Jesonian: Mastering Service … September 21, 2014

Jonathots Daily Blog

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john marcus

John Marcus was a “householder.”

It was the title granted to the colored slave to afford just enough dignity with a King James flavor, without bestowing elaborate honor for his needful subservient status.

Yes, John Marcus did it all. Cook, clean, repair, blacksmith, minister, caretaker and physician.

And because he took the jobs on–often that no one else wanted, including the white family which became very accustomed to being served–he was granted more and more liberty to work solo in order to achieve his ever-expanding, sophisticated results.

Today he was given a new job. He was to be mentor, and even punisher if necessary, to a belligerent sixteen-year-old runaway named Zachary. The little tyrant was placed in his care to train and also temper into achieving his place as a worker on the plantation.

So John Marcus decided to give the angry lad the job of cleaning the pots and pans. It was done alone in the back room of the kitchen and could be achieved even by a fitful worker without destroying too much private property.

When Zachary got John Marcus alone, far from prying ears, he shouted, “Why do you walk around with a smile on your face playing good house nigger?”

John Marcus smiled and gave no response, wiping the bottom of a dirty pot as any good instructor just might do.

After a good season of pan-scrubbing, Zachary challenged again. “Are you deaf? Why do you give in to the Massa?”

John Marcus paused, ceasing to scrape at the blackened pans. He stepped about five paces away and gently and tenderly stirred a cauldron of delicious stew he was nurturing for the evening’s consumption.

Zachary shook his head.

Suddenly John Marcus spoke. “There’s one Massa. His name is Jesus. He told me that the only way to gain mastery in life is to serve.”

“Weak words,” spit Zachary.

John Marcus chuckled. “And where have your strong words gotten you, boy? Lassoed? Drug through the dirt? Rejected? Listenin’ to some old man chaw at’cha while you’re scrubbin’ pans? And you know what else? You’ll be here scrubbin’ these same pans, cursin’ these same whites two years from now, nary feelin’ any better or makin’ any progress.”

Zachary shook his head again. “I’d rather be an angry man than a happy nigger.”

John Marcus took him by the shoulders and looked him square in the eye. “That’s because you don’t know what happy is because you’re too busy bein’ angry. I don’t like what’s happenin’ around me, but I know one thing. It’s not gonna change tomorrow. It’s gonna be the same next week. Probably even by Christmastime, I’m still gonna have the same color they have decided is less than ‘dem. But I know this–if I believe they’re wrong, then there’s a God in heaven who knows it, too. And He told me there ain’t nothin’ a man sows that he doesn’t eventually have to pull up out of the ground and reap, and eat. So I’m workin’ on what I sow. I’m quietly learnin’ more than they want me to, and there are things around this ‘ole fifty-three acres that nobody knows how to do but me. Because when it came time for doin’ it, I learned it. And they were completely happy with me bein’ the pack mule.”

Zachary interrupted. “So what? So you’re a smart nigger without ever being able to be called smart, and being able to take the smart and use it for yourself.”

“Maybe so. But every time I master something of service and I serve it well, I gain the attention of the master who controls this household and I make myself of great value. Just the other day, young boy, several of the farm hands who own the plantation just south of here had to come to me to find out how to fix their plowshare and what to do for an ailing mule. Did they appreciate it? See, it doesn’t make any difference. In that minute, they had to admit they needed me. Maybe they choked on it; maybe they refused to completely give in. But they needed me. My Master is Jesus, and he told me that the more I serve, the more territory I gain.”

Zachary just shook his head, but he returned to his labor with a bit more respect.

In March of 1861, John Marcus passed away. He was the only slave allowed to be buried in the far corner of the white cemetery. Many of the townsfolk turned out to see the old servant put to rest. He had made more friends than enemies and to the surprise of a young worker who had finally adopted his philosophy…

Yes.

Zachary was set free.

It was the last request made by a servant to a plantation owner … but granted because of the teachings of a greater Master. 

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The Sermon on the Mount in music and story. Click the mountain!

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Click here to get info on the "Gospel According to Common Sense" Tour

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Untotaled: Stepping 17–(November 25th, 1965) Too Late to Understand … June 7, 2014

Jonathots Daily Blog

(2257)

(Transcript)

Angry. Sweet.

Gentle. Mean.

Vindictive. Giving.

These words seem to be opposites of one another but they were all part of the personality of my mother.

All through my childhood, I had endured a see-saw of emotion which was not only painful, but unpredictable.

November 25th was Thanksgiving Day. I was excited. I walked into the kitchen rubbing my hands together with enthusiasm and asked my mother “when the feast was going to be ready.”

She turned to me with a bit of fire and spit and said, “Why don’t you cook it? It’s hard work.”

It was cold, ferocious and beyond my understanding. I just went to my room, cussing her name.

For after all, this was a woman I had seen empty her cupboards of canned goods to help a neighbor in need and then, the next day, turn around and curse that same neighbor for dereliction and laziness. She would often come into my room and give me a hug, only to scream at me an hour later for watching cartoons–“being in her way” during vacuuming.

In my youth I heard her speak of brotherhood while referring to some individuals as “worthless niggers.”

If I’d had a lick of sense–which I didn’t–I would have realized that a human being who is angry, sweet, gentle, mean, vindictive and giving–well, when you combine them, what you end up with is confused.

In my later years, I understood.

She was seventeen years old when she married a man who was eighteen years her senior. she never got to travel, she didn’t get to go to college, was unable to flirt with either disaster or blessing and birthed five children, which from time to time seemed more of an inconvenience than a heritage.

She lived in confined quarters with limited funds, with a very stoic husband who often went on trips to Canada without providing a definite return date.

I wish I could sit down with her and tell her that I’m sorry I did not understand her plight. In today’s world, she probably would be diagnosed with some sort of neurotic condition which would be tempered by medication. Such remedies were unheard of in her day and age.

The greatest reprieve to my soul is that on the day she passed from this world, I was the last one to see her in the nursing home. We had a wonderful trip to the mall and on the way back, together sang her favorite hymn, The Old Rugged Cross.

She taught me a lot without realizing that she was instructing.

It was neither the fits of anger nor her acts of generosity that remain with me, but rather, a desire to be universally merciful to people when I don’t know their whole story.

So nowadays I would only ask three questions of anyone I encounter:

  1.  Can you admit you’re not happy?
  2. Are you willing to be happy?
  3. Will you stay with it until happiness arrives?

That’s all my mother needed–someone to give a damn.

It’s hard for me to remember her as a mom or a mother, and I certainly don’t want to look on her as a monster.

She was a woman named Mary who was given limited possibilities … and did the best she could.

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Arizona morning

After an appearance earlier this year in Surprise, Arizona, Janet and I were blessed to receive a “surprise” ourselves. Click on the beautiful Arizona picture above to share it with us!

Click here to get info on the "Gospel According to Common Sense" Tour

Click here to get info on the “Gospel According to Common Sense” Tour

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

Click here to listen to Spirited music

Click here to listen to Spirited music

 

 

Untotaled: Stepping Six (May 8, 1965) … March 15, 2014

Jonathots Daily Blog  

(2177)

When people control your food, water, hygiene, play and sleep, you learn to believe what they say–or spend a lot of time in your room without supper.

On May 8, 1965, I was thirteen years old and still a novice at any form of teenage rebellion. So when the church men decided to go to the mountains of Oklahoma for a meeting of all-male types–three thousand in attendance–to hear nothing but gospel preaching and gospel singing for a whole week, sitting on hard, knotty pine benches with a big knot just beneath my butt crack, I was compelled by those who controlled my supplies, to go.

It ended up being a week of firsts:

  • It was the first time I ever went skinny dipping in an ice-cold mountain creek.
  • It was the first time I heard that Martin Luther King, Jr., was a Communist and a womanizer.
  • The first time I had s’mores made with miniature marshmallows.
  • The first time I heard proclaimed aloud that Jews and Arabs were going to hell.
  • The first time I got poison sumac on my bum (thus the origin of “bummer,” I would assume).
  • And it was the first time I heard the word “nigger” used as a universal, collective pronoun, describing a group of people I didn’t understand and I suspect the speakers had little knowledge of, either.

The rally was forceful. It was intense. It was a meeting that peaked at times in jubilance. It was full of “god-talk.” It was permeated with self-righteousness.

And it was child abuse.

Because I needed …

Well, I needed tenderness. Instead, they gave me large doses of macho.

I needed an open mind. They worked very hard to seal mine shut.

God, I was desperate to know about girls. They proclaimed that women should “submit.”

Some laughter would have been nice. They reserved giggling for the older men around the campfire after they thought we young’uns were asleep.

And of course, I needed a world view. They provided God’s 40 acres.

After I got home and healed of my poison sumac, I started to think for myself. Yes, in my own simple way, I began to rebel.

I have never stopped.

I am still a warrior against anyone who has constructed a box for God … and wants the sheep to come passively, and worship.

