Jubilators … November 25th, 2018

Jonathots Daily Blog

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Jubilators

Sitting Twelve

Eloise

Charrleen stared at the green, gooey, half-frozen mess in her cup. She wondered when the fad of drinking these healthy smoothies would finally pass and she could return to sausage gravy and biscuits.

But this morning, she faithfully put spinach, blueberries, pieces of carrot, apple juice and two small clumps of kale into a blender with some whey, protein powder, two squirts of honey and ice cubes, let the blender whirl it around, and now found herself reluctantly pouring it into her mouth.

It was a price of fame. For after all, a young singer in her twenties would not dare embrace the breakfast of her southern upbringing in a climate of low-calorie options. She was in the middle of her fifth gulp when there was a knock at the door.

Strange. No one ever knocked on her door. There were door bells. There was even a door man downstairs, who usually rang to inform her of the arrival of a guest.

Charrleen was spooked. She carefully made her way to the door and whispered, “Who’s there?”

“It’s me, dear child of God,” came the voice from the other side.

Even though it was the last voice she expected, she knew exactly who it was.

It was her Grand-mama on her father’s side—Eloise Chezvant.

She was a character. She had maintained her Cajun accent and her inclination to suddenly burst into profanity in fluent Creole–and was completely out of step with al trends of the world around her.

Charrleen, completely freed of any fear of an intruder, flung the door open, and in a gasp, released, “Grand-mama Eloise! What are you doing here?’

Eloise stepped into the room and began to survey the surroundings without any invitation.

“I’m here to see my granddaughter, who apparently has forgotten how to write a letter.”

“A letter?” questioned Charrleen, closing the door and giving a quick hug to her Grand-mama

“Yes,” said Eloise. “You know what a letter is. Pen put to paper with personal thoughts, sent through the mail and arriving at your home.”

“I’m sorry,” said Charrleen nervously, motioning to a chair for her Grand-mama to sit. “I don’t get my letters. They go to my fan club.”

“Your fan club,” said Eloise. She took her cane and brushed it against the chair to remove invisible dirt. “I’m not your fan, dear girl. I’m your Grand-mama”

She eased herself down onto the seat.

“I know that,” said Charrleen, sitting down next to her and hugging her again. “Why didn’t you text me?”

Eloise continued to look about the room with an air of disapproval. “Even if I knew what that was, I probably wouldn’t do it. I am a letter writer, as you well know.”

“You could have called,” suggested Chaarleen.

“I can’t figure out the new phones,” explained Eloise. “And my old phone has a broken cord and I can’t get anybody to replace it.”

Eloise peered at the green clump of fluid in the cup on the table. “And what is that, my dear?” she asked, using her cane as a pointer.

“That, Grand-mama, is called a smoothie,” said Chaarleen, grabbing the cup and rushing to pour it down the sink.

“Is it?” asked Eloise.

“Is it what?” queried Chaarleen, heading back to sit down next to Grand-mama

“Is it smooth?”

Chaarleen laughed. “Well, no. Matter of fact, smooth would be the last word I would use for it.”

“I see,” said Eloise. She leaned back in her chair and tilted her head back as if readying for a nap.

“So, Grand-mama,” said Chaarleen, “how did you get here?”

“I took a bus,” said Eloise.

“A bus?” Chaarleen was shocked. “Why didn’t you fly?”

“Well, my dear,” said Eloise, “I don’t have wings, and I don’t particularly favor those metal tubes they insist can take you from place to place.”

“You’ve never been on a plane?” said Chaarleen.

“I have,” shared Eloise. “And I don’t plan on repeating it. The only time I want to get that high in the sky is when I’m on my way to heaven.”

Chaarleen had to giggle. “So how long did it take you to get here on a bus?”

Grand-mama Eloise gave it some thought. “Well, my sweet, I don’t think about the passage of time. I got on the bus, and enjoyed conversations with people so much that all I can tell you is that it was two candy bars, three cups of coffee, four trips to the potty, a terrible egg salad sandwich, a meal of meat loaf and a bag of potato chips before I arrived at your bus station.”

Chaarleen hugged her again. She loved her Grand-mama very much, even though the old lady was opinionated and not exactly her greatest proponent.

