Catchy (Sitting 15) Being … September 24th, 2017

Jonathots Daily Blog

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Jubal Carlos lived among the immense homeless population of Las Vegas, Nevada. He, himself, was not homeless. Matter of fact, he was a percussionist who was much in demand on the strip for his talents. National acts would even procure his services to add some “spice” to their musical “nice.”

His specialty was congas. People in the audience often commented that he was a one-man show, using nearly every part of his body to strike the drums, creating amazing tones.

But when the concert was over and the other musicians headed off to their suites to eat and drink, Jubal stepped out into the night air and headed to the land of the unwanted.

He had purchased an old airport limousine, removing all the seats, which left just enough room for four mattresses. Every night he walked the street until he encountered three different souls he felt would benefit from an evening in his makeshift motel. He welcomed them, fed them a little food, talked of the good things in life and slept side-by-side with them.

In the morning he gave each one of them five dollars for breakfast, went back to the casino to his room (which they provided for him), took a shower and got ready for rehearsals.

He stood six feet tall, about two hundred pounds, with black hair which had turned a mysterious crimson and amber from time in the sun. He sported a beard which was just short of unkempt, wore baggy Hawaiian shirts and tight-fitting bell-bottom jeans.

He was a walking anachronism–a throwback to a former time, when simplicity was regaled as holy.

Matthew Ransley made a trip to Las Vegas to see Jubal.

Sister Rolinda had mentioned him in a passing conversation, and Matthew was curious to encounter such a creature who was so ill-suited for the jungle.

He first went to hear Jubal play his congas, and afterwards requested a time when they could sit and talk. Jubal was suspicious. Many reporters, budding authors, film-makers and entrepreneurs had crossed his path, trying to turn his story into their personal gold mine. He always resisted.

Jubal viewed himself as a practical man who was given the ability to have much, but because he didn’t need much, could do much. It was a magnificent formula for happiness.

Matthew saw Jubal’s reluctance, so quickly capsulized the purpose for his request for a sit down, explaining a little bit about the two hundred and fifty million dollar proposal. Jubal’s face lit up with a grin which quickly turned into a giggle.

“Yeah, I’ve heard about this crazy scheme.”

Matthew was a little unnerved. Neither the word “crazy” or “scheme” seemed a favorable take. “Just fifteen minutes. That’s all I ask.”

Jubal contemplated. “The reason I hesitate, Mr…what was your name again?”

“Just call me Matthew.”

Jubal grinned from ear to ear. “I love Matthew. It may be my favorite Gospel–mainly because it contains the Sermon on the Mount, which is still the most radical manifesto ever spoken to human beings.”

Matthew nodded, pretending he was keeping up. Jubal continued.

“As I was saying, Matthew, it’s not that I consider my time so valuable or that I feel I’m better than anyone else. It’s just that what I do is so personal and important to me that I don’t want to lose it in a flurry of fake interest.”

Matthew smiled. “Well, I can tell you, Jubal, my interest is not fake, and I haven’t seen a flurry since the great snowstorm of 1978.”

Jubal laughed, agreeing to meet with him the next day.

But Matthew had a little bit of the investigative reporter in him. Even though he was impressed with Jubal’s talent and somewhat convinced of his sincerity, he decided to put on a disguise and follow him around the rest of the day.

Rehearsals, a sandwich for lunch with a bowl of chicken noodle soup, more rehearsals, time in his suite to clean up and get ready for the show, the show, and then, all at once, Matthew lost him.

Matthew had assumed Jubal would join the rest of the band backstage for deli trays and shop talk. He didn’t.

So believing the story about the homeless, Matthew headed off to the area of town where the ignored souls were relegated a place. He asked around about Jubal. Most of the folks were tight-lipped, suspicious. But with the aid of a twenty-dollar bill, one fellow told him the location of the limousine motel.

Matthew had no idea what he was going to do when he got there. He certainly didn’t want to interrupt, but he did want to experience. So when he was about twenty paces from the limousine, he got down on his stomach, crawled the rest of the distance, and cuddled up to the back door, where he could hear what was going on inside.

Actually, it was not much. A quiet hum of conversation, a few laughs and then everyone fell quiet except for the voice of Jubal Carlos.

Jubal explained to the other three souls who had been invited to his little palace that he was going to offer a very brief devotion.

“When we woke up this morning, none of us knew we would be together this evening. You know what that tells me? Life is uncertain. Life is not that different from a game of chance you might participate in down at one of the casinos. I’ve lost plenty of money gambling on what might happen. I need to tell you that I believe in Jesus. I don’t believe in Jesus because I’m religious–I believe in Jesus because he’s the only person in all of history and all time who believes in everybody. He doesn’t like the Jews better than the Germans and he doesn’t like the casino owners better than you. I thank you for joining me in my little escape capsule, but I want you to know, you’re not forgotten. And the Jesus in me loves you, and the Jesus that could be in you loves you more.”