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The Box Created for Me … February 8, 2013

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contentsDecember 18th, at Mercy Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, I arrived in this world as the fourth son of James Russell and Mary Adele Cring, weighing in at a whopping twelve and a half pounds. I was a big blob of chub.

Before I had completed taking my first breath of human air, already deposited into my being were weaknesses, strengths, predilections, inklings, chromosomal domination, DNA damage and family traits such as skin color, eye hue and even baldness.

This was my “born” identity. Every one of us has one. To ensure that this particular package of information is reinforced, we are basically surrounded for the first six years of our lives with only a handful of individuals, teaching us how to do everything from holding a spoon to the correct position for crapping. We absorb their culture. It becomes ours. And because it is ours, in our minds it is preferred above all others.

We are taught to have devotion to one set of people who have granted us this identity over, the other individuals we come into contact with who are equally as human, and maybe a more suitable blessing to our lives. I learned the manners of the Cring clan. I absorbed the fears. I heard the jokes. I retained the prejudice: “Eenie-meenie-minee-moe, catch a nigger by his toe…” (Later, arriving in school, I discovered that the more acceptable word was “tiger” instead of “nigger,” but deep in my soul I rejected it because after all, my DNA masters had taught me differently.)

These family members wasted little time trying to influence my destiny. By the time I was six weeks old, they were already guessing at my personality by the expressions on my face (which really were reactions to excess gas, but they interpreted them as personality quirks.) I became a “good baby”–or was it a “quiet little one?” Maybe I was a “real handful.” Could it be that I would be an athlete–because my legs seemed really strong when I kicked my booties off?  Aunts and uncles joined into the barrage of suggestions with their own interpretations of my unformed thinking. Entering the schoolroom made little difference–just exposed me to more ideas and more individuals who insisted that I should stay within the box created for me, and of course, coloring within the lines.

By the time I was thirteen years old, I had taken my twelve and a half pounds at birth and accelerated them to three hundred. No one intervened. Since I was playing on the football team, it was assumed that I was just “one of those big boys.” Or maybe it was because no one wanted to admit they had raised a fat kid. Who knows?

But when I left the security of this conclave of seeming protectors, I was unprepared for the world, which had little toleration for my vices and even more varied demands for my destiny.

My box was delivered into life–but it seemed to arrive postage due.

The result? I am confused. I was told that I was a Cring and everything would be all right if I just followed the household rules. And now, even my family is wondering why I just don’t seem to fit in with the rest of the world around me.

I have outgrown the box in which I was created, but I am frightened to lift the lid and escape.

My God. What’s next?

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A Creeky Encounter … January 12, 2013

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Jim and HuckIt was a stream of water that ran by the road in my hometown. It was no more than four feet deep at its braggart’s point and so narrow in some locations that you could step across it on four rocks protruding from the water. Most people didn’t pay much attention to it. For some reason, they named our local high school after this brook–Big Walnut.

Most of the good white folk stayed away from it because it was a hangout–well, it was a place where some of the “negroes” from nearby Columbus would come to congregate on the weekends. There were a few fishermen’s shacks which had been erected near the water, where these darkened visitors would sleep and relax as they cast lines into the nearby flow, seeking to capture a particular style of varmint called a sucker. Now, a sucker was an ugly fish–big huge mouth, with what looked to be thick lips and humongous, bulging eyes. Yes, the good white folks of our town were very careful not to spend much time on the banks of the Big Walnut, or to ever even consider consuming a sucker.

I occasionally went down to look at the water because it wound its way through a very pastoral setting of trees and rocks. On one of those occasions, when I was gazing from the bridge down at the creek beneath, an older fellow saw me and motioned to me to come down and join him. I was terrified, surprised, frozen and intrigued, all at the same time. For you see, he was a negro.

I was fifteen years old and had never spoken with a negro. I had seen them. I had even tackled one in a football game with a nearby city school which was intergrated. But I had never had an actual conversation with anyone of that color persuasion.

He motioned to me again, and because he was an older chap and I felt deep respect for folks of that ilk, I picked my way down the hill to join him at the waterfront. As I arrived, he got a bite on his hook and right then and there, pulled up one of those ugly sucker fish, which looked to be nearly a pound and a half in size. He gave a hoot.

Negro:  Would you look at that, son? Halleluia! I have supper for tonight.

(I pulled back in terror at the sight of the ugly fish.)

Negro:  Have you ever eaten a sucker?

Me:  My dad says they taste terrible and have too many bones.

