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.

Jesonian: Show Me the Father … June 15, 2014

Jonathots Daily Blog

(2264)

Jesus talking to a discipleAnd Phillip said to Jesus, “Show us the Father and it will be enough for us.”

Jesus said, “Phillip, don’t you realize after all these years of traveling together, that my goal has been to not only show you the Father but to be a good Father.”

Because a good father gives his children permission to be happy. He gives them a path to happiness. And he walks them to the door.

Even when they feel poor in spirit, he tells them that they can survive the tough times.

Don’t be afraid to cry, says a good father. I’ll be there to comfort you.

And by the way, be meek. You don’t have to be mean to get what you want.

But it’s very important to get an appetite for life, because if you’re hungry and thirsty, you will be filled.

A good father shows mercy because he knows it’s the only way to get mercy.

“Son, don’t be macho. And my daughter, please don’t use your feminine wiles. Have a pure heart. Be prepared to feel.”

Make peace. Ignore trouble makers. It may sound simple, but where you find peace, you find God.

You will be beaten, but you don’t have to lose. You will be attacked but defeat is unnecessary.

You will be humiliated and mocked. Do yourself a favor–let it go.

For my son and my daughter, I am your father. What you’ve seen me do, make it your own. And in the end, we can rejoice and be exceedingly glad … together.

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Arizona morning

After an appearance earlier this year in Surprise, Arizona, Janet and I were blessed to receive a “surprise” ourselves. Click on the beautiful Arizona picture above to share it with us!

Click here to get info on the "Gospel According to Common Sense" Tour

Click here to get info on the “Gospel According to Common Sense” Tour

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

Click here to listen to Spirited music

Click here to listen to Spirited music

 

 

Small Grapefruit… September 30, 2013

Jonathots Daily Blog

(2021)

breakfastI don’t think they know.

Matter of fact, I’m pretty sure of it. I don’t really WANT them to be aware because it’s a decision of my own.

When you’re traveling on the road with two other people, it’s important to have single-mindedness, but it’s also essential to make your own personal choices so as to control the quality of your work–maybe better stated, the quality of your life.

It is my job every morning to slice the grapefruits in half. Since there are three of us, every other day it requires the division of two such orbs. Although I have practiced for some time, I can never quite get the grapefruit cut completely evenly, so that the halves are identical. (I know this is my lacking, so you needn’t inform me.)

So then I have a decision: who gets the small grapefruit?

Honestly, my inclination is to view myself as the physically largest person in the room, so therefore it stands to reason that I should get a larger grapefruit. E-h-h-h–not for me. The notion of passing out grapefruit based on massiveness really turns me off.

I thought about having somebody else slice the grapefruit, but then I’m depending on their good nature and sense of fairness to be superior to mine–and therefore end up with the small grapefruit anyway, right? So the only way to guarantee that the grapefruit will be distributed to my liking is to carve it myself.

So back to the question: who gets that inevitably smaller half (which ends up being kind of a third by the time I finish mutilating it)?

It didn’t take me long to come to a conclusion: I always take the small grapefruit.

It’s not because I’m a martyr. It’s not because I’m trying to win points in heavenly places. It’s just that the decision to choose any other option is so selfish, stupid and ridiculous that I don’t even want to entertain it.

I wouldn’t want to think that I’m better than anyone else so I get the bigger grapefruit.

Now you may find this really silly, but I think it’s supreme.

Matter of fact, if I were transported back in time and could give counsel to Adam and Eve, I would say: “Listen. Take care of the small grapefruit, and the apples will take care of themselves.”

