Iz and Pal (Bedouin Buddies)

Iz and Pal

Jonathots Daily Blog


Sitting Five

Iz and Pal huddled and cried for a solid hour, shivering, sobbing, trying to speak, but diminishing to painful sighs and groans.


No father ever knows how deeply the rejection goes into the soul of a son who wishes to disagree but is cast into the role of the delinquent prodigal.

Night was falling—a desert night, black and chilly, clear and cold—the human blood still boiling from the day’s heat, but the skin releasing its warmth, beginning to freeze body and then, soul.

There had been no time to build a fire, so the two boys entwined inside the tent for heat and comfort. They whimpered and shuddered.

At length, Iz spoke. “Pada isn’t always that bad.”

Pal was speechless, unwilling to agree, yet not wanting to begin a useless discussion. Iz continued. “No, I mean it. He is a good man. He just has never understood my ways.”

Pal inserted, “Our ways.”

The boys soon discovered that having no fire allowed the creeping, squeaking, squawking and wiggling living organisms all around them to remain unseen, but certainly lively. The desert at night was terrifying. Some conversation was needed to keep them from thinking about the legendary, man-eating sand worm.

“Why do our people hate each other?” Iz asked.

“I don’t know,” said Pal, because he didn’t.

Iz objected. “‘I don’t know’ will not keep the conversation going and keep our minds off the bugs and slime.”

Pal growled, “I think your father thinks I’m bugs and slime.”

Iz attempted to soften his tone. “And what would your father think of me?” he asked.

Pal did not hesitate. “Probably just slime. Jew-boy slime.” Pal peered at his friend in the darkness. “Our skin is not different.”

Iz moved closer, agreeing. “No. In color, we could be brothers.”

Pal continued. “We eat, drink and live in the same places.”

“That’s right,” said Iz. “You don’t get pork, either, do you?”

“Nope,” said Pal matter-of-factly.

In the brief moment of silence between them, there were more buzzes and cackles in the surrounding bleakness. Iz inched even closer to Pal.

“I could never hate you,” he said.

“Why would you want to?” asked Pal.

“They want me to,” replied Iz, aggravated. “Because your God has a funny name.”

Without missing a beat, Pal replied, “And your God has a common name.”

Iz found this funny. “Maybe we could solve the whole thing by coming up with a new name for God that would please both of us,” he suggested.

Pal laughed. “One day in the desert and you’re ready to rename God.”

“How about Frank?” offered Iz.

Pal nodded. “The Americans would love it—and it sounds honest.”

Two friends giggling. The best sound ever.

Iz paused. “I need to tell you,” he said, “we’re almost out of water.”

Pal slowly shook his head. “Not a good thing in the desert.”

“What are we going to do?” inquired Iz with a slight creak in his voice.

Pal sat up on an elbow and said, “I think we should take this tiny tent down, and wrap ourselves in it for warmth, to keep all bugs and snakes far, far away.”

Iz eagerly agreed and the two friends turned themselves into a living, human cocoon. They tried to continue their conversation, but words began to fade into dreams. Dreams were displaced by moments of recollection—only to be interrupted by the sounds of the night creatures.

Iz dozed off, thinking about water.

Pal fell asleep, wondering where his family was.

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More Angels… April 6, 2013


angelMattie loved me. I loved her, too.

It really was not a romantic thing, although if it was confirmed that we were marooned on a desert island, after three or four days of restraint, we certainly would have done our part to repopulate our new earth.

I really liked her voice. She had one of those folksy, husky alto tones, with a bit of available soprano-melodia. I used to love to sit in a room with her and listen to her share one of her original songs as I sipped tea and crunched on some Trisquits. That was really her best atmosphere. The sound she had selected for her style was not conducive to the recording studio or public arenas. It was simple and intimate. So Nashville producers were not busting down her door to procure the rights to her material.

Therefore, it was really sweet of her to be so supportive of me and my group when we did get signed. Matter of fact, on the day of our session, she showed up at the studio with Rice Krispie treats for everybody, which we gobbled down quickly (even though it did cross my mind that they could be poisoned).

Most of the time she was the brave little warrior, but one day I walked in and found her sitting in a puddle of her own tears.

“What’s wrong, Mattie?” I asked, moving to her side and putting an arm around her.

“I suck,” she replied, releasing a fresh gusher.

I sat for a moment, thinking about what the correct response or encouragement should be to such a proclamation. Merely saying “you don’t suck” seemed insufficient.

“What happened?” I inquired.

