Iz and Pal (Bedouin Buddies)


Iz and Pal

Jonathots Daily Blog

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Sitting Five

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

Bruised.

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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Good News and Better News … December 28th, 2015

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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Rarely do we find ourselves abused by the Devil from Hell, nor steered by the Lord of the Heaven.

Most of the time, we are situated smack-dab in the middle of our own whim or lack of planning.

It really is good news.

It would be a miserable thought–to believe that we mortals are part of a cosmic chess game between good and evil, and more often than not, end up being the sacrificial pawn.

This little piece of joy came to my mind this week as I arrived in South Florida to celebrate the birth of Jesus with my family, work on my blogs, make plans for the coming year, and do two gigs in the area.

Honestly, I had some apprehension about being able to pull off all the stipulated events with the amount of professional quality and personal touch I felt was necessary. But fortunately for me, I’ve been granted the grace of having a wonderful group of sons, daughters-in-law and grandchildren, who seem to be functioning quite well on the auto-pilot of faith.

In other words, I didn’t need to do nearly as much as I thought I would. Therefore, I was much more qualified.

On the other hand, making plans for the coming year to enhance my program, enriching the results, is a labor of love to me. The Gospel is always good news, but it is refreshing to find a way to make that revelation even more inspiring and easy to understand.

So by the time I arrived at my two performances on Sunday, I was itchy to share my heart.

The fine folks in North Miami, pastored by a delightful young man named Nathan, welcomed us with open arms, even though I’m sure we appeared at first to be strangers.

I just happen to believe that in the pursuit of loving your brothers and sisters, the best route to achieving such a sublime experience is to seek out commonality. My dear God, we have so much in common.

So by the time I got to my Sunday evening performance, I was prepared to relish the people around me, and was especially invigorated because the venue is a new church plant pastored by my son, Jerrod.

He’s always had a calling in his life, although, like many of us, it seemed a little in the distance from the everyday chores of maintaining life and limb.

But now–he’s launched.

About thirty souls came out, and we just had a festive time in our human smorgasbord.

The two churches had something in common: they were unsure enough of what they are doing to be open to the possibility of the Holy Spirit changing lives.

So I celebrated the good news, which is: there is no Devil chasing me nor God manipulating me. Rather, I am a free-will agent to pursue my heart’s desire.

And the better news is that all the fretting and fuming I may do from time to time, wondering if my abilities are sufficient, is irrelevant and quickly calmed by the realization of two beautiful ideas:

1. If it’s not my business, then drench it in mercy and love.

2. If it is my business, fill it with creativity.

 

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Ask Jonathots … August 13th, 2015

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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I am a mother of three children, two boys aged 5 and 7, and a daughter aged 13. I arranged to work half days this summer, and we planned to have our daughter babysit the boys in the mornings. After two weeks, it’s a disaster. My daughter spends too much time texting her friends, and the boys are running wild. Is thirteen too young to babysit? And should I just give up and put them all in day care?

I’m just curious–if you think your dog barks too much, and if you do, if you think the way to correct the situation is to place him in a kennel?

I’m not trying to be snarky with you. Lest you think I’m saying children are animals, I certainly am not. But their care is not dissimilar.

You are being critical of a thirteen-year-old girl who is texting. It is parallel to being angry at a dog which is barking. That’s what 13-year-old girls do. They don’t suddenly become nannies and take care of their brothers efficiently.

I don’t think anyone can tell you that 13 is too young to babysit, but I do think I can tell you that your 13-year-old is too young. I suppose you can choose to be upset about that, or you can realize that this is your situation.

Let’s go with some suggestions:

1. Daycare would be the last possible consideration because it is expensive, and also a little less personal than you might want for your children in the summer months.

2. Is there a compromise? Could your 13-year-old watch the children for a couple of hours a day, and then have a neighbor come in and check in on the situation and rejuvenate the energy? Wouldn’t you be happier to give one of your neighbors a little cash to assist, which would help their finance, instead of using a daycare?

3. There also may be a woman or man who is a house-parent, who might like to combine families and pick up a little extra cash, and take all the pressure off your 13-year-old.

