Things I Learned from R. B. (April 26th, 2020)


Jonathots Daily Blog

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Episode 12

Three phone calls.

This is the extent of the contact I had with R. B. over the next two years. On the first two occasions, he tracked me down through a young man who was assisting us with scheduling and knew where we were at all times.

The first call was a chatty conversation about his latest meet-up with Kristall—how it was bittersweet because she was moving to New York City. He was already making plans to follow her, believing they were entwined in a harmony of purposes.

The second dial-up was to inform me that he had lost his job in Dallas and was moving to Tacoma, Washington. He explained all the maladies of his Texas situation—how he had needed to move on and was grateful for the urging provided by the firing.

But the third phone call came from me.

I tracked him down in Tacoma—really just by using the old-fashioned telephone book. My reason was practical.

I had received notice through the mail that a woman in Missouri was interested in purchasing one hundred copies of my first book, “The Gospel According to Common Sense.” She explained how much she had enjoyed it, and wanted to pass it along to strangers, who might find it easier to understand than Brothers Matthew, Mark, Luke or John.

I was so moved.

My soul was so hungry for some confirmation that what I was doing was worthwhile and who I was, meaningful.

Yet my book was out of print. I felt compelled to try to get it printed again and get those one hundred copies into this lady’s hands.

Maybe it was mission, or maybe vanity. I still don’t know.

I priced the printing and found out that all I needed was a hundred and twenty-five dollars. I had fifty.

I know it may sound ridiculous, but I had absolutely no way to lay my hands on that other seventy-five dollars except…

I called R. B. I told him I needed a loan. I explained it would be a brief period of time—because as soon as the woman sent me back the check for the books, I would be able to reimburse him.

My plea for the money was about two minutes long but the conversation lasted two hours.

R. B. stated, in a hundred different ways, how he was taught never to loan money. He asked me a half dozen times why I didn’t already have the money. He questioned whether my story was truthful. He made me grovel.

At the end of the two hours, having given me no official answer, he said he would think about it and call me next week.

As I hung up the phone, I realized he hadn’t asked for my telephone number—nor did it seem he wanted one.

I waited and I waited.

Finally, after two weeks, I contacted him again. He apologized and said he could give me the money at the end of the month—which was three weeks away. I reiterated that this was a time-sensitive affair, since the order was now four weeks old. He didn’t understand why a few more days would make a difference.

While I was waiting for R. B. to provide the final funds to order the books, a letter arrived from the lady canceling her request and scolding me for not having the integrity to respond in time.

It hurt so badly.

Not only did I fail to give my writings an opportunity to be used, but I was thrust into the role of the incompetent child.

I did place a brief fifth call. (I forgot about those last two.) It was to inform R. B. that he would no longer need to provide the funds.

He laughed and said, “Well, it’s probably for the best.”

It wasn’t—for the best, that is.

As I look back on my journey with this fellow, I have to be honest and admit that this incident might have colored many of my views and inhibited some of my compassion. I would hope not, but I am a bit suspicious of myself.

 

G-Poppers … August 17th, 2018

Today G-Pop wants to talk to his children about slippage.

In olden times they referred to it as “backsliding”–allowing oneself to retreat from principles once held dear–because the temptation of the times changes the atmosphere and weakens the faith.

In the past ten years, because we’ve allowed a streak of meanness to become acceptable behavior, there has been a slippage in the attitudes of the populace toward one another and in the passion for life.

It’s really quite simple.

Those who were once merciful have slipped into being merely open-minded, leaving mercy practically abandoned.

The open-minded people have slipped to being generous–and that normally only to people they know well or who are related to them.

The generous folks have backslidden to kind–hoping that flashing a smile and expressing a willingness to be helpful will be enough without having to commit to action.

And kind people, who used to think up ways to be contributors, have slipped to nice. If at all possible they will offer a pleasant countenance to the world around them–that is, unless something odd happens. At that point, nice people become careful. They will swear that the reason they become careful is because the world is screwed up and “you can’t trust anybody.”

And of course, careful people drop down a degree into suspicious. This is where you start to hear about folks loving their dogs more than people.

And those who were naturally suspicious before degrade to downright grouchy. They don’t even pretend to lead with a sweetness of spirit. It’s too risky.

Of course, there were people who were grouchy to begin with. They have become edgy–ready for a fight, and the edgy people usually find that fight, and end up being bullies.

Bullies have become fighters; fighters are more violent. Much of the violence has led to murder, and now murder has deteriorated to mass killing.

The political parties will blame each other for the problem, but long before there was a President Donald Trump, there was a President Obama, with all of the fussing, arguing and struggling that occurred during his two terms of administration.

G-Pop realizes that you may consider it a “conservative” problem, or perhaps an outgrowth of the liberal media. Since you can’t do anything to change either one of those organizations, G-Pop thinks it might be a good idea for his children to just work on themselves.

Where have you slipped to?

Where have you fallen?

If even 10% of the population would raise their human effort up one notch, to the position they occupied before 2008, there would be such an improvement in the climate of this country that the other 90% would have to take note.

G-Pop wants to tell his children that it’s time to stop backsliding.

There are no signs that the leadership in government, business, education or the church is going to lead a resurgence in civil behavior.

No–it’ll be up to us.

It’ll be up to G-Pop…and all his children.

 

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Catchy (Sitting 24) For So They … November 26th, 2017

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Many frat pranks and moon-doggies ago, Michael Hinston carried a double major in college. History and political science.

Michael’s reasoning was that the history would tell him the mistakes to avoid, and the political science would open doors to teach him to become the kind of civic leader to change the world.

Now, as a congressman, he spent most of his time raising money. Because he had to be elected every two years, at least one of those years was a perpetual fund-raising bash. The rest of his time was divvied among family, uncomfortable parties and meetings with people who were desperately trying to get his vote.

Lobbyists.

It might be fine if they would actually work in the lobby–but they invaded the hearth, home and even mind of every congressman. Michael had once pledged to himself that he would never be involved in scandal. He hated the word. It sounded rotten and smelly. But he found, as a congressman, that he was already at the mercy of organizations, corporations and causes which seemed to be inexplicably linked together into one gigantic chain around his neck.

The latest was a visit from the Christian Liberty Operation (C LO). They met with him to discuss the Jubal Carlos situation in Las Vegas, and shortly after the meeting, Mr. Carlos was arrested, which set in motion a whole series of events which were very displeasing to the C LO

They made it clear. They were upset.

Even though Michael was not in charge of arranging Jubal Carlos’ arrest, he was blamed for the mischief that had been perpetrated because of the flawed plan. The CLO wanted this “popular Jesus idea” thwarted, and now it was gaining national attention.

It was especially disconcerting to Michael when Jo-Jay showed up at his door, a bit surprised herself. For she had been given a tip about where the original order had come from–to hassle Jubal Carlos. The tip she received led to an address, which placed her on the front doorstep of Michael’s home.

So it was an extraordinarily fretful exchange between the two old university friends. Michael did his best to convince Jo-Jay that her contact was completely mistaken–that he knew nothing about any Jubal Carlos or organizations trying to bring him down.

Jo-Jay was nice–but Michael knew, deep in his heart, that she did not believe him. Jo-Jay was a bullshit sniffer. For years he had admired her ability to detect lies and deception, but now he just wished she would keep her nose to herself.

Jo-Jay apologized for the inconvenience, made a lame attempt to suggest they “connect later,” and headed down the sidewalk, seemingly out of his life.

But something was wrong. She was onto him. She knew that he knew more than he claimed.

Michael didn’t know what to do. The honest truth was, he was scared to death of the people he was working with and the lobbyists who were tramping into his life. They were much too energetic, much too determined and much too violent in their mannerisms.

Yet he knew if he failed to report the visit from Jo-Jay, there would be punishments. He didn’t even know what that meant, but was positive he didn’t want to find out. So he called the Christian Liberty Operation and updated them on the visit.

Less than half an hour later, there was another knock on his door. He opened up, and standing before him was a tall, broad-shouldered man, about six-foot-four, with black eyes.

Michael was startled.

The gentleman at the door asked if he could come in. He introduced himself simply as “Joshua,” and for the next ten minutes he questioned Michael about Jo-Jay.

Who was she?

What were her political leanings?

Was she a religious woman?

What was her relationship with Jubal Carlos?

Was she part of the scheme to popularize Jesus?

Where did she hang out?

But what chilled Michael’s soul was when Joshua asked one final question. Do you know anything about her allergies?

Michael didn’t. Michael was suspicious. Michael should have asked this “building of a man” why Jo-Jay’s allergies were of any interest to him. He stayed silent.

Michael was afraid for his old friend.

But Michael did what he had learned to do over his months of living in Washington. He answered the questions, nodded his head and offered no objection.

The next day, a letter arrived on stationery from the CLO. The stationery read, “Christian Liberty Operation,” and the by-line was, “For so they persecuted the prophets before you.”

It was unlike any professional letterhead Michael had ever seen. It seemed sinister. Even though the words “Christian” and “Liberty” were displayed in the title, there was something about the operation that chilled him to the bone.

Who was Joshua, and why did he want to know so much about Jo-Jay?

More importantly, who was Michael Hinston, and was he going to warn his old friend?

 

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Good News and Better News… June 19th, 2017

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Dislike–deciding to “diss” liking.

In the pursuit of what we call love, and even unconditional love, we’ve reached a point where we just don’t like each other anymore. We have the appearance of Atlas carrying the world on our shoulders because we feel compelled by our civilized natures to be as calm as possible.

We “diss” liking. We claim great affection for souls around us while privately rolling our eyes, communicating that they are annoying.

So when I arrived yesterday morning at the Ruskin United Methodist Church, I was looking for people who like each other. Because here’s the truth–a paraphrase of John the Apostle: I don’t think you can love God if you don’t like people.

It seems that God is really proud of His creation.

I know we portray an anxious deity, constantly perturbed over our sins, but since He gave us the ability and even the permission, I seriously doubt that He will be terribly upset when we occasionally go errant.

The greatest arrogance, the most self-righteousness, and perhaps the sin of all sins, is to believe that human beings are not worth liking.

  • It’s in our government.
  • It’s in our religious system.
  • It’s in our movies.

We are training ourselves to be suspicious, and failing to acquire great moments of human fellowship that just demand a little bit of mercy and grace.

I’m not one to advocate looking in the rear view mirror and assuming that the past was better than the present, but I will tell you, if there was any era when people were given the chance to excel without being pre-judged, then we might want to reach back into that span of time and regain some of that tenderness.

For the good news is, God likes people.

And the better news is, He loves those who like them, too.

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PoHymn: A Rustling in the Stagnant … July 27th, 2016

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PoHymn Crying

crying

I am a voice crying in the wilderness

My throat is parched from screaming the need

Excuse me, sir, can you take a moment’s thought

To wonder why the Earth won’t move?

 

Flowers in the spring dare to bloom in front of us

Deserts of dreams simply blow away

A smile on the street seems to be suspicious

Churches that pray never seize the day

 

Come with me

(we’re too busy)

I have life

(so do we)

Where’s your joy?

(nothing’s funny)

Deal with me

(we have bigger barns to build)

 

I am the voice pleading in the land of less

We pan for gold in fields of debris

We seek for truth and draw swords of selfishness

We bless a lie and curse the truth

 

Come, won’t you join me in Jordan’s waters?

Cleansing the soul which has lost its feel

Tumbling the dice as you kneel before us

Casting your lot through the holy meal

 

Festering frightened

Ever enlightened

Joyfully jumbled

Wistfully humbled

 

I’m the voice

(crying)

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PoHymn: A Rustling in the Stagnant … January 6th, 2016

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PoHymn January 6

Unboxing

Here’s the box I built for me

So I control what you can see

Fortifying the cardboard walls

Checking my phone to see who calls

Deciding what may enter.

Cramped I am within the space

Nervous about exposing my face

Careful to show only my choice

Selecting the words to form my voice

Suspicious while trying to smile.

I am not an evil soul

Or a frowning, grumpy, cranky troll

I just want to reach my goal

Therefore you might be a problem.

I believe in the Golden Rule

Infused during Sunday School

But does it ever make me a fool

To pursue being so trusting?

The battle rages within my heart

When to cease or commence to start

Can I be smart while pure of heart?

Maturity is so confusing.

So I will seek to be the one

Who tries to make the journey fun

Rejoicing as the work is done

Unboxing myself, freely.

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The Alphabet of Us: Z is for Zeal… June 1st, 2015

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building block Z

All human beings possess a heart, soul, mind and strength. Nothing of any true significance can be achieved unless this is understood.

“Be careful.”

I think it’s safe to say that all parents mouth that sentiment at least a thousand times to their child from birth to high school graduation.

It’s sound advice if it’s defined correctly and backed up with suitable examples. What we’re really trying to tell our offspring is to be smart.

But sometimes it’s not smart to tread carefully.A greater danger sneaks into the picture, creating a fuzzy outlook on life. Because careful can easily become cautious.

The difference between careful and cautious is that careful is a profile to be ready for trouble and cautious is a decision to look for it.

Ultimately, caution tends to lead the over-protected soul into a pathway of suspicion. And of course, when you think that everything or everyone is out to get you, you not only miss out on many blessings, but eventually something or someone does get you–merely to mock your defenses.

Here is the truth of the matter–human beings cannot live without passion. Even if we become passionate about being suspicious, we are still engaging ourselves in an active profile.

So without abandoning the position of being careful, how can we unleash the energy of our faith and talent into the world around us?

Zeal.

  • “I am ready.”
  • “I am not hesitant.”
  • “I am not fearful.”
  • “I also am not stupid.”
  • “I’m ready to believe that something good can come my way.”

Without zeal, we become encumbered by conspiracy theories and absorb the available doom and gloom in the room.

As careful leads to cautious, zeal opens the door to zealous. Matter of fact, the Good Book tells us to be zealously affected by a good thing. Zealous is when we take our “ready” status, select a favored cause and become excited.

I’m not completely sure what the Father in heaven dislikes, but I will tell you–He is deeply enthralled with human beings who are excited.

Zealous contains two important parts:

1. “I believe it’s possible for something good to happen.”

2. “I believe I’ve found it.”

Zealous is the opposite of cautious.

It is walking into a room knowing that you’ll be looking for a light switch instead of cursing the darkness. This culminates in the word “zealot.”

It is most unfortunate that this word has such negative ramifications. Actually, a zealot is someone who is committed and has become excited because he or she is ready for something good to happen.

We can’t live our lives like pre-teen girls who see a small spider in the corner of the bedroom and spend the rest of the night believing that hairy-legged varmints are crawling all over them.

Zeal makes us ready to be zealous, excited about possibilities, which gives us the opportunity to become committed zealots–chasing down a miracle that will change our world.

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