More Angels… April 6, 2013


angelMattie loved me. I loved her, too.

It really was not a romantic thing, although if it was confirmed that we were marooned on a desert island, after three or four days of restraint, we certainly would have done our part to repopulate our new earth.

I really liked her voice. She had one of those folksy, husky alto tones, with a bit of available soprano-melodia. I used to love to sit in a room with her and listen to her share one of her original songs as I sipped tea and crunched on some Trisquits. That was really her best atmosphere. The sound she had selected for her style was not conducive to the recording studio or public arenas. It was simple and intimate. So Nashville producers were not busting down her door to procure the rights to her material.

Therefore, it was really sweet of her to be so supportive of me and my group when we did get signed. Matter of fact, on the day of our session, she showed up at the studio with Rice Krispie treats for everybody, which we gobbled down quickly (even though it did cross my mind that they could be poisoned).

Most of the time she was the brave little warrior, but one day I walked in and found her sitting in a puddle of her own tears.

“What’s wrong, Mattie?” I asked, moving to her side and putting an arm around her.

“I suck,” she replied, releasing a fresh gusher.

I sat for a moment, thinking about what the correct response or encouragement should be to such a proclamation. Merely saying “you don’t suck” seemed insufficient.

“What happened?” I inquired.

She handed over a piece of paper containing her latest rejection from a publishing house in Music City. Not only had they spurned her tunes, but had also misspelled her name. It was rather depressing.

She continued. “I’m ready to give up. I’m no good and will never be any good.”

Once again, as you can see, she didn’t leave me a lot of room to leap in.

“You know what the problem is?” I asked.

She paused, and then said, “Yes. I suck.”

“No,” I replied. “You don’t suck. You just feel like you suck because you’ve forgotten that you have more angels than demons.”

She crinkled her brow at me as she often did when I offered some piece of wisdom that she found to be too heavenly and not very practical. I quickly continued.

“All of us, Mattie, have more angels than demons. It just feels like we’ve got more of the bad guys because we chase the angels away. We don’t do it on purpose, it’s just that angels are more mannerly and less pushy than demons, and if we get in a mood to be negative, we scurry them out of our lives and they stay away until we invite them back in. Meanwhile the demons remain because they have no sense of fair play, and sit around laughing at us–moving the box of Kleenex so we can’t even comfort ourselves.”

She sat for a moment, then asked, “How did I chase the angels away?”

“The same way we all do. When we become convinced that what we have is not enough and we insult ourselves so strongly and meanly that the angels scatter.”

“How do I get ’em back?” she inquired.

I didn’t answer at first. Sometimes I think there’s a danger in being too wordy or overly spiritual with someone who’s hurting. Because I gave that space of time, she answered her own question.

‘”I guess the angels would feel more like returning if I stopped feeling sorry for myself.”

“That’s good,” I said.

She did. Matter of fact, she doubled her efforts, and three weeks later signed a contract with a national adoption agency, which used one of her songs to promote placing unwanted children into new families.

Mattie never became a star, but I know there may be people reading this who were welcomed into a new home because of her efforts.

Everybody has more angels than demons. Everybody chases the angels away from time to time and forgets how to welcome them back home. The key to life is avoiding the temptation to destroy your demons. Instead, outnumber them with your angels.

Good news–we have more angels than demons.

The producers of jonathots would humbly request a yearly subscription donation of $10 for this wonderful, inspirational opportunity

Dump the Tub … September 8, 2012


Everyone was so nervous.

We had come to Columbus, Ohio, from diverse points all over the eastern part of the United States to join in a rehearsal camp for a musical I had written, culminating in a twenty-five-city tour.

I was young–some people would say too young to be in charge of such an overwhelming undertaking–but I learned pretty early in my life that if you wait too long to accumulate the years, the years will keep you from accumulating success.

So I ventured. I was smart enough to know three things–a trio of needs necessary to maintain the integrity of such an endeavor:  the cast would need sleep, practice and lots to drink.

Now, this was before the day of bottled water, and also prior to the general public acceptance that something clear, colorless and drawn from the tap was actually a beverage. So I located two gigantic tubs. In one I made fruit punch and in the other, by the request of the cast, iced tea.

