Things I Learned from R. B. (May 24th, 2020)

Jonathots Daily Blog

(4419)

Episode 16

For nearly five months, I had been squirreling some money away, trying to fund an idea I believed needed to be pursued.

It was time.

Whatever inspiration had once possessed the soul of our family—to travel across the country, working, living and making music together—had gradually dissipated down to a stream of loyalty and an irritating question.

If we weren’t doing this, what in the hell would we do?

My wife mustered the energy to be happy, but certainly had lost the desire to schedule, travel and perform.

My sons were thrilled to be brothers, enjoined with me, but knew deep in their hearts that the “call of the mild” must replace the “call of the wild.”

They needed lives of their own.

This would take money.

I knew it was foolish to announce to the family my campaign. It just might make them fearful that if they ate an extra apricot, they were destroying our future.

So I kept it private.

After five months, I had a small sum I was grateful for—but knew it was nowhere in the ballpark of fulfilling the need.

We were traveling across the panhandle of Florida, heading toward Jacksonville when I said a very simple prayer.

“Dear Lord, I’ve painted myself into a corner. Either help the paint to dry quickly or direct me clearly on how to leap out of my predicament.”

Also, it had become more difficult to acquire schedulings. It takes a lot of passion to convince somebody of what you want to do—and honestly, people were not quite as open to being convinced.

So in late August, in boiling hot Jacksonville, we succeeded in getting one booking for the week–on the Sunday night.

One opportunity to pay our way.

One mission field.

One audience.

I came to a decision before we rolled up to our engagement.

“Whatever we have at the end of tonight I will use to set us up somewhere and give my sons the chance to launch their own lives.”

Yet I was discouraged when I arrived and realized we were at a church that only had fifty people on a Sunday night—a black church, which meant we might have to wade through some resistance.

It’s not that black churches were difficult, but sometimes, because of the nature of the South and memories of segregation, the parishioners wondered why a white family was coming to a black church instead of sharing their talents with white folk.

I put those thoughts out of my mind, making sure they were busy elsewhere. Instead, I took a count of my situation.

I felt I needed three thousand dollars to settle in.

With some amazing blessings from the previous two weeks, I had managed to collect $1434 in cash.

That night, when the pastor introduced me and I stepped in front of an audience of forty-two people, the calculator in my brain boiled over with frustration.

I needed to make about thirty-five dollars a person to get my nest egg.

Now, I am not negative by any stretch of the imagination but am also not a fool. I don’t know whether I could have pulled a gun and gotten thirty-five dollars a person out of the gathering. There were several souls who might have needed me to donate to them.

But no matter.

Whatever happened, I was going to take the whole family to our next destination and do the best we could.

We would no longer be “on the road again.”

Over the years I have experienced some magical nights, yet none to compare with the warmth and tenderness exchanged in that sanctuary.

About halfway through I realized that these strangers had decided to become one with us, and we, likewise, one with them.

We laughed.

We cried.

We sang nearly every song we could play.

At the end the pastor stood and took up the offering.

I was astounded when he handed me $1,433.

Now, I will not tell you that I should ever have taken my family on the road. I also will not lie to you and say that everything I did on that journey was well-thought-out or appropriate.

But the science of our music, the Mother Nature of what apparently was a good season, and the humanity of this congregation launched us to our new beginnings.

The next morning as I drove north, I explained what I envisioned for us to do as a family.

They were relieved.

They didn’t act that way—there were some tears of regret.

But there were also some shouts of “hallelujah” over the new possibility.

To avoid a motel room, we drove all the way into Nashville, Tennessee, and in just three hours, located a new apartment.

We spent that first night sleeping on the floor of our new home.

The next four days were nothing short of miraculous.

My sons got out, secured social security numbers, found jobs and set in motion getting drivers’ licenses.

It all fell in place—mainly because I felt as if I was no longer forcing the direction. Rather, the passions of my children were driving the solution.

I hooked up a phone—landline. Two hours later it rang.

It was R. B., calling from Tacoma.

I don’t know how he knew we were coming to Nashville or how he successfully tracked down our phone number so quickly.

He did a little hemming and he did a little hawing, and somewhere in between, I got the idea that he had hatched his own plan.

He needed his own miracle.

Sensing his frustration and his desperation, I said, “Hey, buddy, why don’t you just move to Nashville? It’s where you started. It’s where we met—and it’s where they make music. How can you lose?”