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Please contact Jonathan’s agent, Jackie Barnett, at (615) 481-1474, for information about personal appearances or scheduling an event

Even Stephen … May 7, 2012

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Possibly one of the most arduous treks across this great country would be the stretch of miles along I-20 between Dallas, Texas and El Paso. Historically I have chosen to make this journey at night to avoid the heat and glare of the day. One time as I sojourned on this particular piece of real estate, I saw lights in the distance. I was approaching the small city of Odessa, and as the brightness grew in size, I assumed it WAS Odessa. But as I came closer, I saw that it was an edifice, the size of a city itself–actually invoking a sense of awe, which grew in intensity as I came closer. For me, it merged the sensations of Christmas, Las Vegas and the Beverly Hillbillies–for it was an oil rig. The largest one I had ever seen. 

Black gold.

Texas tea. 

Suddenly my nostrils were assailed by the burn of that unique, pungent odor — and it smelled GOOD. Now, there may be folks who would disagree with me, but I like the smell of fresh oil being pumped from the earth–the very energy of both power and also of prosperity. It was a visceral moment on a very long, dark journey.

I had a similar sensation yesterday doing two performances at St. Stephen’s Lutheran Church of the Valley in Palmdale, California. As I shared, I literally witnessed minds opening–like lubricating the gears on a bicycle with oil. For truly the main problem I have with traditional religion is that the inevitable result of repetition is the literal numbing of  people’s minds.Once-meaningful liturgy, through repetition, becomes mindless drone.

I would like to encourage churches everywhere to make two simple changes in the format of the church service: to replace one liturgical recitation with a moment of personal testimony from a parishoner, and during the passing of the peace, instead of offering one another a “peace be with you,” instead offer the exhortation: “Be of good cheer!”

Because just as repetition produces rusty mental gears, the sharing of personal experiences generates the oil of gladness. After all, Jesus said that in the world we WILL have tribulation. Our only job is to “be of good cheer.” That’s it. We don’t have to solve every problem today–and his job was to overcome the world. We don’t have to do that, either. We only have to understand that our place in the great scheme of things is to avoid repetition, share personal experiences and receive the good cheer that results.

Yesterday, as I witnessed lubricated gears beginning to move and saw the resulting good cheer, I saw that there is another, final culmination in the process–the oil of healing. Yes, mental freshness produces good cheer, which fosters the environment for healing–be it depression or terminal cancer.

Similar to the awe I sensed as I drove past the Odessa oil rig, with its power and energy, I felt the same wonder yesterday at St. Stephen’s Lutheran, viewing–and feeling myself–the energy of the oil of lubrication, the radiation of the good cheer and the power of healing oil passed among my brothers and sisters and back to me.

We try to make it hard. We talk about “contemporary” and “traditional.” But it is really just giving good people a chance to lubricate their rusty gears and then feel the oil of gladness and healing. After all, like the Tin Man, we all need a good oiling now and then.

Why not take the steps to make it happen?

  

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Click, click, click… May 5, 2012

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Possibly nothing is more terrifying than knowing about trouble that might happen, probably won’t, but doesn’t seem to want to go away.

It was 1990 and I was traveling with my family in California. We were in the Sierras, scheduled in the town of Lone Pine. Now, to get to Lone Pine you first had to drive to Nowhere, take a sharp left turn into the forest, drive about eight miles through the underbrush, and then all at once–you’re there.

Our means of transportation in that season was a 1977 silver Mercury Cougar pulling a travel trailer which had given up the will to live years earlier. We had decided to resurrect it from the tomb, reverently believing it was our savior.One of the more bizarre aspects of this particular trailer was its lighting system. There was a series of little wires which looked like disconnected arteries desperately pleading for a heart, which had to be strategically placed in the correct holes to make sure that when we put on our brakes or turn signals, the people behind us could be aware of our transitions. It was a hit-or-miss project.On days when the lighting actually worked well, like Viking warriors, we felt that the gods were with us. On those days when the lighting lost its sense of illumination, we were constantly nervous about all stops, turns and passing officers of the law.