She handed over a piece of paper containing her latest rejection from a publishing house in Music City. Not only had they spurned her tunes, but had also misspelled her name. It was rather depressing.

She continued. “I’m ready to give up. I’m no good and will never be any good.”

Once again, as you can see, she didn’t leave me a lot of room to leap in.

“You know what the problem is?” I asked.

She paused, and then said, “Yes. I suck.”

“No,” I replied. “You don’t suck. You just feel like you suck because you’ve forgotten that you have more angels than demons.”

She crinkled her brow at me as she often did when I offered some piece of wisdom that she found to be too heavenly and not very practical. I quickly continued.

“All of us, Mattie, have more angels than demons. It just feels like we’ve got more of the bad guys because we chase the angels away. We don’t do it on purpose, it’s just that angels are more mannerly and less pushy than demons, and if we get in a mood to be negative, we scurry them out of our lives and they stay away until we invite them back in. Meanwhile the demons remain because they have no sense of fair play, and sit around laughing at us–moving the box of Kleenex so we can’t even comfort ourselves.”

She sat for a moment, then asked, “How did I chase the angels away?”

“The same way we all do. When we become convinced that what we have is not enough and we insult ourselves so strongly and meanly that the angels scatter.”

“How do I get ’em back?” she inquired.

I didn’t answer at first. Sometimes I think there’s a danger in being too wordy or overly spiritual with someone who’s hurting. Because I gave that space of time, she answered her own question.

‘”I guess the angels would feel more like returning if I stopped feeling sorry for myself.”

“That’s good,” I said.

She did. Matter of fact, she doubled her efforts, and three weeks later signed a contract with a national adoption agency, which used one of her songs to promote placing unwanted children into new families.

Mattie never became a star, but I know there may be people reading this who were welcomed into a new home because of her efforts.

Everybody has more angels than demons. Everybody chases the angels away from time to time and forgets how to welcome them back home. The key to life is avoiding the temptation to destroy your demons. Instead, outnumber them with your angels.

Good news–we have more angels than demons.

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

Shuffled … October 28, 2012


Human beings love to be wanted.

I am a human being. I am not exempt from the desire.

Yet about two or maybe three times a year, a church will cancel us because some big-wig from their district office, or a presbyter, or just a guy or gal in charge, steps in and invites themselves to the church on the particular Sunday when we were supposed to be there, and we end up dumped in the weeds.

It happened this Sunday.

Fortunately, the quality pastor of the church in Columbus, Ohio, who found herself double-booked and needing to get rid of us, was kind enough point the direction towards some other possibilities, and were were able to find a lovely lady to schedule us into a replacement engagement.

I am grateful for that. I don’t like to miss an opportunity to be in a position to share my heart every chance I get. But I am also a human being and not particularly fond of being shuffled around. You do have to fight off the instinct to feel that you were unwanted by one place and only being taken by another as a favor.

This is why years ago I had to deal with the primary ego question involved in trying to do something different. That question is simple: Can I understand that people don’t want you until you make it clear that they require you?

It’s true. Even in marriage, the affection seems to die out if the passion for being together dissipates–because we just don’t make ourselves valuable enough to each other. Love is not a promise of faithfulness; love is a reaction to faithfulness and the glory of an exciting journey. We may not always like that, but it’s true.

As I thought about being “shuffled around” by two Ohio churches, I was reminded of the story of Jesus going to a Samaritan village, and due to the good testimony of a woman at a well, who had an exciting encounter with him, he was able to have quite a revival in that particular community. Yet when he came back to Samaria later on–to the very same region where he had been so beneficial and successful–the story tells us that the town fathers came out and asked him to leave.

You see, the beauty of my story is that the church in Columbus that cancelled me has never experienced my particular message and gifts, so I don’t have to take it personally. It isn’t like the story with Jesus, where the people had already been blessed by him, but on a second go-around, decided to pass.


Here’s what I know about being shuffled around. If you keep your cool, don’t get offended, work on your talent and what you have to share, more often than not, the place you end up seems to be better than where you were originally intending to go. I don’t know why it works out that way–maybe it’s just the way God rewards those who don’t get fussy about being stood up. But in a way, life is a lot like a game of poker. Between every hand, the deck is shuffled. Otherwise, you just keep dealing the same cards.

The question I ask myself tonight before I go and spend a wonderful morning with these new friends is: can I allow myself to be shuffled and dealt out in a new direction without feeling that I am a second-class citizen?

I really do think so.

I think the most intelligent thing we can do is realize that we become valuable to people when we bring something of value to them, and until then, we are just strangers.

So here I go, to Somerset, Ohio, being shuffled.