Two weeks later, driving a car that should not even have been on the road, he arrived, found a small one-room apartment and settled in.

We were in the same community again, with even less in common.

Still, all in all, it was better for both of us than where we found ourselves short weeks before.

Sit Down Comedy … July 26th, 2019

Jonathots Daily Blog

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Father Abraham had two sons.

Two sons had Father Abraham.

One was born of slave. His name was Confederate.

The other—Union—was birthed in free will.

Confederate worked very hard planting the land, establishing a close-knit home where family was honored above all and faith was treasured. In the household of Confederate, change was feared, opening the door to superstition, aggravation and an unrighteous pride about race.

Union, on the other hand, sat on the cusp of a great industrial revolution, where a man’s work was in a line of assembly, his home perched in the midst of hundreds of other families. Union believed his faith was better expressed by his deeds, and that change was the only way to frighten superstition and dispel racial baiting.

Father Abraham understood both of his sons.

After all, he, himself, was conceived and reared in blue grass but nurtured in a spring field.

But try as he would, Father Abraham was unable to bring the boys to cooperation. They argued, they struggled, and eventually they chose to fight. Just short of the last drop of blood flowing from their veins, peace was sought.

It was a tenuous agreement, and even while the ink was drying on the pages of the treaty, a friend of Confederate killed Father Abraham.

It enraged Union.

It made Confederate defensive, feeling compelled to explain the sinister deed.

Even to this day, the two brothers are segregated, isolated in their politics and their traditions—one believing that life is more a “state of mind,” and the other rallying behind “we, the people.”

Father Abraham had two sons.

Two sons had Father Abraham.

I am one of them

And so are you

So let’s just praise the Lord.

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Good News and Better News … June 20th, 2016

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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Good News Walkersville

I have spent the last week in Maryland, “habitating” on Mason Dixon Road.

If you’re unacquainted with the significance of “Mason Dixon,” simply explained, it is the contrived boundary line which was drawn to distinguish the North from the South, and therefore, the free states from the slave states. It was another one of those man-made solutions that seemed brilliant at the time because it appeased an acceptable insanity.

As I thought about it this week, I realized that every time we try to divide one from another–be it by race, gender, culture, sexual preference, or denomination–we take a big slather of glue and try to repair a major crack in the rock.

It never works. It never holds. And eventually, the action of trying to achieve a temporary solution seems ludicrous.

If we would simply start with the principle that there are no divisions unless we’re trying to be superior, then we would be on our way to understanding human life as it was meant to be on Planet Earth.

Enjoying the fine souls at Walkersville United Methodist Church, I realized that there was no greater message to share with them than the removal of all the “Mason Dixon Lines” that keep us apart.

I don’t care if it’s some politician portraying that the one percent is battling the ninety-nine percent, or another chap who insists on constructing a wall to keep the immigrants from the “permanents”–we are merely pretending to address a situation which can only be achieved by submitting to the wisdom of four immutable axioms.

Whenever there are two people gathered, each must realize:

1. We’re both wrong.

If life were as limited as our understanding, then it could never include everyone alive. So in some way, we’re both wrong.

2. We’re both right.

Yes, there is something good at the core of almost every philosophy or religion which can be included in the ultimate solution.

3. The Spirit knows the difference.

As long as we are in our flesh or living in our minds, we will never be able to surrender to the ultimate wisdom that keeps us from constructing barriers between one another.

  • We need the spirit of history
  • We need the spirit of science
  • We need the spirit of wisdom
  • We need the spirit of creativity.

And this is all encapsulated in our Father in Heaven.

4. Stay in the Spirit.

Since it is the Spirit that will lead us to deeper acceptance, the more we laugh at our prejudices as we chase them out the door, the greater the chance that we will achieve comprehension.

So that’s the good news. Because we’re both wrong and we’re both right, and the Spirit knows the difference, we should stay in the Spirit.

And here’s the better news:

It’s fun being wrong, as long as you believe in your heart that it is possible.

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G-Poppers … May 13th, 2016

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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Jon close up

G-Pop wonders if his children comprehend the origin of evil.

After escaping the notion that we are plagued by demons from hell or caught up in a Luciferian revenge plot, we are left with the reality that evil is simply human beings gone amuck.

But is it all the lust of the flesh? The lust of the eyes? The truth is, most carnal sins do little to hurt anyone but the offending party.

G-Pop is curious if his children can recall an old-fashioned word which seems to have fallen out of favor: cunning.

Yes, it is a cunning spirit inside a conniving human heart which plans the offense, and even death, of other souls.

G-Pop’s not quite sure where it started–maybe it was thousands of years ago, when the human race lived in tribes and one tiny village thought it was clever to withhold the location of a good hunting ground from another nearby clump of people, so as to gain superiority.

In doing so, the selfish clan established a wicked premise: “We are better than you.”

Once that idea is invited into the minds of people, they will always be looking for ways to express their dominance, to the detriment of others.

For after all, in the 1950’s, in the southern part of our nation, no white family would discourage black people from singing Negro spirituals, clapping their hands, eating neck bones with collard greens or acting quiet and humble. Matter of fact, any Caucasian person would insist it was “just the black culture.”

They felt magnanimous by being aware of the preferences of their darker-shaded neighbors, allowing them to practice their desires.

It was cunning–a way of saying, “You’re not as good as me because you don’t do the same things I do. I pretend to bid you well, but reject your choices.”

This is why, in our present environment, politicians are able to convince us that Mexicans are rapists, all Muslims are potential terrorists, and billionaires are out to strangle the poor so they can fill their coffers.

We once believed that America was “the great melting pot.” It’s been replaced by the insistence that “we are the great grocery cart.”

We lay inside this country–separate, culturally bound, no longer searching for commonality, but instead, faking a reverence for each other’s cultural inclinations, while privately looking down on each other for having them.

It is a cunning spirit that gradually welcomes segregation and eventually invites violence.

Will G-Pop’s children become aware of this, or buy into the ridiculous notion that we’re actually involved in culture conflicts, which can be alleviated by more education and understanding of our differences?

Going back those many thousands of years, if the selfish tribe which found the excellent source of food had simply said to themselves, “This other tribe is also hungry and there’s plenty for everyone,” then how many wars, executions and genocides could have been avoided?

The source of evil is the cunning notion that if I can convince you that you’re not quite as good as me, I can relegate you to a position where I can move you anywhere I want.

Until we become the great melting pot again, we will struggle in alienation which ironically seems to be feeding tolerance, but actually is just a cunning way to starve people of equality.

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Jesonian: Reasonable (Part 19) Apolitical … April 10th, 2016

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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Jesonian hands

It is impossible to pursue the dictates of a political party and stay faithful to the Jesonian.

There. I said it.

Anyone who follows a political persuasion is bound by that party to defend the stances presently being taken in the moment instead of embracing a more historical and eternal view.

Politics are for those who have given up on the power of the Gospel.

It is a way of trying to convince Caesar to accept your principles, or a way of forcing your principles into becoming “the new Caesar.”

Let us realize–they were constantly hounding Jesus to become political. They wanted him to fly the flag of Judaism and reject the Samaritans, or criticize the Greek woman who came for healing, attack the tax collectors, who were considered betrayers to the seed of Abraham, and most certainly, deny Rome the authority to rule and reign.

He disappointed all of these factions by living off of two simple concepts:

  1. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
  2. Go the second mile.

There is no political party in the United States of America that fully lines up in agreement with either of these concepts.

For “do unto others” is a decision to include all of humanity into your circle instead of rejecting some. So as the Republicans are infuriated with immigrants and the Democrats despise the South, the Jesonian individual must remain apolitical–loving the new visitors to our country and honoring the brothers and sisters in the Southeast.

No political party in this country believes in going the second mile. Going the second mile is finding out what energizes us instead of exhausts us.

The constant debate, attacks, and gridlock caused by political maneuvering becomes a national fatigue which removes the initiative to do just a little better than we did the last time.

  • “Do unto others” is spiritual.
  • “Go the second mile” is practical.

But you will find that when you do unto others, it has a practical edge, making you a friend of all tribes.

And you will discover that when you go the second mile, you gain spiritual credibility, as bystanders view your endeavors.

It is not reasonable to be political.

What is reasonable is to maintain a profile that is apolitical, while doing unto others and going the second mile–allowing the future to be determined by the wisdom of inclusion and the impetus of excellence.

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Distinctive … May 5, 2014

Jonathots Daily Blog

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stewAs I travel the country, each and every region advertises its uniqueness by pointing out some attribute, location, cuisine, battlefield or monument that is special to the surroundings. Everyone wants me to know what makes their province sparkle.

For there is an instinct deep inside the human race to be separated off from others, with the hope that the alienation will grant some clarity or maybe even superiority.

But this is not us at our best.

We are a fussy creation when we are either critical of others or feel self-sufficiency within the boundaries of our ineptness.

As I stood in front of the delightful congregation yesterday in Henderson, Tennessee, I wanted to give them an emotional hug and tell them that it’s all right to be a part of the common sensibility.

  • It’s good to be from the South and find reasons for interaction with those from the North.
  • It’s completely permissible to be a Republican who occasionally agrees with a Democrat.
  • It is truly holy to be a Methodist who understands fellowship with a Baptist simply because of Jesus.

There are three things that make us distinctive. I must be candid. Without these three things we begin to clump together. We glue onto those who agree with us on every point, or with those who are related by birth.

Here is what I look for in people of every region:

1. Can they be touched?

Refusing to open your heart simply because you are unfamiliar with the person in front of you or they don’t have the same clothing or accent is the best way to remain lonely and vacant.

I know it’s popular to avoid emotional connection, but if you think you’re going to “zen” your way to enlightenment in your journey without fellowship with others and emotional blessing and upheaval, you really are searching for Nirvana instead of reality.

2. Can they learn?

The smartest people I know are fully aware of when to be dumb. There is no power in presenting an opinion which is stupid. There is great energy in admitting what you lack as you offer what you have.

Learning happens when we stop complaining and confess that the additional wisdom would greatly enhance our possibility.

3. And finally, can they try?

Some people can be touched and may learn, taking notes on scraps of paper, to later be discarded when they go back and return to their same drudgery.

The bravest thing you can do as a human being is try something you’ve never done before and certainly are not sure of its workability. But the denial of trying is the absence of faith, and without faith, we just sit around hoping for love.

It doesn’t matter where I travel–I look for people who can be touched, are willing to learn and ready to try.

If you can’t do this, you find yourself tripping and falling into the soup of the ignorant. If you can, you are welcome to the great human stew.

Jump on in … and add your flavor.

 

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My Body is in Temple… January 19, 2014

Jonathots Daily Blog

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First Lutheran Temple

It’s been forty years since my body has been in Temple.

Temple, Texas, that is.

I have passed by this fair town several times on my journeys, but never actually plopped down for a few minutes of food for thought, by breaking bread.

Four decades ago when I landed in Temple, it was during a brief tour when I was invited to come to Waco, Texas, to Word Records, to share my music, with the aspirations of having this fledgling company record my musical ensemble and make us famous. (Well, at least as famous as one would get by being the first fruits of a fledgling.)

I remember that visitation vividly. Being raised in Central Ohio, I was told horror stories about the depravity of the South and the backwards nature of unseemly locations like Texas. So up to that point in my life I had never gone any further south than Nashville, Tennessee, or further west than Chicago.jesus rally

I don’t know what I was expecting, but it was a different time. Even though Temple was a rural community, ingrained with the traditions of its heritage, a new breeze had blown through, initiated by the winds of Spirit.

Young hippies, fresh from California, had just arrived in the region to sing a new song. So it was really amazing–you had long hairs and butch haircuts side by side, finding common ground with guitars and Jesus. They were tolerant of each other and seemed fairly oblivious to the differences that might build up over hair follicle preferences.

Many of the engineers in the recording studios were good ole’ boys, and the performers were fresh off the street, many of them ex-drug addicts who had been thrust into salvation, with a movement through Jesus.

Shoulder to shoulder, they worked on beautiful tunes, laughed, shared pictures of their families with each other, and acted like they had known one another for a lifetime.

I shared in several of the area’s religious establishments and was greeted with warmth and tenderness by folks who had just come out of the field with mud on their boots, curious about whether what they had just planted would ever reach harvest.

Even though I was a very young snap-off-the-whipper, I realized that what made this thing work was finding something in common with each other and sealing it by believing in the same message of love.

So as I come back to Temple, Texas, in a much different time–when it is considered to be righteous and upstanding to be at odds with one another over miniscule issues–I want to bring that same breeze with me.

I would love to allow the Spirit to permit commonality and faith to blend together again, to make us one.

It is a piece of idealism I permit myself without apology. For I know this: the world will never be a decent place to live until we find reasons to be alike.

And I also know that we will never find reasons to be alike …  when we work so darned tootin’ hard on trying to be different.

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

click to hear music from Spirited 2014

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