Suddenly there was the sound of a man weeping. Jubal obviously moved to comfort him, but the whispers were too soft for Matthew to hear. It was time for him to leave.

After crawling away, he stood to his feet and nearly fell over. Matthew was shaken.

For you see, Matthew had found Jesus.

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Thick is bloodier than water… November 8, 2012

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Michael won.

I was furious. It wasn’t supposed to happen. My arrogance and stupidity got together and planned a pity party with no refreshments. I didn’t understand. I had won junior class president the year before, only challenged by one girl who received two votes–her own and that of her twin sister. I was supposed to be a shoo-in.

But before we elected our senior class officers, Michael decided at the last minute to throw his hat in the ring, and he got all of his buddies together from the Future Farmers of America (the FFA) to support him, boosting him on their shoulders to victory. This was made possible because I lived in a rural community where the FFA was the largest club in the school.

As painful as it was to lose to Michael, even more aggravating was the discovery that my friend, Howard, had gone behind my back and voted for my opponent. Howard explained to me that he felt compelled to do so because he, too, was a farmer, and the pressure from the club to get behind Michael was more than he could resist.

I was so pissed off. Howard and I were friends. Now granted, we hadn’t tilled the soil together or considered the best way to herd cows, but we had done many more important human things which should have engaged his loyalty in my direction.

For instance, we sang in a quartet together. That means there were days of rehearsal, little road trips, late-night talks about girls and how parts worked, giggling, crying…and oh, speaking of crying, I was there with Howard when he discovered that his girlfriend, Jackie, was dating Ben behind his back. (By the way, another farmer.) Actually, Howard was not sure that Jackie was being a two-timer, so one night the two of us went out in his 1958 Chevy coupe and found Ben and Jackie, parked in Lover’s Lane, necking away, with Ben plowing where Howard had already planted crops. Howard was devastated. I stayed up with him all night, talking, crying and coming to the early morning decision that Jackie was just no good.

So you see, we had history. We were friends. And honestly, sometimes being a friend is much stronger than being a relative, especially a farmer. I just didn’t understand.

Howard knew I was angry. I stayed that way for at least a month. We would talk, but I made sure that he was aware that out of revenge, I was withholding some of the better stories that I could have been sharing. Actually, within a couple of weeks, I was glad that I wasn’t president of the class. Being vice-president meant I didn’t have the responsibility, but still got out of class, still got the respect of students and teachers, but Michael was left to deal with the sticky messes. But I didn’t tell Howard that’s how I felt. No, Howard was on my crap list. And it really wasn’t a list–just Howard’s name, signed at the bottom.

Finally one day, Howard took me aside and tried to explain. He said, “You know, blood is thicker than water.”

I just stared at him. “Is there a bloodline of farmers? And what’s that got to do with anything?”

But in a moment of pity I looked into his eyes and realized that Howard was afraid. And whenever we’re afraid, we go back to patterns of behavior ingrained in us long before we are able to resist. After all, even if your parents were abusive, they were still the first ones to put a bottle in your mouth and tell you about Santa Claus. It’s hard to forget that. And if your parents are farmers and you’re a member of FFA, it makes you feel like you’re betraying your kin if you vote for your buddy instead of your barn-mate.

I didn’t exactly forgive him, but I realized he was thick. Emotion, truth, gentleness, loyalty and faithfulness were unable to get through a crusty hide of tradition and false respect.

We eventually made up. If I recall, it had something to do with him meeting a new girl, who also cheated on him–so we had to go out together and chase down the latest infidelity. (For some reason Howard had very poor success in maintaining the ongoing affection of loyal girlfriends.)

I remember this story because I always want to be reminded that not all blessing comes from my family tree. Not all wisdom comes from my little village. And not all growth can be spawned from my little garden patch of understanding.

I need newness of life–and that includes new people with new ideas, new faces and new ways that may at first seem contrary to me, but in the long run, expand my heart and make me a better human.

Thick is what bloodies the waters.

Dear God, help me not to be thick-headed, building concrete around my brain.

Heavenly Father, help me not to be thick-gutted, padding the fat around my waist with additional reinforcements.

And Almighty Creator, keep me from being thick-hearted, protecting my emotions from the experiences that will make me more understanding instead of so doggone sure of myself.

I didn’t get to be senior class president. Part of it was because a dear cohort chose a farmer over a friend. But what I learned is that God always allows us to grow, even from our disappointments, as long as we don’t get so thick that He can’t reach our insides.

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