A Barn Yarn… August 18, 2013


Jonathots Daily Blog

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barnMany years ago a music group of which I was a member in fair standing was invited to a rustic resort in Western Minnesota to put on a concert. The brochure provided to explain the services of this facility were very enticing.

  • Gorgeous cabins.
  • Swimming pools.
  • Hiking for those inclined.
  • And buffet lines, stacked with freshly grilled hamburgers, and sweet corn— steaming, salted and buttered.

Needless to say, this music group of which I was a part was very excited to go to the facility, which was offered to believers who had grown tired of worldly toil, and who wanted to escape the rigors of a demented society and spend three days listening to Christian music, with public speakers brought in from all over the country to fill them with spirit.

The joint was aptly named Christian Retreat.

unfortunately, upon arrival we discovered that the cabins had been booked up and all they had available was one small compartment, which would not be acceptable for three–especially since I was a male intruder. So the girls skipped off to their living quarters and I was escorted … to a barn.

Now, when they told me I would be staying in a barn, I assumed it was a euphemism for a rustic facility, but one still worthy of human habitation. Climbing the crest of a hill, what I beheld was actually a barn–an Amish cathedral–complete with hay, stalls, John Deere tractors and cattle with their south ends pointed to my north.

I did not complain. I found an area they had set aside for human occupation which included straw beds and a shower they had rigged with a spigot protruding from a pipe and a wooden frame to stand upon and a hole dug to drain the excess watery parts from people like me.

I was sitting on a bale of hay when I was interrupted by the arrival of another gent. He started talking. I point this out because from the point that he commenced speech, he never stopped. He explained that he was a farm hand. He told me how difficult his day had been. Within three minutes, I had the full description of his mother’s nasty divorce from her abusive husband which left him with a single mom, working very hard, but still on food stamps.

All during the discourse he was disrobing in front of me, preparing to take his nightly shower, with no embarrassment whatsoever, and was eventually standing buck naked from the curly top of his head and simultaneously beneath.

I am not comfortable around naked people. Matter of fact, I prefer “lights off romance.” If I were a nudist, I would constantly be apologizing, making excuses and informing everyone that I planned on starting a weight loss regimen next week.

Not this fellow. He turned on the spigot, climbed up on the boards and proceeded to suds himself repeatedly.

I did not know where to look, so I stared down at my shoes. When he asked me what I was doing, I explained that I was an amateur cobbler and that I was considering taking the steps to repair my own footwear.

At this point he climbed down from the boards, fully foamy, and walked over to eyeball my shoes, to see if he might be able to assist in the cobbling

I made eye contact–not because someone in a seminar told me to, but more or less for emotional survival. He made some suggestions which I cannot remember, turned the other cheek, climbed back up on the boards and resumed his bubbly process.

I finally had enough and excused myself, explaining that I needed to go set up for the concert–and I instinctively grabbed my gym bag on the way out, knowing that unlike Douglas MacArthur, I had no intention of returning.

After the program that evening, I headed towards our beat-up van, climbed into the back, put together a make-shift pillow and stretched out to go to sleep. My partners in music were concerned, and asked me why I wasn’t going back to my accommodations.

I thought about telling them about my encounter with the farmer’s son,” but instead replied, “I discovered I really DO have hay fever and don’t get along well with barn animals–especially when they talk.”

 

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Peace with the Pieces… March 10, 2013


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piecesIt was odd.

I was suddenly overwhelmed by the notion of my own inadequacy.

Thinking about the sharing I would be doing tomorrow morning at Cornerstone United Methodist Church in Houston, Texas, I was confronted with my lacking. I am a bald, aging man with limited mobility, who has suffered–or at least struggled–with obesity all my life.

To say that I feel humbled by the notion of offering exhortation, edification or even insight into the lives of others would be an oversimplification of my vacancy. I don’t know whether anybody is worthy to be a voice crying in the wilderness–especially entrusted with the concept of challenging people to “prepare the way of the Lord and make His paths straight.”

Somehow or another it seems prudent for me to straighten some of my own paths before instructing others in path-straightening.

But what does that mean? Am I to sit around and wait until I am a worthy representation of goodness in order to praise goodness, point to goodness or even stand in awe of what goodness can do?

I am pieces, trying to make peace with myself.

I am chunks of what could be a whole, but doesn’t really promise to ever coagulate.

I am an incomplete vessel who really has only one responsibility–don’t lie about my insufficiency. Don’t exaggerate my qualification. And don’t pretend to be anything other than the subtotal of my pieces.

When my knees gave out on me late last year, I thought my time  of speaking in front of audiences and pouring out my heart was over. I honestly did not want to be a disgrace to the kingdom of God through my weakness. I was determined to develop an excuse for escaping my continued participation in the unification of the human spirit with the presence of God by pulling up lame–literally.

Maybe it’s just that I felt stupid. Maybe “wheeling” my way in front of an audience to hobble to my keyboard was just a little too much hyperbole of uselessness.

I don’t know. It wasn’t that I wanted to quit. It just seemed that quitting was an honorable thing. Make room for someone who’s more … whole.