When Chaarleen decided to move to Los Angeles to work on her music career, Grand-mama called the local priest and invited him to the house, insisting that Chaarleen was infested by some sort of demonic force that was calling her away to be tempted by the spirits of darkness. (Fortunately, the priest was intelligent enough to realize that the old lady was just sad about the departure, and opted to forgo a full-fledged exorcism.)

But Chaarleen respected the old woman immensely. Her Grand-mama Eloise had lived in New Orleans all her adult life, marrying a Greek Orthodox man who had once owned a business consortium in Istanbul. He had moved to the States, where he fell madly in love with Eloise, who was the proprietor of what was referred to as “The Salon.”

The nice folks of the town knew it to be a place of relaxation and a good location to receive a massage. But the more critical members of the community deemed it a den of iniquity, where more than the massaging of egos was frequently performed.

Eloise was a character–an enigma wrapped up in a paradox, with a huge question mark affixed to the top.

Chaarleen decided to take it nice and slow and let her Grand-mama provide the insight for the visit.

Eloise requested a little bit of brandy, which Chaarleen did not have, and instead offered her some red wine. The old lady sat patiently, waiting for her refreshment, and when it was delivered, she took two sips, set it on the table, drew a deep breath and began.

“I suppose you’re wondering why I wanted to see you.”

Chaarleen nodded, knowing there was a speech forthcoming which didn’t require her interruption.

“I’ve been following your career,” said Eloise. “You make very beautiful music.”

Chaarleen beamed. Praise was hard to come by from the lips of her Cajun relative.

“But I must tell you that I am a bit concerned about your latest song.”

Grand-mama Eloise peered at Chaarleen as if looking into her deepest soul, as only the aged woman could. “I believe it’s called… something about jubilation.”

Great Jubilation,” said Chaarleen quietly.

“I am concerned,” said Eloise.

“What concerns you, Grand-mama?” asked Chaarleen tenderly.

“Did I ever tell you about my life as a girl–a child in the old country?”

“I don’t believe so,” said Chaarleen, taking her Grand-mama’s hands in her own.

“I was a Catholic girl, living in a Protestant world, surrounded by intellectuals. We celebrated Christmas. We did it in our own way. But gradually, because there were so many different interpretations of the season, disagreements ensued. Someone came up with the bright idea that Christmas was the problem–that if there were no Christmas, we all could peacefully get along like we did the rest of the year. Do you hear what I’m saying?”

Chaarleen nodded her head.

“But it went further than that,” continued Eloise. “During the September meeting of the town council, they voted that this particular year, in our little town, there would be no celebration of Christmas. No recognition of a Savior born. No decorations. And no pretty candles.”

“Really?” said Chaarleen.

“Yes, really, my dear. Everything is made possible by human will. So we can will to celebrate, or we can will to deny one another the celebration.”

She continued. “I was just a small lady. At first I didn’t think much about losing Christmas. I enjoyed the holiday, but it had become predictable. Same songs. Same decorations. Same story.”

“So I joined with the other children in ignoring the season, with a plan for our village to live through a year without Christmas. When December arrived, a fresh snow fell from the heavens as it often did, foretelling of the coming of the Yuletide. But instead of responding to the chill in the air by bringing in the evergreen and displaying the holly, each one, in his or her own way, denied the cold and the snow and tried to live on, pretending there was little reason for the season.”

She smiled at her own cleverness.

“It was the worst month of my life. The earth did not swallow us up, nor did the sky speak disapproval. No. What we lacked is what we, ourselves, decided to do without. The possibility of kindness, the giving of a gift, the sharing of a meal…”

Chaarleen interrupted. “Grand-mama, I’m not trying to get rid of Christmas…”

“Please, let me finish,” Eloise said sternly.

Chaarleen assented.

“The day before Christmas, such a sadness hung over the town that one of the local churches broke rank and had their organist softly play Christmas carols, while opening the doors of the church so the town could hear. I have never felt such a healing in my soul, provided by a simple melody.”

She shook her head, remembering. “People sat in their homes and wept as the organist played one hour–two hours. Or was it three? And even though we did not celebrate Christmas that year, on the afternoon of December 25th, the City Council met together and voted down the injunction against Christmas.”

She looked deeply into Chaarleen’s eyes.

