Things I Learned from R. B.


Jonathots Daily Blog

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Episode 7

Eight thousand three hundred and twenty-nine miles.

From Erie, Pennsylvania, down to Jacksonville, Florida, across to Houston, Texas, up to St. Louis, Chicago, then over to Detroit, and even Nashville, Tennessee—with many cities in between.

For thirty-one days we traveled to twenty-five cities, putting on performances of my musical, surviving on fast food, common hospitality, and the financial generosity of an audience asked to pass the hat.

Providing our transportation were two leased vans—one stripped of interior seats, which acted as utilitarian, hauling equipment and suitcases. The other was a twelve-passenger van for the cast.

There were nine of us in all. I drove the passenger van, and Gary and Don took over the responsibilities of the “Ute Van.”

They liked that. And little else.

I often wondered why the two of them had auditioned for the play in the first place. Then I realized it was because they didn’t think they would be good enough to get in, but thought it would be fun to try—never imagining they would run across a producer like myself, who was so desperate for a cast that he hired them.

Every once in a while, just to keep things honest, I sent R. B. back to ride in the Ute Van along with Gary and Don, to act as my eyes and ears.

Unfortunately, R. B. was so inexperienced that he didn’t realize the pair was smoking pot right in front of him. When we stopped for gasoline, his innocence played out comically in how loopy he acted—from exposure to second-hand smoke.

When I cracked down on Gary and Don about the grass smoking, they immediately assumed that R. B. had squealed. They confronted him and he denied it, but they never believed him. They used the remainder of the tour to make his life as miserable as possible, with practical jokes, mocking him in front of the girls in the cast, and I think once even peeing on his costume.

Even though I tried to correct the matter, the cast members were not my wards of the court, but rather, young people wanting to get by with as much as they could and doing as little as they could in the process.

One of the girls challenged R. B. to “stand up for himself.” He explained that such a maneuver was against his Christianity because he believed in “loving people and forgiving them.”

Although his rendition of the Gospels was accepted by the other cast members who heard him share it, I interrupted with a different interpretation.

“Forgiveness is powerful if you’ve already established yourself as the salt of the Earth and the light of the world. If you’re valuable—nearly indispensable—then offering the humility of forgiveness carries some weight. But if you’ve spent most of your time on the back of the bus—or the back of the van, in this case—your forgiveness just looks like what any loser would have to do.”

R. B. had to make a choice. Was he going to side with me and the rest of the troop or was he going to quietly join into the rebellion of Gary and Don, as they attempted to convince themselves that they could do everything better than me?

One night, the sponsor at our concert called me into his office about an hour before showtime. He was an old buddy—going way back. He knew everything about me, and I the same for him.

He said, “You need to get your cast straightened out. I just had three of them in here, trying to convince me that you were crazy and that they needed some relief from your dictatorial style.”

Before I could even ask my friend who the three were, he identified them. “It’s your three boys,” he said. “Gary, Don and R. B.”

I wasn’t surprised with Gary and Don. But I was quite astounded that R. B. sided with his tormentors against me.

I know the cast thought I was going to yell at them before the show once word spread that I had been informed, but I did no such thing.

When I was introduced to do the opening words before the musical began, I received warm applause from the audience, which remembered me from former days. I did something that surprised everybody—even myself.

I said, “I want to thank you all for coming out here tonight. We are not in very good spirits and have been arguing with each other for several days. I didn’t want to try to fake you out. I didn’t want to pretend. I didn’t want you guessing. The cast that’s about to come out and perform are doing a good job, and they’re probably peeing their pants right now, wondering why in the hell (pardon my language) I’m saying this. The reason I am is that we don’t have to be perfect to do good things. But it sure helps if we’re honest. So I would like you to forgive us for being mere mortals, and please allow us to take you on a journey. Perhaps in pursuing that odyssey with you, we might get in better moods ourselves.”

The audience burst into applause.

The overture began and we were off to the races. It was a brilliant show.  When some of the cast members made their entrances, you could see tears in their eyes.

I didn’t have any more trouble with Gary and Don. But R. B. was never able to get over the fact that in his opinion, I had humiliated them all in front of the audience.

Even though Gary and Don despised him, R. B. chose to befriend his detractors.

Jesonian … July 21st, 2018

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Jesus is not a conservative.

“He who is given much, much is expected.”

“Whenever you’ve done it unto the least of these, my brethren, you’ve done it unto me.”