I guess what I’m hoping for … is a full house.

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

Here You Add–November 13, 2011


She was sad, having absolutely no idea how to rise from the ashes of a devastating relationship which had produced three young whelps who had plans of their own which certainly did not include her well-earned Master’s Degree in Music and virtuoso ability on the oboe. She sat in a room with me, having fresh tears on her cheeks, the veteran of an abusive situation with the man who was the father of her children, but certainly not the husband of her dreams, leaving her financially destitute, with no recourse but to find the best job possible in the quickest way possible. She said, “I guess I’ll never play oboe again.”

I was saddened, alarmed, infuriated, passionate and bewildered–all in the same moment. “Why?” I inquired.

“Because I have messed up so badly and I need to be a mother to these children and make money as quickly as possible, and that just doesn’t have anything to do with blowing through a horn.”

She was speaking conventional wisdom, which is great if you’re going to a convention, but usually doesn’t do much for the personal welfare of an individual human being. It made me think about my situation–not because I was trying to be selfish, but because I realized that the purpose of having a clean emotional slate is to make you able to evaluate what you’ve really got and muster a thankful thinking that allows you to take your mustard seed of ability and faith and plant it in the right direction. 

I had been successful doing things that were musical and had achieved some prowess with writing. Now I wondered if I could compose music for the oboe and take this dear woman’s abilities and keep them moving forward, generating some finance for her family and also producing some new possibilities for my own career. I prepared myself for the multiplication of talents.

The reason most people never multiply their talents is because they’re unwilling to admit they have talent. Why? Because the admission of talent brings forth two crazy “r’s” in our lives.  The first one if responsibility.  If I have a talent, it’s safe to assume I’m responsible to do something with it instead of burying it in the ground or hiding it under a bushel. Yes, most people “bushel their talent” because the responsibility of using it is so frightening that they would rather pretend they weren’t granted such agility. 

Because the second “r” is rejection. What happens if you share your talent and people tell you you’re not very good? What if you decide to live off your talent and the daily wage necessary to sustain life doesn’t come trickling in? Yes, responsibility and rejection often keep us from admitting we have the talent–and the lack of confessing our gift eliminates the possibility of expanding it and multiplying it, to foster new areas.

I had written gospel music; I had written plays. I had written a few books and I was working on a novel. Could I have the faith, with my little mustard seed, to believe that I could write music for oboe with a symphonic bend, that would allow this dear woman to continue her work in a craft that brought her joy, so that raising her children would be a pleasant experience instead of an adult burden?

The power of discovering your mustard seed of talent is that you no longer have to convince yourself that God has blessed you. The only challenge that remains is how far you can stretch that blessing before it breaks. 

I asked her if she wanted to work with me. That was fifteen years ago–two novels, seven books, fourteen CD’s, eleven symphonies and seventeen screenplays completed.

Once you free your spirit of the burden of unrequited emotions, your brain becomes thankful and a mind of gratitude develops the faith to use the mustard seed of talent, to launch out in trust with what you have and in the process, avenues appear for potential multiplication.

I do not know what I would have done that day if Janet Clazzy had shared her burden about her life and I had been emotionally bound up, unaware of what capacity was within me, distrustful of being grateful about my life, and had not already learned to plant my mustard seed into the ground to let it grow. But because I had gone through the “here you go,” the “here you got,” the “here you adopt” and the “here you adapt” phases,  by the grace of God, I was ready for “here you add.”

I sat down at a keyboard and started writing music that we will be sharing in front of a congregation even this very day.

Fresh things don’t happen if we allow our beliefs to become stale. Joy is not spawned from trepidation. And talent does not overtake us–but is taken over by our desire to believe that we can actually contribute something of quality to human life around us.

I am so glad she didn’t quit playing the oboe.  Aren’t you? I am so glad she learned how to conduct a symphony orchestra, and began one that reached tens of thousands of people in Tennessee. And I am so glad that she is sitting right here with me now, typing this document as my friend and co-producer of all sorts of new ideas.

If you want to have good spiritual and mental health, you need to stop being afraid of the responsibility and rejection that often accompany talent–because burying your talent in the ground only makes it invisible to the masses.

You still know it’s there.


Here comes Christmas! For your listening pleasure, below is Manger Medley, Jonathan’s arrangement of Away in the Manger, which closes with him singing his gorgeous song, Messiah.  Looking forward to the holidays with you!


Jonathan sings “Let”


Jonathan Sings “Spent This Time”


Jonathan and his partner, Janet Clazzy, play “The Call”

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