And then I remembered the words that God said to Adam in the Garden when his little buddy was hiding among the fig leaves.

“Why are you hiding?”

“I’m hiding because I’m naked,” said Adam.

“Who told you that you were naked?” asked God.

Yes–who told me I was unworthy? Who told me I was weak and beyond redemption? Who told me that it was time to graze in the grass instead of  shepherding people to greener pastures?

I did.

I decided what was righteous.

I decided what was beautiful.

I decided what was marketable.

God hasn’t worked with me for these many years and seen me crash and bounce to the earth to not allow me to continue to speak my mind.

I’m finding ways to be at peace with my pieces. For after all, being complete is over-rated. When we express our weakness, those around us perceive us as stronger by the confession. When we pronounce our strengths, yet obviously sprout flaws, we are only made weaker by our boasting.

I come to you in pieces, trying to find a way to have peace with them.

You can decide … whether it’s worth hearing.

The producers of jonathots would humbly request a yearly subscription donation of $10 for this wonderful, inspirational opportunity

The Sexiest Thing … December 29, 2012


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Everyone thinks they’re sexy. If you don’t believe me, just challenge their prowess in the bedroom between the sheets on the magical bouncy bed. Total and complete prudes will turn into defensive, cornered animals at the notion that they lack any ping in their pong.

I remember counseling a minister a few years back who had fallen from grace by having an affair. Actually, he had fallen ON his secretary, Grace, causing quite a scandal in his congregation. He was in tears. He was contrite. He wanted to make a new start with his wife. And then I asked him to explain how the relationship had flowered. Suddenly he transformed into a sixteen-year-old boy, telling a tale of romance and first love with complete detail, including the lavish compliments his lover had heaped upon him for “rocking her world.”

It was so gross. (But as a counselor, you have to listen to such nonsense while nodding your head and choking back the gag reflex.) Our society is the worst. Somehow or another, women have begun to believe there are magical men out there who have cornered the market and know how to “oom-pah” better than other polka performers. It’s embarrassing.

Here’s the truth: sex is just as good as the excitement we feel prior to it with the person we’ve decided to include in our personal fantasy. If you’re not excited over the person, the magnitude of the thrill of the roller coaster diminishes greatly. That’s why I’m going to briefly share with you the sexiest thing I’ve ever done.

I was seventeen years old and had invited my girlfriend over for Thanksgiving dinner. We barely made it through dinner, which included turkey, dressing and all the trimmings–each one prepared in some way with Mazola corn oil, which my mother was convinced was the least offensive to heart health. We stayed at the table as long as our young hormones would allow, finally excusing ourselves to trip down the stairs to our basement, where our “couch of love” awaited.

Now, we didn’t have sex. What we did was every contortion, exercise, endeavor and passionate move that was permitted to us while still allowing us to sport the chastity card printed for the senior high youth group at the local Church of Christ. The whole marathon of lovey-dovey was exhilarating and exhausting, especially on a full meal. After about an hour of pursuing the odyssey of carnality, I pulled away, fully satisfied that I was Mark Antony and she, Cleopatra.

She, on the other hand, looked a little green. The first words out of her mouth were, “I feel nauseous.”

My thought was how cool I was to be dating a girl who used the word “nauseous” instead of “sick to her stomach.”

The second proclamation from my dear girlfriend was, “I think I’m going to throw up.”

This was immediately followed by her fulfillment of self prophesy. She vomited all over the basement floor. It wasn’t very sexy. It was nasty, and I was hoping that no one upstairs caught ear of the process. My girlfriend was embarrassed–mortified.

I glanced down at the ever-expanding circle of ick, and nearly got sick myself. There were only two things I knew at this point: (1) God, I wish I was somewhere else; and (2) somebody will need to clean this up–quickly.

I didn’t want to do it. But on the other hand, I thought it really cruel to make my girlfriend get on her hands and knees and scrub up her own urpings. So I did something really sexy. I grabbed a bunch of paper towels and Clorox, and I cleaned it up. In the background, as a soundtrack to my project, was a chorus of varied apologies from my make-out partner.

But I did it. It was then that I realized what it means to not only love somebody on the outside, but to love their insides, too–even when the contents are the unnerving remains of a Mazola-oil-soaked Thanksgiving dinner, digested for only one hour.

It was sexy. And even though that girlfriend of mine, who is now my wife of forty-two years, probably doesn’t remember everything I’ve done or said, I guarantee you that she will never forget the night I got on my hands and knees and instead of proposing marriage, cleaned up the remains of her tummy-wummy.

That’s sexy. It’s not pleasant to relate to you, but it is sexy.

Sexy is when we realize that somebody is willing to see us naked without laughing or later whispering her personal disappointment to her girlfriends.

The producers of jonathots would humbly request a yearly subscription donation of $10 for this wonderful, inspirational opportunity

Finding the “man” in manly … August 4, 2012


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Macho. I got very weary of that particular profile early on in life. Watching a bunch of young guys strut through a shower room naked while other, more humble participants huddled against their lockers to hide their more private moments  quickly cured me of any notion that manliness is equated with physical attributes. Yet merely objecting to an overabundance of testosterone, or “showing off the guns” in some sort of prideful pose is not enough to establish what truly being a man is all about.