Jesus is not a liberal.

“The poor you have with you always. Do what you can.”

“Every good tree brings forth good fruit.”

Jesus is also not a vegan.

Too much talk about killing the fatted calf and eating it, and of course, there was that time he devoured the grilled fish by the seashore.

Jesus is not a member of the NRA.

“They that live by the sword shall die by the sword.”

“My kingdom is not of this world; otherwise my disciples would fight.”

Jesus is not religious.

“Avoid vain repetition.”

“Thinking with their much speaking that they are pleasing God.”

Jesus is not an anarchist.

“Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s.”

“I have not come to destroy the world, but to save it.”

Jesus is a FAITHOLOGIST.

He studied faith, analyzed it, prayed for it, praised it, wondered where the hell it was when it wasn’t there, and showcased it.

He was a Faithologist.

First he taught people to have faith in themselves…

“You are the salt of the Earth.”

“Your faith has made you whole.”

…then God:

“Our Father, which art in heaven.”

“If you, being evil men, give good gifts, won’t your Father give even better?”

In his Faithology course, he taught faith in Nature:

“You can discern the face of the sky.”

“Consider the lily and how it grows.”

And he taught us to have faith in others:

“Give and men shall give to you, good measure, pressed down, running over.”

“Love your neighbor as yourself.”

He came in human form to talk to human beings about human things in a human way, to encourage human excellence. He certainly was the Great Humanist.

But he taught this by extolling the power of faith–that even as a mustard seed, if we will not doubt in our hearts, we can move mountains.

*****

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Jesonian … June 9th, 2018

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It wasn’t a “God-storm.”

The disciples were wrong. They were wacked-out–frantic over a poor use of faith.

They were probably reflecting back to several weeks earlier, when they were in the middle of the Sea of Galilee, got swatted by a cloud burst with huge waves, thunder and lightning, were surrounded by other little boats, and Jesus walked on the water to save them.

Now, that was a “God-storm.” In other words, a storm that required the hand of God. But the little squall that blew up on this night was not a “God-storm.”

The disciples should have known–for Jesus was sound asleep on a pillow in the boat.

Let’s keep in mind–you’ve got four fishermen on this craft–at least that many. This isn’t their first raft trip. It’s not the first time they saw the waters well up around them.

But back before they were disciples–when they were men–they handled it. If they didn’t, they died.

But now, you see, they had faith.

And their faith, instead of making them whole, had made them lazy.

They didn’t need to wake up Jesus. They had just grown accustomed to the Master handling all the difficulties, and they were in no mood to put themselves in jeopardy by practicing what they had been taught.

They didn’t want to “take no thought” about the storm.

They didn’t want to be the “salt of the Earth and the light of the world.”

They were completely content being followers–while Jesus was trying to make leaders.

They were lazy.

This is the same problem we have in the Christian church today. The faith we espouse is making us lazy instead of whole.

For I will tell you–I cannot attest to the fact that the Christians I know are the nicest people I know.

I cannot testify that these same Christians are the smartest, most generous, most open-minded and most forgiving people I have encountered.

They are simply too damn lazy from living off grace to use their faith.

Somehow or another, Jesus had called men to be on his team, and they had all turned into little children: “Daddy! We’re gonna drown! Don’t you care?”

Even two ounces of faith would tell you that if Jesus is asleep on the pillow, this must be a livable situation.

Maybe it’s a “Me-storm.” That’s one that only requires “me” involved to produce a safe conclusion.

Maybe it’s an “Us-storm.” That would include my partner and myself, working together to provide energy, brains and faith.

Perhaps it’s a “We-storm.” We might have to beckon the whole family, maybe the congregation, the town, or who knows? The nation.

But when it’s not a “God-storm,” don’t expect God to take care of it.

Jesus wanted his disciples to trust him. But he wanted to trust them, too.

So if you want to have a Christian walk and you want to be Jesonian, you’ll have to learn the difference between a “God-storm” and a “Me-storm.”

After all, it’s not that God fails to answer your prayers. He just wonders why you’re so lazy, and don’t answer your own.

*****

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Jesonian … May 12th, 2018

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It’s all about the day. Today, to be exact.

If you lead human beings to the “browner” pastures of musing over the week, the month, the year, or God forbid, the lifetime, they dispel portions of purpose and chunks of energy.

Actually, this is commonly understood. Perhaps it’s not stated enough, but one reason that religion is so anti-Christ is that it forces the adherents to ponder holidays, ceremonies, rituals, yearly timetables and of course, eternal life.

It removes the congregant from the opportunity to participate in his or her own life on a daily basis and to watch the meticulous changes that occur through just placing one’s attention span in the right timeframe.

Jesus hated the religious system.

Do you understand this? If not, you are wasting your time in a religion called Christianity instead of faith–Jesonian.

Jesus articulates this when he tells the Pharisees that they grow so tired of their own people–so bored with the individuals who come to synagogue–that they traverse land and sea to win one convert, and then transform this individual into “twice the son of hell” as they are themselves.

What makes the newbie twice the son of hell?

He is robbed of the experience of daily life, and thrust into the swirl of meaningless liturgy, peering at his human journey in multiple leaps, culminating with death and heaven.

Humans are horrible when we don’t have a vision for the 24-hour period set before us.

The difference between Jesonian and the religious system is personal acquisition. This begins with:

1. Be aware.

In other words, you have a life. Nothing will happen with it just because you live or because you pray. You must ask, seek and knock.

2. Find passion.

Living demands energy. Living requires your presence instead of your observation. You are the salt of the Earth–therefore without you, there’s no flavor. You are the light of the world. When you are absent, darkness rules.

3. Take responsibility.

The only way to guarantee failure is to look for others to blame. Even if you can prove it’s their fault, you can’t control their repentance.

Find where you are responsible in every situation. Celebrate that you’ve been given the authority to change circumstances for the better.

Religion, politics, business, family and even entertainment–all of them force us to look into the distance instead of peering down at our plate of “daily bread.”

It renders us insipid.

It forces us, by default, to become “sons of hell.”

*****

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G-Poppers … January 5th, 2018

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G-Pop has a heart to share something with his children.

There is a certain hint of sadness that settles into a life filled with goodness–goodness, in this case, being defined as a willingness to learn and adapt to the ways of Earth instead of ignoring, rejecting or refuting them.

Once we make our peace with the planet of our birth, and cease to turn our backs on its beautiful, natural ways, some goodness makes its home in our hearts. This is not always permanent, but it visits enough that we should always keep the guest room ready.

But finding the goodness of life does introduce brief periods of melancholy.

After all, if you do decide to “love your neighbor as yourself,” you might actually begin to have empathy for people, even though they don’t love you the same way.

If you pursue becoming “the salt of the Earth,” you might shed a tear over a tasteless society.

Discovering ways to be “the light of the world” just punctuates the darkness.

Contentment sweeps through your soul when you cease to judge others, but realize that their paths will contain sadness and struggle, and find joy in living instead of acting like the whole journey is about making heaven, and speculating with too much revelry about who occupies hell.

There is a certain sadness that accompanies goodness; a mourning that follows being blessed, which requires comforting.

It does not leave us inconsolable–we are not without remedy. God will need to dry our tears.

Rather, it is the sense of yearning to continue to find the grace of God by simply complying with the flow of Earth, and feeling pain for those who continue to rebel.

The Twenty-Third Psalm phrases it best:

“Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life…”

Yes, when the sweet blanket of forgiving goodness covers our wounded souls, it is our mandate to feel deep, heartfelt mercy for those who are chilled by reality.

 

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Jesonian … December 30th, 2017

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A message does not change simply by revising the tone or the tune.

Our churches across America are convinced that if they became either softer or louder, the Gospel message will land on the hearts of the people more efficiently. There is also a strong contingency which contends that the music, styles and even instruments used in worship services are the key to drawing in the masses.

We have tried both of these methodologies, and we’re still losing people–and the general empathy for Christianity is diminishing.

What’s wrong?

Whatever Jesus did to share his thoughts and mission with the people around him was obviously more impactful and efficient than what we presently do. Matter of fact, Matthew the 9th Chapter, Verses 35-36, describe a day when Jesus enters the synagogue, teaches, preaches the new Gospel of the Kingdom and heals the sick–what you might call a complete package.

In other words, people come into the meeting, are challenged, changed and rid of some of their difficulties.

But it’s the next verse that makes me curious–that’s verse 36. It states that Jesus was “moved with compassion because the multitudes were harassed and helpless, like sheep having no shepherd.”

I guess I’ve always heard that interpreted in a positive way, spotlighting Jesus as the solution to the problem. A solution he may be, but not by offering the same insipid message that was already harassing the multitudes, leaving them helpless.

