Is It Still There? … May 6, 2013

(1,873)

flagHave you ever listened closely to the lyrics? (Actually, since it was originally a poem, maybe I should say “the stanzas.”)

I’m talking about The Star Spangled Banner, penned by Francis Scott Key. After all, the emotion of the song is a yearning curiosity about whether the defenders of Ft. McHenry had survived the all-night battle–if the flag was still waving, proclaiming victory.

We’ve grown so accustomed to hearing the song sung by young, spoiled, famous pop artists, who are more concerned about the pitch range than they are about the emotional range, that we somehow have lost the significance of the message.

That night in Baltimore Harbor, Mr. Key was frantic about whether the United States would be able to continue its mission, initiated 36 years earlier with the signing of the Declaration of Independence.

He was nervous. He was anxious for a little light to be shone on the day so he could determine the future of our nation.

For this I know–after all the scandals, ill-advised wars, foolish clinging to bigotry, financial disasters and even the broaching of civil rights which have peppered our history, we still remain a country which insists on pursuing the simple concept of personal freedom.

But like Francis Scott Key, I sometimes wonder whether The Star Spangled Banner is still there in the midst of all the partisanship and vendettas put out by less-than-scrupulous leaders in this country, who have more of a vested interest in their own personal wealth and position than they do in the deeper treasures of liberty.

But I am not cynical. I still believe I live in a magnificent country.

It all came to bear on me the other day when I received an email from my daughter-in-law, who was born and raised in China. She sent an attachment of a file, with her singing a song she will be auditioning tomorrow, to possibly perform for the UCLA graduation. It was The Star Spangled Banner.

First, I was astonished that she was a singer. She had never shared that talent with me in all of our varied conversations. She had listened to me croon away many times without piping a note herself. But when I listened to her gentle, sweet voice intone our national anthem, I was brought to tears–especially when I heard her share the phrase, “Oh, say does that Star Spangled Banner yet wave–o’er the land of the free …?”

When she hit that high note, a chill went down my spine. Not because it was loud or intense. No–because I realized that here was a Chinese girl raised in among an intelligent and intuitive people, who had used her abilities to arrive on the shores of America to expand her education, and was now singing the praises of the “land of the free.”

You see–that’s America.

America isn’t about listening to a bunch of old codgers, sitting around in over-stuffed leather chairs discussing the subtleties of politics. America is a beautiful young girl from China, who still honors her country of origin, but comes to harvest the benefits from the freedom and opportunities provided by this republic.

It was beautiful. It struck a patriotic chord in me that still resounds this morning.

So you can feel free to continue to be part of the pervasive attitude that is trying to  preserve an America long gone or initiate an America yet unrevealed.

As for me, I will celebrate the power of the immigrant–that soul who has traveled to our shores to find the missing pieces of his or her life.

So here’s to my daughter-in-law and her beautiful spirit. I don’t know if she’ll win the audition or not–but she’s already proven that The Star Spangled Banner is still there.

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

*****

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

Effective … August 23, 2012

(1,616)

There are things I like and there are things that work. Sometimes, blessedly, they’re the same, but many times they aren’t. I have discovered that maturity is being able to distinguish between them. For after all, to continue to do something that is not effective simply because you like it may be the accurate definition of senility.

So I don’t think that getting old begins at fifty, but actually initiates its death-hold on us whenever we insist that our particular preference should be pursued even though it isn’t practical to the need. I think we have to take a good hard look at many things in our society with regard to this dilemma.

Certainly the way we elect a President in this country is not effective. The campaign is too long, the issues are generalized and the attacks are personal–and ultimately, we elect individuals who immediately have to prepare for the next election instead of considering the better options for the people.

Likewise, the distribution and sale of food in this country is inequitable and ineffective. Although we insist we want Americans to be healthier, the foods that would benefit the populace are over-priced and often unavailable at the local markets in the poorer neighborhoods. Meanwhile, we have dollar menus in fast food restaurants offering all the delicacies that lend themselves to heart disease.