It is not up to women to define manliness. Women are just as confused on the issue as are their male counterparts. They gyrate between wanting to be dominated and looking for a sensitive fellow who at least understands why Thelma and Louise decided to go off the edge of the Grand Canyon. Candidly, one of the worst ways to evaluate your manliness is to try to use women as a determination for your value and prowess.

I’ve just come to the conclusion that there are two attributes that make up what is involved in maintaining the integrity of the “man side” of our species, and they both begin with the letters m-a-n: (1) Manners; (2) Manifest.

By manners I am not referring merely to the ability to discern the difference between a salad and dinner fork or where to place your napkin while dining. That particular style of awareness is really an off-shoot of a mindset rather than a learned activity–because you can teach your children to be mannerly, but as soon as they leap into a corral of over-zealous “guys,” they will immediately abandon that particular training and situate themselves right in the middle of what is deemed acceptable in the bull pen.

What I am referring to by manners is the abiding outlook that a man has on the world around him. For I believe the doorway to being mannerly, courtly, respecting others and giving place to the human beings around you is to possess a steadfast, unwavering commitment to the idea that “NoOne is better than anyone else.”

The minute you believe that by some right of birth or genetic tendency or even locale that you have gained some sort of supremacy over another fellow-traveler, you will eventually succumb to obnoxious behavior, self-righteousness and whatever prejudice has become ingrained in the environment around you. Don’t be fooled. If a man thinks that he is better than a gentleman of another race, he will just as surely believe in his supremacy over women. Any man who believes that Americans are better than Chinese will have no trouble whatsoever making the maneuver to the preference of one skin color over another.

Once prejudice has found a home in your heart, how you treat other passers-by will be contingent on whether your first viewing of them is favorable or casts them in a dimmer light. I have never met a male chauvinist who is not also bigoted racially, and I have never met a racial bigot who thinks a woman is capable of doing equal work to a man.

If you want to build a man you must first place deep within his soul the conviction that “NoOne is better than anyone else.” It will cause him to give respect to those who serve him instead of treating them like common servants. It will cause him to give place to a woman without needing to become effeminate himself. It creates a knowledge deep within him that since God is no respecter of persons, then any attempt we make to differentiate one body from another is merely an ongoing aggravation to the Divine.

I don’t care if it’s a political party, a religious sect or a corporation’s Madison Avenue advertising campaign. Any conglomeration of people who try to alienate one group of individuals from another is removing manners from human interaction, and therefore is giving the status of manliness to little boys with hair in the right places.

I did not become a man until I realized that “NoOne is better than anyone else.” When I did that, I ceased to be a threat and became an advantage to those around me, and because I had the sniff of benefit instead of the stink of an adversary, I found myself embraced and my confidence boosted.

A man needs manners–and manners spring forth from understanding that “NoOne is better than anyone else.”

Now, after that revelation is registered deep in the heart of the male of our species, it is time for him to manifest. This gives a whole new meaning to the phrase “man up.”

Because “NoOne is better than anyone else,” a true man will stand tall and say, “I have set my sights on doing better.”

He will proclaim, “I’m not speaking for anyone else–just me. The whole world doesn’t have to follow my example. Society does not have to concur. I will manifest something in my life that is born of my passions, nurtured by my talents and brought to the finish line by my perseverance.”

The sure way to lose the respect of the world around you–especially a female’s–is to make claims, set goals … and never accomplish anything.

A true man manifests. He brings to fruition realities that show he is aware of his weaknesses and is moving towards solutions.

  • It is sexy because it’s sensitive.
  • It is intelligent because it shows we’re thinking.
  • It is spiritual because it allows the possibility for repentance.
  • It is emotional because it shares a vulnerability with an aspiration towards improvement.

The notion that manliness is expressed by refusing to admit wrong has caused at least eighty percent of the pain, evil and darkness that has befallen our world. I want leaders who flip-flop. I want to be around men who are given new information and instead of ignoring it, burying it or pretending they already were aware of it, they implement it into their next decision.

I do not know where we got the idea that manliness means “being right.” Being a man is pursuing right, and therefore, being willing to be wrong. The foolishness of our art, entertainment, politics and even our religion in portraying men as hunters and domineering has placed pressure on mere human beings to cover up their flaws instead of deciding to do a little bit better every day.

The most romantic thing I have ever done in the presence of a woman is to tell her where I have erred, share with her my plan and then follow up with some evidence that my convictions are bearing fruit.

It is time to put the “man” in manly.

Manners–they are set in motion when we finally comprehend that “NoOne is better than anyone else.” It tenderizes the human experience into compatibility instead of competition.

Manifest“I will set my sights on doing better.”

There are only two things you can do in life to pass the time: think up excuses for why you aren’t changing, or make a plan on how to change. One is the profile of an ignorant coward and the other is manly. Would you join me in putting the “man” back in manly?

Perhaps it will be easier for women to understand their heart and purpose when they don’t have to spend nearly as much time figuring out why little boys never became men.

The producers of jonathots would humbly request a yearly subscription donation of $10 for this wonderful, inspirational opportunity

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