Things I Learned from R. B. (May 24th, 2020)

Jonathots Daily Blog

(4419)

Episode 16

For nearly five months, I had been squirreling some money away, trying to fund an idea I believed needed to be pursued.

It was time.

Whatever inspiration had once possessed the soul of our family—to travel across the country, working, living and making music together—had gradually dissipated down to a stream of loyalty and an irritating question.

If we weren’t doing this, what in the hell would we do?

My wife mustered the energy to be happy, but certainly had lost the desire to schedule, travel and perform.

My sons were thrilled to be brothers, enjoined with me, but knew deep in their hearts that the “call of the mild” must replace the “call of the wild.”

They needed lives of their own.

This would take money.

I knew it was foolish to announce to the family my campaign. It just might make them fearful that if they ate an extra apricot, they were destroying our future.

So I kept it private.

After five months, I had a small sum I was grateful for—but knew it was nowhere in the ballpark of fulfilling the need.

We were traveling across the panhandle of Florida, heading toward Jacksonville when I said a very simple prayer.

“Dear Lord, I’ve painted myself into a corner. Either help the paint to dry quickly or direct me clearly on how to leap out of my predicament.”

Also, it had become more difficult to acquire schedulings. It takes a lot of passion to convince somebody of what you want to do—and honestly, people were not quite as open to being convinced.

So in late August, in boiling hot Jacksonville, we succeeded in getting one booking for the week–on the Sunday night.

One opportunity to pay our way.

One mission field.

One audience.

I came to a decision before we rolled up to our engagement.

“Whatever we have at the end of tonight I will use to set us up somewhere and give my sons the chance to launch their own lives.”

Yet I was discouraged when I arrived and realized we were at a church that only had fifty people on a Sunday night—a black church, which meant we might have to wade through some resistance.

It’s not that black churches were difficult, but sometimes, because of the nature of the South and memories of segregation, the parishioners wondered why a white family was coming to a black church instead of sharing their talents with white folk.

I put those thoughts out of my mind, making sure they were busy elsewhere. Instead, I took a count of my situation.

I felt I needed three thousand dollars to settle in.

With some amazing blessings from the previous two weeks, I had managed to collect $1434 in cash.

That night, when the pastor introduced me and I stepped in front of an audience of forty-two people, the calculator in my brain boiled over with frustration.

I needed to make about thirty-five dollars a person to get my nest egg.

Now, I am not negative by any stretch of the imagination but am also not a fool. I don’t know whether I could have pulled a gun and gotten thirty-five dollars a person out of the gathering. There were several souls who might have needed me to donate to them.

But no matter.

Whatever happened, I was going to take the whole family to our next destination and do the best we could.

We would no longer be “on the road again.”

Over the years I have experienced some magical nights, yet none to compare with the warmth and tenderness exchanged in that sanctuary.

About halfway through I realized that these strangers had decided to become one with us, and we, likewise, one with them.

We laughed.

We cried.

We sang nearly every song we could play.

At the end the pastor stood and took up the offering.

I was astounded when he handed me $1,433.

Now, I will not tell you that I should ever have taken my family on the road. I also will not lie to you and say that everything I did on that journey was well-thought-out or appropriate.

But the science of our music, the Mother Nature of what apparently was a good season, and the humanity of this congregation launched us to our new beginnings.

The next morning as I drove north, I explained what I envisioned for us to do as a family.

They were relieved.

They didn’t act that way—there were some tears of regret.

But there were also some shouts of “hallelujah” over the new possibility.

To avoid a motel room, we drove all the way into Nashville, Tennessee, and in just three hours, located a new apartment.

We spent that first night sleeping on the floor of our new home.

The next four days were nothing short of miraculous.

My sons got out, secured social security numbers, found jobs and set in motion getting drivers’ licenses.

It all fell in place—mainly because I felt as if I was no longer forcing the direction. Rather, the passions of my children were driving the solution.

I hooked up a phone—landline. Two hours later it rang.

It was R. B., calling from Tacoma.

I don’t know how he knew we were coming to Nashville or how he successfully tracked down our phone number so quickly.

He did a little hemming and he did a little hawing, and somewhere in between, I got the idea that he had hatched his own plan.

He needed his own miracle.

Sensing his frustration and his desperation, I said, “Hey, buddy, why don’t you just move to Nashville? It’s where you started. It’s where we met—and it’s where they make music. How can you lose?”

Two weeks later, driving a car that should not even have been on the road, he arrived, found a small one-room apartment and settled in.

We were in the same community again, with even less in common.

Still, all in all, it was better for both of us than where we found ourselves short weeks before.

Paying Paul without Robbing… July 6, 2013

Jonathots Daily Blog

(1935)

Pine Island churchThere is a tendency to want to share truth by proving points instead of living out convictions. Yet when other people don’t share the convictions, what do you do with that unrelenting sort?

You can try to convert them–even though most people don’t change their minds as easily as a Mustang drops down its top.

It’s the other alternatives that bother me. Truthfully, as long as someone’s trying to preach at me or teach in my direction, I still have the inkling that at least they care enough about me to want me to become a part of their flock.

But when they give up on the idea of me joining the ranks, too often I become the enemy. They start looking for reasons to dislike me. They immediately alienate me from their circle of influence–and more often than not, meticulously foster a search to find evidence of my ignorance.

I believe this is not a good way to advance a fresh idea. Good ideas need to be faithful to their principles without being obnoxious to bystanders. Candidly, I believe we’ve lost that particular ability.

So as I go off tonight and tomorrow to share with the folks at St. Paul Lutheran Church in Pine Island, Minnesota, I have taken some time to understand that these burgeoning human beings have a history and a present to go along with their future plans.

For 114 years this church has been in existence. Just stop and think about that. I must ask myself if there’s anything I have pursued for 114 days–or even hours.

Ministers have come and gone. Parishioners have spent their entire lives seeking spiritual food within this enclosure. They’ve laughed. They’ve wept. They’ve married and they’ve died.

And you know what’s amazing? They did all of it without my help.

I’m not trying to limit the scope of my talent or influence. I’m just saying that respect for one another to where we have arrived is necessary in order for us to have a confluence of ideas and emotions that create fellowship instead of dissension.

To put it in today’s language, you’ve gotta give folks their props.

So I made a short list of things which I want to make sure to achieve before I depart the sanctity and beauty of this congregation:

1. Don’t try to make things bad to share something good. I’m tired of this approach. People feel like they have to tear something down that’s already established in order to promote their product. As Jesus said, “I didn’t come to destroy, but to fulfill.” Brilliant.

2. Don’t attack the outside to improve the inside. Is it really necessary to establish that the world is lost, confused and perhaps damnable, just so we feel more spiritual? Is God out to prove His point, or is He out to save the world? There’s a difference, you know.

3. Don’t give up on the good in an attempt to achieve better. I don’t know if I’ll like all the ways the St. Paul people worship. Honestly, no one asked my opinion. My job is not to tear down what is already established–just to strengthen the pillars.

4. And finally, give people a chance to find the Kingdom of God that’s already within them. It is essential that we realize that church is the revelation that God dwells best in the human heart, and less effectively in altars of stone. Just allowing people the joy of absorbing that happiness is what God wants for His children. And that bubbling in the spirit must be discovered through our personal communion with ourselves and our heavenly Father.

So you see, because I’ve been thinking about these four things, I can look forward to my time with these diligent brothers and sisters, who have constructed a 114-year history. I think I’ve learned the lesson–don’t destroy.

And therefore, in my own simple way, maybe I can help them fulfill some of their dreams.

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

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