“The following message was printed and placed on the doorstep of each household: ‘We are sorry we lost Christmas. We will not do it again. Christmas is not a holiday. It is a way of life.'”

As Eloise finished, her eyes filled with tears. She squeezed Chaarleen’s hands and said, “The song is beautiful, my sweet. But Christmas is not an option. It is the food that is required for our souls.”

Chaarleen welled up with tears. She didn’t know how to explain to this well-traveled woman the nature of the music business, the emotions of the country, nor the promotion that was garnering her great finance.

So the two of them embraced, crying softly, letting love have its moment.

 

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Jesonian … July 28th, 2018

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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Today I’m doing something a little different. I’m sitting here with the Good Book open, peering down at John the 7th Chapter.

I have no intention of trying to impress you with my Bible knowledge nor attempt to turn some passage into a magical expression of salvation.

What I want to share with you is a pattern.

I would like to find an adjective to describe this pattern. Foolish comes to mind. Perhaps dangerous. But certainly repetitive.

The pattern is the ongoing belief in every generation that you can evaluate something by the numbers–“the bottom line.”

Ironically, it was verbalized perfectly over two thousand years ago by the brothers and sisters of Jesus of Nazareth when they critiqued him on his approach to promoting the message he had chosen to share.

Their insights are frightening to read because they are so current to today’s ignorance. They spoke the following to Jesus:

“For there is no man that does anything in secret but instead, wants to be known.”

Have you ever heard that philosophy?

“Promote yourself.”

“Get it out there.”

“Showcase it.”

“Use your tools.”

“Adjust your intensity to the present flow of thinking.”

Amazingly, through the whole 7th Chapter of John, this repeats over and over again. For later on in that same passage, the audiences that come to Jesus muse whether he could be the Messiah, because they’re concerned about where he was born.

Added pressure.

Not only do you need to promote yourself well, but you need a certain look–maybe even a color. How about a culture to back you up?

We have the mistaken idea that Jesus always had great multitudes following him. There were times that people hung around for a while–after all, if you turn water into wine and can take a Happy Meal and make a buffet, you will gain some attention.

But the truth of the matter is, as soon as Jesus started teaching, the crowd thinned, and on one occasion totally disappeared.

For after all, what concerned the average Jew was whether God would send a military man to destroy the Romans and establish the Kingdom of Israel.

On the other hand, Jesus came to bring the Kingdom of God, which was within us, and would enable us to get along with everyone, including the Romans.

Conflict.

Yet it is best capsulized in that same chapter in a meeting among the Jewish leaders.

When they sat discussing the phenomenon of Jesus of Nazareth, what finally made them decide he was a joke, a hoax or at least a light-weight was the fact that none of the hierarchy of their religion–those considered intelligent, educated and astute–believed in him.

The premise was, “If you really are somebody, all the “somebodies” will recognize and promote you.”

“If you really are talented, you will be discovered.”

“If you really are bringing a possibility of hope and salvation, eventually you’ll be offered a platform instead of a cross.”

It didn’t work out that way.

Nowadays, I often sit around with my children, explaining to them that success is meaningless. In my lifetime, notorious people, who appeared to be powerful and everlasting, bit the dust and became cautionary tales of stupidity.

You can’t look at the numbers.

If you had lived in 1st century Palestine and looked at the numbers, the popularity, the acceptance, the blending and the support of the people in the know, you would never have found Jesus.

If you want to find out what is going to last, be helpful, truthful and carry the touch of God, do one thing–simply watch and learn.

How resourcefully does he, she or they use the resources?

*****

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G-Poppers … April 13th, 2018

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Your story will be told. The only question is, who will convey the tale of your life?

Will it be your enemies who will struggle to find hidden iniquity to justify their hatred of you?

Will it be your lover, who will focus on the more romantic and personal side, to establish why he or she made a good choice in uniting with you?

Will it be your children? After all, what can they say? I suppose it’s possible for them to rail against you, but basically, most of them will end up proclaiming, “He was a pretty good dad” or “She was a darned good mom.”

Then there are your critics. Their entire focus will be on the weaknesses that prevented you from achieving your goals.

Friends and acquaintances will pass around a paintbrush and a can of emotional whitewash, conveying that they all believed you did your very best with what you had to work with.