The present thrust and blending of Judeo-Christian values which is presented in the average church harasses us in our sins and inadequacies while simultaneously putting us at the mercy of society, and sometimes even the devil–helpless.

I do not understand what the value is of going to church if you’re going to be harassed and left helpless.

I also do not know how value could come to your life by constantly wandering around like a sheep looking for someone to give you directions.

Jesus was not describing a situation which he planned on addressing with a band-aid. Jesus intended to remove the harassment, empower the people and take away the silly, unfortunate profile of being sheepish.

How?

1. Even though we’re sinners, it does us no good to languish in that knowledge. We need to repent and move on, not hear it preached at us every single week.

2. We need to stop harassing the congregation with foolish discussions of worship approaches, prayer seminars and new ways to express our hospitality, and instead, give people tools to be the “salt of the earth” and the “light of the world.”

3. We need to stop victimizing the people who come to the church building by making them feel like they’re the underdogs in a world of tribulation.

4. We need to understand that Christianity is not a religion, but rather, a lifestyle, and therefore works best when it’s presented in small doses of ideas which enhance human life, and then follow it up through patient trial and error.

5. There is no Christianity without love and appreciation of one another. We cannot replace it with worship or ignore it with prayer, and merely attending the church service does not guarantee that we “love our neighbor as ourselves.”

6. We would do better to teach people to want God in their lives instead of making them needy.

7. And even though we are “sheep in the midst of wolves,” we gain the advantage by being “as wise as serpents and as harmless as doves.”

Jesus was moved with compassion because religion had harassed the people, leaving them helpless, stumbling around like lost sheep.

The harvest he suggested his disciples pursue was to gather those souls from the danger of meaningless proclamations of faith and lead them to a place where their faith had meaning and their proclamations began to move mountains.

 

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Jesonian–Troubling (Part 11)… September 9th, 2017

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Most troubling.

I was a very naive, impressionable fifteen-year-old boy with a volatile battle between carnality and spirituality raging in my soul. I was very enamored with the pastor of my local church.

He had baptized me. In many ways, he had befriended me. And he had welcomed me into the small-town church, which was now growing because young people were bumping up against each other, carrying the fellowship they felt at school into a second Sunday morning experience.

I had also made another friend. He was a young minister from a different denomination–a forbidden one–who was cool, cared about me and loved rock and roll music.

So when I was talking to the pastor of my “every week church” about this young fellow, he suddenly frowned and warned, “Stay away from him. He preaches a social gospel.

I did not know what that meant, nor did I ask. But it sounded really bad. And the delivery was enough to nearly make my heart stop. “Social” could be “socialist,” which was communist. Don’t want any of that. So I cut off all ties with the young minister, much to his chagrin.

For you see, my pastor taught redemption. “The blood of Christ cleanses from all sins.”

And later on in my life, as a young man, I ran across those who preached “the full Gospel.” They believed that the gifts of the Holy Spirit and miracles were just as available to believers today as they were in the time of Peter, Paul and Mother Mary.

The bizarre fact is that these three renditions of the Gospel of Jesus–social, redemption, and full–don’t generally get along very well.

It is troubling.

It’s what makes the evangelical church anemic–because it lacks social passion along with personal motivation.

It makes the “social Gospel people” appear to read from a book that in many ways they no longer believe in.

And often the “full Gospel people” contend that without the baptism of the Holy Spirit, you don’t have the presence of God working in your life.

It’s really quite befuddling.

  • Because you can’t start a fire with just a match.
  • Nor can you ignite a flame with kindling.
  • And no fire is possible minus oxygen.

It is the joining of all these forces that makes fire ablaze.

Therefore, to follow Jesus, you must have a social consciousness that shares a redemptive message, believing that God is still in the business of healing and moving by the Spirit.

Why would we want anything less than that? Why would we want to focus on one of these factors of fire, yet end up flameless?

Troubling.

I deeply believe in the social Gospel of Jesus. I believe there’s no need for me to bring my gift to the altar if I am not reconciled with my brothers and sisters. I believe I am to be the salt of the Earth and the light of the world.

But I also believe that when I have obvious, evident weakness, it is the redemption of God’s grace, through the life-saving blood of Jesus, that pulls me through. But once I am redeemed, I am compelled, challenged and exhorted to trust that the same spirit that dwelt in Christ also dwells in me.

My gospel should be full.

And when it is full, redemptive and socially aware, I become of value to myself, mankind and the heavens.

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