Negro:  Well, I probably have too many bones, and I’m not so sure I taste good, either. But if you smoke ’em, they are delicious.

(I must have had a comical, perplexed look on my face because he laughed.)

Negro:  Do you know what smoked is?

Me:  Cigarettes?

(More laughter.)

Negro: No! You’ve eaten ham, haven’t you? Smokin’ meat is like puttin’ it near the fire instead of on the fire, and lettin’ the hickory flavor do the cookin’.

(I nodded my head–not because I understood, but because I was bored.)

Negro: Do you like to fish?

Me: Yeah, kinda. My dad and older brothers are nuts about it. I like to catch fish.

Negro: Me, too. By the way, my name is Marsh.

Me: Pleased to meet you Mr. Marsh.

(I was speaking to him from a distance of about six feet, so as to give myself the first fruits of an excellent exit. He stuck his hand out across the distance.)

Negro: No, it’s not Mister. Just call me Marsh.

(I was staring at the hand of a Negro. It was big. I could see callouses protruding from every knuckle. I quickly glanced down at my hand, which more resembled a medium-sized, damp white terry wash cloth. What was I going to do? He kept his hand extended, determined to make connection. So I cautiously inched forward and shook his massive paw.)

Marsh: You come down here often?

Me:  No–because …

(I stopped in mid-sentence. I almost let it slip–that the community generally considered this to be reserved for Negroes and not available to the whites.)

Marsh: (interrupting) Let me guess. You don’t come down here because people who look like me seem to own this place, right?

Me: We call it Monkey Hollow. At least that’s what my dad said.

Marsh: He did, did he? Well, we people of a different point of view call it Goshen’s Point. Do you know the story of the place?

(I shook my head.)

Marsh: Tale is that an escaped slave arrived here with his wife and didn’t feel it was safe for him to live among the white folks, so he settled here by the creek, built a cabin and started to raise a family. He called it Goshen because that was the land where the Jews were safe from the Egyptians.

(Once again I nodded my head. I wasn’t really interested–just fascinated by being in the proximity of this aged Negro. I stepped a little closer–honestly, just to find out if he smelled different. I was told they did. He ended up smelling like fish and the residue of earth worms, which was not unusual for people who frequented the sport.)

Marsh: What is your name?

Me: Jonathan.

Marsh: That’s a good Bible name. Jonathan–the best friend of King David. A good young man who got himself mixed up in family loyalty. Instead of siding with his friend, David, he followed his dad…to death.

(I crinkled my brow a bit because I knew the story, but found it more interesting coming out of the mouth of this wrinkled alien.)

Marsh: Is this the first time you’ve ever talked to a nigger?

(My expression must have been worth a million dollars, because Marsh laughed like he had just discovered a treasure.)

Marsh: You have heard us called niggers, right?

Jonathan: Well, once or twice, I guess, but never … near one, if you know what I mean.

Marsh: I do, son, I surely do. Usually they call us Negroes, right?

Jonathan: I guess. If that’s all right.

Marsh: I guess there’s a name we call every person to their face and another one we use behind their back. What do you think, Jonathan? What would Jesus think about that?

Jonathan: I don’t know. Are you a Christian?

Marsh: I sure am. But not like you.

Jonathan: What do you mean?

Marsh: You see, Jonathan, I’m a Christian because I need to be one to survive and get along in this world. You’re a Christian because there’s a church down the road where your friends go, that has some mighty good pot-lucks from time to time.

(I was offended.)

Jonathan: I believe in God.

Marsh: I know, son. I know. It’s just that my faith allows me to believe that God believes in me, too. That God somehow or another is able to escape staring at my color and sees right down to the tiptoes of my soul.

(I frowned, making him smile. Marsh held his freshly caught fish up to his face)

Marsh: Don’t you think this sucker looks just like me? Big lips and bulgy eyes?

(I didn’t know what to say.)

Marsh: You run along. I sure have enjoyed our conversation. I just hope you know that we Negroes–niggers, or monkey, or whatever you hear us called–are able to talk and really don’t bite or hurt nobody.

(I bit my lip because I couldn’t think of an adequate retort. Marsh turned around and started fishing again. I wanted to say something meaningful, warm or profound, but ended up pulling myself up the hill in silence.)

Marsh was the first Negro I ever talked to. Since then, I have purposefully had thousands of other conversations in honor of my initial “creeky” encounter.

I also have grown up and left my small-town, both in location and in thinking. Truthfully, I never did eat a sucker, smoked or otherwise.

But I did somehow manage … not to become one.

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