Things I Learned from R. B. (April 5th, 2020)


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Episode 10

We decided to settle into Shreveport, Louisiana, where I took a job as a professor at a Bible college, teaching drama and also Music Director at the adjoining church.

The college was very small—only twenty students—and the church maintained a faithful fifty. But it garnered me living quarters and a small weekly stipend.

I took the opportunity because I thought “college professor” would look good on my resume.  I also speculated that it would give me several months to think things over before the evangelical church, which financially supported the college, grew tired of me and my creative ways.

R. B. accompanied us, but only in body—somehow absent the heart and soul which had once plumped him up into being human. The misadventure in Minnesota had left him defeated, devoid of confidence. So upon arriving in Shreveport, he found a young couple who had an extra room, and he moved in.

Although he was only ten blocks away from us, we gradually lost contact.

He despised the director of the Bible college and came to church services very infrequently. I did not agree with him about the founder of Hope Bible College,  even though the man wore cowboy shirts, bolo ties, boots and stabled two horses on his property. He and I were not a natural match, but still maintained a strange respect based upon the fact that he yearned for my youthful intervention at his dream institute.

And I certainly loved having my rent paid and enough money to fund my addiction to lunch meat.

There was a small dormitory on site which housed six students. One was the onsite janitor, whom the college touted as “recovering from mental retardation.” He was not really challenged—just a young kid with the shit intimidated out of him. There was also a black student, fulfilling Hope’s MLK moment. And then there were four gentlemen who certainly, in the real world, would have been prescribed anti-depressants, but were instead being sustained by prayer-healing.

Now, I knew my stay would not be long, so I launched.

I wrote two original plays and staged them in a small auditorium where we built a stage and I wired in two banks of overhead colored lights. The proctor of our “college-ette” was thrilled beyond measure when we presented the first play, and not only was the auditorium filled to the brim, but the local newspaper arrived to review it.

Yet R. B. only showed up when I asked him to play organ in the church. He arrived attempting to play with a black gospel-jazz flair. Unfortunately, R. B. was not black, nor jazzy.

In a nutshell, he was frustrated and confused.

He took up smoking, started to socially drink (which the congregation found quite unsociable) and he was touchy. I guess “touchy” was an old-time word we used when a human being was always ready for a fight. For R. B, a grimace had replaced his grin.

My stay at this institute of higher learning turned out to be seven months. It was eventful, troubling, and even though the president of the college loved my talent, he hated the challenge and the competition.

Truth of the matter is, so did I. I was weary of having ideas that had to come under the bar of religious prejudice.

So I left Hope on agreeable terms. R. B. gladly left with me.

I didn’t want to go anywhere else. I was not madly in love with Shreveport, but even less inclined to pack up one more time and darken the road. My wife had a job; my kids had schools.

So I stayed—and so did R. B.

But it wasn’t a mutual friendship holding us together. Rather, it was the need to hold onto one another during a mutual disintegration.

Things I Learned from R. B. (March 29th, 2020)


Jonathots Daily Blog

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Episode 9

Bequeathed upon the teller of a tale is a sacred trust to be accurate and truthful.

The two are not the same.

Accuracy requires dates, times, locations—yet spins the story by using the bias of the narrator.

Truth, on the other hand, is unflinching, insisting that what was everlasting be presented without coloration or commentary.

For this reason, I will not tell you the whole odyssey of our brief, five-month stay in Mobile by the Bay. I might be tempted to use accuracy to place the pieces of the occurrences in the exact position which might make you feel sorry for me – or pronounce me innocent.

I was not innocent.

I was young, arrogant, unaccustomed to being told what to do and I had too much talent to be placed in such a small vessel of possibility. The result was outbreaks of jealousy, anger, resentment and vicious rumor.

The worst part of the journey came when my middle son was hit and run by a car, and after a three-month stay in the hospital, ended up in a vegetative state, demanding constant care-giving.

Now, when we were able to bring Joshua home from the hospital, I was sitting in my living room one chilly October morning, having negotiated a severance deal with the church which allowed us to stay and be paid through the end of November, perched deep in thought when the phone rang.

To my astonishment, it was R. B.

Accurately, he, too, had suffered some setbacks on his quest in Minnesota for his new job. The truth I never really knew.

We told him of our predicament and he asked if he could join us, and travel with us to the next location—wherever that might be—and continue our lives in a much different framework than the optimism that permeated us upon arriving at the small church in Alabama.

I was lonely.

I was disturbed.

I was anxious for someone to hear my representation of the accuracy of our experience—without ever seeking for the truth.

I welcomed R. B.

He, too, was in need of a sounding board.

That’s what we did. For about a solid month, while I was auditioning for other positions, taking care of my son and trying to line up the dollars in my bank account like good soldiers, we commiserated and dreamed of more to come.

R. B. and I found each other over despair.

Yet how far can two crippled men travel together before they resent one another?

1 Thing You Can Do This Week That Will Always Make You Seem More Successful

 

Stop Announcing

Put down your trumpet.

Cease clapping your hands to your own beat.

Let the braggart be silent.

Don’t share your plans

Why?

Your plans are susceptible to chaos, the natural order or the fact that you may sleep through your alarm clock.

Hush. Please don’t tout your prowess.

There’s always someone better than you.

There’s always someone more talented.

Endurance and Humility

What makes quality rise to the top is its endurance and the blessing of humility, which allows other people to lift it up instead of needing to put it down because it’s pompous and arrogant.