We finished our first session and everybody was thirsty, so they headed over to my display of beverage choices–and we immediately had a problem. Those who preferred fruit punch seemed quite happy–because if they thought it was too sweet, they just added some water. But those whose taste moved towards tea were disgruntled because some liked it sweet, some liked it lemony and there was even one guy who pouted a bit because we didn’t have limes.

The tea was a failure.

One of the young cast members stepped forward and made a suggestion. “So we don’t have to lose the tea, why don’t we just pour the tea into the fruit punch tub and mix them? Therefore we won’t lose our investment. It’s just like my mama says. You take the good with the bad and mix it all together and you get your life, so go out there and live it.”

Even though it sounds corny, the words were so inspiring in the moment that the cast burst into a cheer, and I believe one young lady from Birmingham, Alabama, sprouted a tear.

I saw no problem with it. After all, I was young and willing to try almost anything to move forward or keep peace. So we mingled the two containers, and at the next break, we ran headlong, at sixty miles an hour, into a wall of confusion.

It tasted terrible. The tea made the fruit punch flat and as one fellow said, the fruit punch made the tea taste “creepy.”

The producer of the show, in an attempt to save money, suggested that the cast endure this particular batch of distaste, and that next time we would get just fruit punch. Once again, being very young, I complied through one additional rehearsal session, which was unfortunately followed by a complaint convention. When everybody refused to drink the concoction and just sat there sweating, gasping for air, I walked over, grabbed the tub, went outside and dumped it.

Even greater cheers. Because contrary to what the cast member said, quoting his mother, life is really NOT about trying to stir together the good and the bad to come up with some unsatisfying concoction. It’s really about identifying what truly IS good, and as quickly as possible, abandoning the bad in favor of more pleasurable results.

I am often amused when people extol the virtue of patience. I know it seems noble to talk about it; I know we often feel grown-up when we consider pursuing it. But patience is something that makes you feel mature inside, as it completely rattles every other part of you. Patience is over-rated. I know there are those who will quote verses of scripture or bits of wisdom on the subject, but I must warn you–they are the same folks who will growl at you for using their parking space because they’re too busy to be nice, as they are trying to be patient … about something else.

Here is what I use as a determination of whether to continue to chase a dream or let it go and “dump the tub:”

1. Is it tasteful? Life should have flavor. If the choice you have made has created a blandness, a sense of repetition, or a feeling of meaningless activity, you might have just arrived for a visit with the Great Uncle in the family of Mediocrity. Life should have a zing to our palette and a sense of challenge.

2. Is it enlightening? What do I mean by “enlightening?”  Anything that includes as many people as possible instead of creating barriers, which human beings have great difficulty in overcoming, is born of the light of God instead of being snuffed out by the traditions and prejudices of men.

There are many thing I do not understand; there are things I do not agree with. I don’t care. What I’m looking for is a way to enlighten myself and the world around me towards God’s love and finding a way to create equality of appreciation for every human being.

3. And finally, is it productive? I remember when I was working at a college in Louisiana, they were planning an event. On the budget was the printing of five thousand flyers to hand out for advertising. I posed the question, “Do the flyers work? Has anyone ever come in because they saw a flyer?” The candid response from the room was no. So I asked them why they were still printing them. They immediately had two reasons: (a) “we always do: and (b) “we don’t want to hurt our printer’s feelings.”

You see, we cannot make decisions in our lives based on what we have always done or fear of hurting some proprietor’s feelings. Is it productive? Will it take us forward to our goals, or is it a repetition of a practice which has proven to be less than effective?

For verily I say unto you, a perfect example of an oxymoron is the phrase, “stagnation in progress.” If you’re willing to take a look at these three exercises, you can escape a treadmill of meaningless exertion, creating more sweat than muscle.

I dumped the tub. It changed the dynamic of our whole camp from a sluggish reluctance to a sense of anticipation that we were pursuing a better way instead of settling for fruity tea … with no punch. It takes a bit of courage. It takes a Godly impatience with unnecessary lack. And until our Father in heaven sees us desiring that His will be done on earth, He will not be impressed that we are patiently waiting for heaven.

Dump the tub. Start over again. It makes you feel smart.

It makes you feel like you have a life.

The producers of jonathots would humbly request a yearly subscription donation of $10 for this wonderful, inspirational opportunity

%d bloggers like this: