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

Jonathots Daily Blog

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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.

1 Thing You Can Do This Week to Change Your World


You Can’t Be a Shepherd and Act Like a Sheep

If you want to shepherd your ideas, guide your plans and steer your dreams, you have to stop being a victim to your own circumstances or a prisoner to your own limited “mental barn.”

Sheep clump.

Sheep are often afraid.

Sheep don’t know how to move to greener pastures.

Sheep are vulnerable to wolves.

Sheep are not comfortable unless they’re doing what the other sheep are doing.

A sheep is an animal

As an animal, it responds to its environment instead of changing it.

A shepherd, on the other hand, is a human who understands sheep weaknesses, and is able to lead them to more prosperous and safer adventures.

A shepherd does this in two ways–sometimes a shepherd uses tenderness; sometimes, stern.

If you want to change your world, you have to stop being a sheep. Because if you are, you cannot shepherd your own passions.

So find your own humanity, develop some spunk, don’t respond to the greenness of the grass–and bring leadership and compassion to the sheep around you.


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Jesonian … August 18th, 2018

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There was an old gospel song that used to get the hometown folks clappin’ and snappin’. It had a lyric which proclaimed, “This world is not my home, I’m just passing through.”

I grew up in a small town that believed, like most small towns, that if the world behaved like they did, there would be eternal peace. But since the world didn’t behave, all the children needed to be careful going into the big city, or worse yet, into the world.

Matter of fact, like most small towns, over half of my graduating class still lives within ten miles of the place where they got their first kiss.

It’s easy for people who have religion to attack the world. Matter of fact, there are many preachers who wouldn’t have anything to share if they couldn’t criticize the world, sin and the souls around them. Even those practitioners of philosophies which portend to have more open-mindedness will still gladly join into a conversation of discussing how damnable things are on the planet.

Sometimes I wonder how it’s possible to be so in love with God and so hateful of the home He’s given us.

Now I remember. I forgot the lyrics: “This world is not my home.”

It makes me wonder why Jesus prayed that heavenly things be done on Earth.

God is a good Father. As a good Father, he knows His children. And the Earth is filled with His children.

He understands that the world is stuck in a rebellion resembling a sixteen-year-old: snotty, bratty, selfish, indulgent, unappreciative–but certainly unwilling to go anyplace else. That’s a sixteen-year-old.

So maybe we should walk away from our gospel songs and even our theology and take a careful look at what Jesus said about the world.

Two things:

1. “In the world you have tribulation.”

I suppose you could blame God for that–not because He steps back and lets things happen, but because He gave us free will. Honestly, if I had created beings that possessed as much intelligence as humans, I would have curtailed free will.

It doesn’t make sense. For people to have imaginations from the time of their youth, but for those musings to be generally evil, doesn’t bode well for blessings to flow across the land.

But it was God’s way.

He made us smart, with the ability to choose to be stupid.

Therefore, at one time or another, somebody is always being stupid, which makes it seem like all matter is about to fall apart. Jesus called this “tribulation”–a sense that things never find peace or settle down.

Now most religionists love that particular verse about tribulation in the world. Matter of fact, they stop right there and use it as a platform to preach against every sin that comes to their minds. They never factor in the second thought that Jesus had on the world:

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son. And He didn’t send His son into the world to condemn the world, but so that they could choose to be saved (paraphrase).

Of course, the key coupling there is “so loved.”

Not a passive appreciation.

Not a duty of being a parent of something you wish you could abandon.

But a deep emotional commitment, free of condemnation.

So here’s the truth of the matter, although I don’t want to anger some gospel song writer: this world is my home, for the time being, and I am passing through.

My job is to have good cheer when I see the tribulation, and make sure, through my face, my actions and my tenderness, that those around me know exactly how much they are so loved.

*****

If you like the mind of Jesus without religion, buy the book!

