will be enough to pull off the next project.

We don’t know. It makes us delightfully vulnerable, especially when we get around other folks who join us and admit that together, we don’t know. We don’t know how we’re going to solve our economic situation. We don’t know what’s waiting around the corner. We don’t know if it’s safe to go to a movie theater anymore. It will not strike terror in our hearts if we merge with each other, admit this family secret, and therefore watch out for each other.

But instead, we seem to be obsessed with the mantra, “EXcuse my ignorance.” We want to be able to hide behind the fact that we’re extremely intelligent–except in this one case. We want to be able to use ignorance as a bargaining chip, to be absolved of all responsibility for our participation. Ignorance is not only a horrible excuse in an age of information, it’s nearly unexplainable. “We don’t know” is actually a stimulation to learn. “Excuse my ignorance” is a demand that you accept me in my ongoing incompleteness.

3. And the final WE in WEakness is “We make mistakes.” Just the other day, I was telling my dear friend, Janet that I’ve reached the point in my life when I enjoy my mistakes as much as I do those occasions when I’m correct. I know I learn more. And if I’m willing to step into my mistakes and own them, I not only open the door to new possibilities, but I communicate to the friends and acquaintances around me that I can be trusted. For I will tell you of a certainty–anyone who is willing to admit their mistakes probably has most of their other demons on the run. When you’re not willing to say, “We make mistakes” what you end up whispering to the world around you is, “Excuse my lying.”

Matter of fact, as I watch television, I realize that the decay in our society has occurred not because we are in a global atmosphere of evil empires or financial breakdown, but rather, that somewhere along the line, we have decided that lying is inevitable. We have ceased to believe that it is a choice and instead, have adopted it as a human trait.

It is the destruction of our society. There’s nothing wrong with making mistakes. If we didn’t make mistakes and acknowledge them, we would probably still be trying to figure out how to move large objects without using a wheel and think that owning slaves was supported by adequate protocol. But we must realize that lying is not in the human DNA, but rather, is a virus that infects the human soul.

So if we’re willing to live in a world of WEakness, punctuated and begun with WE, we come up with these three blessed conclusions:

  • We are human.
  • We don’t know
  • We make mistakes.

Any society with citizens who would agree on those statements would also lay the goundwork for prosperity, purity and peace. But instead, we have allowed in the EX factor:

  • Excuse me, I’m only human.
  • Excuse my ignorance.
  • Excuse my lying.

This huge door of mediocrity opens the way to everything from cheating on an exam to mass murder.

I return to the enthusiasm I felt upon realizing this morning that WEakness begins with WE. Nothing good will happen until we accept this fact and open our hearts to each other in brother and sisterhood.

WE can do this–unless we decide to make EXcuses. This is why the Bible makes it clear that when we are weak, we are strong.

Because the WE in WEakness gives us a world full of allies instead of running from the world around us, hoping they don’t discover our lack.


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Missed Takes… January 2, 2012

Jonathan in Miami

Shakespeare contended that all the world was a stage and we–the actors. Some folks would object to that characterization, insisting that they don’t want to live “pretend” lives.

But there’s nothing “pretend” about theater. Theater is about discovering your character, getting into character and staying in character. In the process of doing that, many errors can be made–and the uncovering of flaws and virtues is illuminating to the thespian and eventually enlightening to the audience. It’s even more true in the movie industry, for when you make a film, rather than having a single performance that you have to live and die with, as in legitimate theater, you can start and stop, and do many takes of the same scene until you find exactly what you want.

Of course, in the process, you end up with an abundance of “missed takes.”

But it doesn’t make any difference. As long as you keep three things in mind when you’re portraying a scene, you will be just fine and always in character.

(1) You must have the right part. In other words, show up knowing your lines. You can’t be reading someone else’s dialogue and think that you’re conveying your own message.

(2) You must have the right heart–a passionate wonder that causes you to pursue the truth of your character faithfully.

(3) And finally, you must have the right start. Showing up grumpy, frustrated, angry or preoccupied will certainly diminish your possibilities.

If you have the right part, heart and start you will succeed in theater–because even if your first or second takes don’t match the style of the show, you will be willing to revise your approach and do better. There is only one thing that makes a bad actor–someone who insists that he has the right interpretation, which causes him to fail to take direction.

Such also is life.

The abnormal fear that now permeates our society over making a mistake has generated a paranoid, lying and cheating generation of people who feel they can avoid all critique by simply insisting they are incapable of error. It makes us look stupid.

Let me give you an example. When I arrived at the church yesterday, I had a long ramp to climb with my bad knee. The dear pastor met me at the bottom of that ramp and greeted me with all the warmth of her heart. She walked up by my side as I panted and groaned a little bit from some pain. In that moment, I appeared weak. There was no need to pretend that I was macho and strong–my weakness was obvious and the only thing that would have made me seem weaker would have been to deny it.

We don’t garner respect by acting like we’re impervious to pain. We need to learn that mistakes are inevitable. They are merely “missed takes” as we live out our lives on the stage provided. There are times we will be weak. If we’ve taken the opportunity to build up our strengths, those moments of weakness will not appear to be fatal, but rather, human. It is our job, just as with the character actor on stage, to show up with the right part.

I will tell you this candidly–if you want to have the right part in life, always pick people over rules. History will be cruel to you if you’re always siding with rules,  regulations and commandments to the detriment of people. People are not always right but they are always closest to the heart of God.

And speaking of heart, you should make sure you have the right one–and to have the right heart in life is not to be error free, but to always pursue mercy over critique. I don’t care if other people want to criticize the world around them. I refuse to join in. You may argue with me, believing that SOME things need to be condemned or attacked. Feel free. I just know that the measure we measure out will be measured back to us. And I, who walk around filled with foibles, obesity and silliness, certainly require my share of mercy. To obtain that, I must be merciful. And considering the fact that I will make mistakes, I need to grant grace to those who preceded me in the process.

And finally, if you’re going to do this thing called “life” well, you have to make the right start. Because back to that climb up the ramp yesterday at the church, there was no need for me to pretend that I was not laboring to achieve it. What WAS available to me was to remain in good cheer about the endeavor instead of casting a shadow of worry. Yes, the right start in life is to always find a reason to have good cheer rather than inserting the fussiness and futility of worry.

You and I will make mistakes. They are like missed takes on our life’s performance.

But if we have the right part–a love of people instead of adherence to rules–and the right heart–mercy displacing critique–and the right start–good cheer bumping the foolishness of worry out of the way–we will live to act another day.

If all the world is a stage and we are actors upon it, then take a little time … to study your script.


Jonathan wrote the gospel/blues anthem, Spent This Time, in 1985, in Guaymas, Mexico. Take a listen:


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