One particular night, as we were leaving Lone PIne to head north, we were cruising along–my son Jerrod (then about fifteen) in the front next to me; my wife, Dollie, and oldest son, Jon Russ, and our little three-year-old, Jasson, in the back seat. Those in the rear had already fallen asleep. It was a moonless night, a little bit chilly. Suddenly our lights began to blink ferociously, accompanied by the horrific sound of a “click-click-click.” I immediately pulled the car over and asked Jerrod, who was in charge of the lights, to go back and work on them. He was a fine, industrious young man, so he leaped from the car, went back, opened the trunk–where the lights of the trailer connected to the car–and came back and said, “It all looks good, dad.”

And he was right. It was about twenty-two miles of “good.” Then, all at once, it began doing that startling “click-click-click” again. Pulling over, I decided I had better go back with him and check it out for myself. I reached in the glove compartment for my flashlight, and discovered that the batteries were dead. So I stepped out of the car into the chilly night air, and was immediately greeted by the mournful howling of a coyote. I cannot describe to you how disconcerting such a sound can be when the air is cold, the night is dark and you’re confronted by a problem that you have absolutely no idea how to address, let alone solve. I was not an electrician. My God, I didn’t even know an electrician.

So the two of us climbed into the dark trailer, crawled on our bellies to the back-end, where the lights went into the rear of the cab, and without being able to see anything, attempted to negotiate rewiring our system–ala Helen Keller. About that time, I looked out the rear window of the trailer and saw the shadow of red, flashing lights. We had apparently acquired the interest of a passing highway patrolman. I crawled out of the trailer and went back to talk to the policeman. I explained my situation and he offered us the use of his flashlight for a few minutes, which was very handy and enabled us to complete our best attempt of not knowing what we were doing.

Just as we were finishing up, he got an emergency call on his radio and he had to take off, wishing us well. As he left, my son and I walked slowly to our car, knowing that in short seconds we would know if our particular patchwork had actually “quilted” our lights together. There was the another call of the coyote as I climbed into the car, turned it on, and we flicked on the lights. They worked.

We rejoiced. Being the believing sorts that we were, we actually said a couple of “glory hallelujahs.” Our little praise session for divine inspiration lasted another twenty-five miles before “click-click-click” returned to taunt us, reminding us of our human ignorance and frailty.The true horror of the experience was that the interruption was intermittent. In other words, we could drive ten miles and the lights would be just fine, and then suddenly we were in the middle of a disco show.

We tried to pray. Let me tell you something about prayer. Prayer is a wonderful thing to do when you’ve been given an accurate diagnosis of a problem, the prognosis is clear and you are fully aware that any human effort is probably not going to meet the need. Yes. Ask God’s help. But ignorant prayer is often a plea for grace. And grace resembles mercy. And Jesus made it clear that mercy is only obtained by us if we’ve extended it to others. So it’s difficult in the middle of a dark night with flickering lights annoying your travel, to ask for mercy unless you’ve already been living a merciful life yourself.

We were fortunate. Although Jerrod attempted to slumber, periodically our car’s tribute to Saturday Night Fever went off with its “click-click-click,” awakening him with a start. We somehow survived the experience and made it to dawn, when, with a great sense of relief, I reached over and turned off the headlights, thus ending our ordeal.

At our next stop, we discovered that the problem had nothing to do with the trailer, the wiring, or anything beyond the front dashboard of the car. We had a bad light switch, which turned on the headlights.There was a short in it, so anything we could have done would have been meaningless.

It was a good experience. It taught me that the grace of God is often more valuable to me than the intervention of the divine. Because unless God was going to come down and heal my light switch, nothing was going to work. And honestly, if God’s going to heal something, it probably should be that little girl in a hospital somewhere in Alabama who’s dying of cancer instead of my ailing car part, don’t you think? Most of the time what I need is the mercy of God instead of having all my problems solved in one big explosion of blessing.

And receiving that mercy requires that I live a life of giving mercy to others. It’s a good deal. It’ll get you through the night–and keep you from being eaten by coyotes. 

  

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