Strangers always stand at a distance and cautiously conclude, “He or she seemed to be a good enough person–always paid the bills, never gave me any trouble…”

If you become satisfied with any of these reports, you rob yourself of the true joy of finding the complexion of your own soul and tinkering with it. It is not necessary to be self-incriminating in order to become self-aware.

The truth is, if you tell your own story, it will be suspect. Even if you decide to leave out pompous details, folks around you will still assume you’re over-promoting.

It is the fruit we bear in our lives and the peace we leave behind when we walk away from a situation that actually determine the paragraphing, the chapters and the conclusion of the book entitled, “Me.”

You can affect these things.

  • First, find joy and peace in placing things in a rightful order.
  • Secondly, always lead with humility.

After all, God is not finished with any of us, for we still live on Earth and Mother Nature is fine-tuning our surroundings, waiting to see if we adjust or object.

Your story will be told. But G-Pop wants to ask you, who will tell it?

All we know is that those who truly humble themselves will be exalted.

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Good News and Better News … August 22nd, 2016

Jonathots Daily Blog

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Sue and Bill

“Things are bad.”

I’m told this continually.

And if I’m tempted to forget, then the powers that be re-tweet, broadcast, discuss and reiterate it in my direction 24 hours a day.

Sometimes I grow weary of nagging doubt and negative notions and want to refresh my brain with a baptism of hope.

I am quickly scolded and told to “grow up and be realistic.” They define realistic to be a declining world filled with oblivious people.

Then I end up spending the weekend in Orefield, Pennsylvania at Jordan Lutheran.

Many months ago while performing in Hilton Head, South Carolina, I met a couple at my concert who were wintering in the vicinity. They handed me their business card and said, “If you’re ever in Pennsylvania, please contact us because we would love to have you into our church.”

This happens to me frequently. I always tuck these cards away in my wallet and never give them another thought. Suffice it to say, I don’t usually pursue such invitations.

But for some reason when I realized we were heading to Pennsylvania, I broke my pattern, pulled out the card, gave it to our agent and said, “You might want to check these folks out.”

Sue and Bill were not only delighted that we called, but made all the arrangements for us to appear at Jordan Lutheran and became the “busy bees of benevolence,” advertising the event to all their friends.

So when we arrived on Saturday, even though we had never met the people who were sent to greet us and help us with our equipment, in the one hour that we were together, the common work joined with common sense and common humor to make us common friends.

Then, on Saturday night we went out to dinner with Bill and Sue. Can I tell you that the spiritual concept of breaking bread is even better when you get to eat it? Stuffing one’s face does seem to expand the brain.

When we arrived Sunday morning to do our shows, there was an energy in the church–a sense of expectation that together we were going to try to hatch a magnificent day.

My dear friends, we are just healthier when we try. Despair not only leaves us sad, but annoyingly boring.

The day finished with a flourish of warmth, tenderness, hugs, awe and wonder.

As I drove down the road I felt good. That’s the good news. It feels good to feel good because you did something good in a good way.

But here’s the better news: I now find myself searching for the next card dealt to me.

 

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Cracked 5 … December 8th, 2015

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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Ideas A New Talent Agent Wants to Institute to Promote Santa Claus

A. An all-black suit:  Bleak, but slimming.

B. Santana Claus: Carols, slick with guitar licks.

C. New reality show from the North Pole: Toying Around. (Spoiler alert–many elves are bi-polar.)

D. Slightly soften “You better watch out” slogan to “Be cool, fool.” (Complete with Christmas rapping…)

E. Getting in front of the rumor that Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer is transgender. The new name is “Rulinda.” 

Rudolph Girl

 

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Putting Her Finger On It… November 1, 2012

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She didn’t get the promotion.

She had allowed herself permission to think about it, but had not yet said the words out loud to herself–let alone to her mate and husband of twelve years. It was just too painful–too real in a way that forbade revision.

It was a classic American injustice. She had entered into competition for this new position in the company with a younger man who was her subordinate–and everybody knew it. The idea of her receiving “the boost” was not hers alone, but held by everybody around her, who just took it for granted that she was the next in line to be … well, the next in line. Suddenly it was over and her young fledgling apprentice was promoted over her.

There seemed to be only one reason. He was a man.