“Ineffective” also shows up in our religious system. We have become intently involved in the pursuit of a worship service, when Jesus, himself, made it clear that “man was not created for the Sabbath.” In other words, God doesn’t need church. The Sabbath was created for man. Human beings are the ones who need fellowship, confirmation, exhortation and direction.

So we tiptoe through the tulips to get into the sanctuary to listen to a prelude written by some dead German three hundred years ago and then quietly wrangle ourselves through a series of hymns with language that, although beautiful, is a bit arcane. In the last ten to twenty minutes we insert some homily with a point to reinforce the value of the Bible and the religious experience and close off to race to coffee, cookies and Danish and talk about everything but our lives and our Heavenly Father.

I suppose if it was just an organization that we started on our own, built to our specifications, it would be just fine. But it was Jesus who started the church and it should be Jesus who is harkened to as to the operation of his organism. What IS effective? If you’re going to minister to people, the meeting together on a weekly basis should have something in it that is people-friendly and meeting the needs of the people.

What was a “Jesus church service like? It isn’t hard to discover. All you have to do is read the gospels and ascertain his approach to an audience of humans.

1. He always started off by telling stories. We call them parables. They were just little tales applicable to life and drew parallels to how much simpler God is than we make Him out to be–how He has already placed snapshots of His style in the everyday world. (Without practical application, religion quickly veers towards ritual. When ritual arrives, HOW we do something becomes more important than WHY we’re doing it. And when HOW becomes the most important part of spirituality, we not only become picky over our processes, but critical of others who don’t revere our version.) Jesus told stories. It’s how he started off his worship services.

2. A time for healing. The stories stimulated the imagination and willingness of the people. They felt the liberty to express their needs for healing and direction. I don’t know whether you would call it Q and A, or just an opening for people to be emotionally vulnerable instead of merely reciting a call to worship. But there was a time for healing–getting down to business. If people are leaving church the same way that they came, they can eventually skip that step, stay home, read the newspaper and have pancakes. That’s how simple it is. If church is not a place for us to discover both inner and outer healing, then how would it be any different from clogging your mind with a morning of viewing Meet the Press? After Jesus told stories, he allowed a time for people to receive healing and express their faith, so that he could agree with them for newness. Let’s be honest–healing is exciting, even if it’s just an emotional exhilaration someone experiences just by being prayed for by those who care for them. It brings joy.

3. This leads to the third step–a time for rejoicing. In the Jesus church service, there was always celebration after the healings. There was always a time to give glory to God and to appreciate the benefit. Jesus often used this energy from the healings to attract others who were curious, but uncertain of the format. Rejoicing is a powerful draw to those who are living a life floating in the doldrums. (The absence of rejoicing seems to be the presence of complacency. Truthfully, complacency is what causes people to divert their attention to the next shiny object.)

So Jesus tells stories, allowing people to express their need for healing. He agrees with them, their faith makes them whole and the exuberance lends itself to rejoicing.

4. Singing. It is at this point that I believe we can insert our ecclesiastical obsession for singing. Singing should never be used unless it is the by-product of joy. Even if a song is tender and heartfelt, it still sounds better coming from a being enraptured by joy.

After the singing, it’s time to go out the door to eat those Danish, but this time, to discuss how beautiful it was to be together rather than to determine whether we prefer cheese over prune. It’s called being effective.

Politically, we need a sixty-day election cycle culminating with debates that are only allowed to center in on the issues, with no television advertising permitted at all, removing the electoral college–and whoever gets the most votes wins.

As far as the food supply is concerned, we should encourage farmers to grow more and more produce instead of paying them off to keep their land fallow, and get those fresh fruits and vegetables into smaller and smaller markets, so people will have choices.

And when it comes to the church, we need to cease contending that we are worshipping God, but instead, do honor to His name by helping human beings live better lives. We need to be effective. Jesus had a very simple four-step formula:

  • Tell
  • Heal
  • Rejoice
  • Sing

This is the order that touches human hearts instead of asking the emotional part of people to step out of the way in an attempt to expose the spirit. It’s impossible to do. Our emotions and spirit are linked together and must be ministered to simultaneously.

We don’t need to be effective; we can continue to follow our own particular likes and dislikes to no productive conclusion. But if you want to be like Jesus, you’re going to set your sights towards ministering to humans instead of trying to impress God. In doing so, your Father in Heaven will deem you effective.

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

Sing, Sang, Sung… April 11, 2012

(1,481) 

in Safford, Arizona

Who knows? Maybe it shouldn’t have happened.

Yet when I was twelve years old, one evening I burst out in song in front of a bunch of friends and family and they all commended me on my deep voice and great sound. I don’t know what their motives were. Sometimes those of our own “kin and kind” feel it’s their duty to encourage some young fat boy by pointing out some false positives– to encourage self-esteem. Whatever the reasons were, I grabbed onto that praise like the church treasurer nabbing the offering plates on Sunday morning.

I started singing. I even gathered a little group of friends to sing with me. We thought we were good. We had already spent our first million from record sales before we ever performed our first song. The truth of the matter is, I was a “family-shower” singer. To my family I sounded just fine—worthy to be heard in small doses. My rehearsal for such musical performances always occurred in the shower, where I sounded absolutely astounding.

“Family-shower” singers. They’re everywhere. Nobody talks to them about pitch, tone, phrasing, breathing and faithfulness to the human instrument because that takes away a lot of the fun of just piping off. Television is full of “family-shower” singers, who make it to auditions or game shows, fully confident they are the next American phenomenon–because their families told them so and their sessions in the shower confirmed their prowess.

I know we want to be an encouraging type of folk instead of negative, but can we agree that it is never nasty to help people discover the best way to count the cost of their own ability? Because what happens with “family-shower” singers, if they are not interrupted by wisdom in the craft, is that they turn into “church-townsangers. They start singing special music in their churches, and a few organizations in the town get wind of it and invite them to sing the national anthem or some favorite love song of the wife of the president of the club. They are always applauded—and unfortunately given unnecessary standing ovations—and further encouraged to spread their good word in music.

Just by the simple action of performing, some of the “family-shower” singers, who become “church-town” sangers, actually do get a little better. But here’s a clue—people will tolerate mediocrity as long as they don’t have to pay for it. Very few “church-town” sangers get a single dime for crooning, even though they have invitations coming from everywhere because most planned events would love to have some special music or entertainment, even if it is a little sub-par.

The thing that makes my heart break for “church-town” sangers is that they all believe they are one break away from greatness. Many of them sit in pews in churches and criticize other people who are professionals because their jealousy will not allow them to “give it up” for people who have paid their dues and therefore achieved a greater level of excellence. They are normally envious, prideful—and broke.

It happened to me. Because after I became a “family-shower” singer, boosted in my ego by the compliments from my relatives, I soon became a “church-town” sanger, considered one of the better vocalists in my school. The choir teacher practically recruited me to come and join the chorus. And speaking of chorus, when we did that Halleluia one, written by Handel, I was the only male who could sing both the bass and the tenor parts. It made me prideful.

So when I got out of high school, I took my music group and we decided to audition for Pat Boone’s agent. Pat was pretty popular at the time (because white bucks had not yet gone out of style). Pat’s agent asked us to make a tape–reel-to-reel was fine—and send it to him so he and Pat could listen to our sound and determine how they could help us. We were ecstatic. So we found a guy in Columbus, Ohio, who had a reel-to-reel tape recorder and was willing to record us for free. We set up a date and went over to his house. We sang three songs and then he played them back.

It was most unfortunate. I didn’t know exactly how to tell him that there must be something wrong with his machine, because his recording didn’t sound a thing like us. It was flat, sharp, out of tune and everything else that’s fussy about music. I was so insistent that the machine was warbling or something that the gentleman finally apologized, handed me the tape and suggested maybe I could go someplace else to get a better recording. I decided against that, thinking that it was just the playback on his system that was distorting our sound, and sent the tape on to Pat Boone’s agent, assuming he would surely have better equipment.

This is going to shock you. I never heard from him again and he refused to return my calls.

After I got over my immature tizzy-fit, I realized that I was NOT a good singer. I also understood that no one was going to tell me that except the tape recorder, whose integrity I had viciously attacked. I started working. I started taping myself. I stopped making excuses common to “family-shower” singers and “church-town” sangers—things like: “I have a cold;” “it’s too early in the morning to sing;” “the acoustics are weird;” “that alto next to me is a problem—she sings like my mother;” “that’s too high;” “that’s too low;” “I forgot my lemon juice;” and “my dog ate my pitch-pipe.”

I worked. I performed. I listened to critique. I don’t know when it happened, but somewhere along the line I walked away from being a “family-shower” singer and a “church-town” sanger and became a sunger–someone who had sung–anytime, anyplace.

Because until you can do it anytime and anyplace, you are not worthy of the title.

So if you’re a “family-shower” singer or pursuing some other occupation similarly challenging, just remember—all God asks you to do is be willing to hear the criticism that will make you who you want to be instead of who you think you are. If you’re a “church-town” sanger, all your heavenly Father wants you to accept is work. Practice, perform, perfect. You can’t beat that trinity. It’s almost as good as the Father, Son and the Holy Ghost.

And then, one day, after you’vefinished that last concert, you’ll become a “sunger”anytime and anyplace–and suddenly you will be worthy of what you do and completely humbled by the accolade.

It took me too long, because family and my shower, church and my town—were afraid to tell me. Isn’t it interesting that my best friend ended up being a reel-to-reel tape recorder? Maybe that’s just the way life is supposed to be.

Spend a little more time listening to the playback instead of just playing.

**************

Below is the first chapter of Jonathan Richard Cring’s stunning novel entitled Preparing a Place for Myself—the story of a journey after death. It is a delicious blend of theology and science fiction that will inspire and entertain. I thought you might enjoy reading it. After you do, if you would like to read the book in its entirety, please click on the link below and go to our tour store. The book is being offered at the special price of $4.99 plus $3.99 shipping–a total of $8.98. Enjoy.

http://www.janethan.com/tour_store.htm

Sitting One

 I died today. 

I didn’t expect it to happen.  Then again, I did—well, not really.

No, I certainly didn’t expect it.

I’ve had moments of clarity in my life.  Amazingly enough, many of them were in the midst of a dream. For a brief second I would know the meaning of life or the missing treatment to cure cancer.  And then as quickly as it popped into my mind it was gone. I really don’t recollect dying.  Just this unbelievable sense of clear headedness—like walking into a room newly painted and knowing by the odor and brightness that the color on the wall is so splattering new that you should be careful not to touch it for fear of smearing the design. The greatest revelation of all? 

Twenty-five miles in the sky time ceases to exist.

The planet Pluto takes two hundred and forty-eight years to circle the sun. It doesn’t give a damn. 

The day of my death was the day I became free of the only burden I really ever had.  TIME.

Useless.

Time is fussy.  Time is worry. 

Time is fear.  Time is the culprit causing human-types to recoil from pending generosity. 

There just was never enough time. 

Time would not allow it.  Remember—“if time permits …”

Why if time permits?  Why not if I permit?  Why not if I dream?  Why not if I want?  Why does time get to dictate to me my passage? 

It was time that robbed me of my soulful nature.    It was time that convinced me that my selfishness was needed. 

I didn’t die. The clock in me died, leaving spirit to tick on.  

So why don’t we see the farce of time?  Why do we allow ourselves to fall under the power of the cruel despot?  Yes, time is a relentless master—very little wage for much demand.

I died today. 

Actually … a piece of time named after me was cast away.

%d bloggers like this: