Drawing Attention … November 21st, 2018

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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Shine On Love

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art by smarrttie panntts

Vocal Solo by Debbie McDowell, Soul Purpose

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Published in: on November 21, 2018 at 1:47 pm  Comments (1)  
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Drawing Attention … October 3rd, 2018

 

 Jonathots Daily Blog

(3814)

art by smarrttie panntts


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The Difference… July 7, 2013

Jonathots Daily Blog

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huntington pianoOften the difference between success and failure is the voice within that gains our full attention.

I was twelve years old. A traveling gospel quartet came to our church and sang, with a pot luck dinner following. Everybody went to the fellowship hall–except I grabbed three of my friends, went into a nearby Sunday School classroom which had an old Huntington upright piano, and I tried to get the four of us to sing like the quartet we had just observed.

After a while we became loud and boisterous, so one of the deacons popped his head in and rebuked us for failing to be part of the church family through enjoying an “afterglow” with the gospel singers. My three friends slunk away with the avenging deacon and I pretended to follow–but then slipped back to the room and just played the piano more quietly, so as not to be heard.

That night made a difference to me.

Several years later, a minister and counselor told me I should forget my girlfriend, who had gone away to college in Arizona. He said she obviously did not love me,  and was afraid I was going to make a fool of myself by continuing to contact her. Little did he know that I had already purchased a student/standby airplane ticket to Tucson, Arizona, He was also completely unaware that my girlfriend was pregnant with our child. That was forty-three years and four sons ago.

I chose a different path. It made all the difference.

Up until the time I was eighteen years old I had never even thought about composing a song. Matter of fact, some of my friends chided me because I was always singing the hits of my favorite groups over and over again. But one day, in the back room of a loan office, where there was a piano, I perched myself, and in less than three hours I wrote two songs of my own making.

That was many writing sessions ago, and hundreds of songs. But that day made the difference.

I borrowed twenty dollars one night to go to a contest in West Virginia with my singing group. Everybody said we wouldn’t have a chance. We went down there and won. They were wrong.

That trip made a difference.

I wiggled my way around to get my group, Soul Purpose, an appearance on a Nashville, Tennessee, television program called the Teddy Bart Show. No gospel group had ever been on, but we worked at it and worked at it until we finally got invited. Afterwards I received a phone call which led to a beautiful working relationship with Marijohn Wilkin, leading to my first national album.

The difference.

I have never achieved anything in my life by playing it safe. I honestly have never found any lasting peace or purpose by pursuing the consensus of those who always seek the higher ground for fear of a flood of creativity.

Of course, I have left out the tales of woe and pain caused by such a flamboyant philosophy. Not every escapade into the unknown was a striking of gold. But it didn’t keep me from going. It didn’t keep me from trying. And it didn’t keep me from believing that life is short–and the only way we elongate it is by playing it too safe and making it so boring that it’s interminable.

It’s the difference.

It’s the ability to hear the voice within you and the confidence to believe that somehow that messenger has been with God and has come to bring a special-delivery mission your way.

It is audacious, it is often over-bearing, it is occasionally lonely–and it is certainly bizarre to those who choose a safer path.

But it isthe difference.

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

Without a Net … February 4, 2012

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I met Imogene and Anton on New Year’s Eve in Sarasota, Florida, many years ago after sharing in a local church with my group, Soul Purpose.  We had stopped in at the International House of Pancakes to break a few eggs and eat an omelet to welcome in the New Year. It had been a great year, so I was feeling particularly festive, and was even in such a silly mood that I decided to mingle all the syrups on the table onto my pancakes to determine what flavor would emerge.

Now, the reason I noticed Imogene and Anton was that they were such small-boned individuals. I mean, I knew they were adults—he had a beard and she had all the girl things.  But they were so tiny that I could probably put one in my right pocket and one in my left pocket and not increase the girth of my silhouette. I was fascinated by them because they ate quietly together and chatted, and with my big ears I overheard them talking about the circus.

Sarasotawas the winter headquarters for the Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey Circus—where they tested out their new acts. As I said, I was feeling gregarious, so I engaged them in conversation. They decided to come over to our table to join us. We quickly discovered that they were not only talking about the circus, but they were members in good standing. Their field of expertise was the trapeze and walking the high-wire. (Suddenly it occurred to me why the slightness of their frames would be of great advantage. Putting me, for instance, on a wire in the sky would create quite a bend in the universe.)

We were going along fine with our conversation until I asked them about their new act and they told me it was a death-defying routine which demanded much of their attention and at this point, was quite nerve-wracking.

I said, “Thank God you’ve got that safety net down there, just in case you slip.”

At that moment, all at once, Imogene blanched, dropped her fork onto her plate, rose from the table and scooted her way towards the restroom. The members of my group turned to look at me like I had stabbed Imogene in the heart. I was baffled by her reaction. Fortunately, Anton stepped in with an explanation.

“Relax,” he said. “She’ll be fine. It’s just that we never mention the net. I mean, we kind of know it’s down there, but you can’t be walking on the high wire and have one single thought about the net. Matter of fact, Imogene and I have sworn to never bring it up or speak it aloud—because the minute you believe you have a safety net, you will unconsciously lose your concentration, become dependent upon it and end up falling. Eventually, you will need to perform without the net—and if your mind is relying on it, the results … well, the results could be deadly.”

As he finished his explanation, Imogene reappeared at the table and began to apologize. I interrupted her. “I am so sorry, my dear,” I said. “I had no idea.”

“How could you?” she replied. “You don’t walk our high wire. You don’t live our life. You don’t sense our need. Therefore, you don’t understand our dilemma.”

She was right. I was very careful the rest of the night not to bring up the word “net” in any way, shape or form. We had a lovely conversation and stayed at our table until the New Year rang through.

I will never forget that experience. It came to my mind again this week when I heard someone bring up the term “safety net” in relation to poor people in this country. I personally have suffered poverty. Poverty is infectious. It doesn’t just make you hungry. It doesn’t just remove your finance. It makes you frightened, dependent, defensive, and angry. And of course, if you express any of these emotions, possessors of money will be critical of you because you’re not appreciative of the services available.

But let me tell you, if you’re poor and you begin to trust that safety net—that government assistance—that intervention of kindness from others—your personal journey of discovery and self-reliance is over. Imogene was right to run away from anyone who would talk about the net. Because if you’re walking the high wire—be it in the circus OR one of poverty—you need to keep your attention on improving your plight instead of wondering what’s going to happen if you make a mistake.

I learned something that night which I’ve tried to apply in the rest of my experiences in working with others. Unless I am going through the identical situation that you are, I don’t understand what it takes for you to make it work. Merely telling you that you should be all right because there’s a net underneath you could be the worst thing in the world for you. Because if you want to get good at walking a tight rope, you have to stay focused on your next move—and not trust the net.

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Jonathan wrote the gospel/blues anthem, Spent This Time, in 1985, in Guaymas, Mexico. Take a listen:

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To see books written by Jonathan, click the link below! You can peruse and order if you like!

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

Stop Trying… January 12, 2012

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Many years ago our music group, Soul Purpose, was just getting started and therefore found it difficult to gain any opportunity to perform in front of an audience. You see, the problem with waiting around for the perfect gig is that you have to gig perfectly. No one can do that if they haven’t had a chance to try their act out on the road in other venues. So we decided to go anywhere that anybody would invite us.  That included nursing homes, small churches, gospel sings, birthday parties, clubs, shopping malls and even on several occasions–prisons.

Yes, we were invited to perform at a maximum security prison. We showed up, passed inspection, went into the auditorium, set up all of our equipment and changed into our best duds to prepare for the excursion. About five minutes before the show was supposed to begin, the warden walked in with a horrified face. (Well, his FACE wasn’t horrific. He was just surprised to discover that we had two girls in the group.) He quickly explained that the ladies could not be allowed to perform in front of these particular inmates because safety would not be guaranteed. I just as quickly explained that we were a GROUP and did not perform separately. He apologized but said there was no way he would allow the two young women to step out onto the stage.

I asked him for a private moment for our group to deliberate. We chatted, and the girls felt I should go ahead and do the performance without them, since we were already set up. I was terrified. Let me be candid–most people who perform in a group do so because they have selected NOT to be a soloist. And on top of that, if I WERE to become a solo act, an audience at a maximum security prison would not be my choice for “breaking out.” (Pardon the pun.)

But my comrades were insistent and they said they would be backstage listening and praying for me. So we told the warden, who was very grateful, because he didn’t want to go out and cancel a concert in front of the less-than-agreeable conclave. So dressed in my Sunday best, I was introduced and strolled onto the stage and sat behind my piano and began to play and sing.

I finished my first song to complete and utter silence. There was a long pause and then one of the inmates just released a quiet, “Boo.”  The rest of them thought this was very funny, so they chorused in. In no time at all, I was surrounded with “boo” jailbirds. The warden looked nervous. I think he was trying to figure out some way to step in and bail me out. So he stood to his feet, and as soon as he did the chant of disapproval died down a bit.

I sat there for what seemed like a good ten minutes (even though it was probably ten seconds). I had no idea what to do next. I had been given an agenda–friends of mine wanted me to “preach the gospel.” My singers backstage were praying I would be able to communicate some deep truth to these lost men. But now that I was in front of them, I was just a scared little boy from Sunbury, Ohio, who was more insecure than talented, needing approval and finding none.

In the midst of this moment of silence, someone from the back of the room yelled, “You’re fat!” This particular proclamation evoked the fist applause.

When it calmed down, I leaned into my microphone and quietly replied, “That’s probably because I eat more take-out Chinese than prison food.” I wasn’t trying to be funny–just to escape the ridicule. But these gathered folk found it inexplicably hilarious. They laughed and laughed. It was weird. Suddenly I was no longer in a prison–just in a room full of people who were nervous to be around one another and had moved away from some of that trepidation through a good laugh.

Feeling a little bolder, I spoke into the microphone again. “I guess the closest I’ve ever been to a prison is …well, today.” Once again, they thought this was absolutely the funniest thing they’d ever heard. There’s something pure about a roll of laughter that cannot be duplicated in any other human expression, and dare I say, perhaps none from the angels. So I just started to talk. I didn’t talk about my work; I didn’t talk about the gospel. I didn’t talk about music. I talked about how close I came to being in the same situation they were. I told them that I hit a bad spell in my late teens where I got a girl pregnant, her parents hated me, they threatened to call the police on me, but I persevered and we got married, but then drove to New York State to abort the baby, only to change our minds as we stood before the awesome wonder of Niagara Falls.

I forgot about the audience. I was suddenly immersed in both the magnitude of the danger I had been in during my earlier life and the grace of God which brought me through. Then I realized that the audience was completely silent–matter of fact, I had never seen so many tattooed people with tears in their eyes. I risked singing another song. This time the response was different. They stood to their feet and applauded. I didn’t push my luck; I left in the midst of the standing ovation and came back out for another bow.

I then did something that made the warden very nervous. I leaped from the stage and ran out into the midst of the inmates as they surrounded me, patting me on the back, and I gave them all hugs. It was a beautiful moment. It was made beautiful because I stopped trying. Had I continued to persist in my religious training, my musical background or my stage etiquette, I would have failed miserably, blaming my surroundings for my misfortune.

I learned that day something I treasure to this moment: we have two powerful weapons in our arsenal–the true story of our lives and our sense of humor. It saved me from prison. (Well, I mean a visit at a prison.) And it can save you, too, if you’re just willing to cease following conventional wisdom and let your experience in the spirit lead you.

If at first you don’t succeed …  stop trying. Take a deep breath, regain your sense of cheer and self, wait for some inspiration and then proceed. 

With humility.

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Jonathan wrote the gospel/blues anthem, Spent This Time, in 1985, in Guaymas, Mexico. Take a listen:

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

To see books written by Jonathan, click the link below! You can peruse and order if you like!

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

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