                $7.99 plus S&H

*******

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3 Things… August 16th, 2018

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That Will Truly Make America Great Again

1. STOP insisting America is better than other people of other nations

 

2. START promoting equality between the genders and among the races

 

3. CONTINUE growing in tenderness and appreciation for the application of freedom in the lives of all citizens

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Salient…June 4th, 2018

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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There are matters that are too important to ignore or leave to chance. These are salient moments.

You can “go crazy” or you can “stay sane.” One requires you go and another suggests you stay.

If you intend on spending your life chasing what is popular, convinced that the numbers, profit margin and adulation is proof of its value, then you will end up constantly finding yourself splashing down into a pool of disappointment.

After all, consider the word popular–it “pops up,” and then, when it’s proven to be insufficient for human growth, it pops again, like a balloon, and goes away.

Here is a statement: virtue, love, tenderness, creativity, gentleness and honesty will never be popular.

You will never get the majority of the people to agree at any single moment to swing their weight in the direction of faith, hope and charity. These attributes are enduring.

Those who stay and follow them, when the “crazy” goes away, will find themselves positioned to be of help for friends and family who were wounded by the latest failed fad.

You might ask, what’s the difference between crazy and sane?

Crazy is any movement that suggests that the absence of mercy will achieve progress.

Sane is understanding that the greatest progress we can make is to apply mercy to every situation.

It’s all about mercy. There is no kindness without mercy. There is no love without mercy. Mercy is realizing that even if things don’t get better, we can work with what we have to find some good.

This will never be popular.

There will be more screams for revenge, vindication and violence as the years go by.

You can “go” after these causes, but you’ll end up crazy. Or you can “stay” with the power of mercy and remain sane.

So here is your salient moment:

There will be many voices in the wilderness. If you follow them you will go crazy.

There will always be an opportunity for mercy. If you embrace it, sanity will be your prize.

 

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Good News and Better News … January 22nd, 2018

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She stopped for five minutes to listen to the young teenage girl lament over the fussiness of a budding love life.

Arriving in the kitchen, he found a mess, but rather than complaining about it, he hummed a song while he cleaned it up, telling no one of his deeds.

She noticed that one of the pages of the hymn book was ripped. Rather than bothering anyone in leadership, she found some invisible scotch tape and repaired it–nearly good as new.

One of the older ladies was on her way to complain to an usher about a stopped-up toilet when he intercepted her, followed her to the restroom and successfully unclogged her need.

Realizing that the young preacher was very insecure in his new position, she was careful to take notes and ask him questions to further stimulate his study and bolster his ego.

Knowing that the choir director was employed to work with the existing talent to provide anthems for the church on Sunday mornings, he was very careful to encourage the conductor for his efforts instead of wondering why the altos were always just a little off-key.

And she–well, she noticed there was a young woman who took several extra pieces of cake off the hospitality tray every week, tucking them into her purse, with her little girl in tow. Coming to the conclusion that there might be some hunger need there, the following week she brought a cake just for them–fresh, sweet and theirs alone.

Church happens all the time. We just don’t call it church. We call it mercy, compassion, tenderness and concern.

Somehow or another we’ve convinced ourselves that true church is a worshipful atmosphere of massaging God’s ego.

The good news is that Jesus was a humanist.

The better news is, when we love one another and care for each other’s needs, we become the best friend of the Master.

 

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PoHymn: A Rustling in the Stagnant … December 13th, 2017

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I Am Christmas

I need a virgin mind

To process what I find

I need the Spirit to birth

Some peace upon our Earth

Give me a simple place

To reach the human race

The angels from on high

Descend from the sky

To inhabit my human frame

The message to proclaim

“Good will to men and women,” you see

Let the tenderness begin with me

Stars in my eyes

Reject vicious lies

Follow the dreamer’s path

Abandon the King of Wrath

Shepherd my thoughts toward grace

See God in my neighbor’s face

My heart is the gold I bring

Blessing is the song I sing

It’s Jesus, Prince of Care

The only wisdom I know to share

For the Word has become my skin

Free at last of the burden of sin

I will dwell among my likeness

To humbly share with kindness

For I am Christmas–come and see

The manger child reborn in me.

 

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