But let’s look at what we do want to avoid:

A. Making your daughter feel guilty because she’s not a good “mommy.”

B. Spending too much money taking care of your kids and losing your livelihood.

C. Having your children in jeopardy because they are not well-cared-for.

You also have the opportunity of explaining your situation to your boss, and possibly doing some work from home, or at least being permitted to take a break from work to check on your children.

Never throw anger or money at your problems–your teenage daughter does not need you to be disappointed in her, and your bank account does not appreciate being depleted in order for you to work a job.

Use your three magic words: Look around you.

It is a miraculous way to live.

Often the solution is within eyesight, and we ignore it because we think everything needs to be more complicated.

 

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“Ifing” Way: Part 3… November 3, 2014

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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What if a voice of sanity had risen up at various stages in the story of human history, to offer a challenging view when craziness was about to win the day?

If …

He called a family meeting.

Such gatherings are essential–otherwise misunderstandings will turn into squabbles which eventually spill out into the community as a whole. The dilemmas we now consider to be international were once mere unresolved conflicts between brothers and sisters.

Sitting before him was his wife and the surrogate mother of his other son. He had two boys.

For when his wife decided that she was too old to bear children, she offered her servant as a stand-in for the opportunity of procuring a lineage for her beloved husband. The young man was born, and everything seemed fine for about thirteen years–until the Mama of the house got pregnant.

After she birthed her son, she felt threatened by the presence of another male offspring, and also by the female who deemed herself important because she had contributed in such a personal way.

The two women fought.

At first it was what you would call “quibbling”–a nasty glance followed by exiting the room in a huff.

But eventually the wife made it an issue with her husband, that the other woman and her child must go. He was tempted. In a moment of weakness, he considered sending the surrogate away with a bit of cash and a heartfelt apology.

Then he stopped to think–one of the more powerful things that human beings do.

He made a decision–one he was about to share with the two dear ladies.

“We are having a problem,” he stated clearly. The two women looked at each other, feigning a bit of surprise. It was so phony he had to giggle.

“Oh, don’t try that with me. You both know what I’m talking about, and frankly, I am in no mood to discuss the specifics of your feelings or misgivings. Let me explain my position. I have two sons. I love them both. I also am deeply appreciative of the two women who bore these sons. I don’t care if anyone understands our relationship. And I am certainly not going to try to please one of you to destroy the other. Here’s what I know: if my two sons cannot grow up together and be at peace because their mothers are being silly, then what would make us believe that their children will get along with each other any better?

He paused, gazing into their eyes.

“In no time at all, a couple of generations pass, and the story of your little tiff with each other is completely blown out of proportion, and rather than being a family foible, it becomes a national offense, leading to war. For my dear ladies, all wars begin in the kitchen. They spread to the dining room, and are further inflamed in the bedroom before they head out the door and hurt the innocent.”

“So it would be unfair of me to call this a discussion. I am telling you that my name is Abraham, and for me and my house, we will have two sons, and we will serve the Lord together.”

Sarah and Hagar looked at each other, knowing the resolute will of the man before them. He would certainly follow through on his words.

They were not happy … but they knew they needed to learn how to be so.

 

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Quatrain of West Virginia … October 21, 2014

Jonathots Daily Blog

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West virginia big

No slave state

Shenandoah River daughters

Coal miners sons

‘Tis almost heaven

 

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The Sermon on the Mount in music and story. Click the mountain!

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Click here to get info on the "Gospel According to Common Sense" Tour

Click here to get info on the “Gospel According to Common Sense” Tour

Please contact Jonathan’s agent, Jackie Barnett, at (615) 481-1474, for information about scheduling SpiriTed in 2014.

Click here to listen to Spirited music

Click here to listen to Spirited music

Jon and Tracy … June 14, 2012

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I had an idea.

In lieu of my children giving me presents for Father’s Day, I asked each one of them to take the money they would have targeted for my gift and find a way to bless somebody else in the circumference of their life and tell this individual they were doing it in honor of their father.

I certainly don’t need any more “stuff” to carry with me on the road, and it sounded like the experiment would yield all sorts of pleasant and interesting results. I also asked my sons and daughters-in-law to send me the results of their escapades in story form so I could share them on my jonathots with you readers.

Well, I asked this last week, and then sent out another email to my familial “entourage,” reminding them of the task. Yesterday I received my first response, from my first-born and his wife.

Jon Russell and Tracy Nicole live in Albany, New York, and make movies for a living. Actually, it would be more accurate to say they somehow scratch out a living in the process of making movies. However you may speak about their situation financially, they are absolutely ecstatic in what they do and thrilled to be together.

For a season of about three years, I was their dramatic muse, penning the screenplays for their projects. About a year ago, I asked them to expand themselves, meet new people and get the mind and the heart of other scribblers. Now let me explain something about my relationship with Jon and Tracy. We love each other dearly but disagree on many things. I have never been afraid of a good disagreement, nor did I teach my children to think that merely finding oneself in an adversarial position with a loved one was of any particular dastardly significance. In other words, people who think always disagree. It’s the price you pay for thinking instead of just blindly following. You will occasionally find yourself at odds with others, even though you love them dearly. And the only reason I share that particular friction with you is that even though I’ve had my disagreements with this pair, I can still always count on them to jump in with both feet and usually be one of the first ones to respond to both need and desire.

Thus, in this case, they are my first family members to bring forth their story about what they did with money alloted for Dad’s Day, which instead, was used to benefit others.

Jon and Tracy took their money, went out into the streets of Albany, New York, and asked a complete stranger what he or she would do if they suddenly found themselves in the possession of an unexpected five dollars. As long as the person had an immediate plan, Jon and Tracy gave them five dollars in my honor. It was fascinating to listen to the story. Matter of fact, you can hear the entire verbal exchange they had with the Upper State folks because I have placed the audio link on my website (below).

But the thing that came out of the experience for me is that lots of folks just don’t know what to do when they’re surprised–and often believe there is a hidden “snake in the basket” instead of a “blessing in the bushel.” I do not know has made us so suspicious and frightened of one another, but if somebody has plotted to make us paranoid, then they should go reward themselves with a fine dinner, because they have accomplished their mission.

But you can listen for yourself, and as you do, keep Jon and Tracy in mind–and even though I love them dearly and disagree with them on several fine points of art and entertainment, you won’t find two people who are more desirous to find joy in their lives in what they do than this duo.

Matter of fact, that’s my first suggestion about fatherhood. One of the greatest things you can do for your children is to teach them to blend work and play. If you want to make a grouchy human being, make a distinction between the work they have to do that is holding up the clock on possible playtime. I taught my children to play while they work, but also to work while they play. Blending the two makes you realize that nothing in life is too painful as long as you decorate it adequately.

So much thanks to Jon and Tracy for spreading a blessing across the Empire State in my honor. And I hope you enjoy listening to the audio of their experience on this website.

Make your work playful, and make your play time work for you–because you’ve organized it well.

Not a bad tip … and not a bad son and daughter-in-law, for that matter.

   

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It Took a While … June 10, 2012

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Realizing that Father’s Day is a full week away–NEXT Sunday–I wanted to take a moment with this particular jonathots to “warm up the oven,” as it were, on the subject.

I have the distinct honor of knowing six human beings who call me “Father,” “Dad” or “Pop.” Three of those individuals I had the pleasure of conceiving and three I had the great honor of enjoying. Along with those six young men, presently come four daughters-in-law, who graciously allow me to be included in the spectrum and vision of their desires for a father. Ten in all.

I think I was well into the process of being a father before I realized anything about the substance, value and importance of the process. First and foremost, above all else, if fatherhood is done correctly, it is not that much different from motherhood. I know this may upset some religious people (or folks who are trying to make a buck off of separate greeting cards) but once you understand what it means to be a parent, the vision for pursuing the project is not that dissimilar, whether you be male or female.

But what I never comprehended was that the logical linkage between human birthing of children and God‘s innovative creation of humans is identical. It’s why Jesus told us that the best way to understand God is to understand fatherhood. I go to churches and frequently see a banner displaying all the names for the Divine from the Old Testament–but honestly, folks, they’re irrelevant. God is a Father, and the minute you leave that perspective, you depart from understanding His true nature. So as I learn to understand my function as a parent, I really grow to comprehend the heart of the Almighty.

Fatherhood comes in three portions–like a three-act play, if you will. First is to conceive. It amazes me that something so pleasurable as sex can lead to the unearthing of another human being. The conception part of fatherhood is boisterous, exciting, boastful and intoxicating. I have one of my sons right now who is in the midst of this emotional inebriation. His chest has grown about six inches with pride, and he can basically think of nothing else but the fact that he and his dear wife have conceived a child and they are about to birth the little one. This spirit should never be dampened, quelled or even challenged. I don’t know about you, but I am thrilled that God is passing around cigars somewhere because He created me. It may be pure human vanity, but I do not think that I want to consider a Heavenly Father who is not a proud Papa. Yes, as fathers, first we conceive.

And then the second step is equally as pleasant as long as you do not argue with the results. A good father receives. With the factors of the genetics of two separate families colliding together, environment, climate, attitudes and training, gradually a human being emerges from the birthing ooze to become a voice. It is a voice that often has an opinion contrary to yours. Sometimes it’s purposefully antagonistic. But a very important part of fatherhood is to receive. Can I be candid with you? If God has created a natural order, and he honors His own system, He is often just as surprised with the results of His creation, as far as its make-up, preferences and pursuits, as they are. There is no power in preaching about an all-knowing God who is all-possessing and therefore, all-controlling. Good fathers don’t control. And God is the supreme example of a good father.

I have to receive all six of my sons as they are. Honestly, it was not easy. I wanted to reshape them and at times, wished that I had the power of do-overs. But that’s not what fatherhood is about. It’s about receiving what you’ve conceived, and doing your very best to instruct without manipulating, and to love without taking away free will. It IS the difficult part of parenting–which makes us grateful for the experience and honestly, jubilant when it’s finally over. God does not force Himself on His children. Why? Because He’s a good Father.

Which leads me to the third step in discovering the essence of fatherhood. Believe. The notion that “God has a wonderful plan for my life” is similar to me insisting that my six sons pursue a path of my liking. If I actually did that, people would condemn me, attack me, and insist that I receive counseling for being such a tyrant. So why would we attribute to the greatest Father in the Universe the attribute of being an interfering ninny?

No, the truth of the matter is that somewhere along the line, your children grow up and you have to believe in them. You don’t have to agree with them. You don’t have to stand back and endorse all of their choices. But you have to allow them the privilege of making them without your ever-present sense of disapproval or stoppage.

It is a step that is missing from parenting today. I think it came along with the baby-boomers. For some reason, my generation just seems incapable of letting go of their children and allowing them to be people. It is this notorious notion which is spoken aloud and now has become part of the brain process of our nation–“they will always be your kids.”

Not so, my friend. Somewhere along the line, they become their own people with their own dreams and their own children. You have to believe in what you’ve done, stand behind it and let them live. This is where religion fails to deliver the true promise of God. God is no respecter of persons–therefore what He conceives He receives, and then allows to live–with Him believing in them.

It’s perfect.

With six sons and four daughters-in-law, I have ten ongoing lifestyles bouncing around me all the time. I have to have faith that what I’ve conceived and received, I can now with confidence believe in. Without this, I create an atmosphere of tension and apprehension that makes me appear to be a dictator and them frightened to be themselves. It doesn’t mean that I do not continue to insert my opinions, and even desires. But they are just that–mine, and therefore, subject to dismissal by my offspring.

Conceive. Receive. Believe.

It took me a while, but I finally understood the make-up of a good father–actually, a good parent. But it is also the true nature of God. Our Father conceives, He receives and He believes.

That’s fatherhood to me. It demands that I be involved, but like John the Baptist, it also requires that I learn that “I must decrease and they must increase.”

   

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