And please, for the love of God:

 Stop proclaiming your purpose

Your purpose should be obvious as the fruit of your work. Telling people what you intended to do does not qualify for actually doing it.

If you simply stop announcing your great battleplan for your life, then you will be able to acknowledge the small victories instead of having to win every single conflict to prove your point.


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3 Things … May 23rd, 2019

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You Want People to Say Behind Your Back

1. “He’s (she’s) too nice

 

2. “I wish I had his (her) talent”

 

3. “I trust him (her)” 

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3 Things … May 2nd, 2019

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That Just Can’t Be Beat

1. Having a smorgasbord of life with a side order of humor

 

2. Possessing a twinge more humility than talent

 

3.  Ohio State when it plays Michigan

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G-Poppers … August 10th, 2018

The young woman seemed quite certain that because she had an ancient ancestor who was a queen in Africa, that somehow that energy, authority and ability had been transfused into her through DNA.

She had no basis for this conviction–just, shall we say, a hope.

But the difficulty with such thinking is that if blessings can be passed along through genetic code, then so can cursings–and G-Pop does not believe we’re all prepared to go back to a time when we insisted that certain people, families and whole cultures were condemned and alienated by the heavens.

G-Pop has noticed that even some of his own children are being swayed by the commercials for ancestry identification, somehow thinking that finding someone who lived centuries ago, who is linked by family, might grant credibility to them in this present hour.

There are only two things that affect us, and two things alone–and it is not our DNA. For after all, people overcome and work with their genes all the time.

We are actually guided by two forces:

1. What have I learned?

2. What do I fear?

And often when one is able to track down one’s fears, a path can be traced to something which was learned and is found to be errant–and can therefore be discarded, allowing for a new enlightening idea.

When a study is made on what we have learned, we can often see when and where our fears crept in, and we can highlight those things that might trigger anxiety and timidity.

All of G-Pop’s children want to be independent–until something goes wrong. Then they want to explain why their fears kept them from success, as they attempt to conjure the spirits of the past that might energize them through their “double helix.”

It is foolish–a sign of a generation that has lost sight of the joy of taking responsibility for one’s own life.

G-Pop does care what his ancestors did. They’re not here.

G-Pop looks at the world they left, ridiculous notions they tolerated, and warns his soul to function off the impetus of his own talents and faith.

G-Pop offers this piece of advice:

God gave you a life.

It is yours.

Do something with it.

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Jesonian … July 28th, 2018

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Today I’m doing something a little different. I’m sitting here with the Good Book open, peering down at John the 7th Chapter.

I have no intention of trying to impress you with my Bible knowledge nor attempt to turn some passage into a magical expression of salvation.

What I want to share with you is a pattern.

I would like to find an adjective to describe this pattern. Foolish comes to mind. Perhaps dangerous. But certainly repetitive.

The pattern is the ongoing belief in every generation that you can evaluate something by the numbers–“the bottom line.”

Ironically, it was verbalized perfectly over two thousand years ago by the brothers and sisters of Jesus of Nazareth when they critiqued him on his approach to promoting the message he had chosen to share.

Their insights are frightening to read because they are so current to today’s ignorance. They spoke the following to Jesus:

“For there is no man that does anything in secret but instead, wants to be known.”

Have you ever heard that philosophy?

“Promote yourself.”

“Get it out there.”

“Showcase it.”

“Use your tools.”

“Adjust your intensity to the present flow of thinking.”

Amazingly, through the whole 7th Chapter of John, this repeats over and over again. For later on in that same passage, the audiences that come to Jesus muse whether he could be the Messiah, because they’re concerned about where he was born.

Added pressure.

Not only do you need to promote yourself well, but you need a certain look–maybe even a color. How about a culture to back you up?

We have the mistaken idea that Jesus always had great multitudes following him. There were times that people hung around for a while–after all, if you turn water into wine and can take a Happy Meal and make a buffet, you will gain some attention.

But the truth of the matter is, as soon as Jesus started teaching, the crowd thinned, and on one occasion totally disappeared.

For after all, what concerned the average Jew was whether God would send a military man to destroy the Romans and establish the Kingdom of Israel.

On the other hand, Jesus came to bring the Kingdom of God, which was within us, and would enable us to get along with everyone, including the Romans.

Conflict.

Yet it is best capsulized in that same chapter in a meeting among the Jewish leaders.

When they sat discussing the phenomenon of Jesus of Nazareth, what finally made them decide he was a joke, a hoax or at least a light-weight was the fact that none of the hierarchy of their religion–those considered intelligent, educated and astute–believed in him.

The premise was, “If you really are somebody, all the “somebodies” will recognize and promote you.”

“If you really are talented, you will be discovered.”

“If you really are bringing a possibility of hope and salvation, eventually you’ll be offered a platform instead of a cross.”

It didn’t work out that way.

Nowadays, I often sit around with my children, explaining to them that success is meaningless. In my lifetime, notorious people, who appeared to be powerful and everlasting, bit the dust and became cautionary tales of stupidity.

You can’t look at the numbers.

If you had lived in 1st century Palestine and looked at the numbers, the popularity, the acceptance, the blending and the support of the people in the know, you would never have found Jesus.

If you want to find out what is going to last, be helpful, truthful and carry the touch of God, do one thing–simply watch and learn.

How resourcefully does he, she or they use the resources?

*****

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