She suspected that the male-dominated company reasoning was that this young fellow had recently impregnated his wife for a third time and that his financial responsibilities were more excessive than hers, since she was childless with a working husband. Of course, this was not stated aloud. That would be an admission to favoritism and sexism. But once again, as is often the case in business-driven America, the sperm whale swam away victorious while she was relegated to being a “mummy,” declared corporately dead and shoveled into a neglected tomb.

She felt bruised. Her whole being had the sensation one experiences the day after a car accident–seemingly free of injury, but the morning after, displaying the creaks and twinges of unexpected damage.

What was it that bothered her so much? The rejection? The unfairness? Was it the loss of money? It was certainly all of them–but mostly the money. There was just something magnificent about continuing to do excellent work and knowing that the paycheck reflected a better return.

Now she found herself sitting next to her husband, partner, best friend–or maybe just roommate–in their smoke-gray BMW, driving away from her job in silence. She wanted to talk but her lips were sealed because her heart had declared a moratorium on all further emotion. And she wasn’t quite sure that the man sitting next to her was prepared to be the sympathetic ear instead of the instructive father. Yes, it seemed that every time she came to share her ideas or sentiments with him, he took the profile of the professor encouraging the flailing student instead of just going eyeball-to-eyeball with equality–to embrace her as himself.

So the silence continued. The only sound in the whole car was this man of hers, tapping his fingers nervously on the steering wheel as if playing percussion for a rock and roll tune, unheard.

She was angry. She was disappointed. And she was distressed.

All at once she noticed a big, black van up ahead, with its turn signal flashing, sporting Florida license plates, trying to get over in front of them. Her melancholy and bitter spirit sprang forth.

“Don’t let them in!” she bellowed at her husband. She didn’t know why she suddenly wanted to release the pain from her own heart onto these Sunshine State strangers, but her husband obliged, speeding up and forbidding the Floridians to get in front.

As they drove by, she looked over and saw a fat, bald, aging fellow with sunglasses, who was smiling at her. She determined it was not friendly, but rather, a smirk of condescension, similar to the look on her boss’s face earlier in the day when he had gently explained how much he valued her work and that the next opportunity available would be hers.

She couldn’t take it anymore. How dare this stranger smile at her?

She rolled down her window, extended her arm and gave him the middle finger of disapproval. She tried to accentuate her disdain and displeasure with the biggest frown that her memory could manufacture.  The driver of the van just tapped his horn, waved at her, and pulled in behind them–the beneficiary of a nicer couple to the rear. She continued to keep her finger pointed to the heavens in defiance for another few seconds before yanking her arm in and restoring her window to the closed position.

All at once, she had transformed from a promising forty-year-old woman with a great future in her company to an angry peasant, hurling insults at the king who had already escaped into the castle. She became the princess at the snack bar at the bowling alley. She was the dim-witted young lass who couldn’t watch reruns of the Beverly Hillbillies without becoming homesick. She was the young mother toting her eight-year-old daughter to beauty pageants, discussing the slight differences between brands of hairspray. She was Bonnie, sitting next to her … well, in this case, Claude.

And worst of all, that big, black van with that big, bald man kept following along behind them. Was he harassing them? Was he gong to continue to tail them all the way to their home, to produce some sort of confrontation with her husband, whose virility seemed to peak at the point cheering for his favorite football team? She thought of calling the police, but what could she say?

“There’s this big, black van with Florida tags, driven by an older gent, who seems to be following us because I gave him the finger, and I think we might be in danger …”

Fortunately, her apprehensions were alleviated when two blocks later, she and her husband turned right and the van continued on its merry way. She had squandered part of her arsenal of fear for no good reason. She had given a nasty gesture of disdain and hatred to a stranger–an action she would later have to justify by embellishing a storyline about this innocent driver’s supposedly untoward behavior.

She was going home without a promotion, without a conversation with her husband–but  with a little less dignity.

Meanwhile, the black van rolled on toward Richwood, Ohio. The incident was long gone in the memories of its two passengers. They had laughed it off and moved on to more congenial pursuits.

The reason I know the story so well, of course, is because I played the part of the tubby character in the dark van. And the reason I constructed the story about this woman who gave me the finger is that I always find it easier to forgive people when I understand that they don’t know what they’re doing.

A friend of mine taught me that.

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